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Israel , Jewish Groups Condemn Burning of New Testaments

ICC Note

The condemnation of Bible burning in Israel is a welcome development. Hopefully the Israeli authorities will carry out necessary investigation of this incident and do all they can to protect freedom of religion, including freedom to preach the gospel, in the country. Israeli authorities should also protect the minority Messianic Jews from attacks by extremist groups.

By Julie Stahl

05/23/2008 Israel ( – The Israeli government and Jewish groups have condemned as “despicable” the burning of hundreds of New Testaments by a handful of Jewish seminary students in a town outside of Tel Aviv.

According to press reports, local Messianic Jews (Jews who believe that Jesus is the Messiah) distributed the New Testaments to new immigrants from Ethiopia in the town of Or Yehuda .

The initial story, which ran in the Israeli daily Ma’ariv on Tuesday, said that Or Yehuda’s Deputy Mayor Uzi Aharon had encouraged youths from a local yeshiva (Jewish religious school) to retrieve the books and burn them. It happened last week.

In a radio interview shortly after the story appeared, Aharon defended his actions and called it “purging the evil among us.” But later he apologized and said he never intended for the books to be burned. The town has been back-peddling ever since.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s spokesman Mark Regev condemned what he called “this despicable act” and said police should thoroughly investigate the incident.

Evangelical Christians from around the world are some of Israel ‘s most loyal supporters. Many of them continued to visit Israel during the violent Palestinian uprising that began in 2000, despite a drastic tourism slump.

Regev said he is hopeful that Christians around the world will realize that the people in the Israeli government “are not represented by a few misguided extremists.”

The alleged burning of the New Testaments comes at a time of growing fervor against Israel ‘s Messianic Jewish community by small groups of radical anti-missionaries.

Israel ‘s chief rabbis called for a boycott of an international Bible quiz on Independence Day, after anti-missionaries discovered that one of the finalists was a Messianic Jew.

In a more serious incident in March, a Messianic Jewish teenager, whose father is a prominent pastor here, was severely injured when a bomb exploded as he opened a package sent to the family home disguised as a holiday gift basket.

No one has yet been charged in the crime and the court has ordered that details of the case remain under wraps for the time being.

Parsons noted that the issue of Messianic Jews has come to the forefront in Israel recently.

“Christians need to realize the history and sensitivity behind this,” said Parsons, and Israel and the Jewish people need to discourage violence against a religious minority here in the land.

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