After opposition shut down a meeting center for Messianic Jews in southern Israel last May, ultra-Orthodox Jews are harassing it again since it re-opened this month, sources said.
“Protests have taken place the last two weeks after the reopening of the center at the beginning of January,” according to a MEC press statement.
The center, where Messianic Jews meet for conversation, coffee and tea, had been temporarily closed last year due to protests by ultra-Orthodox Jews on May 4, 2017, after which they damaged Messianic Jewish leaders’ homes, breaking windows and traumatizing two children inside one home, one of the leaders told Messianic news outlet Kehila News Israel.
Knoester, of Nachalat Yeshua (Yeshua‘s Inheritance) congregation, said that not long after protestors secretly filmed the Messianic Jews at a Town Hall meeting last year, demonstrators including members of the ultra-Orthodox Yad L’Achim showed up at his house and did more damage, including smashing windows.
Those incidents, however, led to townsfolk on the street inviting them for drinks to talk, he told Kehila News.
“Quite a number of ‘ordinary people’ are feeling ashamed of what is being done to us,” he [said]. “We receive invitations from people to come over and have a coffee with them. We had at least six times an opportunity to explain to a rabbi why we believe that Jesus is the Messiah – as a result of the question to us, ‘Why do you believe that Jesus is the Messiah?'”
Local media have misrepresented the center as a “mission post,” and false reports including accusations of bribery for conversion to Christianity have also led Jews to talk with them, he told the news outlet. A group of rabbis showed up to interrogate them, he said, and when his wife Esther responded with verses from Psalm 23, they agreed to temporarily close the center while continuing to discuss what place the “Open House” should have in the community.
In the following days local media began a slander campaign, he said. Besides the bribery accusation – that they would offer a car in exchange for converting to Christianity – they were accused of putting a powder in people’s coffee “to change Jews into Christians,” and of coercing Jews to convert by force, he told the news outlet.
“Because they are unable to charge us, and unable to find anything against us, another weapon is used instead: lies, gossip, changing facts and blackmail,” he told Kehila News. “There are pictures of us in the city center with severe warnings. Also, big posters on billboards with nasty texts have been put up. The people are warned to watch out and protect their children against us.”