Backed by Shas officials, students from Or Yehuda yeshivas gathered hundreds of copies of the new testament along with missionary materials, which were later taken to a central location in the city and set ablaze last Thursday night.
A vehicle with a loudspeaker made its way down N’vei Rabin Street, calling on secular Jews to bring the copies of the new testament and other materials given to them by the messianic Jews, which were later set ablaze.
The news of the event has made its way to the mainstream media, not necessarily in a positive light, seeking to make comparisons of non religious Jews or people of other faiths setting Jewish holy books ablaze. Some secularists questioned the wisdom of the decision to burn the books as well as the “moral values” of those involved.
Shas officials in Or Yehuda explain that missionaries are working with fervor in the city, which they point out is against Israeli law.
Attorney Meyers, representing the missionaries, told Galei Tzahal (Army Radio) on Tuesday that the action of the Orthodox Jews is illegal and immoral, drawing an analogy to the Nazis who burned Jewish books, leading to violence and the Holocaust. Meyers is calling on the state prosecutor and police to file charges against every single person taking part in the burning event.
Meyers pointed out that since the establishment of the state, not a single person has ever stood trial for missionary activities, which he stated is only illegal when seeking to entice minors, not adults. He stated that to his knowledge, there are about 10,000 missionaries in Israel today, stating the law is compelled to protect their basic rights. Meyers stated these messianic Jews still see themselves as members of the Jewish People and they are entitled to the full protection of the law and the basic civil rights enjoyed by all Israelis and residents of the country.
Or Yehuda Deputy Mayor and attorney Uzi Aaron, who is affiliated with Shas, told Razi Barkai of Galei Tzahal that the messianic Jews are indeed breaking the law and should be held legally accountable. He proudly confirmed taking part in the event.
Aaron stated the level of missionary activities in his city is intolerable, with messianic Jews going house-to-house to distribute their materials.
The act of publicly setting books ablaze has resulted in a controversy in Israel, with many looking back in history some 60 years ago when the Nazis did the very same thing to the Jewish People. Dr. Efraim Zuroff, who heads the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, stated that the act of burning books has a negative association to the Holocaust. “It would have been preferable to find another way to dispose of the books and materials – but the main problem, the missionaries, remains.”
“We must respect holy writings of Islam and Christianity,” Dr. Zuroff adds, “but we may not permit missionary activities targeting our youth,” he concluded.”
(Yechiel Spira – YWN Israel)