Tzemach Dovid, a “shul” and “Beis Medrash” in the Bram Center in the heart of downtown Jerusalem is actually a missionary training center with teachers dressed as Orthodox Jews, teaching missionaries how to live a religious Jewish lifestyle, the anti-missionary organization Yad L’Achim stated this week. Tzemach Dovid appears like a standard Jewish shul, with an Aron Kodesh and Sifrei Torah instead of crosses.
The Bram Center is the “Jerusalem ministry” of the First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) organization, established in the US in 1992 to disseminate “Messianic Judaism.” Yad L’Achim has discovered that Tzemach Dovid is just the tip of the iceberg of extensive Christian missionary activity among the Israeli public that has intensified in recent times.
A quick Google search reveals that the Bram Center’s goals have been available online since 2016. A website for the center clearly states their goal: “The Bram Center for Messianic Jewish Learning celebrates the rich history and broad diversity of Jewish Yeshua-followers while focusing on the development of a Torah-based and traditional expression of Messianic Judaism. The Bram Center emphasizes three areas of focus: Yeshua faith, Torah-centered Messianic Judaism, and the land of Israel.”
About six months ago, the center’s missionary activities intensified and the missionaries began participating in so-called Torah classes as part of a “Torah Club” series to deepen their knowledge of Tanach and Judaism so they can learn how to live a “full Torah life.”
The two main missionaries active at the Center dress as Orthodox Jews and live in religious neighborhoods. Ami (Tim) Buckles, who dresses like a Chareidi Jew lives near the Givat Mordechai neighborhood of Jerusalem. According to Yad L’Achim, Buckles began doing missionary work nine years ago in the Jewish community in Seattle but was kicked out of the community when Rabbanim discovered his true identity. He then established the Messianic “shul” of Tzemach Dovid in Seattle. Buckle’s children, who wear large knitted yarmulkes, attend Mamlachti-Dati (state-religious) schools in Jerusalem.
A blog called Menashe’s Blog states that that Buckles (who was also known as Timothy Layne) was impersonating a frum Jew in 2014 in Seattle but his true identity was revealed when a shul member became suspicious of him and began exploring his background. The blog says that Buckles and his wife and children apparently made aliyah to Israel in 2017 and questions how the couple “proved” they were Jewish. He also provides proof of Buckles’ missionary activities.
Boaz Michael, chairman and founder of the organization, who wears a large knitted yarmulke, lives in the Arnona neighborhood in south Jerusalem. However, Michael, unlike Buckles, maintains a Facebook page that makes his identity crystal clear. The last post on his page, dated October 26, 2016, offers a free subscription for “First Fruits of Zion materials free for anyone who wants to learn about the Torah, the Messiah, and the kingdom of heaven.” The post underneath that one features a photo of a cross necklace and previous posts openly discuss Christianity.
Yad L’Achim stated: “We decided to immediately publicize the identities of the missionaries and the details currently known to us about them in order that the public will know their true identities and beware of them.”
“From past experience, we fear that in light of the disclosure of their identities, Buckles, Boaz and their cohorts will try to move elsewhere. We ask the public to keep their eyes open and update our emergency hotline if you encounter them.”
Yad L’Achim added that this is only one of a series of significant revelations that will be revealed to the public.
One blog post on the Bram Center’s website by a missionary named Ryan Lambert said that years ago he got a phone call. “The caller said: ‘Hello, my name is Michael. I am a yeshiva student in Jerusalem. I found you on the Internet. I’d like to talk to you about Jesus.'”
“To say the least, that’s not a phone call that folks in Messianic Jewish ministry get every day. But it is a call that everyone serving in the Messianic Jewish orbit dreams about receiving! When that dream call comes, are we prepared to answer it? Are we really prepared to properly serve yeshiva students and others in the observant Jewish community in Israel that have Yeshua faith or are exploring Yeshua faith?”
The post continued to discuss how Lambert tried to “convert” Michael, who “knew no other world than that of Orthodox Judaism.” Fortunately, Lambert said that after many conversations, Michael cut off contact with him and never called back although he “prayed that G-d would miraculously connect us.”
Lambert concluded his post by saying that he believes that if there was a place in Jerusalem “that was equipped to encourage Michael to follow Yeshua as a fully observant, yeshiva attending, Jewish young man,” he wouldn’t have “tragically” lost him.
“Friends, this is why I am so grateful that First Fruits of Zion has launched the Bram Center in the heart of Jerusalem. The Bram Center is a place where Michael could have gone to be encouraged to live out a Torah-based, Messiah-centered Messianic Judaism. After that second or third call with Michael, if the Bram Center had been available back then, I would have made the connection. We didn’t have it then. But I thank G-d that we have it now.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)