Israel: Where the preaching of Christianity is banned
by Hameed Abdul Karim
President George maybe a born-again Christian and on talking terms with God, as he claims, but there is one thing he cannot do while he's in Israel. ; and that is preach his faith and beliefs in Jesus Christ, because in Israel preaching Christianity is banned by law. Welcome to Israel, Mr. President. This is the land of your favourite philosopher Jesus Christ. The only difference is that during his time and, until 1947 it was called Palestine. Israel was not on the world map then.
The law banning Christians from proselytising Jews came before the Israeli parliament during the Christmas season in 1977; amidst protests from Arab Christians in Israel and in occupied Palestine. But their protests were in vain. The law came into force on April 1, 1978, under the premiership of Nobel peace laureate Menachem Begin. Henceforth, no Christian missionary could even offer a Bible to a Jew with a hope to convert him to Christianity. This singular act could constitute an offering of 'material inducement' which could land a Christian missionary to five years in jail in the exclusive Jewish state. Under the same statute, a Jew could be jailed for three years if he converts to Christianity.
Encouraged by Israel's anti-Christian laws, Jews have taken the liberty in burning Christian literature and even the Scriptures. In 2002, while. Christians the world over were celebrating Christmas, the Jerusalem Post (Internet Division) reported that a teacher at the Orat School in Beit Shemiesh had burned the New Testament in the school's courtyard in the presence of the entire class. He had found the New Testament in the possession of a Jewish student. Later the unidentified teacher said that God had given him the 'privilege to burn the New Testament'. After many protests by Christians the principal had turned to Rabbi David Spector who had ruled that it was kosher to burn the New Testament or any Christian literature, but that it should be done in private.
In his book 'Fifty Years of Israel' Donald Neff gives many instances where Israel had discriminated brazenly against its Christian population. He goes on to provide details where Jews had attacked Christian churches and institutions, often with the tacit approval of the Jewish state. One such incident was where hundreds of fundamentalist Jews simultaneously attacked Christian missions in Jaffa, Haifa and Jerusalem. The attacks were carried out by a Jewish group calling itself the Activists of the Torah Camp. In an attack on the Church of Scotland school in Jaffa, Christian children were beaten up by at least 200 rampaging Jews. More than a hundred Jews were found guilty afterwards, but all were let off the hook with small fines and suspended sentences.
Another incident Neff recounts was the arson attack on the Baptist Church in Jerusalem on October 8, 1982. The entire church was burned down just one year away of its 50th anniversary. When the Baptists tried to rebuild the church, Jews demonstrated against the project and the authorities refused to grant them permission to build. So the Baptists took their case to the Israeli Supreme Court which told them to just pack up and quit!
The attack on Christians, Christianity and its institutions in Israel is not a new phenomenon. It started when the UN partitioned Palestine at the behest of Western powers led by the US. On May 31, 1948 Father Deleque, reported 'Jewish soldiers broke doors of my church and robbed many precious and sacred objects. Then they threw the statues of Christ down into a nearby garden'.
The Christian Union of Palestine had publicly complained that on May 31, 1948 Jewish forces had used 10 churches and Christian institutions in Jerusalem as military bases. They reported that 14 churches were damaged in Jewish shelling which also killed three priests and more than one hundred women and children.
In the 1967 Israeli engineered war, Jewish forces extensively damaged churches compelling Reverend James L. Kelso, a former moderator of the United Presbyterian Church to say 'So significant was this third Jewish war against the Arabs that one of the finest missionaries of the Near East called it 'perhaps the most serious setback that Christendom has had since the fall of Constantinople in 1453'.
The Church of St. Anne where the Blessed Mary was born was severely damaged as was the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem where the Revered Jesus was born.
Rev. Kelso went on to lament 'How did Israel respect church property in the fighting..? They shot up Jerusalem's Episcopal Cathedral just as they had done in 1948. They smashed down the Episcopal school ... The Israeli's 'wrecked and looted the YMCA ... they wrecked the big Lutheran hospital ... the Lutheran centre for cripples also suffered...'
Jewish attacks on Christians are not limited to war time alone. On Christmas Day in 1983 a hotel in Tiberias where Christians gather was set on fire. On January 11, 1984, suspected Jewish extremists stacked hymnals on a piano in a Christian prayer room in Jerusalem and set it one fire. At around the same time according to the New York Times of January 15, 1984, a group of Jews protested against a Christian group that wanted to build a multimillion dollar hotel in Jerusalem carrying placards that read 'I didn't migrate to live next to missionaries'. Rabbi Moshe Berliner, a leader of the Jewish protest, compared Christian missionaries to Trojan horses.
The end result of the Jewish oppression against Christians in occupied Palestine is that the number of Christians in the land where Jesus. Christ was born and preached has dwindled to only 50,000 in 1995. When Israel was created in 1948 the Christian community had numbered 200,000 compared to about 600,000 Jews in Palestine at that time.
The American media has largely ignored the Israeli governments' discrimination against the Christians, though the money, military and political support that keeps Israel afloat comes from Christian countries.
(The writer is a vice-president of the Sri Lanka Committee for Solidarity with Palestine)
Appeared in The Island 23 January,2008.