Proposed Israeli law would ban Christian missionaries
'We are a Jewish state,' official says
July 8, 1997
Web posted at: 10:07 p.m. EDT (0207 GMT)
From Jerusalem Bureau Chief Walter Rodgers
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The dwindling number of Christians in the
Holy Land are facing yet another threat. Militant Jews and
Israelis are trying to force members of the religion from
seeking converts in the country.
Most alarming to Christians is a newly proposed law that
would let authorities jail anyone who shares Christian
"It could even include the New Testament because, after all,
that is certainly a document Jesus would say, 'go out into
the world and make disciples,'" Pastor Ray Lockhart of
Christ's Church in Jerusalem says.
The proposed legislation is aimed at those who possess,
print, reproduce, distribute, import, track or publicize
information meant as an inducement to religious conversion.
"We are a Jewish state," explains Israeli Knesset member and
bill co-sponsor Niffim Zilli. "We want to remain
a Jewish state."
Much of the literature in a small Christian bookstore in
Jerusalem would be outlawed by the legislation in its present
form. Orthodox Jews already visit the store to harass
customers, and there are fears that if the proposed
anti-missionary law passes, militants might try
to close the shop.
"I see this as being quite contrary to human rights,
particularly to the right of religious freedom and choice of
religion," Lockhart says.
Zilli's reply: "Stop your missionary activity in Israel. Stop
Christian Evangelical missions give free food to poor
Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem, and indigents line up to accept
"Some of Israel's best friends around the world come from the
Bible-believing Christian communities. And if it is seen as
though Israel or the government is opposing the people who
have been the best friends of Israel, then perhaps support
for it could run cold," Clarence Wagner of Bridges for Peace
The legislation has cleared its first parliamentary hurdle.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly opposes it, but
some believe it could pass over his objections, especially if
Orthodox Jews decide to engage in muscle-flexing.
R E A D :
Statement from Prime Minister Netanyahu:
Rabbi David Rosen of the Anti-Defamation League opposes the
bill, but admits that democracy does not have deep roots in
"We are dealing with a society that is very fragile in terms
of its own self-confidence and its ability to function within
the modern democratic world, and therefore you have to take
that into consideration," Rosen says.
What is being waged is a cultural clash that opens centuries
of old wounds between Jews and Christians. It is a struggle
for souls, and the Christians do not have the upper hand.
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