The Yad L’Achim anti-missionary organization this week called on the religious parties in Israel to “everything possible to get a law passed banning missionary activity.”
The current law is relatively weak, barring missionary activity among minors or in cases where payment of one kind or another is offered to potential converts. “Moreover, even this watered down law is not enforced,” the organization maintains.
In a letter sent this week to religious Knesset members, Yad L’Achim urged the parties to raise the issue during coalition negotiations.
“We cannot emphasize enough how urgent it is to demand legislation against missionary activity in Israel,” the letter stated, adding that the problem has reached unprecedented proportions.
In its appeal, Yad L’Achim said missionaries take advantage of widespread economic distress, offering assistance that earns them trust in parts of the Jewish community.
“The financial difficulties in which many families find themselves has created opportunity for the missionaries,” the letter said. “At the same time, ignorance of Judaism leads many young people to attend missionary conferences, which lead to baptism.”
In light of the seriousness of the situation, Yad L’Achim is calling on the religious parties to act with determination to place the subject of anti-missionary legislation high on the next government’s agenda.
“Don’t let this opportunity slip away,” the letter concludes.
During the second Netanyahu government 2009-2013, an anti-missionary bill drafted by Yad L’Achim was placed on the table of the ministerial legislation committee. In its preamble, the bill described the increase in missionary activity.
The bill was supported by then-Justice Minister Prof. Yaakov Neeman, who encouraged Yad L’Achim’s founding director, Rabbi Shalom Dov Lifschitz, z’l, to submit his draft for passage.
However, the bill was scuttled, according to the group.
Rabbi Lifschitz fought attempts to block the bill, engaging in a back-and-forth correspondence with the office of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the time.
In his letter, the rabbi submitted cited facts and figures on the spread of missionaries in Israel that were supplied by the missionaries themselves. “In the past 19 years, more Jews have converted to Christianity than in the 1,900 years before that,” the missionaries claimed.
This time around, with the advent of a new political constellation that gives the religious parties more power, Yad L’Achim’s leadership says the group sees an opportunity to correct an anomaly where in the Jewish state, missionaries are free to convince Jews to abandon their religion.