More than a thousand demonstrators arrived on Shabbat at the Heichal Hatarbut auditorium in Rishon L’tzion, near Tel Aviv, to rally against and try to prevent a Christian baptism ceremony for Israeli converts, planned by the J-Witnesses sect, Israeli media reported. The demonstrators, organized by the Lehava group, succeeded after about two hours to effect the cancellation of the event by police.
“We arrived and managed to block the entrances and break-in seven times,” Lehava Chairman Ben-Zion (Benzi) Gopstein told Hakol Hayehudi. Gopstein, who spent Shabbat in Rishon, reported that “only a few dozen missionaries entered the event, and at one point the police revoked the permit for the ceremony.”
The Lehava action to prevent the mass conversions began on Thursday, when a large group of organization members arranged for their lodging in town for Shabbat, and called for a protest prayer on Shabbat morning.
Three Lehava members were arrested during the demonstration but were released after a few hours.
“We met six women, two of them Holocaust survivors, who had been brought there by their gentile caretakers, and we convinced them not to go inside,” Gopstein related. “One of them said she thought it was an [MK] Tzipi Livni event.”
Gopstein added, “Now police can tell the court in full honesty that it is unable to secure such an event.” He said this had been “an event of true akhdut-unity — many Rishon L’tzion residents arrived, as well as ‘hill youths,’ Chabad, the city rabbis and Lehava activists, and thank God we were successful. Should another such event take place we’ll be there, we’ll go anywhere.”David Israel