I traveled from my home in the southern Negev to the town of Kiryat Netafim in Samaria to attend an important anti-missionary conference. Despite the distance, I saw my presence as obligatory since the problem that precipitated the conference is largely unknown. Israel is a society of geologically fragmented regions, and even more-so, of fragmented Jewry. What happens in one corner of the country is often little known elsewhere. Labels and categories are the obsession. People tend to identify more closely with those whose religious/political/socio-economic/regional experiences match their own. In some ways, the Shomron is even more isolated than the underdeveloped Negev. While the current missionary problem in Samaria has its own distinct features, it is still relatively unknown to most Jews. Nevertheless, the repercussions of this spiritual danger will be universal if we fail to address it at this critical juncture.
The conference was organized by Shomron residents Yekutiel Ben Yaakov and Ezra Stein, who have seen firsthand the catastrophe of local missionary activity. The event featured speeches from prominent rabbonim, Rabbi Yehudah Richter of yishuv Elon Moreh, Rabbi Yoel Shwartz, Rabbi Elhanan Bin Nun, and veteran anti-missionary activist Mina Fenton. The prominent anti-missionary organization Jewish Israel gave a comprehensive video presentation which provided in-depth analysis of the problem. I will try to provide a synopsis of several salient features of the event.
It should be noted that although the conference was originally scheduled to be held at the Eshel HaShomron Hotel in the nearby town of Ariel, the hotel belatedly cancelled the event under pressure from local missionaries. Event organizer Yekutiel Ben Yaakov is currently taking legal action against the hotel, for breach of contract.
The reader may wonder why the hotel felt the need to take such an aggressive approach and buckle under pressure. Yekutiel Ben Yaakov, who introduced the speakers, began by “thanking” the Eshel Hashomron hotel for canceling the event, since the cancelation generated more publicity for this unknown issue. He informed the audience that the brochures advertising the conference spoke specifically of the threat of “Christian missionaries” as the focus of the conference. This being the case, even if the management of the hotel was partaking of halachically problematic x-tian tourism in the region (and they are), the event was clearly targeted at those who are spiritually targeting Jews for conversion. Those who are not involved in missionizing should naturally have felt no threat from the flyer. What compelled them to pressure the hotel to cancel the conference? And why did the hotel management cave in under such unreasonable demands?
The answer is obvious. The missionaries are afraid. They know that the truth will hurt them. And they are correct. When the masses finally become privy to their plans, there will be hell to pay; for the evangelicals, and for those who enable them.
The New Danger
Most Torah committed Jews are aware of the many well-funded missionaries in Israel, who prey on vulnerable Jews. Baruch Hashem, there is no dearth of organizations trained to deal with these overt groups, and to assist those who are easy prey for their deception. It is a generally accepted truism that religious Jews of sound mind are relatively safe from the influence of missionaries. Anyone with a basic Yeshiva background understands that these missionaries distort the Torah to spread their agenda. They primarily prey on those who are emotionally vulnerable. For many yeshiva guys, the question is often whether to engage with them or not. (The question of whether or not an untrained Yeshivah guy should even waste his time dealing with irrational missionaries is an issue I will not address.)
The conference addressed a different type of missionary organization, who are experiencing historically unprecedented success today in their ultimate attempt to influence religious Jews. As of today, one can’t point to these groups and say definitively that they have converted religious Jews, but given the overall goal, this isn’t their initial intention. They know they can’t impulsively run to a religious Jew and convince him to accept Jesus. The long term plan requires patience. They want to infiltrate previously unreachable religious communities and plant strong roots; and they have done so.
“Who is wise, he who can foresee the future.” (Ethics of the Forefathers)
The first speaker, Rabbi Yehudah Richter of Elon Moreh, delivered a passionate speech about the disturbing phenomenon of religious Jews, presumably committed to Torah, working with evangelical missionaries. A major factor behind this relationship, stems from the fact that there is tremendous financial advantage to be gained from utilizing evangelical resources. He cited the biblical example of the notorious Datan and Aviram who also profited financially from Jewish slavery during the Egyptian exile. This might explain why when Moshe saved Datan from an assault on his person by killing his Egyptian assailant, Datan informed on Moshe to the Egyptian authorities. Moshe had to flee for his life. Later on when Hashem instructs Moshe to return to Egypt, he explains that all those who wanted to kill him were dead.
The obvious question is how could Hakadosh Baruch Hu say that ALL were dead? The Gemara in (Masechet Avoda Zara 5a) identifies those who desired Moshe’s death as being Datan and Aviram, who we find later on, causing trouble in the midbar. The same Gemara provides an answer: The death is not literal. They were akin to being dead, because they lost all their money. The Gemara equates the dead with the poor, on some level.
As an American born English speaker, Rabbi Richter referenced a linguistic obstacle that prevents many Israelis from seeing the problem. Bringing his own life experiences growing up among urban blacks in the U.S. to illustrate a point, he pointed out humorously that in the inner city “bad” is good, and good is bad. He’s bad means “he’s alright.” He explained that only someone who understands the cultural context can interpret the message correctly. Similarly, evangelical Christians have a sophisticated terminology that is lost on Hebrew speakers, even those who fancy that they have a grasp of the English language. They miss the context in the the same manner that I continue to miss many popular Hebrew terms of slang. Furthermore, they have no reference point for understanding evangelical Christians.
Using another example, Rabbi Richter noted that when one wants to know what Arabs really think about Jews, you don’t watch CNN, the BBC, or even FOX for that matter; you refer to the Arab media where they use their own language.
Rabbi Richter reflected on the dual threat of Esav as illustrated by the famous drush on the biblical verse: “Deliver me, I pray Thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and smite me, the mother with the children.”(Genesis 32:10) Historically, Brother Esau has come with the sword to force Jews to the cross. Sometimes he comes with love in his heart and an olive branch in his hands. Finally, Rabbi Richter noted that the Jews of Egypt made a fundamental error when they eschewed the isolation of Goshen for Egyptian society. Similarly, religious Jews in the region have opened their homes and their communities to dangerous external forces.
Jewish Israel’s presentation hosted by Public Relations Director Shulamit Leibler addressed the various efforts, tactics, and motivations of the many different evangelical christian organizations active throughout Israel and Samaria. One such group, Hayovel, “The Jubilee,” headed by Tommy Waller, is prominent in the region for their volunteer program in assisting religious agricultural communities with their harvests. Jewish Israel noted that Hayovel is one organization out of many who utilize a subtle process of assimilating themselves into Israeli society by gradually blurring the distinction between Jew and gentile, as a means of “grafting” themselves onto the Jewish people’s covenant, by introducing Jews to “yeshua” (missionary terminology for jesus). Furthermore, a primary aspect of their ideology platform maintains that Eretz Yisroel belongs to them as well. Sherri Waller and others have frequently reflected these views:
“For us it’s a spiritual deal – a faith deal,” said Sherri Waller. “The battle is over the land because God gave it to the descendants of Abraham – that includes us.”
Mrs. Leibler informed the audience that there are many righteous converts to Judaism with evangelical backgrounds, who understand precisely what evangelical organizations such as Hayovel are doing. As former leaders of evangelical movements themselves, they are experts on the subject; and they know that these are missionaries. When you consider the following, it is hard to view Hayovel’s efforts as anything but a nightmarish success for them:
Today, Hayovel can say that they have successfully planted a grass-roots base of evangelical Christians within formally isolated Torah communities. All under the guise of assisting their agricultural businesses to “satisfy” “Old Testament” prophesies. They have toned down the Jesus rhetoric to secure the communities confidence.
Hayovel is successfully eroding the barrier between Christians and Jews. Despite false assertions Jewish enablers, there is a plethora of video footage of frequent social interactions between the two groups. They have become friends.
Hayovel has successfully created a power base using local religious Jewish leaders and personalities as pawns to sell their agenda. Specifically, by targeting individuals who are eager to either become or remain prominent “machers,” (players) both domestically and abroad. This is essential, since without the popular support of prominent religious Jews, they cannot accomplish anything. Today, Hayovel has a strong network of connections and friendships with local Jewish leaders. They can even cite one prominent rabbinical personality who has given them a certificate of kashrut. Indeed, this distinguished personage has even boldly announced that these evangelicals are aiding the ultimate Jewish redemption redemption by fulfilling the words of the neviim. This may be the first time in Jewish history that evangelicals have convinced a prominent rabbi that their christological interpretation of our holy Torah is correct!
Mrs. Leibler explained that many Jews make a fundamental mistake when they they throw the term evangelical around as a neutral term. As if there are non-evangelising evangelicals. An evangelical is committing to converting people, particularly Jews, who they believe are preventing “the second coming.” Using the notorious tactic expressed in Corinthians as their model, they utilize every deceptive tactic to bring Jews to the cross. Lying outright, distorting verses, wearing masks. It is all theologically supported from the gospels. An evangelical christian is by its very definition is a missionary.
Both Jewish Israel‘s presentation and concluding speaker Mina Fenton emphasized the importance of understanding the ideological terminology of such organizations, who use cryptic words like “restoration” to mask a sophisticated and well-organized missionary agenda. The goal is to integrate themselves into the Jewish nation to bring the idolatrous notion of yeshua, and ultimately latch themselves onto the covenant of Am Yisroel, which they also see as belonging to them as well.
How could this have happened?
This frightening reality could never have happened were it not for self-appointed leaders in the religious Jewish community who aligned themselves with evangelicals for political and financial gain. Although these individuals are not necessarily a monolithic group, their collective actions are devastating.
Nor could this missionary infiltration have happened, if these people hadn’t barricaded the revered Rabbi Eliezer Melamed of Har Brachah from the truth. As of today, this distinguished Torah scholar has yet to sit down with concerned Jews representing professional anti-missionary organizations, who want to present their evidence to him. Rabbi Melamed is surrounded by people who don’t want him to know the truth. On one occasion the Rav sent a representative who is personally involved with these evangelical groups to speak with Jewish Israel. Nogeah B’davar, don’t you think?
I have already written two recent articles about this specific threat. Esau Rising, followed by Esau Rising: Part II, as a response to a detractor’s written tirade. I generally received positive feedback from many Jews, including professionals who have been addressing this problem for years. Even the negative feedback was positive, since it allowed me to reach an audience that might not have read my articles. Not surprisingly, most of the negative feedback came from those who are involved with these evangelicals. Their reaction is typical of all timid non-thinkers who refuse to engage in discussion. A histrionic amalgam of name-calling, tirades, insults, and a consistent refusal to address the issues, or respond to mountains of evidence.
These two articles contained numerous links and references which will clarify the issue for those who want to see it. I urge the reader to read and share these articles with their friends, and even more, to follow the actual links and conduct a bit of research. Get the word out. What is happening in the Shomron is not exclusive to the region, and those who wish to convince themselves otherwise are living in a vacuum. It will have repercussions that will reverberate throughout the country.
Why won’t Rabbi Eliezer Melamed sit down with committed religious Jews, who are experts in anti-missionary work, without the obvious impediment of a biased intermediary? (It may interest the reader to know that the Jewish representative who sat down with Hayovel in Rabbi Melamed’s stead, is Facebook friends with the notorious Ken Groat.) See #4 below.
By his own admission, Rabbi Melamed noted that he asked the evangelical head of Hayovel about his intentions, and was satisfied with his answer. As an evangelical ideologically committed to bring the idolatry of Jesus to Jews, Waller has precedent from his gospels to adopt deceptive tactics to achieve his agenda. Waller is undeserving of us being “dan lkaf zchut!” Why did Rabbi Melamed give a known evangelical the benefit of the doubt?
Why are Hayovel’s stated goals of “grafting themselves on to the Jewish people” not of any concern to those who support their volunteer efforts? Do they not see the theological danger of their platform of “restoration” which wants to co-opt our exclusive Divine covenant with Hashem? Are they so obtuse that they don’t foresee the many halachic /hashkafic problems of gentiles interacting and living among their community?
Are they unaware of the many messianic Christians in their midst who are adopting the dress of religious Jews, and partaking of distorted versions of our holy mitzvoth, so as to appear as halachically observant Jews? Check out Esav Exposed for a disturbing look at the Hayovel affiliated Groat family. Why are they not bothered by Hayovel’s numerous alliances and connections with renowned messianic groups and personalities such as messianic messianic Michael Clayton, missionary Dean Bye , missionary Myles Weiss, and a host of others unsavory sorts, too numerous to list.
Why have many of these same religious Jewish leaders sat down themselves with known apostate Jews and messianics who aggressively target Jews for conversion? Why did members of the Shomron Liaison Office sit at a dinner with the infamous Yakov Damkani a notorious street missionary? Why are there photographs of this wicked apostate speaking with Jewish children in religious yishuvim?
Why are there so many photos of religious Jews and their evangelical friends, credited to known messianic photographer Heather Meyers, whose webpage betrays her messianic beliefs? Why are so many of these same religious Jews Facebook friends with Heather, and a host of other messianics?
Why is the name of Heaven being disgraced in Eretz Yisroel while Jewish souls are in danger?
This is just the tip of the iceberg. And as many anti-missionary activists have repeatedly pointed out, Hayovel is merely ONE organization, perhaps the most public, but only ONE out of MANY missionary groups that are active in Eretz Yisroel, who are successfully integrating themselves in the political, ideological, infrastructural, and educational framework to undermine Torah Judaism from within. Many evangelical groups are coasting under the radar because Hayovel acts as a lightning rod. I’ve been told that there is not one yishuv in the Shomron that doesn’t bear at least one dedication plaque from an evangelical organization.
The conference concluded, I settled into my car after consuming two cups of coffee. On my long journey home to Negev, my mind was riddled with frustration at the sheer insanity of this outrage. I passed many other examples of Israeli lunacy. I drove past a sign declaring the road ahead to be AREA A, where my Jewish life would be forfeit if I entered, thanks to an Israeli armed Fatah and the legacy of the Oslo accords. My untrustworthy WAZE GPS system decided to take me through a hostile Arab village where I nearly smashed into a donkey on the side of the road that was hiding in the shadows. I continued on towards the mercaz and gradually southward, where the familiar Bedouin land-grabbing around me informed me that I was on my way home. I kept my eyes open for camels.
I am a veteran of these roads, and as an avid nature lover, I often see desert fauna crossing the road. Deeper southward, I slowed down as a young ibex crossed the road. Further on, a sand fox scampered across. Always wary (and excited!) to see a striped hyena crossing, I kept my eyes fixed on the road. And then it happened. Out of nowhere, a desert hare jumped into the road in front of my car. I tried to stop, but it was too late. Boom!
My practice is to also turn back and make sure that the animal isn’t wounded. It pains me to say that my return trip confirmed that it wasn’t a clean kill, and to end the animal’s terrible suffering I had to do the unpleasant humane thing. (In my own defense, a fact that anyone who knows me will attest to, I have a good eye for spotting wildlife. I can see atiny lizard basking on the side of the road, or a desert mouse scampering in the dark.) No one’s fault. The hare was hiding in a ditch and naturally had no knowledge of my car. I wasn’t speeding, and I couldn’t see it. I drove the rest of the way home with a heavy heart.
I only recall this terrible incident since it occurred to me that too many Jews are like the clueless hare on the side of the road. Oblivious and blind to the dangers, spiritual or physical and vulnerable to sudden devastation and death. Morose reflections on a somber night.
This phenomenon of Christian evangelicals planting themselves in our midst makes me sick to the core. They are a dagger in our soul. If they bother you as well, then it’s time to raise our collective Jewish voice to undo this tremendous desecration of G-d’s name. Let the reader take notice that prominent rabbonim have already joined the fight, and several new avenues of exposing this outrage are being aggressively explored. I call upon all proud Torah Jews, regardless of affiliation, to join this noble fight for Torah!
The challenge of the hour is to expose these missionaries and their religious cohorts, and thus sanctify The Almighty’s name.