This week from April 27th through May 1st over one hundred Israeli Messianic and Arab-Christian entrepreneurs will be gathered at the Israel Business Forum, at Hotel Yehuda in Jerusalem, with the mission of economically empowering and developing the messianic Christian movement in Israel. The eventual vison of the First Fruits Israel Center for Economic Advancement is to "disciple Israeli society and the nations".
In addition to learning from messianic leaders, networking, and touring, there will be the opportunity to "pray with and worship alongside brothers and sisters from around the world and from the Land - Jews, Arabs and Gentiles - united together glorifying Yeshua [jesus]."
A conference in Jerusalem of this nature should no longer come as a surprise. This year in particular has seen a glut of major conferences in both Israel and abroad that demonstrate an open collaboration between prominent Christian Zionist leaders and renowned missionary and messianic leaders, which overtly focus on evangelizing the Jews and empowering the local messianic community in Israel.
However, what is newly alarming is that the highly reputable venture capital firm, OurCrowd, is sponsoring and partnering with this week's messianic Christian business forum alongside messianic-run entities.
Over a year ago JewishIsrael expressed concern when OurCrowd, an equity-based crowdfunding platform founded by entrepreneur Jonathan Medved, gave the speaking platform to Evangelical/messianic Christian attorney Calev Myers at a Passover Breakfast at Jerusalem’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
That report, "OurCrowd Is Messing With the Wrong Crowd", gave Mr. Medved the benefit of the doubt and assumed that he might have been unaware of Attorney Myers’ background and his passionate advocacy on behalf of Israel's messianic Christian community. JewishIsrael's report linked to problematic material on Myers and went as far as to say that, "it’s likely that Myers is appearing at the OurCrowd investment breakfast, not as a messianic leader, but in his capacity as an advocate for Israeli law firm Yehuda Raveh." *
[* JewishIsrael notes that Jon Medved's son, Moshe (Momo) Medved, is an attorney with Calev Myers' Jerusalem-based law office, but we cannot confirm whether this connection has any bearing on OurCrowd's involvement in the conference]
Since last year’s Passover event with Myers, it seems that OurCrowd not only has no qualms or reservations about their participation in a blatantly evangelistic business forum, they are absolutely defending their involvement.
In an article penned by Rabbi Tuly Weisz, "Controversial Messianic Business Conference Causing Stir in Israel", OurCrowd’s reaction can only be described as being "strictly business":
"OurCrowd Director of Investor Relations Asher Abraham told Breaking Israel News that the conference sponsorship didn’t pose any conflict for his company. ‘OurCrowd is definitely interested in working with the Christian community. We don’t take a stand about any of their beliefs, it’s just business. I don’t have a problem with how they describe themselves as long as it makes sense and is good for Israel and good for our investors.’
Abraham, who will be speaking at the Israel Business Forum, explained that his firm sponsors many investor conferences in Israel ‘and the fact that they are Messianic is not relevant.’”
This statement is nothing less than an outrage. There is nothing wrong with international investment and gentile investors interested in developing Israel's economy. But those entities with an explicit christ-centered agenda targeting Israel and the Jewish people should be neither welcomed, empowered nor encouraged.
Rabbi Weisz himself has been actively involved in outreach to evangelical Christians. He has participated in interfaith worship events involving the Christian Embassy (ICEJ) and Rabbi Riskin's Center for Jewish Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC). But even someone as involved as Weisz notes that, "even those who are supportive of close Jewish Christian relations are wary of partnering with Messianics and puzzled by OurCrowd’s involvement."
Weisz then goes on to quote CJCUC's David Nekrutman:
“’Before you sponsor a conference like this in Israel, you should be hypersensitive to all the issues involved,’ said David Nekrutman, Executive Director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC), run under the leadership of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin. ‘What you believe in the eschaton is one thing, but if it translates into converting Jews now, we can’t work with you,’ he told Breaking Israel News.
Nekrutman explained to Breaking Israel News that the CJCUC works with many Evangelical Christians even though they disagree on theology. ‘Sponsoring such an event causes problems for those of us who have been building bridges between Christians and Jews for years.’”
It is an immense privilege to live and do business in the land of Israel. And any Jew engaged in business here should have an acute understanding of where they are standing, and of the ethical imperative and awesome responsibility involved in upholding the integrity of the land, the Torah and its people.
With regards to ethical failings, the "First Fruit" messianic Christians involved in this conference articulately speak of honesty and integrity in the marketplace. Yet it should be remembered that a good number of the messianic elders who spawned Israel's young, indigenous and ambitious messianic leaders, deceived Israeli authorities into believing they were Jews, despite having adopted Christian belief, and came on Aliyah with missionary intent.
Lines have been crossed and damage has been done and community and business leaders who have empowered evangelistic designs and enabled a messianic foothold in Israel will have great difficulty turning back the clock.