Literally within a minute of each other, on this past Erev Sukkot, September 18th, The Times of Israel published two articles about Christian love for the Jewish people that are worlds apart in every sense.
The prophetic hopes of Israel's Rabbi Eliezer Melamed and his heady blog post, "Christians Fulfilling the Prophecy of Isaiah" met the harsh reality of the streets of Brooklyn in the news feature "New Brooklyn Messianic center set to missionize Orthodox neighbors."
Excerpts from both articles:
"It seems that Christian philo-Semites are undergoing a very impressive process of elevation never previously experienced by Christianity. Therefore, with the appropriate caution, we are spiritually and ethically obligated to relate to this process very positively." - Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, Israel
“Missionaries are nothing new. Every year they get a bit more intense, and this year they have gotten way more intense. There are hundreds of missionaries everywhere…What’s more alarming is that they are beginning to make inroads…now there are more and more young people getting involved…” - Rabbi Mordechai Tokarsky, America.
Of course what would connect the disconnect between these two statements is if Jewish leadership in Israel would come to an understanding that many of the very same evangelical organizations supporting Israel on the political, economic and humanitarian fronts are involved in supporting a growing Christian messianic restoration in Israel and in missionary efforts directed at the Jewish people.
What's most interesting is that missionary targeting of Jews in America, in the name of love, is so offensive and unacceptable to the Jewish community that it manages to make the mainstream news in a land which was founded on the principles of religious freedom and tolerance. And it is not just Brooklyn that takes offense. American news channels in recent months have run televised reports such as "Evangelical group targeting Jewish People in St. Louis" and “Christian missionaries trying to convert Baltimore Jews“.
While targeted Christian "outreach" efforts aimed at the Jewish community in the Diaspora are deemed an existential threat, resulting in a zero-tolerance consensus among American Jewish leaders of all sectors, things are ironically very different in the Jewish state.
In Israel, Evangelical missionaries run rampant and unchecked, with certain Torah observant rabbis and community leaders either dismissing the growing phenomenon or placing a prophetic spin on the "new era" of "unconditional love". Israel is now literally banking on and has become dependent on the political, economic, and humanitarian support of evangelizing Christians.
The collaboration of Jews with Christian missionaries remains a sore point in Israeli society and a source of disagreement. Nevertheless, Israeli government officials are reluctant to draft effective counter-missionary legislation lest the Jewish state alienate Christian friends or appear to be in violation of international religious freedoms agreements.
Beyond Genesis 12:3, a revealing look behind Christian Zionism
For years now we have been hearing from both Christian and Jewish sources that the evangelicals are our best friends and that the motivating factor behind the Christian Zionist movement is the obligation to bless Israel based on Genesis 12:3.
This feel-good narrative has resulted in numerous Jewish leaders throwing caution to the wind and recklessly pursuing a biblically-based alliance with evangelical and fundamentalist Christian leadership. As devoted and passionate as many of these "Christian Zionist" leaders are in their support of Israel, it pales in comparison to their zeal and theological commitment to spreading the Christian message and their intense desire to see a Christian revival and the name of jesus christ raised up in the Jewish State. Supporting evangelism, encouraging and strengthening the messianic Christian presence in Israel, forming theological bridges between Jews and Christians, and encouraging messianic Christian aliyah are but some of the means towards that end.
While it may be terribly inconvenient and uncomfortable for Jewish leadership in Israel to hear it, the christ-centered agenda and Christian plan for Israel is always present - whether one listens to the directors of the Jerusalem's International Christian Embassy (ICEJ) or to the International Christian Zionist Center (ICZC), or to Pastor John Hagee of CUFI, or to CBN's Pat Robertson, or to partners in the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus such as Christine Darg.
Waller family's view of Jerusalem: There's something about the Aish rooftop…
When speaking about Jerusalem and the Future of Israel, Hayovel's Caleb Waller (son of Tommy Waller) may not have the immense presence and forceful presentation of Pastor John Hagee, who stood on the Aish HaTorah rooftop proclaiming the gospel* in the Spring of 2012. Still, Caleb Waller does get the same message across regarding his intense messianic raison d'etre of seeing all nations worshiping his “king” whom he believes will rule and reign in Jerusalem.
*[NOTE: As JewishIsrael has previously reported, Aish HaTorah will not take responsibility for what is said or done on their rooftop and that they have no control over tourists or guests.]
Another Hayovel teacher and harvesting volunteer, messianic pastor Mike Clayton, elaborates on the gospel to Hayovel volunteers from the Mount of Olives. Clayton speaks of Jerusalem as being home to Christians who are "grafted in and adopted into the nation of Israel". And Hayovel representative, messianic Christian Doron Keidar, spews forth fire and brimstone regarding jesus and Jerusalem and describes Yehuda and Shomron as "holy land to the Christian faith".
Recently dozens of HaYovel volunteers were taken to the Aish Hatorah rooftop for an inspirational view.
Indeed the view from the Aish roof has been featured as one of the top 20 most beautiful sites in Israel. However, the Aish HaTorah Center in Jerusalem is supposed to be celebrated as an institution whose purpose is “the return to religion and the spreading of Judaism”.
Jewish teachers who take large groups of devout Christians, such as Hayovel Ministries’ volunteer groups, to the Aish rooftop for religious inspiration may have the very best of intentions. Yet what they are accomplishing is the fueling of hopes for a Christian restoration in Israel. Can they keep Christian messianic zeal in check or are these Jewish hosts actually fanning the flames of a very strange fire?
Hayovel Ministries recruits their harvesters from a number of Christian messianic sects. These christians consistently usurp and twist Jewish rituals and texts in order to prop up "the Jewish messiah, jesus" and then to sell that idea to the Jewish people. Jews and Torah institutions never have in the past and should not now be in the business of encouraging those whose messianic vision entails the worship of a pagan man deity and the bowing down to a god incarnate. There could be nothing further from Judaism's teaching or Judaism's idea of a messianic era.
This year's Rosh Hashana message from Aish Ha Torah was “Get Clarity”. Perhaps it is time that Torah observant leaders in Israel take that advice and come to the realization that the aspirations and doctrines of Christianity have not really changed – only the method has changed.
The Jewish people will need to ride out waves of both philo-Semitism and anti-Semitism as devout Christians continue to grapple with their scriptures, their interpretation of our prophecy and theirs, and their need to accommodate historic reality and find increasingly creative and often deceptive ways to get their triumphalist and exclusivist message out to the Jews.
Replacement theology has not gone away. It has been modernized and restored in order to accommodate the reality of the State of Israel and to engraft Christians and Christian doctrine onto the nation of Israel.
"Paul was telling us our 'grafting in' meant being part of 'The Whole House of Israel.' This means, to us, the Church has not replaced Israel, but, instead, is part of the whole house.” - Source: Torah Chai (a Christian website, in spite of its name)
Christianity, especially evangelical Christianity, remains by nature and definition a missionary movement. As such, Jewish leaders in both Israel and the Diaspora are obligated to use wisdom, discernment and great caution in their interfaith dealings. Our leaders must properly uphold the halachic walls and partitions that remain in effect to protect Am Yisrael and to ensure Jewish continuity.
[JewishIsrael notes that there are large numbers of G-d fearing gentiles who find Jerusalem and visits to Israel personally and religiously inspiring and who respectfully express their hopes and admiration for Israel and the Jewish people by taking a moral and ethical stand with the Jewish state and by respecting Judaism and Jewish sovereignty.]
Upcoming and related post: The Politics of It All