International News

Israeli Haredim Attack Messianic Congregation
by International Christian Embassy Jerusalem News Service, November 28, 1998
Posted: Wednesday, May 31, 2000 07:36 pm CST

BE'ER SHEVA, Israel (IECJ) - A mob of several hundred Haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews) attacked and beseiged a Messianic Jewish congregation meeting in a southern Israeli town November 28th after a rumor spread in the city's synagogues that missionaries were baptizing Jewish children.

The angry Orthodox men gathered outside the meeting hall used by the Jewish belivers in Yeshua (Jesus), located in the Old City of Be'er Sheva, only moments before the 10:30 AM Shabbat service was due to begin, trapping some 30 worshippers inside for about four hours.

According to eyewitnesses, as speakers incited the crowd, the protestors began to shout threats and curses at those inside, which included at least a dozen children, ranging from infants to young teenagers.

Ten Israeli policemen arrived at the scene, but were not able to disperse the demonstrators, some of whom began to throw stones and spit at the Messianic believers who ventured outside. One policeman was injured as they attempted to control the haredi efforts to storm the building compound.

The haredim repeatedly demanded of the police that the children inside be brought out and handed over to them, according to one mother caught inside, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Eventually, the police escorted the trapped worshippers past the demonstrators and took them to the Be'er Sheva police station for their safety.

The Israeli government has launched an inquiry into the incident. Haredi commentators have urged that the entire community not be blamed for the actions of a minority.

A messianic Jew who was in the area described the experience as terrifying. "A mob of men in black surrounded us and were shouting and throwing stones and they tried to jump over the fence. We were especially scared for the children. We're not missionaries. We are Jews just like those who want to kick us out. We all believe in the same god, but we also believe in love and tolerance," he told the Israel Newspaper Ha'aretz.

A few days earlier, according to the Ha'aretz article, several dozen youths from a Chabad high school attacked an American couple in Kiryat Malachi whom they suspected were missionaries. The boys hurled stones at the house of the new immigrants, who moved to the city three months ago. The couple denied engaging in any missionary activity and said they belonged to a humanitarian organization based in Switzerland and came to Kiryat Malachi to work with Ethiopian immigrants.

A mob of ultra-Orthodox men also attacked and ransacked an apartment rented by three Swiss Christian women two weeks ago in Jerusalem's religiously conservative Mea Shearim neighbourhood. They accused the three of conducting missionary activity, a charge denied by the women.

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