Istanbul, Turkey - Messianic Jews in a suburb west of Jerusalem continue to be harassed for following their faith, this time by someone anonymously placing flyers in public areas singling out members of Messianic congregations.
The flyers began appearing two weeks ago in the town of Mevasseret Zion. Asher Intrater, leader of the Ahavat Yeshua Congregation, said he thinks the flyers are “an effort to drive us out of the neighborhood.”
The flyers posted the addresses and phone numbers of the Messianic Jews, and in some cases included their photographs. Intrater said he thinks the addresses were placed on the flyers to incite others to harass or harm the Messianic Jews.
“Why else would you put the addresses on the flyers?” he said.
This is the second time in three months that a group has singled out Messianic Jews in Mevasseret Zion for ridicule. On June 26, members of Yad L’Achim, an ultra-Orthodox, anti-Christian group, protested outside the home of Serge and Naama Kogen, a messianic couple.
Yad L’Achim claimed the couple had befriended and then manipulated a teenager into becoming a Christian. The Kogens denied the charge, as did the 16-year-old girl who was the alleged conversion target. The girl’s parents, with considerable help from Yad L’Achim, filed charges against the Kogens and Intrater. The judge found in favor of Intrater and the Kogens and dismissed all the charges.
It is unclear who actually posted the flyers, and Intrater declined to speculate. But the flyers match a well-established pattern in Israel. According to a classified communiqué issued by the U.S. State Department in May 2008 and leaked on Aug. 30 by Internet activist group Wikileaks, “‘Outing’ Messianic Jews and Evangelical Christians through the publication of names, photos and addresses alongside flyers with hysterical allegations about ‘soul stealing’ and ‘brainwashing’ is a favorite tactic of Yad L’Achim branches throughout the country.”
The State Department further noted links between Yad L’Achim and both national and local governments in Israel.
“Yad L’Achim and other anti-missionary activists may also have allies, tacit or active, in the Interior Ministry and police departments, where clerks and police officers have wide discretion in deciding which national benefits a person is entitled to and which crimes are worth investigating, given limited resources,” the State Department communiqué said.
As an example of the links, the communiqué referred to comments made by Uzi Aharon, one-time deputy mayor of the Tel Aviv suburb of Or Yehuda. According to the State Department, Aharon told the Israeli daily Ma’ariv in 2008 that the Or Yehuda municipality “operated a team of activists, available 24-hours a day, devoted entirely to uprooting missionary activity, and that the burning [of Christian materials] was a fulfillment of the commandment to ‘burn the evil from your midst.’”
Aharon was a prime player in a May 15, 2008 incident in which, on his instruction, a group of students from a local ultra-Orthodox school collected hundreds of New Testaments from throughout the town. The Bibles were later burned in front of a synagogue.
Kogen said that the flyers in Mevasseret Zion stay up only a brief while before someone rips them down. Intrater added that the latest round of harassment has been viewed as such an invasion of privacy that it may have “backfired a little bit.”
“This is the first time we have seen a positive response from the local government, The Jerusalem Post and possibly the police,” Intrater said.