The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Supporting Israel; Evangelizing Israelis

As Christian right's ties to Israel deepen, a new media
initiative blurs line between political, religious goals.

Michele Chabin - Israel Correspondent
The Jewish Week, 19 May 2006

Tel Aviv

Citing a mandate to support Israel, a Texas-based Christian
broadcast company has begun televising Jewish evangelists for Jesus
into Israeli homes, provoking outrage from Jewish leaders.

Daystar, which calls itself the second largest Christian network in
the United States, launched its round-the-clock, seven-day-a-week
programming on Israel's Yes satellite network on April 10. It
debuted on Israel's HOT cable channel last week. The network's
schedule features a roster of prominent Evangelical preachers.

Daystar's vice president for programming, Janice Smith, describes
the new channel as a natural outgrowth of the American Evangelical
community's largely pro-Israel sentiments. "[It's] the realization
of the heart's wish of millions of Christians who watch Daystar and
seek to support Israel by investing in her," she said.

But critics here and in Israel decry a broadcast lineup that
includes several well-known Messianic Jews - converts to
Christianity who continue to identify as Jews and describe their
adopted religious beliefs as natural extensions of Judaism.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League,
termed the network's Israeli initiative, "inappropriate, insulting
and offensive," when told about it by The Jewish Week.

As political and financial ties deepen between Israelis and
Evangelical Christians, the clash points to an increased blurring of
the religious and political goals of Christian pro-Israel groups,
critics say.

One of the most prominent backers of the broadcast initiative, for
example, is Pastor John Hagee. Spiritual leader of the 18,000-member
Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Hagee recently launched
Christians United for Israel, a national grassroots lobbying
organization that seeks to mobilize Evangelical political support
for the Jewish state. He has also raised millions of charity dollars
for Israeli institutions.

In a meeting with Jewish leaders last month, Hagee emphasized that
his new lobbying group would not proselytize. But at a broadcast in
late March in which Daystar's Israeli initiative was announced,
Hagee, whose preaching is a fixture in the network's schedule,
enthused, "It's just all I can do to keep from getting up and
dancing. It's a joy and it's a dream come true. If we are able to
preach the gospel without reservation ... it's a major
breakthrough," according to JTA.

Daystar's Israeli program schedule is identical to the one American
Christians receive, according to Ronny Levy, who describes himself
as Daystar's Israel-based "partner" - a mix of inspirational video
clips with chapters from Scripture, church services, children's
programming, talk shows, and sermons by such well-known Evangelical
ministers as Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Pat Robertson, Creflo
Dollar and Hagee.

The lineup also includes "Rabbi" Jonathan Bernis, the host of
"Jewish Voice Today." Bernis states that his ministry "is dedicated
to bringing the Gospel of Yeshua - Jesus - to the Jews first," and
"to educate and equip Christians to understand and appreciate the
Jewish roots of their faith, and to impart to them a love for Israel
and the Jewish people."

In 1998, Bernis, a Messianic Jew, helped organize a pro-Israel rally
in Orlando, Fla., that Jewish and Israeli leaders, including then-
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, were expected to join. But almost
all of the non-Christian Jewish speakers pulled out when a Jewish
Week story disclosed that the speakers' lineup was dominated by
Messianic Jews and Christians with a strong commitment to
evangelizing Jews.

Bernis claims to have brought thousands of Jews to Christianity
during trips to the former Soviet Union.

The programs of Zola Levitt, a televangelist who died last month,
also continue to be broadcast on Daystar posthumously. Levitt,
according to the Zola Levitt Ministries Web site, was "a Jewish
Christian thoroughly educated in the synagogues and brought to the
Messiah in 1971." The ministry's mission continues to be "the
evangelism of the unbelievers and the exhortation of the believers,"
the Web site states.

Sid Roth, host of another Daystar show, describes himself as "a
Jewish believer in Jesus as the Messiah." His Web site states that
"as the host of the Messianic Vision, a nationally syndicated radio,
television, and publishing ministry, Sid has been on the cutting
edge of Jewish evangelism for more than twenty-five years."

Foxman said the network's use of Messianic Jews "crosses the line."

"If they support Israel because they believe it will help hasten the
second coming [of Jesus], that's fine," he explained. "If they want
to broadcast their support of Israel, wonderful. They're entitled
even to broadcast their Evangelical programs. But to utilize
Messianic Jews is inappropriate, insulting and offensive."

Yisrael Zinger, an official of Yad L'Achim, an Israeli anti-
missionary group, termed Daystar's new Israeli channel "very

"We have watched several hours of Daystar's programming, and it's
obvious that they're not only teaching about Christianity," Zinger
said. "Their real purpose is to try to convince as many people as
possible to become Christians. They believe that unless that
happens, their Messiah - Jesus - won't come. For [Evangelical
Christians], Israel is the place to save souls."

In a press release announcing the launch, Daystar said the new
channel will reach nearly 2 million Israeli households through the
satellite and cable outlets. "Daystar's singular goal is to reach as
many people as possible with the Good News of the Gospel," the
release stated.

Despite this, Levy, Daystar's Israeli partner, insisted the channel
is merely a vehicle for Christians "to show their love of Israel.
It's not calling on Israelis to donate money or to get the message
of Jesus - not at all."

Levy stressed that the broadcasts, which are straight relays of the
U.S. programs, have no Israeli phone numbers to call. A toll-free
800 number that appears in the upper right hand side of the screen
is only free in the U.S., he said. From Israel, it is a long-
distance call.

Levy said that Daystar's target audience in Israel "are solely
Christians and those who can speak English. The programming is in
English. If there were Hebrew subtitles, people would think we are
trying to convert the Jewish people. I'm Orthodox myself, and
believe me, that's not our intention."

But Smith, Daystar's programming chief, acknowledged, "We have
already received requests for [Hebrew subtitles] and we are
considering it." The company "would like to offer additional
programming specific to the Israeli community," she said.

Zinger of Yad L'Achim, the anti-missionary group, said that Israelis
could be influenced by the channel's network, even without
subtitles. "I grew up here and studied English in high school. I can
tell you that almost all young Israelis understand English, even if
they can't speak it."

Smith said Daystar had held extensive discussions with "key leaders,
both in the United States and in Israel" before launching its
Israeli affiliate. "We discussed a strategy whereby Daystar's
intentions to be a blessing, by sincerely helping the people in
Israel with our financial support and prayers, would be seen as a
genuine desire to help people around the world, specifically
Israel," she said.

Yoram Mokady, chairman of the Communication Ministry's Council for
Cable and Satellite Broadcasting said that Daystar, like all other
channels broadcasting in Israel, must abide by the ministry's rules.

These essentially are prohibitions on harming other religions,
exercising undue influence, threats or humiliation, or soliciting
donations, she said. Broadcasters, he said, are warned to exercise
extreme caution in these matters.

Daystar would be closely monitored to ensure it meets the licensing
criteria, Mokady said.

Mokady, the council's chairman, noted, "You can find Al Jazeera and
other Arab stations not friendly to Israel" on Israeli cable and
satellite TV. "This is a democracy," he told The Jewish Week. "We've
had an open skies policy for years. Israel is a country where you
can use a satellite dish to receive any station you want, and
there's no problem legally. People up north can receive the Al Manar
Hizbollah station broadcasting from Lebanon, and it's anti-Israel
and anti-Semitic."

He also noted: "We do have a Christian population in Israel, both
Arab and otherwise. "If you or I were to broadcast a Jewish station
in the States, and a cable company wanted to stop it, we would be
outraged. Religion is a sensitive thing, either way you look at it."

Washington correspondent James D. Besser contributed to this report.


At 5/21/2006 06:09:00 PM, Blogger Daniel Greenfield said...

and that's just the tip of the iceberg of what's going on in israel including disguised teenage clubs like JAM that are really fronts for evangelizing jewish youth


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