Shas Faction proposes outlawing evangelism in Israel

By March 27, 2007

Israel
(MNN) — Israel's
theocratic party known as the Shas faction has declared war on
missionaries.  The group's Ultra-Orthodox
leader, MK Yakov Margi, introduced a bill on March 13 urging a strengthening of
 Israel's laws against
proselytism. 

When asked if it is likely to pass, Voice of the Martyrs'
Canada's
Glenn Penner said, "I don't suspect so, but it does seem that
about every couple years some ultra-Orthodox party decides to stop missionary
activity in the country, so they find some allies in the situation and propose it again. This does show an opposition to evangelism activity that is
somewhat concerning." 

The new proposal would completely forbid preaching and
proselytism altogether. Under the proposal, violators would face a years' imprisonment
for preaching conversion.  According to
VCM, under current Israeli law, anyone offering money or material products in
exchange for conversion faces five years in prison or a monetary fine.

The person on the accepting end of the offer also faces punishment.
Anyone acting in favor of or conducting a conversion ceremony on a minor
faces six month in jail. The law, however, does not address attempts to convert
adults over the age of 18, making it completely legitimate.

Penner says the law reveals an ugly undercurrent facing
Christians and Messianic Jews in Israel.  "We're not terribly concerned that it
will be passed, but it is concerning that it keeps coming up. Pray that it
would be defeated. Pray for strengthening for our brothers and sisters particularly
in the city of Arad.  They are facing a terrible situation that people are not even aware of."

Every week for the past three years, he explains, the
Messianic Jewish congregation in Arad,
Israel, has
faced opposition from ultra-orthodox Jews.  Recent reports indicate the congregation
regularly faces jeers and insults. They are spat upon, and their homes are
frequent targets for tomatoes and eggs. Noisy demonstrations are common, with
the approval of the police.

The opposition turned violent on February 25 when a member
of the church was beaten in the parking lot of his Chess and Bible Shop.  The same shop was firebombed in 2005 by
opponents to his evangelistic work.

Pray that those who oppose them will see that Jesus is the
promised Messiah and receive the free gift of salvation.

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