(photo credit: )
Should we, or should we not go to court? That was the question facing us as believers - both Jews and gentiles - in Yeshua/Jesus. Our congregation in Beersheba had just experienced a second violent demonstration, which its participants called a "prayer gathering." It turned into a full-scale riot that lasted some three hours - and ended only after dozens of police were called to the scene, including the riot squad (see "Abused for our beliefs," The Jerusalem Post, December 29, 2005; Letter to Editor, January 1, 2006).
Having already turned the other cheek once in a big way, and numerous times in smaller incidents - similar to Israel's policy toward Hamas - and after counseling with other Messianic leaders around the country, we decided to sue the Sephardi chief rabbi of Beersheba and the anti-Messianic organization Yad L'Achim, which includes within its organization a department called the "Struggle Against the Mission." We have what we believe to be sufficient evidence to link them together in calling for an illegal protest against the lawful right to express our faith in Beersheba and in the rest of Israel. The mind set that refuses to recognize believers in Jesus as the Messiah as a legitimate and historic faith group is reminiscent of the attitude of Israel's enemies, who refuse to recognize the Jewish state.
Our nation was reestablished on the ashes of people killed simply because they were Jewish. We, who believe that the writings of Moses and the prophets point to Jesus being the promised messiah, are being targeted for our belief. Our services have been viciously disrupted, a development that is the result of years of insult and contempt. Will this now lead to pogroms and worse?
Disturbingly, there has been virtually no Israeli media coverage of either the riot or the trial, which opened in Beersheba on June 10 and continued this week (Civil 1652/07; a final date to complete the presentation before the court has been set for November 23.)
Do we consider religious persecution newsworthy only when it happens against Jewish people and synagogues? Should our faith community refrain from speaking out for fear of a backlash? That may be the Diaspora mentality, but we have been brought back home.
WE LIVE AMONG our people and are not ignorant of history, of the terrible mistreatment of Jews by those called "Christian." Yet we ourselves as Jews were brought up to see gentiles in a negative light, and unfortunately have not filled our role as a light onto the nations.
Most Jews, even if not consciously expressing it, blame Jesus for all the troubles in the world, and want to blot out his name and memory.
In our experience with Yad L'Achim and with the Sephardi chief rabbi of Beersheva, they have stated their objective to get rid of us. Have we returned to the land of our forefathers just to turn it over to a band of jihadists?
The current laws of Israel regarding its citizens do not sanction trespassing onto private property, disrupting religious services, assaulting individuals or destroying property because of differences in religious beliefs. However, there are ongoing efforts in the Knesset to change those laws and make our activities illegal.
I WANT to stress that this lawsuit is not against Israel or against the Jewish people. It is not intended to be used in any way to foment or promote anti-Israel or anti-Jewish actions or reactions. Nor is our legal action intended to be used by any other minority or religious groups in Israel to encourage or affirm anti-Israel/Jewish sentiment. We love our nation and our people, and are committed to her uniqueness among the nations. Whether you consider us as good citizens or only as strangers among you, we are for you and with you.
This legal course was not taken in haste. We appreciate the forces that are lined against us. We recognize that proclaiming in Israel our faith in Jesus Christ as the promised messiah is problematic. We acknowledge the political and religious influence of the Sephardi chief rabbi of Beersheba and of the Struggle Against the Mission.
By filing this lawsuit and asking for compensatory damages we are trying to capture the public's attention (is anybody noticing or even interested?) to the fact that laws are being violated. If a riot by Jews against those who believe differently is allowed to take place without any legal accountability for taking the law into their own hands, then we are not truly a nation under law, but one that opens a door for lawlessness. Every one will do what is right in his own eyes, resulting in much evil in the Promised Holy Land.
Freedom of religion, including the right to change one's faith, are essential for a truly free society, necessitating tolerance of differences and disagreements, both in politics and in religion.
Pray, protest, demonstrate, even believe, but let's do so lawfully, in love for our neighbor as for ourselves.
The writer is pastor of Yeshua's Inheritance Congregation in Beersheba.