A recent Jpost magazine cover story, "Jesus for Jews", was inaccurate on a number of accounts. Columnist Larry Derfner gave the numbers of Jewish messianics at 7000, but we know the current estimates are 10,000- 20,000. Also Derfner doesn't appear to like Yad L'achim or Orthodox Jews very much, whereas he sees the messianics as a "benign bunch" and a "persecuted minority". He ignores the threat messianics pose to the character and nature of the Jewish State and he turns the article into a freedom of religion and democracy issue. This calls for a Letter to the Editor...


Larry Derfner’s reporting was more than a bit skewed in the February 13th cover story, “Jesus for Jews”.

I question the accuracy of his figure estimating 7000 “Messianic Jews” in Israel. Everyone from counter-missionary organizations Yad l’achim and Jews for Judaism, to attorney Calev Myers of the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, to the US State Department, to Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), put the figure at somewhere between 10,000 – 20,000 “Jewish believers in Jesus” currently living in Israel.

Derfner portrays Messianic Jews as a "benign bunch" and a "persecuted minority" which seem “innocent and vulnerable”. And he makes the erroneous claim that “…Jews for Jesus are the only ones who proselytize strangers in the streets…”. There are scores of messianic organizations aggressively missionizing in Israel. The crux of the issue, which Derfner does not address in the article, is the challenge messianics pose to the character and nature of the Jewish State.

It should be remembered that for the Jew, Christianity (the belief in Jesus as lord and savior) is an irrefutable form of idolatry. The prohibition against and rejection of idolatry is at the very core of Judaism. That a messianic Jewish–Christian merger is beyond the pale of normative Judaism is something that the secular Israeli Supreme Court has consistently upheld.

While there exists a significant degree of religious freedom in the Democratic Jewish state, Evangelical Christianity is missionary by nature and the evangelicals’ need to “share their faith” - whether through aggressive or subtle methods - will continue to be something Jewish Israelis will shun and find disturbing.

Any accusations leveled at the Orthodox community in connection with the explosion in Ariel last Purim are purely speculative at this point. If Derfner found the bits and pieces reported in the media to be intriguing, then why did he neglect to mention reports that police suspected a cult was involved, that the blast may have been caused by firecrackers, and that there was also a fatwa put out by the Palestinians on Pastor David Ortiz? It seems to me that Larry Derfner attempted to create a patchwork of sporadic media reports in order to infer that the Orthodox community is responsible for persecuting Christians – and that’s misleading and irresponsible. But to try and connect that episode with the pipe bomb incident directed at Professot Ze’ev Sternhell is also beyond the pale and simply careless journalism.

Those familiar with Larry Derfner’s writings know that he is a self-proclaimed “secular Israeli Jew” and “atheist”, who wishes “there were some gentiles around [in Israel]”. While his world view frequently influences (clouds?) his columns, one would expect the topic of thousands of Jews being baptized in the Land of Israel to be approached and addressed with the profundity and gravity such an existential issue deserves. For a Jew living in Israel this issue goes beyond the realm of freedom of religious expression.

Golan Heights

A few months ago, Derfner ran a another JPost feature about ICEJ covergirl Charmaine Hedding who expressed a rather evangelical messianic vision for Israel..
"Here was a Muslim woman giving birth in a Jewish hospital, which was providing all her pre-natal care for free, and then the Muslim father is able to start earning a living by helping rebuild Christ Church [in Jerusalem's Old City]," she says. "I mean, this is what it's all about."

UPDATE: Jews for Jesus is absolutely kvelling over Larry's "amazing" and "fair and balanced" article.

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