The citizens of Israel woke up this week to a special early morning announcement by the Israeli Army on news broadcasts all across the country: The Ministry of Defense has ordered that all soldiers staying in Jerusalem on the Sabbath are not allowed to have any contact with members of the sect of Jews who preach the Messianic faith.
Is faith in Jesus such a threat to our national security that one of the most effective military organizations in the world feels the need to “protect” their soldiers from “the sect of Jews” who believe in Jesus?
It all started when a small group of Messianic Jews visited a Jerusalem IDF hostel for lone soldiers on the Sabbath. The army provides the hostel for soldiers who have no family in Israel. On the weekends, when they are off base, they can stay at “Beit Hachayal” or Soldiers’ Home. Messianics were visiting soldiers on the Sabbath and talking about their New Testament faith.
Many soldiers enjoyed these visits and some began reading the New Testament and other Messianic literature regularly. Soldiers were invited to visit with Messianics in their homes where they were introduced to Messianic faith during Shabbat meals and Bible teachings.
The Jewish believers had built up many friendships with management and staff of the hostel who appreciated the positive impact the visits had on the lone soldiers. One of the soldiers even came to faith in the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). No one at the hostel, or in the IDF, were bothered one bit by this, not until an “anti-missionary” organization stirred up trouble.
The so-called “anti-missionaries” became aware that a soldier had come to faith in Yeshua most likely from reading one of the many Messianic or Christian newsletters and websites they follow. So they reported to the Ministry of Defense and IDF authorities that, “the cult of Jews who preach Christianity are running missionary activities at Beit Hachayal.”
Without investigating the facts on the ground, the Ministry of Defense and IDF immediately put out the public warning against association with the Messianics.
Messianic Jews also received a letter from the Ministry of Defense forbidding them from entering “Beit Hachayal without explicit permission including a description of intended activities.”
Years ago Messianic Jews were considered a security risk by the IDF. Many were not allowed to serve in elite or sensitive units. Today, however, Messianics are highly regarded by military authorities and even sought out to serve as commanders and officers in every branch of the Israeli military including Intelligence requiring the highest level of securitychecks.
One Messianic Jewish Sabra (Israeli born), a sergeant in the Israeli Air Force, asked his commander if he could include the New Testament together with the Hebrew Bible in his pledge of allegiance to the State of Israel. “Yes you may,” returned the officer. And so he joined the growing numbers of hundreds of openly Messianic Jewish soldiers proudly serving in the IDF.
So why is the Ministry of Defense now publically opposing Messianic activity in Jerusalem with newspaper articles, blogs and radio broadcasts? According to one combat soldier, who is not Messianic, it is Israeli politics. “The government passed a law recently to recruit religious Jews, but most refuse to serve,” he explains. “The army is trying to appease the Orthodox community in Jerusalem by making this absurd announcement against Messianic faith. We are all here to serve our country and the army should not be involved in telling people what religion to believe,” he said.