Poll: Israelis split on taking Evangelical charity

Survey highlights secular-religious split, finds 3 in 4 Orthodox Jews sees Christianity as "idol worship."

More than 40 percent of Israeli Jews, including nearly 80% of the Orthodox, believe Jewish groups should not accept charity from evangelical Christian organizations, a survey released Sunday found. The study, which highlighted the sharp differences of opinion between secular and religious Jews on Christianity, was published amid growing support for Israel from evangelical Christians, who donate tens of millions of dollars each year. Fifty-five percent of respondents said Israel should accept charity from Christians missionaries, while 41% were against accepting such funds, according to the survey carried out for the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies and the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations. Seventy-nine percent of Orthodox Israelis said Jewish groups should not accept such charity, compared to 70% of secular Israelis who said they should. The survey results did not separate responses from haredim - who are more opposed to accepting such money - and modern Orthodox Jews. "The vast majority of the Israeli public is not mistaken: Twenty-five years of the existence of the are the unequivocal proof of the unwavering sympathy of the evangelical Christians toward the people of Israel and to their long support for the State of Israel," said Limor Bar On, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based Christian charity group. The organization, which is headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, said it received $87 million from evangelical Christians last year for a variety of immigration and absorption programs, as well as social welfare and defense needs. "This essential support would not be possible without the generous contribution of hundreds of thousands of evangelical Christians in the US and around the world," she said. "The results of the survey show that we have had a lot of success and a lot more work to do to convince Israelis that we are true friends in a world which is becoming more hostile and more anti-Semitic every day," said Rev. Malcolm Hedding, the executive director of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, a prominent Jerusalem-based evangelical group. "Israelis should recognize who their true friends are by virtue of their track record, and we stand on our proud track record of 30 years." Seventy-four percent of Israeli Jews do not regard Christians as "missionaries," while 76% are not bothered by encountering a Christian wearing a cross, the survey showed. At the same time, only 50% of Israeli Jews agreed that Jerusalem was central to the Christian faith, and 75% believe the state should not allow Christian groups to buy land to build new churches in the capital, the survey found. Forty-one percent of Israeli Jews believe that Christianity is the closest religion to Judaism, compared to 32% who cited Islam, according to the survey. Eighty percent of secular Jews believe they are allowed to enter churches, and 92% of them visited churches when abroad, while 83% of religious Jews said that visiting churches is forbidden by Jewish law. More than three out of every four religious Jews believe Christianity is "idol worship," while 66% of secular Jews do not, the survey found. Fifty-six percent of secular Jews believe that Christian soldiers in the IDF should be allowed to use the New Testament for swearing allegiance to the state, but 62% of religious Jews think only the Torah should be used. The data for the Rafi Smith Institute survey was collected last March among 500 Jews from various streams. The study did not cite a margin of error.