Messianic Jews Face Persecution in Israel
The numbers of Jews in Israel coming to Yeshua and the rise of Messianic Judaism was slow until the 1990s. This changed with the huge immigration of Jews from Russia beginning in the 1990s – a number of them had come to faith in Russia through Messianic Jewish outreaches. (In fact, I had the privilege of teaching many of them while still in Russia through Messianic Jewish Bible schools.) In addition, some Messianic Jewish leaders from America and elsewhere also immigrated to Israel around the same time, and within a few years had started Messianic Jewish congregations. These actions began to influence the Israeli population in the 2000s. Whereas 15 years ago, the Messianic Jews in Israel numbered around 3000, today they number around 15,000, housed in approximately 150 congregations. Previously, Messianic Jews in Israel were marginalized. Over the past two years, however, Messianic Jews have been the subject of news reports on television, radio and the print media in Israel, often portrayed very sympathetically. In the past government and political leaders have steered clear of Messianic Jews and issues that affect them. Now, that is no longer the case. Messianic Jewish issues are now lumped together with other minority groups’ needs when discussed in public forums.
Still Messianic Jews often are targeted by the ultra-Orthodox community, which has significant influence in the government. As examples, in the spring, 2008, a teen-age son of a Messianic leader attempted to open an apparent gift basket, which turned out to be a bomb. Miraculously, he survived but sustained very serious injuries. Camera footage captured the placement of the bomb, and it is apparent that the ultra-Orthodox were involved, but up to this point the government has taken no action. (In November, 2009, the apparent perpetrator was arrested – he is ultra-Orthodox). In another case, one of my daughters was prevented from immigrating due to her faith. She and eleven others won an Israeli Supreme Court case in the spring, 2008, forcing the government to grant her citizenship. Certain leaders of Israeli Messianic congregations have been informed by the government that they may have their citizenship revoked due to their faith. Finally, my wife and I were arrested, detained and almost deported in December, 2008, for our faith - only the intervention of legal and political assistance prevented it, all reported in a Jerusalem Post story.
There are now many Christian and Jewish organizations around the world that raise significant sums of money to meet humanitarian needs in the Israel. But we discovered a huge problem. The donated money circumvents the Messianic Jewish organizations in Israel, despite the fact that many are involved in humanitarian projects. To respond to this situation, in 2007 I and others formed another organization called the Hope for Israel Relief Fund. Over the past 25 years there has been increasing interest in the worldwide Church towards the nation of Israel. This is clear from the surge of Christian financial donations to Israel. In one particular example, a Jewish rabbi raises approximately $60 million/year for Israel, primarily from Christian donations. I personally have spoken to the leaders of the donating organizations, and the reason given for not cooperating with the Messianic Jewish community is the fear of creating a rift with the larger Jewish community. As a result we formed Hope for Israel, whose goals are to raise money from the church world in order to channel it through the Messianic community in Israel to meet the humanitarian needs of the larger population. This empowers the Messianic Jewish community within the land of Israel. The Messianic community in the land is very excited about our plans.