Protests get Jews for Jesus radio ad pulled in North

It took just a few hours for Kol Rega, which broadcasts to the Galilee and northern valleys, to cave in to pressure from listeners.

By MATTHEW WAGNER
October 5, 2008 21:55
3 minute read.
jews for jesus 298.88

jews for jesus 224.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])

 
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A wave of irate protest silenced a Jews for Jesus radio campaign last week on a local radio station in the North. It took just a few hours for Kol Rega, which broadcasts to the Galilee and northern valleys, to cave in to pressure from listeners who phoned in to demand that the Jews for Jesus campaign be taken off the air. "Shortly after we broadcast it, we received dozens of angry phone calls from listeners telling us they were hurt by the crudeness of the ad," said Haim Hecht, manager of Kol Rega. "The truth is that even before it hurt my listeners the ad hurt me. It was simply too aggressive and blatantly missionary." The slogan of the radio campaign is "Yeshu [a derogatory form of Jesus] equals Yeshua [accent on penultimate syllable] equals yeshua [accent on the last syllable]." Yeshu as a reference to Jesus appears in the Talmud; it is an acronym for "May his name and memory be wiped out" (yemach shmo vezichro). Yeshua is Jesus in Hebrew. Yeshua, with an accent on the last syllable, means redemption. In three different versions of the ad, ethnically identifiable Israeli Jewish voices - one Russian, one Moroccan and one haredi Ashkenazi - express surprise at being told that Jesus is equivalent to redemption. At the end of the ad a voice-over says, "Confused? Call for more information," and provides a phone number. Dan Sered, head of Jews for Jesus in Israel, said in response, "All we are trying to do is share our faith. We just want to provide Israelis with an opportunity to know that Jesus died for our sins and rose on the third day. Most Israelis have never gotten the chance to hear about Jesus. If they do not want to hear that is fine. But if they are interested, why shouldn't they be given the opportunity?" Sered said a minority of Orthodox Jews in Israel was preventing the secular majority from exercising their right to freedom of religion, speech and faith. "Jews who believe Jesus is the messiah are a minority in Israel, but so are the Orthodox," he said. "Why should they be allowed to prevent secular Israelis from hearing Jesus's message of love and peace?" The radio ad is part of larger campaign, directly primarily at the North, that includes full-page ads in the weekend editions of Ma'ariv and Yisrael Hayom, two Hebrew dailies. In addition, Jews for Jesus activists sporting T-shirts and passing out literature have been active in recent days in the North, including Nahariya, Kiryat Shmona and the Haifa area. According to members of Jews for Jesus, the municipalities of Tiberias and Karmiel each took down a large-screen Jews-for-Jesus ad located at prominent intersections. Yoel Ben-David, a Jews for Jesus activist, said Orthodox Jews from different streams have threatened him and his peers, pushed them and, in Kiryat Shmona, removed the air from a car tire. Kiryat Shmona Chief Rabbi Tzfania Drori said he had heard rumors about the car tire. "That is probably one of the mildest reactions imaginable in response to aggressive missionary activity pursued by these Jews for Yeshu," he said. "I believe we have a right to prevent these people from entering our town and promulgating New Testaments and missionary literature; it is tantamount to a woman performing a striptease in the middle of a public place," Drori, who also heads a yeshiva in Kiryat Shmona, said. He said a group of his students had followed the Jews for Jesus group around the town, heckling them and preventing them distributing their literature. Drori said he was concerned the Jews for Jesus activists, who he said came from Scandinavian countries, would have sway with immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who have weaker ties to their Jewish roots.

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