December 9, 2009

Publication: Israel Today
Type: Magazine
Date: December 9, 2009
Country: Israel
Title: Assailant’s Arrest Prompts Sympathy for Messianic Jews
Section: Messianic Jews, Page 6
Reporter: Ryan Jones
Article: Download PDF


Assailant’s Arrest Prompts Sympathy for Messianic Jews

Time appears ripe for Israeli believers to be more open about their faith

It may go against the grain to say so, but persecution of Messianic Jews in Israel is on the wane. It could seem insensitive and naïve to reach such a conclusion so soon after the man responsible for critically wounding Messianic teenager Ami Ortiz was detained, but the aftermath of the arrest reveals that times have changed.

Shortly after he was taken into custody, American-born Yaakov “Jack” Teitel, a member of the religious Jewish settlement of Shvut Rachel, confessed to placing a bomb disguised as a Purim gift basket on the doorstep of the Ortiz family apartment in the nearby settler town of Ariel in February 2008. When then 15-year-old Ami picked up the package and triggered the bomb, he was left with injuries doctors believed would become life-long disabilities. He has since made a miraculous recovery.

But the Messianic Ortiz family was not Teitel’s only target over the past decade. He also confessed to the September 2008 bomb attack against ultra left-wing, anti-settler Hebrew University professor Ze’ev Sternhell, as well as targeting homosexuals and killing two Arabs. The Israeli media painted Teitel as a violent enemy of anyone with different views, not just Messianic Jews, and happily lumped Israeli believers together with all of the Jewish victims of this extremist.

It was widely suggested that the lifting of the gag order on Teitel’s arrest was meant to coincide with the anniversary of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination by another Orthodox Jewish militant, in an attempt to further sully the image of that sector of society. Nevertheless, the fact that Teitel’s attack on a Messianic family played so prominently in the story signified that the majority of “secular” Israel is tolerant toward their fellow Jews who believe in Yeshua (Jesus); they would even likely take their side in a dispute with adherents of more Orthodox strains of Judaism.

And it’s not only secular Israelis who are coming to the aid of Messianic Jews; many religious Jews who may view believers in Yeshua as apostates are nevertheless standing up for their right to live as Jews in the Jewish state without fear of persecution for their beliefs.

Attorney Yossi Graiver, a religious Jew who jumped at the chance to represent the Ortiz family, told Israel Today that Jews must not attack other Jews just because of differing beliefs.

“When I decided to take on this case, another lawyer warned me that dealing with this file will cause existing clients to leave our office due to the controversy surrounding the religious beliefs of the Ortiz family,” Graiver said. “I told him that he could be right but I was educated as a religious Jew on the verse in Micah [6:8]: ‘He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.’”

There is no doubt that Messianic Jews in Israel face harassment and a certain degree of persecution, though other groups face the same. There can also be no doubt that this harassment and persecution comes from a very small minority in Israeli society that is not only at odds with, but actively opposed by, the majority.

What the extremist fringe of religious Jews has accomplished is to bring Messianic Jews into the spotlight, garner sympathy for them, and open a lot of new ears, if not hearts, to the message of hope and redemption through Yeshua.

Foreign Christians in Israel, meanwhile, have also been affected by the harassment of the Orthodox fringe. Many who spent decades acting as the link between the Christian world and the Holy Land, defending Israel and bringing the Gospel, even if just through quiet love and support, are now being forced to leave the country.

The simultaneous removal of so many foreign Christians and the broadening acceptance of Messianic Jews signify a shift in Israeli society that is the outward manifestation of a fierce spiritual battle. Many Messianic Jews are responding by stepping to the forefront and playing a more prominent role in representing the Body of Messiah in Israel.

By Ryan Jones

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