Newspaper Archive of
Heritage Florida Jewish News
Fern Park , Florida
November 9, 2007     Heritage Florida Jewish News
PAGE 14     (14 of 16 available)        PREVIOUS     NEXT      Full Size Image
PAGE 14     (14 of 16 available)        PREVIOUS     NEXT      Full Size Image
November 9, 2007

Newspaper Archive of Heritage Florida Jewish News produced by SmallTownPapers, Inc.
Website © 2020. All content copyrighted. Copyright Information.     Terms Of Use.     Request Content Removal.

i PAGE 14A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 9, 2007 I, Gaza From page 1A circumstances succeed in preventing it." Deputy De- fense Minister Matan Vilnai drew up recommendations to impose limits on the supply of fuel, services and goods, and to cut electricity sporadi- cally from the Belt Hanoun area in northern Gaza from where most of the rockets are fired. Vilnai argues that these steps are in keeping with Israel's Sept. 19 decision to declare Gaza a hostile entity. "Because this is an entity that is hostile to us, there is no reason for us to supply them with electricity beyond the minimum needed to avert a crisis," Vilnai said. After a daylong debate last Monday on legalities, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz approved the new measures but ruled that the move to cut off electricity be deferred until a more detailed plan can demon- strate that no harm would be caused to essential services such as hospitals. Israel has five electricity lines into Gaza, four of which deliver power to a nearby army base and to hospitals in the Gaza area and cannot be shut down. The fifth line to Belt Hanoun, the source of extensive rocket fire, is where government leaders plan to interrupt power on a random basis for between 15 minutes and an hour at night. The government already has begun cutting fuel supplies by 5 percent to I1 percent. Israeli officials argue that it is absurd to supply your enemies with fuel and elec- tricity that they use to fire rockets at your civilians. Hamas says withholding supplies is a form of col- lective punishment and a violation of international law. Hamas spokesmen claim they could stop Islamic Ji- had militants from firing at Israel, but why should they if this is Israel's response to their offer of a long-term cease-fire? On the West Bank, Fatah leaders may secretly be pleased at the pressure Israel is putting on Hamas, Fatah's rivals, in Gaza. In public, however, Fatah leaders have been fiercely critical of the new Israeli steps. In a meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert late last month, Palestinian Au- thority President Mahmoud Abbas argued that the Pales- tinian Authority is respon- Sible for Gaza's estimated 1.5 million Palestinians, not the Hamas usurpers who drove Fatah out in June. Saeb Erekat, a chief Fatah negotiator with Israel in the run-up to the planned An- napolis peace parley, called the Israeli decision to sever power and fuel supplies "par- ticularly provocative given the fact that Palestinians and Israelis are meeting to negoti- ate an agreement on the core issues for ending the conflict between them." Fatah leaders contend that the tough Israeli measures in Gaza will make it much harder for Abbas to show the necessary flexibility to reach a deal with Israel in Annapolis. The international com- munity also is taking a strongly critical line. In a tense meeting last Mon- day with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Benito Fer- rero-Waldner, the European Union's commissioner for external affairs, urged Israel to consider the possible hu- manitarian consequences of its action. Earlier, U.N. Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon argued that although Israel had withdrawn from Gaza, it still is responsible for what goes on there. Cutting off supplies would be "contrary to Israel's obligations toward the civilian population under international humanitarian and human rights law," he declared. In Israel, several human rights organizations have pe- titioned the Supreme Court urging its intervention. The plan also has sparked a lively media debate, most of it critical of the government. The most scathing com- ments came from Nahum Barnea, the doyen of Israeli political pundits and recent recipient of the prestigious Israel Prize. On the front page of last Monday's Yediot Achronot, Barnea called the government plan "stupid." "Rather than severing Israel from the occupation, at least with regard to Gaza, it rein- forces Israel's image as a ~ruel occupier," he wrote. "It is incompatible with the effort to reopen dialogue with the PalestinianAuthority and the moderate Arab regimes. The foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, not to speak of Abbas, won't be able to sit quietly at Annapolis while Barak blacks out Gaza." Writing in the left-leaning Ha'aretz, Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff claimed that while Israeli defense officials say the tough measures will reduce rocket attacks, they know full well the opposite will occur. Therefore, they conclude, "the real aim is twofold: to spark a new escalation to justify a major Israeli mili- tary operation in Gaza and to prepare the way for clear separation from Gaza, limit- ing to an absolute minimum Israel's obligations to the Palestinians there." Israeli of- ficials disagree. They say that the new policy does not look for an excuse to invade Gaza but constitutes an attempt to avoid an invasion. Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer ar- gues that in combating the rockets, Israel had only two choices: cutting the supplies to Gaza or "tomorrow or the next day" sending "three or four divisions into Gaza." He added, "And if we do that, won't innocent people be killed?" "Maybe this time the people that are responsible for the chaos in Gaza," Ben Eliezer said, "will start think- ing differently." New ways From page 2A of New Testament Studies at Vanderbilt University. Hundreds of organizations now exist to persuade Jews that their salvation depends on accepting Jesus as Mes- siah. Many of these groups are connected through a network of organizations with media- and Internet-savvy staffs, as well as well-oiled fund-raising operations. While Catholics and main- line Protestants have es- chewed the practice, some of the largest evangelical denominations--Southern Baptists, Assemblies of God, Missouri-Synod Lutherans-- have stepped up their con- version efforts. Independent missions-have been on the upswing, too. Last year, Jews for Jesus completed a five-year tour called "Behold Your God" that brought its message to 53 cities worldwide. Chosen People Ministries saw its income grow by 31 percent, to $7.9 million, between 2003 and 2006. The Phoenix-based Jewish Voice Ministries Inter- national says that since 1993 it has drawn 500,000 people to festivals and concerts aimed at evangelizing Jews in Eastern Europe, South America and India. Messianic congregations, which combine Christian faith with Jewish identity and ritual, also have mush- roomed. Some call themselves syna- gogues and incorporate such practices as bar mitzvah and circumcision. JTA research turned up more than 300 such congregations in the United States; the Association of Messianic Congregations puts the figure at 438. Yet there are no well-es- tablished methods to track the movem.ent, which is diffuse and sometimes oper- ates underground, experts say. Jews for Judaism, an anti-missionary group, fol- lows 900 organizations in North America alone and calculates that $250 million annually is spent around the world. Estimates of the number of Jewish-born Christians and self-identi- fied Messianic Jews world- wide range from 60,000 to 275,000. Israel has more than 100 Messianic congregations, says Yaakov Ariel, associate profes- sor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina and author of "Evangelizing The Chosen People." "Thousands of young Is- raelis--graduates of Israeli schools, graduates of the army--are in Messianic con- gregations," he says, adding, "Almost all of them come from non-Orthodox homes and many from secular back- grounds." What's more, evangelicals perform an increasing share of the charitable work in the Jewish state "They've become an im- portant part of the welfare network: taking care of the elderly, taking care of the needy," Ariel says. Last year, Chosen People Ministries brought $50,000 worth of food to southern Israel, where Jews had taken refuge from the conflict on the Lebanese border. Mitch Glaser, the ministries president, says his staff was "buying food from grocery stores in Jerusalem and schlepping it seven hours to Eilat." "Was that evangelism? It might be," he says. "We did talk about our love for the Lord as we did it." Back in the United States, as the movement has boomed, so have its educational insti- tutions. Some of the nation' leading evangelical schools, including Criswell College in Dallas and Western Semi- nary in San Jose, Calif of- fer accredited programs in Jewish studies or Messianic Judaism. Chosen People Ministries has teamed up with Califor- nia's Biola University to create a three-year master's program in Messianic Jewish studies. The Union of Messianic Jew- ish Congregations has an institute--linked informally to an evangelical seminary in Florida--to ordain Christ- centered "rabbis." Myriad publications on how to win over Jews are readily available, including theologi- cal journals and a four-volume set titled "Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus." An in- ternational umbrella group, the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism, brain- stormed about strategies this summer in Hungary. Groups such as Jews for Jesus partner with large evan- gelical congregations, such as the McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Va to train members in reaching Jewish neighbors and co-workers. "This is becoming front- page news in evangelical churches," says Lon Solomon, McLean's pastor. Only rarely does the issue attract mainstream attention, Advertising Sales Full or Time Call Jeff at 407-834-8787 as when conservative pundit Ann Coulter told CNBC talk- show host Donnie Deutsch last month, "We just want Jews to be perfected." Jewish leaders are far from unified about how much dam- age these efforts inflict. "I am not convinced that this is a major crisis," says Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, U.S. director of interreligious af- fairs for the American Jewish Committee, explaining that the number of actual conver- sions appears low. Greenebaum worries, though, that when churches fund Jewish-directed mission- ary work, it creates an obstacle to interfaith dialogue. Others express more alarm. "Is it an existential threat to the future of the Jewish com- munity? No," says Rabbi Craig Miller, education director of the anti-missionary task force at the Jewish Community Re- lations Council of New York. "Is it hurting Jewish individu- als? Yes. The loss of any Jewish person is a tragedy for family and friends, and it's also a loss of that person's creativity and input to the Jewish commu- nity as a whole." Under the clankety- clank of an elevated train, the vertical banners lining Brooklyn's Brighton Beach Avenue wel- come visitors to "Little Russia by the Sea." Once vibrant withworking-class Jews, then suffering a period of decline, the Brighton Beach neighbor- hood was enlivened in the 1980s by a new wave of immi- grants, many of them Jewish and from the former Soviet Union. Now pedestrians stroll past furriers, a Russian ballet school and grocery stores of- fering sausage, knishes and smoked herring. Through a doorway marked with a Star of David and up a staircase is the Russian Community Life Center, a modest cluster of rooms that has become one of Brooklyn's missionary hot spots. On a Saturday morning, 60 immi- grants in black plastic folding chairs watch as center director Leslie McMillan dons a heads- carf and lights a pair of Shab- bat candles. She recites the traditional Hebrew blessing, but with an addition: "B'shem Yeshua," which translates as "in the name of Jesus." The Shabbat candles, a worship leader explaip~s in Russian, "is like a symbol of the light of Jesus Christ, our Savior." Evangelists have identified Russian Jews as particularly ripe for their message. They lived under a government that for decades suppressed wor- qbship, leaving them with few religious preconceptions. "It's been forbidden fruit for generations," says Eu- gene Lubman, a 31-year-old computer programmer from Kiev, Ukraine, who serves as vice president of the center's board. "There was a spiritual hun- ger, an understanding that the things in the world aren't an end in themselves. People have been gravitating to any spirituality they can find." Lubman, who was born Jewish, believes that Messi- anic congregations welcome immigrants more readily than do some religious Jews. "In the Orthodox commu- nity there are things you are start practicing," he says. "You have to change the way you eat. You have to change the way you dress. You have to change the way you act." Perhaps this "hunger" explains why the center has attracted so much Christian interest. Chosen People Minis- tries helped launched the cen- ter and New York's Redeemer Presbyterian Church provides funding. Jews for Jesus leads services for those curious about Christianity, and a Russian Baptist church holds Bible studies. Another con- gregation sponsors worship services for recovering drug addicts and their families. Two summers ago, the cen- ter became a staging ground as Jews for Jesus missionaries descended on Brighton Beach en masse as part of their Be- hold Your God campaign. Throughout the year, the center teaches sewing and offers citizenship assistance. But the bulk of its evangelism comes by of inexpensive English classes--two hours of small-group instruction followed by 30 minutes of mandatory Old and New Tes- tament study. "We absolutely have to do this," Lubman says. "There's so little support for immi- grants. They don't know the language. They can't get a job. They're absolutely lost in the new society." If missionaries can help newcomers accli- mate, he insists, "we really deserve their ear." Jewish leaders offer a less charitable spin. They say sym- bols like the Star of David con- fuse older Russians, who grew up under state atheism. "They have no radar," says attorney Marcia Eisenberg, who works with the anti- missionary task force at the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. "They have no context to understand this is not Jewish." Critics add that evangelists' successes do not occur in a vacuum. "I always thought mission- ary efforts were an early warn- ing system," says Jonathan Sarna, professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University. "If you want to see where the weak parts are in Jewish communities, you look at where the missionar- ies are. Most recently you find missionaries focusing on immigrants, the elderly and students--all areas where the Jewish community has not done its work." Oleg Nemtsov, a 32-year-old massage therapist, arrived in Brooklyn from Belarus in the 1990s. A teenager at the time, he enrolled in an Orthodox yeshiva where other students "treated me like a dog," he says. They mocked his poor eyesight, provoking scuffles that led to Nemtsov being expelled after two months. Struggling with depres- sion, Nemtsov met some evangelists in a Brighton Beach park. He was touched by their kindness. "I started picturing Christ as this sweet, wonderful friend," he says. Nemtsov struggledwith his religious beliefs for another decade, but now he is con- sidering devoting himself to Christian evangelism. "I don't want anyone to burn in hellfire," he says. Still, Nemtsov admits, he has some doubts about his new faith. "I'm pretty vulnerable to being misled," he acknowl- edges. "I just need to relax, talk to God and see what He shows me."