Bentzi Gopshtain and members of his anti-assimilation organization Lehava protested at the entry to Immanuel Church, located adjacent to Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, which was opened to the public this week at the peak of the Jerusalem Light Festival.
Gopshtain told Arutz Sheva that the opening of the church to the wider public was meant to lead Jews astray and into the trap of the missionaries, as he termed it.
-by Benny Tocker, June 3, 2016
“Jerusalem Light Festival hijacked by missionaries?”
Given the rather disquieting historical relationship between Christians and Jews, I can appreciate that there are Jewish organizations who seek to minimize the threat of Jewish assimilation and conversion to a religion they see as false.
But are Jewish people so gullible that if they accidentally walk into a church that they’ll suddenly abandon all of their beliefs and their heritage?
Of course, to the best of my understanding, the majority of Jews in Israel are secular and have no affiliation to religious Judaism, but even still, why is it a foregone conclusion that if a Jew, secular or otherwise, is exposed to the inside of the church or speak to missionaries for a few minutes that they’ll automatically convert to Christianity?
There is another side to the story. One person commented below the news article:
I’m a religious Jew who has gone to the festival year after year. There is ALWAYS a light show on the side of the church because it IS part of the festival. Been there. Seen that. I don’t walk inside the church; nor have I ever seen anyone unintentionally walk inside the church. Is Gopshtain simply uninformed or is it intentional?
I have no idea. I have no yardstick by which to measure Gopshtain.
One possible explanation is that according to multiple sources including Rabbi Naftali Brewer at The Jewish Chronicle, it is forbidden for a Jew to go into a church for any reason whatsoever:
Your rabbi is correct. The rabbinic consensus, based on the Talmud (Avodah Zara 17a,) is that it is forbidden to enter a church, even if just to admire the architecture or artwork. This body of opinion spans the generations and comprises leading medieval Sephardic and Ashkenazi rabbis such as Maimonides, Rashba (Rabbi Solomon ben Aderet), Ritba (Rabbi Yom Tov ibn Asevilli) and Rosh (Rabbi Asher ben Yechiel), as well as contemporary halachists including Rabbis Moshe Feinstien, Ovadia Yosef and Eliezer Waldenberg.
But again, not all Jews are religious, so even though it is Rabbinically forbidden, secular Jews may not acknowledge that authority over their lives.
I should say that the same site also gave the opinion of Reform Rabbi Jonathan Romain who states in part:
A key question is: why are you going into a church? Entering does not mean worshipping. It could be for a variety of other valid reasons: to admire the architecture, to attend the funeral of a non-Jewish friend or to learn about Christianity for the sake of dialogue.
There is a small possibility that a Jew may be so impressed by what he finds that he decides to convert – but such instances are extraordinarily rare. It also displays an insecurity about Jewish loyalties that is very unattractive. Why are we so afraid?
So I see two issues here.
The first is whether or not the church in question was trying to trick gullible Jews into entering their house of worship so they could fall into the clutches of missionaries?
The second is whether or not the majority of Jewish people are so vulnerable to conversion and assimilation that one visit to a church would put them at significant risk?
I can only imagine that churches operating in Israel would be well aware of how Jews feel about being proselytized. While, again to the best of my knowledge, it’s not actually illegal for Christians to proselytize in the Holy Land, I believe it is highly discouraged by the authorities, both civil and religious.
If some Christian groups are engaged in “bait and switch” tactics all for the sake of “saving Jewish souls,” then in my opinion, they are violating the integrity of their calling. If you believe you should share the “good news of Jesus Christ” to Jewish people, be honest about what you’re doing and why.
If some Jewish groups are “stretching the truth,” or downright being disingenuous about the tactics and intent of Christian groups in their midst, then, for whatever reason, they’re painting a false portrait of those groups, depicting them as “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
I am well aware of the Church’s historical hostile and dishonest behavior toward Jewish communities, but it doesn’t mean that each and every Christian on the planet is de facto the vicious enemy of the Jewish people.
Maybe there should be a little balance exercised here.