Saturday, May 03, 2008

Israel: OrthodoxI Sect (Still) Argues Messianics Are Not Jews

This story appeared in JTA out of Jerusalem, which is really uplifting; but it also shows how the orthodox Yad LeAhim persistantly make life difficult for the Messianics of Israel.

Here we have ultra orthodox Yad LeAhim arguing that the female contestant in the Bible Quiz contest, even though she is Jewish, but believes in Jesus as Messiah, should not be considered Jewish; and even after this was settled in the Israeli Supreme Court April 17th of this year in favor of the Messianic Jews. Let's all hope and pray Bat El Levy comes out as number one in the Bible Quiz Contest!

What if a 'messianic Jew' wins Israel's annual Bible quiz?

JERUSALEM - Should Bat El Levy be asked at Israel's international youth Bible quiz next week about the messiah's coming, she may find herself in a bind.

The 17-year-old Jerusalem girl is a world-class scriptural scholar who, as it happens, believes in Jesus.

might never have been an issue, were it not for the sleuthing of an Israeli anti-missionary group, Yad LeAhim, which sees in Levy's participation in the annual Jewish Bible contest a threat to Judaism.

Yad LeAhim director Shlomo Dov Lipschitz circulated a letter to Israel's top rabbis this week calling for pressure on the Education Ministry to disqualify Levy from the quiz, which takes place every year on Israeli Independence Day. This year it will be held May 8 under the auspices of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Lipschitz argued that Levy, who comes from a family of messianic Jews--who believes Jesus is the messiah--should not be considered Jewish. There also was an apparent appeal to prestige: the fear of traditional Jews being shown up in Bible knowledge by someone who has mastered the New Testament as well.

Lipschitz wrote a letter that was leaked to Israel’s daily Ma’ariv in which he says Levy "has a chance of becoming the world Bible champion," and this could "greatly encourage" the spread of Christianity among Jews.

Several leading sages signed on, threatening a boycott of the quiz. Levy is slated to face off with 15 other young biblical scholars from Israel and the Diaspora in this year’s annual Bible contest.

“Once they used to wage crusades in order to bring us closer to Christianity," warned Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, a leader of the national-religious movement. "Now they work by other means.”

But the Education Ministry refused to bar Levy. A ministry spokesman said that issues of personal belief were not the organizers' concern and that because Levy "is Jewish according to her Israeli identity cards and school registration," she can take part in the contest.

Levy, who already has been crowned the Bible quiz champion for the Jerusalem district, was unavailable for comment. Relatives said she was too busy studying for the competition to meddle in the media uproar.

One confidant of the family, who declined to be identified, confirmed to JTA that the Levys are followers of Jesus -- or, as they would put it, "Yeshua Ben-David of Nazareth.”

But the confidant denied that Levy or her kin were involved in proselytizing other Jews -- a crime in Israel, where many blame church dogma for centuries of European anti-Semitism and persecution.

"This is a matter of private religious beliefs,” the confidant said. “Yad LeAhim and their ilk simply don't like Jews who practice a different version of Judaism.”

Israel has an estimated 8,000 so-called messianic Jews. They are, in effect, crypto-Christians, practicing their faith discreetly for fear of stoking hostility among mainstream Jews.

Reprisals can sometimes be violent. Police suspect that, in March, anti-missionary vigilantes planted a bomb outside a building in Ariel believed to house messianic Jews. A boy set off the device and suffered serious wounds. Last October, arsonists attacked a Baptist church in Jerusalem that offers services in Hebrew.

The Levy family confidant gave no indication that Bat El might shy away from the competition. One of her immediate relatives, the confidant said, is a career officer in the Israeli military and is open about the religious issue.

"We trust in God, and that those seeking to harm Bat El will get what they deserve," the confidant said.

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