Enmity Between Neighbors

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?”
Arutz Sheva

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.

Gopshtain and Lehava activists protest missionary event – Photo: Arutz Sheva

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?

missionaries in israel
Image: yadlachim.org

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.

7 thoughts on “Enmity Between Neighbors”

  1. What troubles me is the appellation of ‘Christian’, as if Christianity were a uniform belief system with any consistent dogma or halachah, other than belief in Yeshua as the Anointed One of YHVH…and most Christians don’t even understand that much…so why do we expect Jews to?

    Christianity to the Jewish ear means ‘Greek or Roman Catholic Christianity’, complete with crusades, inquisitions and pograms…Protestantism or Reform Christianity is to the historically uninformed not even worth defining. And those that call themselves Christians…would they be recognizable as such, even to Shaul and Kephas, who spent so much time in the pagan west?

    If you are a gentile Talmid Yeshua in Israel, you are at the least Ger Toshav, and should present the minimal appearance of adherence to civil norms in Israel, since they are derived from Jewish religious law and always have been. That to me would be not pushing any form of Christian expression onto any Jew. If Jews are so threatened by the mere idea of Yeshua, they are merely acknowledging that there is something to be threatened by…a more lively, personal, and resonant understanding of YHVH.

    Some Jews appear to believe that those that follow Yeshua ha Notsri these days are out to brainwash every person they can get their hands on into becoming an idolater, when most Christian Missionaries…even Sabra Jewish Christian Missionaries…are not even aware that Jews think they are Catholic idolaters.

    Still, the Jews in Israel must feel that they are losing ground in their fight to hold on to a specific expression of Jewish belief in G-d…the Rabbinical Orthodox Judaism, just as they seemed to be doing in 1st century Judea.

  2. http://jewishisrael.ning.com/profiles/blogs/rights-of-christian-proselytizing-trumps-jewish-sensitivities
    This has a different perspective from most of the sites of the articles linked to below. Notice the event touched on is an event, not, as far as I can tell, a proselytizing effort specifically — unless there would be an element in televising. I don’t know why they want to do their baptizing on Sabbath. [Also, over to the right side currently is a link to a topic about Pat Boon and Sid Roth. I think a lot of people perceive Sid Roth as messianic; I don’t consider him to be messianic. Additionally, I think he passes along strange things like false prophets and false prophesies. (I’m not a Graham and Boon fan either, the Graham organization because of their being hypocritical.)]
    I find this article to be anti-Semitic. It also falsifies reality in that it ignores (and speaks against) the fact the ACLU has fought FOR Christians [and because, of the other article I linked to above, I have to clarify, not only for Jehovah’s Witnesses {if for them at all as it seems they (JW’s) at least often fund their own suits}, who, of course, many people don’t consider Christian} — they (ACLU) are principle based (freedom and pro-Constitution), not pro or anti religion].



  3. “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?”

    James, the majority of Jewish people may not be vulnerable and for most of them, one visit to a church would probably not lead to anything life-changing. But with the level of ignorance of Judaism and general assimilation among the Jewish people in the last 100 years, that’s still a too high a risk to which to expose Jews. Such a visit may seem outwardly innocent, but it may spark a desire in the more Jewishly ignorant and socially vulnerable among them to seek to find out more about the foreign religion to which the building belongs. It may cause some assimilated Jews who had their reservations regarding Christianity to drop their guard down, especially if they are approached by professional missionaries who specialize in this sort of thing and who know how to couch Christianity in Jewish terms.

    The Torah warns in most severe terms that one may not encourage Jews into following other religions and their gods, even if such encouragement comes from within one’s own family. How much more so should Jews be weary of practitioners of foreign religions who made a home in the midst of the Jewish Land and who in many cases explicitly seek to see Jews converted to Christianity?

  4. From the link above: “Christ Church is indeed unique. It was built for numerous reasons, but the foremost was that the founders of CMJ had a great love and concern for the Jewish people and wanted to share with them the Good News of Messiah Jesus.

    At least they are open about it. Still, Jews are right to be concerned about their missionary nature and their support for messianics in Israel.

  5. @Questor: I think many Jews imagine that “Christianity” is one thing in the same manner as most non-Jews think of Judaism as a single entity. That there are variances in belief and praxis only registers on those who take the time to investigate.

    While I’ve met many people in the little church I used to attend who seem to truly love the Jewish people, they don’t particularly like Judaism as a practice. To me, this is like saying, I love Jewish people but only as long as they don’t practice Judaism as a lifestyle and that they have the hope of being converted to Christianity.

    This extends, at least for some believers, to how Messianic Judaism is thought of. In fact, that was the prime reason I left that particular church. The head Pastor publicly “denounced” Torah practice for any Jew who is a disciple of Rav Yeshua (Jesus Christ).

    I don’t blame Jewish people from perceiving Christianity as a whole as a threat given the historical enmity between Christians and Jews, but then again, not all Christians (or Messianic believers) are out to “get” Jews, particularly by trickery.

    @Marleen: From a Jewish point of view (as far as I’m able to describe it with me not being Jewish), the Church’s mission to proselytize everyone, including Jewish people, will always be seen as at odds with Christianity’s professed friendship toward the Jewish people and Israel. Christians will always be viewed with suspicion. From my side of the fence, it makes it very difficult to be involved with Jewish community, particularly because that’s one of my wife’s concerns. My personal answer has been to disengage from Jewish community, even Messianic Jewish community for the most part. I’m not a threat if I’m not knocking on Jewish doors, so to speak.

    I suppose the fact that I actively blog might be seen as threatening to some Jewish people (Hi, Gene), but then again, I don’t promote my blog in Jewish venues (just primarily on Facebook, Google+, and sometimes twitter). If a Jewish person happens to surf on in, it’s entirely up to that person whether to read my content or just move on.

    Usually the non-Messianic Jews (and Noahide Gentiles) who do comment do so to let me know that I’m either mistaken in my beliefs or that I’m some sort of threat to the Jewish people because I am blogging (more or less) using some Jewish concepts and quotes.

    @Ro: I think you mentioned on another of my blog posts that you know of a Christian person who attends synagogue, not to attempt to convert Jews but simply to learn from them, and that he’s generally accepted by them.

    It’s been my experience (yes, I’ve attended normative synagogue services in the past) that if a non-Jew minds his/her manners, their presence is tolerated. Of course in my case, there are other factors involved.

    @Gene: I know you probably don’t believe this, but I don’t want Jewish people to convert to normative Christianity and assimilate into Goyim society. The Church has historically been guilty of terrible crimes against the Jewish people and that’s got to stop.

    It was never God’s plan to “save” Israel by eliminating the nation or the Jewish people from the face of the Earth. I truly believe that all Israel will be ultimately redeemed by God and will become the head of the nations, with the world being ruled by King Messiah.

    I understand that we disagree about the identity of Messiah and some of the “mechanics” regarding exactly how the New Covenant will be brought about. I’ve never come over to your blog and attempted to change your mind about anything.

    In the meantime, we have Judaism and Christianity at odds with each other. I merely suggest that not each and every Christian or church on the planet has hidden, secret motivations to do harm to Jews. I do agree that if a church feels a particular mandate to share the “good news” (as they understand it) to Jewish people, they should be open and upfront about it.

  6. Your two main issues, James, were trickery and vulnerability.
    (It’s good that Gene pointed out it’s not about a “majority.”)

    I wanted to bring more insight on the legality (which you
    did also mention; in passing, but not as an issue here).

    In the process, I ran across “attitude” (and subtlety…
    in that there isn’t simply a status of legal/illegal).

    Anyone can see the attitude that comes with outsiders pointing to some kind of law in Israel (and sensitivities not put into law). I think it’s uncalled-for (even more so when we don’t forget to remember that complete unfettered legality wouldn’t only be the domain of wise or good guys — in the eyes of whomever). On the other hand, I was interested in the more specific subtleties of inducement, age, family, and, as well, apparently, extra-law legal agreements.

    I will agree with you, in a distant way, in this comparison: When the Catholic Church wants to influence national law (not at the Vatican or even in Italy but for instance in the U.S. — on the other side of the world) to reflect Catholic teaching, I say their domain is their own members. And if they haven’t been effective in convincing their own people to voluntarily adhere to their* doctrine and rules, everyone else shouldn’t be compelled to make that leadership happy or placated. But that’s a democratic view. And Israel isn’t a world apart from Israel?

    * And everyone else shouldn’t abstain from applying consequences to their clergy who doesn’t adhere to decency, making them happy.

    It looks very complicated even for citizens, and I don’t know if the person or group you referenced at the outset of your opening article is to be taken as representative of or part and parcel with something analogous to a papal command. Or is the name named involved in civil disobedience… or both? It kinda looks to me like there is some balance (in the system), and what one person or sub-group does (the detail of, I guess, blocking the door) isn’t what everyone would do or want done; but there is a pushing and pulling going on within the culture.

    Well, anyway, your hope that not all Christians would be seen as sneaky or tricky and a threat is somewhat parallel to the sense that not all Jews are vulnerable or too weak to walk near an open church door. It’s still enough of a concern to want to address in some way. However, it is my view that “most” Christians/churches are poorly informed in one way or another (and fervent about there mistakes) — it’s rather sad.

    [I’ve just looked back over your comment to me in this comments area, James. I now see — I think — that you’re comparing your site to the door? That is complicated too, isn’t it. You’re here and potentially there too. Yeah, I have to agree that discernment is with each person. Then again, I would hope someone walking through the church door wouldn’t have to absolutely expect a one way “conversation” is all there is. Yet it looks like a “church” has to decide where their own line is, right or wrong.]

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