Rav Lior and Rav Gold address evangelical missionary crisis at Jewish Israel event in Hebron

On September 14th, Jewish Israel gave a presentation to the Hebron community in the presence of Rabbi Dov Lior, the Chief Rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba. "Crossing Lines: Profiles in Deception" addressed the general missionary crisis in Israel and focused on specific evangelical personalities who have been active in Hebron and involved with members of the Hebron community.

The newly elected committee (Va'ad) of the Hebron community was present at the event, as were several prominent residents and leaders of Hebron.  Jewish Israel was asked to give this presentation following the July 2011 CUFI Summit in Washington where certain activists from Judea and Shomron (including a member of the Hebron community) met and were photographed with known missionary personalities.

Jewish Israel’s rabbinic director, Rav Sholom Gold gave opening remarks in Hebron and he directly challenged Rav Eliezer Melamed's recent psak . An always dynamic speaker, Rav Gold expressed great concern over the breakdown of boundaries between Judaism and Christianity, citing today's common usage and references to Jesus – something that was unthinkable in previous generations.  

He noted that we Jews are definitely being influenced by today's closeness and openness with Christians, and that generations of experience should tell us that, unless proven otherwise, we should presume evangelicals are missionaries interested in bringing us to their beliefs.  The rule of the day should go beyond "respect and suspect", and should be more in keeping with "suspect and suspect and suspect".

Rav Gold said that Rav Kook would turn over in his grave if he saw how Rav Melamed misused what he had written on loving all humanity - especially in this situation where Jews are crossing lines in such a forbidden manner.[Note: Jewish Israel will be issuing a reaction to Rav Melamed's psak in a separate report. We feel that Rav Melamed has been given misleading information about Tommy Waller as well as the missionary intentions and beliefs of the evangelical church. We hope to have the opportunity to meet with Rav Melamed to review his position.]

Rabbi Gold's remarks were followed by a presentation by Jewish Israel which cited recent examples of rampant missionary activity in Israel and growing fundamentalist Christian influence. Updated information on Tommy Waller, Mike Isley and their missionary partners and affiliations was also presented.

Rav Lior gave closing remarks which concurred with Rav Gold's position.  He brought up the psak that Rav Kook had issued against accepting monies from Christians at a time when there was terrible hunger in the land of Israel. Even for medicine, Rav Kook forbade Jews taking money from Christians or going to a Christian pharmacist for help, because he understood that no gift from a Christian comes without a price tag. Rav Lior reiterated that if anyone today thinks there is no price tag to Christian charity, he is mistaken. 

Rav Lior reinforced his psak for the Hebron community on not accepting evangelical funding.

Rav Lior cited a responsa from Rav Eliezer Waldenberg, z"l in volume 18 of his classic halachic work "Titz Eliezer".

Jewish Israel has been informed that, following the presentation, the Va’ad of Hebron met and initiated a process to establish guidelines to govern their relationship with Christian leaders and organizations.  It was made clear that the Va'ad will be following Rav Lior's position and expanding upon it.

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Comment by Jewish Israel on September 18, 2011 at 10:40pm
Agreed.  One of the reasons JI cites Rav Soloveitchik, z"l so often is that as an American Rabbi he was not concerned about anti-Semitism, but rather the assimilation and crossing of lines that would result from evangelical love.  I think a lot of Israeli rabbis think of Christianity as being the eastern-European, anti-Semitic brand - so they don't know how to properly address and digest the love and support. 
Comment by Batya Medad on September 18, 2011 at 1:18pm
Thanks so much for the post. I think that Rabbis, like Rabbi Gold, who served for many years abroad and are totally fluent in English have a much better idea of what the Christians say than Israeli rasised rabbis like Rav Melamed.

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