Court hears Messianic Jews' suit against Beersheba chief rabbi

Beersheba Chief Rabbi Yehuda Deri allegedly called Orthodox demonstrators to church where they attacked worshipers.

haredi protest riot 248.88 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
haredi protest riot 248.88 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A policeman who testified Sunday in a lawsuit filed by the Nachalat Yeshua Messianic congregation against Beersheba Chief Rabbi Yehuda Deri and the Yad L'Achim anti-missionary organization, said Deri had arrived at the scene of a clash between Orthodox Jews and Messianic Jews in December 2005 and calmed matters down. The testimony came in the second day of hearings on the matter before Judge Iddo Rusin in Beersheba Magistrate's Court. Deri, who is the brother of former Shas Party chairman Aryeh Deri, did not testify at the hearing as scheduled due to lack of time. The Nachlat Yeshua Messianic congregation is one of about seven such Christian congregations in the city. According to the suit, hundreds of Orthodox Jews held a demonstration without a permit, broke into the church compound, attacked worshipers, broke furniture and held their own prayer service. The protesters allegedly remained in the compound for three hours before police evicted them. Members of the congregation also alleged that the demonstrators punched worshipers and surrounded a Korean man, kicked him in the ankles and said to him, "Go back to Thailand, you dirty Thai worker." Deri allegedly called the demonstrators to the church after being informed by Yad L'Achim that 10 bus loads of Jewish children were about to be taken there to be baptized, Pastor Howard Bass said in 2007. This claim, he said, was wildly exaggerated. "Only two people were supposed to be baptized on that day. Both were over 18 and were exercising their rights under Israeli law." Three of the demonstrators were arrested that night, but no charges were brought against them. The congregation has sued Deri and the Yad L'Achim organization on various counts, including harming religious feelings, imprisonment without cause, trespassing and causing damage to the compound. According to one of the congregation's lawyers, Kevork Nalbandian, Deri organized the assault on the compound.