Guest Post by Joseph Weissman
Last year I wrote about the court case between the Messianic Jews of Nachalat Yeshua and the Chabad-led Yad L’Achim anti-messianic-anti-mission organisation.
Nachalat Yeshua leader Howard Bass sued Yad L’Achim and also sued the Chief Rabbi of Beersheva Yehuda Deri [pictured right] for his role in infiltrating a Messianic morning service on Christmas Eve 2005, when activists marched in chanting songs, disturbed the worshippers and threw Bass into the baptismal pool.
The protestors were motivated by the false rumour that Bass was to baptise two busloads of Jewish children on their way to Nachalat Yeshua.
Watch what happened on Youtube.
Now news comes that Bass was unsuccessful in his case against Deri and Yad L’Achim. Bass writes that:
Judge Ruzin has determined that the two defendants are innocent of any wrong-doing concerning the events before, during, and after 24 Dec 2005, and that we did not produce sufficient evidence to prove any personal liability on their part in our civil suit against them.
On this occasion, the courts have found Yad L’Achim and Yehuda Deri innocent of any wrongdoing. But it is unsatisfactory that so far no-one has been brought to justice for these events.
Imagine if the reverse happened. If, in a majority-Christian democratic country like Britain or France, a group of Christians marched into a synagogue chanting Onward Christian Soldiers and threw the rabbi into the mikveh, the ringleaders of the attack would surely be tried and convicted. The same standards must apply in Israel.
Both Yehuda Deri and the Yad L’Achim organisation were present at the Nachalat Yeshua congregation on the night of the incident. There is clear evidence that both Deri and Yad L’Achim have since ratcheted up the tension further against Israel’s Messianic Christian minority.
In December 2006, Yad L’Achim’s own website reported that Yehuda Deri was given a court order to stay away from the missionary Eliezer Malachi, but that pressure from activists led to the decision being overturned. We read:
When word of the court order got out, the religious community in Beersheva was outraged. Would the court have dared to issue such a decree – without benefit of response – against the president of the Beersheba District Court, the Rav’s equivalent in the secular system? The Rav petitioned the court to have the order rescinded.
After several delays a hearing was held, and last week the order was revoked and the missionary was ordered to pay court costs amounting to NIS 1,500. After the ruling, Harav Deri said, “The missionaries spread a libel about me, after I used all legal means to stop them. In cooperation with the people of Yad L’Achim, a special network of volunteers has been set up that uses every legitimate means to stop missionary activity. This court order was a revenge on the part of the missionaries.”
How much clearer can it be?
In February 2006, a counter-missionary event in Arad was organised by Yad L’Achim and the Chief Rabbinate and Religious Council of Arad, along with the notice:
Citizens of Arad, let us come together in our fight against the missionaries who want to annihilate any remnant or memory of the nation of Israel
The main speaker advertised by the council was Yehuda Deri. Also speaking was the former mayor of Arad, Bezalel Tabib, and then chief rabbis of Arad, Bentzion Lipsker and Joseph Elbo.
As reported in Hatzvi in 2004, Lipsker has previously compared the Messianic Jews of Arad to Hamas’ Sheikh Yassin, seemingly authorising the shedding of their blood in much the same way Yassin was eliminated. This should be unacceptable in a plurastic, democratic nation such as Israel.
Yet most disturbing of all was the presence of Rabbi Yoram Aberjil at the meeting in Arad, who gave ‘words of awakening’ to those present. Since the event, Aberjil’s naked hatred has been exposed before all of Israel.
In December 2006, Haaretz reported on Aberjil, portraying him as a sort of unholy rabbi who intimidated a young family in his community to the point where they had to move their children away.
In the second week of September, S. relates, the telephone rang, and it was Rabbi Aberjil on the line. “I want you to know that your children are precious to me,” he said. “I won’t let anyone pick the fruit I planted. The next conversation will be really painful. I will follow you. I have ways of making you disappear in a hit-and-run accident. I will curse your children. I’m telling you, I have powers. Your children will be orphans.”
This is not the first time Rabbi Aberjil has found himself in trouble. Some 10 years ago, there was another wave of complaints by women against him, which were examined by a religious court. He reacted strongly against the current accusations. “The town was seething. People I know who merely spoke with the women who complained were threatened with murder,” said one rabbinic source in the town. Rabbi Cohen received threats by phone. His car and that of his wife were vandalized, and he lodged a complaint with the police. Other complainants were ostracized and expelled from Aberjil’s study center, as was anyone who was in contact with them. Two of the complainants were beaten up. As a result of the various incidents, the young men and their wives lodged complaints with the police.
In early November, Rabbi Aberjil gave a speech that could be described as incitement to murder. It was circulated on ultra-Orthodox Web sites: “Whoever mentions my name, create a riot; tell him ‘shut up, you sinner’ … If you have a prayer book, throw it at him; if you have a shoe, throw it at him; if you have a stone, throw it at him … Take a stick and beat him until the man has to get to Emergency … anyone who harms us. Because if he dies, nothing will happen; he died of wickedness.”
Intriguingly, the name “Aberjil” has long been associated with violence in Israel, given that the brothers Yitzhak and Meir Aberjil run the most powerful organised crime syndicate in Israel, notorious across Europe and America.
Yoram Aberjil is profiled on the Awareness Center as a cult-like figure who threatens children.
This is the man whom Deri and Yad L’Achim invite to give words of awakening against the alleged cult-like missionaries who baptise children!
We can say for certain that Yehuda Deri and Yad L’Achim have contributed to creating a climate where Messianic Jews constantly feel uncertain and intimidated, and in many cases needing to hide their faith to protect their livelihood.
Israeli Messianics have a daily battle for legitimacy against a religio-political Far Right whose influence stretches all the way up to the office of the Interior Minister Eli Yishai. Yishai is the chairman of the Shas party, formerly chaired by Yehuda Deri’s brother Aryeh Deri who was jailed for three years for taking bribes.
Messianic Jews may be a small religious minority, but the quality of Israeli democracy will hinge on how such groups are treated, and whether they made to feel secure and at home in their own country.