Knesset building 390.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Many MKs opened their mailboxes on Monday morning and were appalled to find a
New Testament inside, sent to them by a messianic organization.
Society in Israel, a messianic Judaism institution for research, publication and
dissemination of holy books, sent a “Book of Testaments,” which combines the
Tanach and New Testament in one, leather-bound volume, published with references
in Hebrew for the first time.
While the sect incorporates elements of
religious Jewish practice, it holds that Jesus is the Messiah.
Hotovely (Likud) sent a letter of complaint to Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin,
writing that “it cannot be that missionary materials can be distributed in the
“Texts that were used to persecute and harass [Jews] cannot be
distributed through the front door of the State of Israel,” Hotovely
Christian Allies Caucus chairman MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beytenu)
said the mailing is “not missionary work, but an act of
Shas MK Nissim Ze’ev did not receive a package, but said
the society had crossed the line between free speech and
“These are people who believe that all the Jews in Israel
must be converted to Christianity. They get donations from all over the world
towards that cause. How can we give them freedom?” Ze’ev, one of the few Shas
MKs who is an ordained rabbi, asked.
Ze’ev called for more government-
sponsored activities and television programming to teach youth Jewish values “so
Christians don’t fill the vacuum.”
In addition, the Shas MK said the
existing law against missionaries should be stricter.
The 1977 law,
passed one year after the New Testament was published in modern Hebrew for the
first time, prohibits anyone from granting material benefits as an inducement to
conversion or to convert anyone under 18 unless one parent is a member of that
The Knesset staff does not intervene in the handling of MKs’
mail, and as such the Knesset Spokesman’s Office had no comment.
was accompanied by a letter from Bible Society head Victor Kalisher, stating
that he is proud to present the new publication featuring 90,000 annotations,
which resulted from cooperation between researchers in Israel and abroad “that
love the holy texts.”
“Through these annotations, you can see the close
connection between the words of the Torah and those of the New Testament,”
“Many of the Torah’s prophecies come true in the New
Kalisher told The Jerusalem Post
that some MKs already
received books, and he plans to eventually send them to all 120 legislators,
including ministers and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
When asked if
he would send New Testaments to haredi politicians, Kalisher said: “Every
enlightened man expects others to respect the Torah, and should show respect for
other religions.” At the same time, the Bible Society head said he did not mean
to offend anyone by sending the books.
“This is a tool to promote
communication and understanding for the People of the Book,” Kalisher
When asked why the People of the Book need a different religion’s
book as a tool, Kalisher responded that it is “arguable if it is a [Jewish] book
or not, because the New Testament is written by Jews.
Every Jew should
learn it to understand Judaism better.”
“We are an organization that
researches holy books,” he said. “We are not missionaries.
promoting holy books as an illuminating tool. Most people in the world who
support [Israel] do so because of this background [the New Testament], and this
will help MKs communicate with them.”
However, despite stating that he is
not a missionary, Kalisher said his intention in sending the copies of the New
Testament is “to spread the word of God.”