Human Rights and the Canary in the Coal Mine
by Dan Juster, Director, Tikkun Ministries International
Recent Protests for Human Rights in Israel
Recently, advocates for women's rights in Israel held a large protest against the extreme ultra-Orthodox organization, Eda Haredit. These and other members of ultra-Orthodox sects have sought to impose very restrictive standards in territory where they have a significant number of residents. This includes making women walk on the other side of the street so that the men will not be defiled by accidental contact, rigidly modest dress codes and forcing women to ride in the back of public buses that provide service to ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.
The catalyst for the protest was the treatment of an 8 year old Modern Orthodox girl as she was walking to school in the town of Bet Shemesh. The Eda Haredit claim that the dress of the Modern Orthodox is immodest, but by any standard in the West the dress of the Zionist Modern Orthodox is very modest - it is just not up to Taliban standards! One of the Eda Haredit spat on the girl. Thousands rallied to protest. The protest included both secular Jews and religious Jews who do not normally identify with the utra-Orthodox. The Chief Rabbi of Israel has spoken against the sect's behavior, as has the Prime Minister and many other political leaders.
The Tepid Response to Violations against Messianic Jews
I think it is instructive to compare this reaction to the reaction to human rights violations against Messianic Jews. When a Messianic Jewish woman, in-spite of winning a Supreme Court case, was put out of business due to the complaints of Orthodox Jews, there was no protest. There was no protest when ultra-Orthodox Jews harassed a Messianic couple in Arad and shut down their chess club. Finally after months of harassment the co-proprietor of the club sought to slowly drive forward when protestors blocked him from getting to his own house. When one of them was injured, the Messianic believer was arrested and later punished by the court and sentenced to house confinement. When a Messianic Jewish congregation in Beersheva was broken into, vandalized and the members pushed and mistreated, there was no protest. A subsequent court case found the leader of the Orthodox group to be innocent. They claimed there was not sufficient evidence to find him guilty.
Finally, when a bomb disguised as a Purim gift basket planted on the doorstep of the Ortiz home almost killed their son Ami, there was no great protest. Ami Ortiz has undergone a painful recovery with multiple surgeries. Thankfully the alleged bomber is finally going on trial, having recently been found competent to stand trial. The accused, Jack Teitel admitted to police that he worked for the extreme anti-missionary organization, Yad L'achim (A Hand to the Brothers). They denied that they supported his actions, but Yad L'achim regularly harasses Messianic Jews and Christians. This group was exposed in a recent national Channel 2 program. They actually want to see Christian Zionists lose their visas to be in Israel, even if they commit to not evangelize. This is their goal, in spite of the fact that Christian Zionists are a major force to gain support for Israel in many nations. The recent late leader of Yad L'achim said that when human rights conflict with Judaism, human rights must give way to Judaism. Of course, many others do believe that Judaism must support human rights. The conflict between human rights and Judaism is his incorrect interpretation of Judaism.
Recently, Messianic Jews in the town of Mevasseret Tzion were illegally harassed by having their names and pictures with addresses printed on flyers distributed throughout the town. A resident of Mevasseret had been featured in a Channel 2 documentary on Messianic Jews. There has been no great protest against these violations of both human rights and Israeli law. The reason? Messianic Jews are not a favoured minority.
Jewish protests over the mistreatment of Arab Muslims are much greater. Actually, there is not much protest against human rights violations against Arab Christians and other traditional Christians who also are harassed by the Interior Department with regard to obtaining identity cards, travel documents and more. Due to a long sad history between institutional Christianity and the Jewish community it is hard for Jews in Israel to really care about Christians and Messianic Jews even though they are full citizens, serve in the Army, pay taxes and are loyal to the State. This is prejudice, pure and simple.
Human Rights and the Weaker Minorities
The evaluation of a society regarding biblically consistent human rights, free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to persuade others of political, social and religious views, freedom of the press and equal worth under the Law, is contingent on how the society treats its lower status members. In this regard the Messianic Jew is somewhat akin to the canary in the coal mine. The lack of protest and the lackadaisical pursuit of justice by the police and the courts when Messianic Jews are involved, highlight the inconsistencies of our society. Thankfully there is some justice and we hope that this will be the case for the Ortiz family.
Scripture and Human Rights
What does Scripture say? Human rights are based on Scripture. Of course, we do not assert that the full flowering or understanding of those rights is fully found in the Bible. The greater development began in the 17th century and came to its fullness in the 20th century in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Genesis asserts that every man and woman is made in the image of God. As such, it is crucial we respect freedom of choice and conscience. In Exodus 23:3-6 we read that the judges are not to show favoritism to the poor or to the rich. Verse 8 warns judges against taking bribes. In Deuteronomy 16:20 the judges are commanded, "Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the LORD your God is giving you." The whole of society needs to stand up for justice to ensure that these standards are maintained.
Messianic Jews have weighed the evidence and have concluded that Yeshua is the Messiah. They are the key to the salvation of Israel and the nations. They have not been brainwashed by cult leaders. Compared to indoctrinated Ultra Orthodox Jews and even the off hand, cavalier rejection of Yeshua by most Jews, religious or secular, Messianic Jews are an amazing testimony to the ability of people to transcend their own cultural bias to seek the truth. Messianic Jews are a test. Will we be given a fair hearing and be treated fairly according to human rights standards? I believe there is a growing number of Jews in Israel who will stand with us on the basis of human rights.
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