Jan 18, 2021

ShelanuTV is the branch of the global evangelical Christian media network GodTV focused on proselytizing to Jewish Israelis. It began broadcasting on the HOT cable network at the end of April after it received a license from the Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting earlier this year. This move was decried by many Israelis.

Proselytizing, seeking to convert people to another religion, is not illegal in Israel, although the law prevents proselytizing to minors without their parents’ presence or consent, and promising any monetary or material compensation for converting to another religion.

The Israeli broadcasting council informed HOT last week that the license had been suspended because GodTV’s programming targeted Jews and not Christians in Israel, as the license request had specified.

“A channel which seeks to address the Jewish people which dwell in Israel [and present it with] the gospels of Jesus will never be broadcast on Hot and this was known to the senior officials of the channel, as was stated in the hearing,” Council chairman Asher Biton wrote to HOT.

Bito noted that many channels in Israel broadcast religious programming to many faiths but not for the purpose of proselytizing to people of other religions.

Ron Cantor, an ethnic Jew who believes in the Christian faith and the spokesman for Shelanu TV, responded.

“We are saddened by the unprofessional decision of the chairman of the Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting,” the organization said, alleging that it was made because Biton is close to [former communications minister] Amsalem who condemned the license granted to Shelanu TV before he left the ministry.

“The directors of the channel hope that the Council will approve the new request to broadcast the channel, and thereby avoid a severe diplomatic incident with hundreds of millions of Evangelical Christians who love and support Israel around the world,” Cantor said.

I am very hesitant to comment on the GodTV issue. On one hand, I always advocate free speech. On the other hand, Christian proselytizing is one of the final, if not the final obstacle that stands between true brotherhood between Jews and Christians.

In the wake of GodTV beginning its broadcasts in Israel,  I wrote an opinion article speaking out against Christian proselytizing Jews. The response shocked me. So many of my dear Christian friends came out against what GodTV is doing. I did not expect that at all. It represents the first time in the 2,000 year history of Jewish-Christian relations that Christians did not support efforts to convert Jews.

I did not ask how my friends were coping with the clear theological issues. My understanding is that Jesus told his followers to spread the word. When a Christian preaches to a Jew, it is an act of love (albeit an entirely unwanted and even harmful act of love). For Jews, preaching to non-Jews is essentially forbidden. Nonetheless, in the wake of GodTv’s efforts to target Israeli Jews, so many Christians rejected and even outrightly opposed this effort. I was stunned. Almost exclusively, my Christian friends have never proselytized to me even without my asking. When I was curious about a certain aspect of Christian theology, I have had to pressure them into providing information. The few who do proselytize, I have asked, though never demanded, to stop proselytizing to Jews. I compared it to offering candy to a diabetic: it is an unwanted act of love. Even if they persisted, I treasured their friendship.

I can only hope and pray that this is the beginning of a trend. It must come from inside Christianity and not as a demand by the Jews. It will require a paradigm shift and I hope that Jews can respond with a corresponding paradigm shift that will bring us to be a Light Unto the Nations and the caretakers of the House of Prayer for All Nations.

If this is to be a trend, if a new era of brotherhood between Jews and Christians is to begin, then GodTV is the biggest obstacle. On the Ninth of Av, Christians from around the world are going to gather in prayers of repentance, asking forgiveness from God for all the misguided acts of violence and hatred that were inflicted upon the Jews throughout history in the name of Jesus. GodTV can be added to the list.