Shake-up in Israel gives hope to Messianic Jews
The election of Ehud Barak as prime minister is "an earthquake" and "a total change" for Israel, observers say. Among those feeling the change are Messianic Jews, who believe in Jesus Christ.
...Barak will form a coalition government that probably will exclude ultra-Orthodox Jewish political parties such as Shas, news reports said. Small groups, such as the ultra-Orthodox, often agree to join a governing coalition in return for power over Cabinet posts and policies, David Parsons of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (see link #1 below) told Religion Today.
...Under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the ultra-Orthodox gained control of the Ministry of Interior, which sets immigration policies. Barak, 57, Israels most decorated soldier and a former protégé of assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, is a member of the left-wing Labor Party. He is a moderate who has served as minister of interior and minister of foreign affairs.
...He campaigned on themes of unity, economic prosperity, and a promise to restart the peace process. He promised to keep Jerusalem under Jewish rule, withdraw Israeli troops from Southern Lebanon, and recognize a Palestinian state under certain conditions. Barak defeated Netanyahu May 17 by 56% to 43%.
...Political power enabled the ultra-Orthodox to retain control over Israeli religious life. Only Orthodox rabbis can perform weddings and funerals, allowing them to dictate the rules of the ceremony. Conservative, Reform, and Messianic Jews have no state-recognized religious authority, and some ultra-Orthodox believe they should be forced to become Orthodox or leave the country.
..."The secular public is fed up with the disproportionate power of the Orthodox in the government," Joel Chernoff of the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (see link #2 below) told Religion Today. "In the past (religious parties) were necessary to put together a government, but Barak will try to do it without them. If he succeeds, it will change the atmosphere of Israel."
...The change could bode well for Messianic Jewish believers in Israel. "The election has weakened the religious parties of those that make life difficult" for those who believe in Christ, Salim Munayer, a Jerusalem Christian, told Religion Today. Jews who believe that Jesus is the Messiah have suffered while Orthodox political parties wielded power. There are 85 Messianic congregations in Israel, and 40 smaller groups meet in homes. The groups are sharing the message of Christ in their communities, Chernoff said.
...Messianic Jews do not receive equal protection under Israeli law, Chernoff said. A 1989 Supreme Court decision states that a person cant be Jewish and believe in Jesus Christ. That could allow Messianic Jews to be refused asylum in Israel or be forcibly deported. Orthodox legislators twice proposed bills to curb religious speech by Messianic and other Christian groups.
...Messianic congregations are often harassed and persecuted. "There are individual cases where the Orthodox have targeted Messianics," Parsons said. Last year, hundreds of Orthodox noisily protested outside a Messianic meeting place because the congregation reportedly was baptizing its children. In another incident, a mob of Orthodox Jews ransacked the apartment of Swedish Christians living in their neighborhood.
..."The ultra-Orthodox have stepped on a lot of toes and I think that Messianics will find that they have more acceptance from mainstream Israelis because they have suffered as others did," Parsons said. Court and legislative battles forced them to organize into a small but effective political interest group that can pursue equal rights under the law, Chernoff said.
..."We are hopeful that believers in Israel will begin to look for more ways to openly evangelize," Susan Perlman of Jews for Jesus (see link #3 below) said. Workers from the San Francisco-based ministry passed out literature about Jesus Christ in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on election day. It said that "the most important choice is to have Messiah in your life," she said.
(Religion Today, May 20, 1999, www.ReligionToday.com).
Ehud Barak includes the Ultra-orthodox
Prime minister Ehud Barak's decision to include Shas, the Ultra-Orthodox Sephardic Party, in his coalition government, was clearly disappointing to the secular Israelis who voted for him, as well as the to Messianic Jews. Shas has been given control of the strategic Ministry of Religious Affairs, which approves the visas for all volunteers of the major social service organizations and will likely wage a flesh war against the Messianic Jews, along with possibly troubling the waters for these Christian ministries.
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