Friday, May 23, 2008

Christians Under Fire in Israel: New Testaments Burned; Mayor Defends Actions

Burning sacred books, distorting one's own religion to justify the attacks on another religion, physical violence including bombs and fire against those who appeal for conversions --- sound familiar? Well, take a look at this USA Today piece explaining who is on the dealing end of this paranoid frenzy.

Orthodox Jews set fire to hundreds of copies of the New Testament in the latest act of violence against Christian missionaries in the Holy Land.

Or Yehuda Deputy Mayor Uzi Aharon said missionaries recently entered a neighborhood in the predominantly religious town of 34,000 in central Israel, distributing hundreds of New Testaments and missionary material.
After receiving complaints, Aharon said, he got into a loudspeaker car last Thursday and drove through the neighborhood, urging people to turn over the material to Jewish religious students who went door to door to collect it. The books were dumped into a pile and set afire in a lot near a synagogue, he said.

He said he regretted the burning of the books, but called it a "commandment" to burn materials that urge Jews to convert.
"I certainly don't denounce the burning of the booklets," he said. "I denounce those who distributed the booklets."..

Earlier this year, the teenage son of a prominent Christian missionary was seriously wounded when a package bomb delivered to the family's West Bank home went off in his hands.

Last year, arsonists burst into a Jerusalem church used by Messianic Jews and set the building on fire, raising suspicions that Jewish extremists were behind the attack. No one claimed responsibility, but the same church was burned down 25 years ago by ultra-Orthodox Jewish extremists.

Aharon later apologized further (kinda') as this Christian Post article describes.

He added, “We respect all religions as we expect others to respect ours. I am very sorry that the New Testament was burned, we mean it no harm and I'm sorry that we hurt the feelings of others.”

However, the Or Yehuda deputy mayor also declared that Israel cannot allow messianic Jews to “come into our homes and incite against our religion, and turn our children away from Judaism. That is against the law.”

Aharon, a strong anti-missionary activist, admits he had initially organized “three or four” yeshiva students from the town’s Michtav M’Eliahu Yeshiva to go to apartments in a part of town with many Ethiopian Jews to collect packages recently given to them by local messianic Jews, according to the Post. The packages contained a New Testament and pamphlets, which Aharon claims encouraged going against Judaism.