Israel Threatens To Ban Evangelical TV Channel
By Stefan J. Bos, Special Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – Israel’s government has threatened to close down an evangelical television channel broadcasting in Hebrew if it violates laws on proselytizing and missionary activities. Tuesday’s announcement came after global network GOD TV launched Shelanu (“Ours”) to spread “the gospel of Jesus Christ into the homes and lives and hearts of the Jewish people.”
Ward Simpson, the CEO of GOD TV, added in a video message that “GOD TV has been given government permission to broadcast the gospel of Jesus Christ – Yeshua the Messiah – in Israel on cable TV in the Hebrew language.” He said: “Never before, as far as we know in the history of the world, has this ever been done.”
However, Israel’s Communications Minister David Amsalem cautioned in published remarks that he might take the Hebrew-language station off the air. Calling the permission an “oversight,” Amsalem stressed that he had launched “a thorough investigation of the issue”. The minister confirmed that he ordered his ministry’s Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council “to make sure that no channel break the parameters of its license.” And, “if indeed, this channel does missionary work, it is removed immediately.”
Asher Biton, chairman of the Council, told Israeli media that he did not know that Shelanu would engage in missionary activities. The official warned that while “religious programming” is permitted, missionary programming is prohibited under the terms of its license. Through its service provider HOT, the Shelanu channel potentially reaches nearly half of the Israeli market for cable, satellite, and online services. More than 700,000 Israeli households subscribe to HOT, according to official estimates.
Responding to the controversy, HOT reportedly noted that Shelanu television is an independent Christian channel, similar to other religious channels airing in Israel. “It received a permit from the council and is broadcasting according to law.”
GOD TV channel, airing to some 200 countries and territories around the world, has been broadcasting from Jerusalem in English for years. But directly targeting Jewish households in Israel remains controversial in the Jewish state. Missionaries and Messianic Jewish believers and churches have also complained of harassment by authorities and groups opposing their Christian activities.
Israeli commentators noted that Christian channels Daystar and Middle East Television both broadcast on Israel’s YES satellite television. But both networks “do not tout any proselytizing,” stated The Times of Israel newspaper.
Shelanu is backed by the Israel-based Tikkun International, which calls itself “a global family of ministries, congregations, and leaders, dedicated to the dual restoration of Israel and the Church.” Tikkun said in a statement that it wants “Jewish viewers to grasp the fact that Jesus is theirs. He is not a foreigner, intruder, or imposter.” Tikkun made clear that “He is their Jewish Messiah, born in Israel, raised as a Jew.”
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