Israel’s Netanyahu Against Anti-Evangelism Law After Global Outrage (Worthy News In-Depth)

Wednesday, March 22, 2023 | Tag Cloud

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News

JERUSALEM (Worthy News) – Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged late Wednesday that his government would not implement legislation punishing evangelism with jail, after Worthy News coverage prompted international outrage.

A draft law tabled by legislators Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Asher of the ultra-Orthodox ‘United Torah Judaism’ alliance claimed that “missionary groups, mainly Christians,” stepped up efforts to convert people in Israel.

Their bill would make soliciting an adult to change his faith punishable by one year in jail. The penalty would increase to two years if the targeted individual were a minor.

The Penal Law Proposal (Amendment – Prohibition of Solicitation for Religious Conversion) 2023-2023’ effectively forbids spreading the Gospel among Jews.

“Who persuades a person, directly, digitally, by direct mail, or online, to convert his religion, his sentence is one-year imprisonment, and if the person was a minor, his sentence is two years imprisonment,” said a section of the law obtained by Worthy News.

Besides the proposed prison terms for those “enticing” adults or minors, the legislators also want to increase “the punishment applicable to those who conduct a religious conversion ceremony of a minor.” Such a person should receive “two years in prison, instead of six months, as stipulated today,” Gafni and Asher argued.

However, Prime Minister Netanyahu wrote on the social media network Twitter late Wednesday in Hebrew and English: “We will not advance any law against the Christian community.”


His remarks came after Worthy News was among the first to report on the law proposal on March 18, picked up by other media, including U.S.-based broadcaster Newsmax which reaches millions of people.

The evangelical Trinity Broadcasting Network’s Joel Rosenberg, a messianic Jew, also covered last week’s story.

As news spread, Israel’s Foreign Ministry reportedly received calls from heads of parliamentary friendship groups, diplomats, and Christians supporting Israel and Jewish leaders worldwide.

In Israel, the proposed legislation also added to concerns among devoted Messianic Jews and their friends who are, among others facing pressure.

Messianic Jews believe that Jesus, called “Yeshua” in Hebrew, is the Jewish Messiah as prophesied in the Scriptures. Foreign Christian missionaries active in Israel were also concerned about the draft law.

With pressure mounting, Netanyahu distanced himself from the bill despite leading a government with nationalist and ultraorthodox Jewish groups.

Juergan Buehler, president of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, an influential group supporting Israel, said he was pleased with Netanyahu’s reaction.


“We appreciate the assurance from Prime Minister Netanyahu that the proposed anti-missionary bill will not go forward, and thank him for speedily putting this matter to rest,” he stressed in published remarks.

“He has done much over his long political career to strengthen and guard Israel’s relations with Christians worldwide, and our embrace of this nation is warmly returned.”

Yet religious tensions were expected to continue. Religious conversions matter in Israel as the country grants Jewish people certain immigration rights under the Law of Return.

The law gives Jews worldwide ― including people who convert to Judaism ― the right to live in Israel and gain citizenship.

Liberal-leaning strains of Judaism have clashed with Israel’s chief rabbinate, which maintains jurisdiction over religious rituals, such as marriage and conversions.

The rabbinate, controlled by strictly observant Jewish leaders, doesn’t recognize the validity of Reform and Conservative Judaism. They also do not recognize Yeshua-believing Jews as part of Israel’s Jewish heritage.

Yet, Israel’s highest court ruled two years ago that people who convert to the Reform and Conservative movements of Judaism in Israel are “Jewish under the law and are entitled to Israeli citizenship.”

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