Confrontation Between Jews and Christians at Temple Mount Over Accusations of Proselytizing

I will bring them to My sacred mount And let them rejoice in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices Shall be welcome on My mizbayach; For My House shall be called A house of prayer for all peoples.”




(the israel bible)

May 29, 2023

7 min read

The ongoing initiative bringing millions of Christians to pray for Israel came to an ugly nexus when hundreds of Christians praying in Jerusalem were confronted by an equal number of Jews who denounced Christianity’s two millennia of proselytizing. The confrontation brought to the forefront the major issue preventing the prophetic House of Prayer for All Nations in Jerusalem. 

Hundreds of Christians who came to pray at the Davidson Center Archaeological Park adjacent to the southern wall of the Temple Mount on Sunday were shocked when hundreds of religious Jews came to protest, some reacting violently to their prayers. The Christian prayer event was part of a three-week global initiative called “The Isaiah 62 Fast,” in which millions of Christians worldwide join in praying and fasting for Israel.

Jerusalem’s Deputy Mayor Aryeh King was filmed shouting, “Missionaries go home!” In a statement about the incident, he praised the protesters and criticized the government organizations that allowed “Christian missionaries to hold a Christian worship and ceremony designed to prepare a missionary effort directed at Israeli residents,” he wrote. “It is a dignified and just protest against a government company that allowed this and against the missionaries. As far as I’m concerned, let every missionary know they are not welcome in the Land of Israel.”

The protest was also attended by Rabbi Zvi Tau, head of the Har Hamor Yeshiva, Rabbi David Cohen, and Rabbi Avigdor Nabnetzel.

While the Isaiah 62 Fast does not explicitly call for proselytizing to Jews or working to convince Jews to leave Judaism by accepting Jesus as their Messiah or “Savior,” The International House of Prayer, which organized the event, wrote precisely that in its online Israel Mandate:

“Our mission is to mobilize an international prayer movement that would pray 24/7 for the nation of Israel to receive their Jewish Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus). Jesus promised the nation of Israel an unusual visitation of His presence at the end of the age when the Jewish leaders will recognize Him as their true Messiah and deliverer.”

The event’s timing was significant as it came immediately following the Biblical Shavuot feast. According to Jewish tradition, the Jews made an exclusive and eternal covenant with God at Mount Sinai and received the Torah.

The event also preceded Pentecost, which, according to Christian tradition, is the birth-day of the Church as recorded in the second chapter of the Book of Acts. It commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit to the early followers of Jesus. According to the New Testament, this occurred fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus, during the Shavuot holiday. This epiphany bestowed upon them the mandate to spread the Gospel to the world, which many Christians understand to mean the requirement to convert Jews to Christianity. 

David Nekrutman, the Executive Director of The Isaiah Projects and an Orthodox Jewish theologian, explained how the Pentecost fit into Christian replacement theology, which requires the conversion of Jews and makes it impossible for Judaism and Christianity to coexist.

“For mainstream Christians who subscribe to Replacement Theology, Jesus not only replaced the Temple, but he also replaced the Land,” Nekrutman explained. “For Christians, Jesus also replaced the Torah. For those in the Replacement Theology camp, the Torah was simply a band-aid approach until Jesus arrived to replace it. Even a biblically based Shavuot would no longer be relevant since these laws have been fulfilled in Jesus.”

Nekrutman commented on the events saying, “If one is praying for the Jewish people, then it should be prayers that advocate Jews to be more committed to Judaism as well as the hope that all Jews see the importance of holding an Israeli passport.”

The police used force to allow the event to take place, and at least one glass door of the Davidson Center was smashed, and at least one person was detained amid the clashes. In addition, Israel National News reported that eight Yeshiva students who came to protest were arrested, and the police used force against several Jewish protesters.

The Foreign Ministry commented on the incident, saying it condemns “any harm to the freedom of religion and worship in Jerusalem” and attacks on religious figures in the city. The statement added that the State of Israel views such freedoms in the capital, “holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, as a central value in the fabric of life in the city.”

Doron Keidar, the Executive Director of Cry for Zion, a Temple Mount advocacy group, attended the event. Keidar has a unique insight as he was born in Israel as a Christian but converted to Judaism during his IDF service. He grew up in “a Christian Zionist home whose father fought in WWII to defend the Jewish people. He grew up in a Christian Zionist home, and his father told his children that he “proudly fought in WWII to defend the Jewish people.” Keidar called the Christian prayer event a “missed opportunity.”

“Millions of Christians have been praying globally for the fulfillment of Isaiah 62, and the organizers wanted to make this the main theme of prayer and fasting with e the finale with a group of Christians here on the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount praying blessing and protection for Jerusalem,” Keidar told Israel365 News. “While the event undoubtedly included missionary organizations who are active here in Israel, the protest by Jews opposing the event was a missed opportunity for the Jews to share what troubles us and what prevents us from reciprocating the professed love of Israel by so many Christians. While there are so many Christians who support and pray for Israel, there are still far too many missionary organizations that are actively involved in the conversion of Jews abroad and even in the land of Israel.”

Keidar expressed that this was a missed opportunity from both sides.

Former Member of Knesset and head of the Shalom Jerusalem Organization, Rabbi Yehudah Glick, emphasized that many, if not most, of the Christian participants were sincerely praying for the welfare of the Jews.

“We are watching a Biblical and prophetic process of gentiles supporting Israel, but we know that among them are people and groups with an undesirable agenda,” Rabbi Glick said. “Among the millions of people who sincerely love the Jewish people, there are those who don’t understand the greatness of this era and the opportunity being presented to all nations.

“I know they are there, but it’s more important for us as a society to pay gratitude to those who love us. So many took three weeks out of their lives to pray for Israel to become a House of Prayer for All Nations. In my eyes, this is something great that has to be acknowledged.

“When I look at the big picture, I think we should open our doors and raise these good people to the forefront,” Glick continued. “We definitely should not be standing and harassing them, cursing them, or using violence. It is a chilul Hashem (profaning the name of God) because the people attacking them are doing it in the name of God. 

“We should be embracing these people since we will definitely have much more influence on them than we would by yelling at them or using violence. This will not encourage them to love us more. Instead, by loving them, we may convince them to stop trying to sell Jesus to us. 

“We need to speak with them, engage them, and tell them this is unacceptable. Thank God we’re now in a situation where it’s not a universal thing amongst Christians and certainly not in the manner in which proselytizing and forcible conversion has been done in the past.”

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki,  the executive director of The Center for Jewish–Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC ), acknowledged that Christian proselytizing is an obstacle to Jewish-Christian relation, however the Jewish protesters only strengthened the hand of Christian missionaries.

“While I’m sure that many of the Christians who were present at the Pentecostal event, as well as many of the words spoken, were in support of Israel and intended as prayers for the peace of Jerusalem, we must also recognize that a fair number of the organizing ministries at this event openly seek to convert Jews to Christianity, to get Jews to accept Jesus,” Rabbi Wolicki said. “This is an anathema to Jews and the Jewish community. So our Christian friends must understand where the outrage on the Jewish side is coming from.”

“At the same time, the Jewish protesters made a grave error,” he continued. “The behavior was really unbecoming. of the Jewish people. More importantly, they gave the greatest gift to their enemies with this protest. “

The rabbi noted that in the wake of the event, social media was flooded with images and video clips from the protest posted by anti-Israel influencers, depicting Jews acting violently.

“They were talking about the persecution of Christians in Jerusalem and the hatred of the Jewish people for Christianity,” Rabbi Wolicki said. “If these Israeli protesters think that they hindered missionary activities, they are sorely mistaken. They actually did the exact opposite. There’s no greater gift to the haters of Israel and those who seek to wipe out the Jews by converting us.”

“When Christians are attacked and persecuted for what they view as ‘faithful behavior’, it only emboldens them to double their efforts to convert Jews. It even enables them to raise more money for these activities.”

“This was a sad day all around,” Rabbi Wolicki said. “It was a bad look for Israel and a bad look for the Jewish people. We can only hope and pray that the future house of prayer for all nations coming together at the temple will be in the spirit of peace, brotherhood, and mutual respect.”

Donna Jollay, the Director of Christian Relations for Israel365 decried the violence but noted that it came from a deep and long-standing injustice carried out by Christianity towards the Jews.

“As much as I don’t agree with unprovoked violence, I can totally understand how many Jewish people would feel threatened by a large Christian gathering to pray for the conversion of the Jewish people, as stated explicitly on the organizer’s website,” she said. “This is especially true when this takes place at the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem after almost 2,000 years of relentless and horrific persecution by Christians.  

“Those very walls have been violently breached over and over in the name of Jesus. Even in recent history, many Jews in Israel had their entire family wiped out by the Christians in Germany and Poland, again in the name of Jesus.”

“It is tone-deaf for Christians to enter in mass and with flags and banners with Christian symbols reminiscent of Crusaders to pray for the conversion of the Jewish people and expect to be welcomed with open arms. I know that God chose the Jewish people to bring good and Godly things that I have into my life and, in recognition of that, my heart is full of gratitude toward the Jewish people for remaining faithful to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

“Their distrust and fear of Christians praying for them to convert is understandable and even justified. Christians need to understand that we are the ones that are invading their only truly safe haven in the entire world.”

She ended her statement with a short prayer:

“God Help us to stop seeing the Jewish people as an ‘unreached’ group.”

In a providential case of fate, an op-ed by Associate Professor of Philosophy at Dallas Theological Seminary Timothy Yoder was published in J-Post on the day of the confrontation. The op-ed, titled “Many evangelicals unaware on how Jews have suffered from Christian faith”, began, “Evangelical Christians, especially those who reside in the United States, have a startling level of ignorance or apathy regarding the history of antisemitism” and noted that for many Christians, their knowledge of historic antisemitism is limited to the Crusades and the Holocaust, neither of which was a direct product of Protestantism. Antisemitism, he noted, is a distinctly anti-Christian belief. He said that Jews, on the other hand, are well-educated in the historic antisemitism of Christians and the Church, leading to a suspicion and animosity evangelicals do not understand.

He also emphasized that replacement theology, or supersessionism, must be refuted.

Yoder suggested that the solution would be for Christians and Jews to come together “to mourn together the grievous tragedies of the past, in the hope that our common lament would produce a teachable moment in Christian traditions.”

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