In the midst of the controversy over God TV’s plan to broadcast evangelical messages in Hebrew on Israeli cable television, Breaking Israel News asked a number of Christian and Jewish leaders to weigh in.
Their comments have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Pastor Mark Biltz, El Shaddai Ministries
I am a firm believer in the Bible and in the God of Israel as revealed in the Scriptures. It was to the Jewish people that Hashem gave all the covenants.
Christianity is full of replacement theology – replacing the Biblical feasts and Sabbaths with pagan holidays, replacing the Levitical priesthood, replacing the seat of the throne of the Lord from Jerusalem to Rome, replacing the Biblical Hebrew names with English names, [thus] losing their meanings. It can’t get much more replacement than that.
Christianity has much to learn from the Jewish people about the God of Israel and the Biblical narrative. The agreement between God TV and whoever it was in Israel that made the contract, was that there would be no programming that would wield “undo influence” over the viewers. The sole purpose of the programming is to have a very strong influence over the viewers, to alter their belief system.
I can see how strong Jews who are strongly Zionist as well would be very upset by a TV station supported by Christion Zionists in order to proselytize the Jewish people who are less knowledgeable, or less religious, and how they would feel betrayed.
In every alliance, there are always boundaries or redlines that have to be drawn, and the depth of the relationship is based on the value placed on not crossing those boundaries. For Christianity to build a bridge requires great humility and a deep spirit of repentance and acknowledgement of the harm done. How much trust and value you place on those who are on the other side of the bridge will determine if the bridge is two-lane or a six-lane highway. Christianity, historically, has blown up every bridge built over the last 2,00 years and I hope that any bridge that is built between Christians and Jews will be built on baseless love.
Nathalie Blackham, Broadcaster, Israel First TV
The theology I was taught was that the Jews were wrong. See how God dealt harshly with them? We have Jesus now. We are the good guys. These are deep-seated views of many Christians, more or less.
Today I see things very differently.
Missionizing Jews is like replacing their Jewish belief with a Christian belief. It is saying that the covenant that God has with the Jewish people is not good enough. It is erasing their belief and saying that ours is better. It is degrading the Jews and taking away who they are.
So many Christians are totally ignorant. On my first trip to Israel, I realized that I thought I knew the Bible, but I knew nothing. We have the Bible in our hands because the Jews shared it with us. That’s why it’s so important for Christians to visit Israel.
The God TV move is detrimental for Jewish- Christian relationships. This is like the Crusaders, but with a smile!
We should build relationships between Christians and Jews based on the principles of mutual respect, learning from each other, leaving space for each other to grow and develop and sharing from the Torah.
John Enarson, Christian Relations Director Cry for Zion
Jewish-Christian relations should, above all, be based on mutual respect and openness.
My fellow Bible-believing Christian friends should know I am not speaking as a proponent of dual-covenant theology when I say: God TV’s new initiative is disrespectful, unwise, and I have strong disagreements with their theology and actions here. While folks at God TV might mean well, they are both harming the Jewish people as well as damaging Jewish-Christian relations. I honestly cringed when I first saw some adverts for the new channel, before it even made the news. God TV should reconsider their actions forthwith.
Lars Enarson, Author, Founder and President of The Watchman International
I came to Israel 23 years ago with a similar attitude. Thank God I have learned a few things since then.
I remember the very first week when I came here and I had taken my family for a vacation in Eilat to rest. A homeless person approached me on the beach. He was drunk and asked me very angrily, “What are you doing here?” I was surprised and answered him that I am a Christian who loves Israel and I have come here to pray for the country.
He said, “Do you think we Jews don’t know how to pray? We don’t need you here. Do you know the names of the first five books in the Bible in Hebrew?” I said, “No I don’t.” “You don’t even know this? We don’t want you here. Please go back where you came from!” No doubt this drunkard scored a point.
Since then I have learned so much from the Jewish people here in Israel that I am so extremely thankful for and I now try to educate Christians around the world about what I have learned. Today I read the Bible in a very different way.
My view is that people who do not speak with respect for Judaism have no business being on Israeli television.
Bob O’Dell, Co-founder of Root Source
I wonder how many donors consider that when they fund some of these Christian efforts towards Israel, they are unwittingly funding a combative posturing that disrespects millions of God-fearing Jews at the same time? This posturing, turning “the roots of our faith,” into “the enemies of our faith” is acceptable to some Christians, but not to me.
I thank God that there are many emerging efforts by Christians to turn the hearts of more Christians to Israel and the Jewish people with just respect, love and honor, and to experience the life and joy of sharing the passages Hebrew Bible together, only for the sake of learning, love and joy.
Never before have so many Christians interacted directly with Orthodox Jews in Israel to study the Bible, and never before have this many Christians, inside and outside of Israel, begun to speak out that they find the evangelistic posturing of some of their Christian brethren towards Israel distasteful.
Sharon Sanders, Founder Christian Friends of Israel
I began working just a few weeks ago on a webinar program and am now working on teaching Christians about getting a reality check, getting rid of old mindsets about the Jewish people. We got 23,000 hits on our first program and we are going to continue this.
I believe there is a hunger to learn more, because church leadership in most places does not teach against Replacement Theology, nor can they, because they do not understand it.
I am going to devote much time to continue this; it is past time. I haven’t lived in Israel 34 years for nothing. We will do all we can to speak up.
Tommy Waller, Founder and President HaYovel
Missionizing or converting others to Christianity, whose majority identifies with a supersessionist [replacement theology] belief, has been historically devastating to one people – the Jews. The problem with replacement theology is that it empowered the Christian to “save the Jew from hell,” but then after Jewish rejection placed themselves as God and created a hell on earth. This disturbing history, unfortunately, is not taught in our churches today. As a Christian myself, the revelation of this treatment of Jews has brought great shame.
For the Jews, the Torah has marked and kept their identity for well over 3,000 years. It sets them apart from the other peoples and nations of the world. The idea of bringing the “Gospel to the Jews” in their own language is actually an all-out assault against the Jew’s God-given identity.
It will be difficult for most Christian organizations, especially in Israel, to stand against those who seek to steal Jewish identity, in this case, God TV. The fact that a Christian television network would actually try to prove Jewish persecution of Christians is deplorable. One visit to Yad Vashem should greatly offend any right-minded person.
Christianity needs to support the miracle God is doing with the people He chose in the land He chose. As a Christian, I believe strongly that the Apostles and Prophets and Jesus himself would be horrified at the actions done by those who claim to follow him. Honestly, I believe there should be a cable Christian channel in Israel with 24/7 programming where one Christian after another repents for all that has been done to the Jews over the last 2,000 years at the hands of Christians.
Steve Wearp, Founder Blessed Buy Israel
I’m really sorry that there’s a group out there that is trying to preach to the Jewish people with an agenda that was just exposed – the God TV channel. I’m just ashamed to have my name affiliated with that, or have any affiliation with it.
I wanted to say I’m really sorry there are people that are still out there that do not understand that coming to the Jewish people with hidden agendas and to try to tear them away from what God has set before them to accomplish. I want you to know that not all of us are like that.
I pray one day there will be a great distinction or a great awakening in the Christian community as to Israel’s place, and this anti-Semitic replacement theology will be destroyed once and for all. It’s a scourge and I will not stand for it. And I’m not going to let anything like this destroy what what Hashem is building between our two communities
I’m really proud of walking with you guys. And the offense, it just hurts us. It’s why we’re doing what we’re doing, why we’re trying to rebuild trust, honesty, integrity, and remove this scourge of anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic teachings, doctrines, philosophies in the church and expose it for what it is.
Rabbi Ari Abramowitz Host The Land of Israel Network
Many Jews would understandably seek to dodge this issue altogether in order not to put our Christian friends in an uncomfortable position of needing to take a public stand on this, but this is when we find out who our friends really are.
This impulse to missionize, which may or may not be well-intentioned, is arrogance and an act of hostility. Watching that video, I felt a mixture of anger and compassion. Anger that this haughty man who is preying on Jewish souls believes that he knows more than generations of the sages of Israel who have dedicated their lives to immersing themselves in the words of the Bible in its original Hebrew, and compassion that he is depriving himself of the uniquely uplifting experience of growth and revelation because he is so focused on removing the scales over everyone else’s eyes, that he will be stuck with the veils over his own.
Countless Jews have been burned at the stake rather than accept missionizing for generations. And now he comes into our homes in our own land with the same sinister plot?
There is so much beauty and friendship being nurtured between the Jewish and Christian worlds. Why tear it all down by reverting to this toxic replacement theology?
Sondra Baras, Founder and Director Christian Friends of Israeli Communities
From the very beginning, when I first started Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, my relationships with Christians were based on mutual respect and on a clear understanding that we, as Jews, would not try to convert Christians to Judaism and our Christian friends would not evangelize Jews. My Christian colleagues in leadership at CFOIC Heartland are committed to this understanding as well. It is fundamental to our ability to work together.
One of the things we’ve been doing is trying to get Christians to understand how offensive evangelizing is to us, because many of them have been taught since childhood that Jews have just been waiting to be saved. They have no idea that we are very comfortable with who we are.
Unfortunately, there are still some people who don’t understand this or don’t want to understand this. I will have nothing to do with people or organizations who insist on evangelizing Jews. That is our red line.
Yishai Fleisher, International Spokesperson for The Jewish Community of Hebron
The folks at @GODTV keep putting their foot in their mouth because they are simply say the truth – they want to convert Jews! (But the real question is why the Israeli regulator missed this effort to have a missionary channel, and why other ones already exist, on Israeli cable?) https://t.co/n9GIFJaSeI
— Yishai Fleisher 🕎 ישי פליישר (@YishaiFleisher) May 10, 2020
I believe in the Christian-Jewish alliance. I am grateful for friends who share a love of the Bible and allies who stand up for Israel from Balfour to Mike Pence. But alliances need clear boundaries. Missionizing Jews is wrong. God TV in Israel is wrong and will be stopped.
David Ha’Ivri, Religious Zionist leader, writer, and speaker
I don’t approve of proselytizing Jews. Christians who want to turn Jews into Christians are not, I repeat, are not friends of Israel.
Convincing #Jews to accept Jesus as the messiah is the very core goal of missionary proselytizing. We strongly object to this type of activity, and that is how and why Jews have survived as a nation and preserved our ancient faith. https://t.co/sXaf8Be3Oz
— David Ha’ivri 🇮🇱 #Israel دافتد هعفري (@haivri) May 10, 2020
Yisrael Medad, Author, Blogger and Activist
The point is that Jews, especially due to our history, view attempts at conversion as a total attempt to erase us, our history, our values, our teachings and our ethics as if they are worth literally nothing.
This station assumes, as its base, a Jews-for-Jesus type approach and we suspect it fooled the Cable Broadcast Council in its application for a license. Over-the-air programming allows them to circumvent the prohibition [against] proselytizing minors.
In relations between Jews and Christians, I would prefer it be based on simple mutual respect. ‘I like and appreciate you for who you are and you do the same.’
Rabbi Yehuda Glick, President Shalom Jerusalem Foundation
What God TV did is actually declaring war against the Jewish people – nothing less! We are different, we hold diverse perspectives and we have to respect this. Pulling the carpet from under our feet is something we cannot and will not accept and totally refuse to even consider.
At the same time we believe that working together is part of our faith as well as the faith of anyone faithful to the Bible