About That Protest Against Christian Worship Event in Jerusalem
Last week, Israel advocate Hananya Naftali broke away from his normal pro-Israel transmissions, uploading this video with the alarmist title Christians Persecuted in Jerusalem Today:
This is a very simplistic take on what occurred.
It is clear from Arieh King’s tweets that he is against missionaries, not Christians as Hananya alleges:
This is not about being “scared of Christian worship” as Hananya claims. It is about being against missionary activity against Jews, especially in our own homeland.
My friend Pesach Wolicki, who is the executive director of Ohr Torah Stone’s Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, has a way better and more nuanced take on the protests:
‘Christians persecuted by Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem!” “Orthodox Jews spit at Christian worshipers near Temple Mount!” “Violence against Christians. The true face of Israel.”
These are just a few of the social media posts that went viral this past Sunday, accompanied by footage of Orthodox Jews aggressively protesting a Christian worship event held at the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
The event, billed as Pentecost 2023: Global Day of Prayer for Jerusalem and the Nations, attracted Christians from a wide variety of ministries and organizations. The primary purpose of the event was prayer for Israel, the peace of Jerusalem and the world. The Jewish protesters, led by prominent religious Zionist leader Rabbi Zvi Tau and Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Aryeh King, came to speak out against Christians who seek to proselytize Jews in Israel. And in fact, one of the stated goals of Pentecost 2023 was the launch of a decade of evangelism.
For Christians worldwide, the behavior of the protesters is evidence of the Jewish hatred of Christianity and the intolerance of the freedom of Christians to worship in Jerusalem. For those Jews who support the protesters, the threat of Christian missionary activity actively targeting Jews warrants the outrage on display by those Jews who disrupted the Christian event.
Before we get into the despicable actions of the protesters, let’s be very clear. Any and all attempts to convert Jews to Christianity are unacceptable if there is to be any positive progress made in the Jewish-Christian relationship. At Ohr Torah Stone’s Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, a disavowal of any such motives or activity is a precondition for dialogue and cooperation.
Most Christians are largely ignorant of the history of Christian antisemitism and fail to understand the suspicion felt by most in the Jewish community. Our position is that Christian cessation of efforts to convert Jews to Christianity is an essential baseline for a mutually respectful relationship between our faiths going forward. To try to pull Jews away from the Jewish faith and toward Christianity is to attack the Jewish people and the Jewishness of Israel.
Thank God, most major Christian Zionist organizations are openly opposed to missionary activity directed at Jews. In fact, the leaders of these organizations are frequently criticized within the Christian world for refraining from proselytizing. These Christian Zionist organizations were notably absent from Sunday’s event.
At the same time, Pentecost 2023 lists several prominent ministries among its organizers and partners that do support or actively engage in efforts to preach Christianity to Jews in Israel. While much of the content of the event was prayer for Israel and the peace of Jerusalem, in a number of the speeches, as well as in advance promotional materials, references to the goal of the Jewish people accepting Jesus were carefully worded, but not concealed.
I point this out not to justify the aggressive behavior of the protesters, but to raise the larger issue of the delicate state of the Jewish-Christian relationship and the damage that results from a lack of nuanced understanding on both sides.
AS FOR the protesters, while peaceful protest is a democratic right, their behavior was shameful and damaging to the Jewish people. Spitting, harassment and scuffling with security personnel do nothing to improve the Jewish relationship with the nations of the world. It is nothing less than a desecration of God’s name.
The responsibility for the negative perception of Israel in general and of Torah-observant Jews in particular, resulting from Sunday’s protest rests squarely on the shoulders of Tau and his partners. While we agree in our unequivocal opposition to missionary activity in Israel, peacefully speaking out, handing out leaflets, or praying opposite the Christian event, would all have been more effective and acceptable responses.
I am not surprised Hananya said what he did, given his own background trying to encourage Jews to believe in Jesus. Granted, since I exposed this all those years ago, he seems to have focused solely on his Israel advocacy and steered away from Messianic activities. But these protests were apparently too much for him to bear.
Unfortunately, he has caused untold damage with this video, given his huge following among Christians. I sincerely hope he takes the time to read Pesach’s piece and retracts his false claim that Christians were persecuted (as opposed to harassed, which of course is not ok either), and it was just for being Christians.