Two far-right Jewish organizations known for their radical anti-assimilation activities have called on supporters to protest outside a Messianic Jewish worship concert in Jerusalem on Thursday evening.
The organizations, Lehava and Or L’Achim, announced their intentions to protest the event through flyers distributed in Orthodox communities and in a press release-style article [link in Hebrew] on the Orthodox-Jewish Channel 7 website.
In the article, Benzi Gopstein, founder of Lehava, who has been accused of incitement, racism and terrorism, makes several factually incorrect statements about the event.
He called the concert “a declared missionary conference” and accused the organizers of “soliciting a minor for conversion.”
“It is not clear to me how such a conference in which they attempt to convert children to Christianity, in a manner manifestly prohibited by law, can take place in the heart of Jerusalem,” Gopstein said.
“In any case, we will be there at a legal demonstration, to tell those missionaries, ‘You are not welcome here, you have nothing to look for here.’ In addition, we will explain to innocent Jews who may come to the conference why it is dangerous, and try to persuade them to cancel their participation.”
The article includes a picture of a digital flyer for the worship event that is clearly labeled in Hebrew as a “night of worship.”
The evening of worship was only publicized within Messianic congregations and on the website of the Messianic Jewish Alliance of Israel.
Lehava, an acronym in Hebrew for the organization’s full name – For the Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land (LiMniat Hitbolelut B'eretz HaKodesh), is a far-right, Jewish supremacist group, whose goal is the elimination of any non-Jewish presence from the land of Israel.
The organization, under the leadership of Gopstein, follows the teachings of Meir Kahane, whose Kach political party was banned from Israeli politics for racism in 1988. In 1994, the U.S. State Department declared Kach to be a terrorist organization due to its association with violent acts aimed at achieving a “religiously homogenous state.”
Gopstein, himself, condoned the burning of churches in Israel in 2015, calling them places of “idol worship," and has ties to the Jewish Power party, led by National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who served as a defense attorney for the four Lehava youth arrested with charges of anti-Arab violence in 2014.
Or L’Achim is a newer organization that also focuses on anti-assimilation activities, including countering Christian missionary and Messianic Jewish outreach in Israel. On their Facebook page, they posted photos of Messianic Jews distributing tracts publicly and called for protests against outreach attempts by organizations, such as Jews for Jesus.
While the private worship concert is not an outreach event, both far-right groups have a history of labeling any Messianic Jewish activity as “missionary outreach.”
The Jerusalem Municipality and the Israeli government have increasingly been accused by some members of the Christian community of failing to investigate or prosecute incidents of religious violence perpetrated by Orthodox Jews, often youth.
The leaders have also linked the increase in violence to far-right religious groups within the current coalition, such as the Jewish Power, Religious Zionism and Noam political parties.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.