Orthodox Jews stage angry protest at Messianic Jewish concert in Jerusalem

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)

June 27, 2023

5 min read

On Thursday evening, the Messianic Jewish Alliance of Israel (MJAI) hosted a “worship concert” titled “Peh Echad” or “One Voice” at the Pavilion in Jerusalem, a venue owned by Messianic Jews. The event was promoted within Messianic congregations and on the MJAI website and billed as part of a biennial series that began a decade ago consisting of holding a recorded live concert featuring songs written by local artists. The organizers stated in the promotion that it was not an evangelistic outreach event.

Approximately 1000 people attended. 

Approximately 50 Orthodox Jewish protesters showed up and became overtly vocal and antagonistic. The protest was organized by Lehava, Or L’Achim, and La Familia, organizations that oppose Christian proselytizing in Israel. Detractors have labeled the organizations as being racist. Police were called in to restore order and ensure the safety of the concert-goers. 

One suspect, an activist with Lehava, was arrested for attacking a police officer. The event continued despite the protest.

Tickets for the event were listed at 50 NIS, with half-price tickets offered to children and soldiers. While proselytizing is legal in Israel, the protesters claimed that the reduced pricing violated the legal prohibition against offering remuneration and proselytizing to minors. 

The chairman of the Lahava organization, Benzi Gopstein, explained his objections to Hebrew-language Arutz Sheva: “It is not clear to me how such a conference in which they try to convert children to Christianity, in a way that is clearly prohibited by law, is held in the heart of Jerusalem,” Gopstein said. “We will be there in any case in a legal demonstration to tell those missionaries: You are not welcome here. You have nothing to look for here. In addition, we will explain to innocent Jews who may come to the conference why it is dangerous, and we will try to convince them to cancel their participation in it.”

Lehava refused to comment to Israel365 News about the events.

Carolyn Hyde, who was born Jewish and describes herself as a “believer in Yeshua,” has lived in Israel for twenty years. Hyde is a musician who has participated in the event in the past. She was at the venue on Thursday and witnessed the protests.

“The protesters tried to block the entrance and were quite aggressive. We were behind someone who was harassed,” Hyde told Israel365News. “One person was videoing, and they had their phone slapped out of their hand. It was really sad to see. Some people left without seeing the concert, but the police set themselves up as a barrier and made sure that whoever wanted to enter could do so. But there was a lot of screaming and anger.”

“The level of hatred, it broke my heart,” Hyde said. “It really did. We are usually permitted free worship, and even though there are very few believers, we are accepted in Israel.”

“We have a lot of friends who know we are different, that I’m a believer. These relationships are built on ‘let’s get together’,” Hyde said. “I believe in ‘don’t push your faith on me, and I won’t push my faith on you’, and let’s see where we can have a positive dialogue that helps us all.” 

Hyde understands the anger at Christians who come to Israel to proselytize Jews.

“I am not a missionary,”  she explained. “A missionary is somebody who comes to a country that is not their own in order to share the gospel with people who are not their own. And then they go back to their own country.”

“That is not why I am in Israel. All my life, I was taught Israel is the only hope,” Hyde said. “I learn from the Tanakh and the New Testament. Sure, I’m not gonna lie. When people ask me questions. I’m happy to speak with them about it. That happens a lot, actually. But I prefer to spread the Gospel by living like Jesus, where Jesus lived, keeping Shabbat and the feasts.”

“I don’t even like that word proselytizing because that signifies that your faith is something that you have to put on somebody else,” Hyde said. 

The incident comes one month after a similar confrontation that took place at a Christian prayer event adjacent to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Unlike the recent MJAI musical event, the event at the Davidson Center Archaeological Park was protested by several prominent rabbis and explicitly called for participants to pray “for the nation of Israel to receive their Jewish Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus).”

This protest was followed by a statement from Jerusalem’s Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar, who condemned the harassment of Christians in the capital city. 

“There is no doubt that this was done by irresponsible people who are not Torah observant,” Rabbi Amar said. “We declare that such behavior is absolutely forbidden. We must not disrespect any human being who was created in the image of God.”

“In addition to the obvious prohibition mentioned above, this behavior also constitutes a desecration of God’s name, which is a serious sin and not the Jewish way. It is known that during the time of the Temple, seventy bulls were sacrificed during the seven days of Sukkot for the seventy nations of the world, and prayers were held for peace, their peace, and the spread of peace in the world. It is also a duty for young people to behave with respect and honor as is the way of the Jewish people.”

The statement was shared on Twitter by Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, one of Jerusalem’s deputy mayors who handles the tourism and foreign relations for the city. She has been working to stop the harassment of Christians in Jerusalem.

“Jerusalem is a city that sanctifies freedom of religion, so when I received complaints about Christians being harassed in the Old City we took action,” she said on Twitter. “[I am] pleased the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem has sent out a public letter to clarify that this is against Jewish Law and should stop.”

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki, the executive director of The Center for Jewish–Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC ), explained that these recurring confrontations are coming at a crucial time in Christian-Jewish relations

“It is tragic that these confrontations are coming at a time in history when so much positive change and progress is being made in the Jewish-Christian relationship, and when Christians worldwide are moving away from replacement theology, the supersessionism that claims the church replaced Israel.” Rabbi Wolicki said. “The Catholic Church and many branches of Protestantism are actively rejecting supersessionism. We’re now seeing Christian leaders, including Pope Benedict on the one extreme to prominent evangelical leaders on the other extreme, who are rejecting the call to evangelize Jews.”

“Nothing is more damaging to the Jewish-Christian relationship than Christians who still seek to proselytize Jews, working to convince Jews to leave their Jewish and become Christian believers.”

“At the same time, it is equally tragic when Jews target these Christian events in a way that shows them as attackers. While coming as the result of a history of harsh Christian attempts to convert Jews, these unruly protests are often interpreted by the outside world as Jews prohibiting Christians from worshiping as Christians. This misinterpretation is made even worse when the protests call to shut down the event rather than peacefully raising objections to proselytizing. It is even more difficult when these protests lead to confrontations with the Israeli police.

“By behaving in an unruly and violent manner, the anti-missionary Jewish groups are literally putting money in the pockets of the groups that they are protesting against. There is absolutely no doubt that the Christian groups that put on such events and that do missionize Jews will use the protests against them to raise money for their cause and will do so successfully. These anti-missionary protests only help the enemy when carried out in such a disgraceful manner.”

“It’s my prayer is my fervent hope and prayer that all the positive changes that have been happening in the Jewish Christian relationship do not get weakened or derailed because of harmful behavior coming from both sides. Jews universally view attempts to evangelize Jews as an attack on the Jewish people. On the one hand, these foolish and disgraceful displays of violence and anger do nothing to bring the light of the Torah into the world.

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