May 16, 2022

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An old piece of prose written by Israel’s Foreign Minister and alternate prime minister Yair Lapid has come back to haunt him, taking on new meaning due to revelations about his family connections to Messianic Judaism.

Apparently, Lapid is proud of this long statement defining his personal identity as a Zionist as different versions have been published many times in various incarnations for over a decade. The declaration caused many to sit up in shock as in his list of glorious Jewish ancestors, he includes Jesus.

“I am a Zionist,” Lapid sais. “I am a man of the future who also lives his past. I am from the line of Moses, Jesus, the Rambam (Rabbi Moses Maimonides), Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, Woody Allen, Bobby Fischer, Bob Dylan, Kafka, Herzl, Ben Gurion. I am part of a tiny persecuted minority that influenced the world more than any other nation. While others invested their energies in war, we had the sense to invest in our minds.”

 Though it is accurate to claim that Jesus was a Jew, it is shocking and unusual for a Jew, even a non-observant Jew like Lapid, to proudly claim a familial connection to Jesus. 

This was emphasized when Yinon Magal, a prominent Israeli journalist and former Member of Knesset, posted a video to Twitter showing Lapid reciting this portion of his manifesto.  Magal resurrected the old video in the wake of recent revelations that Lapid’s brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Keren Ilail, were members of a Messianic Jewish community. Ilail is his wife Lihi’s sister. 

The revelation was made from the plenum of the Knesset by Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu when he criticized Lapid for appointing his relative to the board of directors of Jewish National Fund (JNF). Ironically, upon appointing Ilail to the position, he stated that one of her missions would be to combat nepotism in the government. Lapid also appointed his sister-in-law as chairwoman of the Yesh Atid women’s headquarters. 

Despite Ilail’s ensuing resignation following Netanyahu’s condemnation, Lapid, the head of the Yesh Atid party and co-chairman of the JNF, responded by lashing out on social media:

“She was not willing to absorb it anymore,” Lapid wrote. “The wild attack on the media networks. Netanyahu, who is accused of three indictments, the man who corrupted the system for years, who stands on the podium and says ‘the signature does not testify to his sister-in-law,’ to the mocking laughter of all Those who oppose a law that would prohibit criminal defendants from serving in the Knesset of Israel.

“There is no better and more honest person in the world, and she has no idea how this fell on her. All she wanted was to establish the women’s headquarters of Yesh Atid. I was the one who asked her to raise her head, volunteer and fight corruption there.

“The public arena will be a little less of a good place from today. A talented lawyer who has asked far too many difficult questions, questions that only those who want the public good ask.

“Ilail will be fine of course. She’s beloved, she’s smart, we’re a strong family. She promised me she would continue to be active in volunteering at the women’s headquarters, but it’s not her job to stand in the media fire line. They will not win the war.”

But in addition to the taint of nepotism, it was also revealed that Ilail was an active member of a community of Messianic Jews in Israel. Her husband also reportedly held the official position of “prayer leader”.

Israeli law mandates freedom of religion and there are currently approximately 100 Messianic congregations in Israel. Messianic Jews believe that Jesus was the Messiah which places them outside of the Jewish faith and are not Jewish according to Jewish rabbinic law. The Supreme Court of Israel has ruled that pertaining to the Law of Return, Messianic Judaism is a form of Christianity though Messianic Jews can claim citizenship based on Jewish ancestry. 

Lapid’s family connection to the movement raises concerns that it has tainted his approach to legislation. About 6 years ago, Lapid opposed the Mission Law that sought a sweeping ban on missionary activity in Israel. The law failed to pass and the current law prohibits proselytizing minors or offering remuneration. It is interesting to note that Yair’s father, Tommy Lapid, who led the anti-religious Shinui party, supported the anti-missionary bill. 

If the law had passed, the missionary activities of Ilail’s Messianic community would have been curtailed.