Trouble in Arad, Israel – Part I

Hi All,

The contents of this letter may be a bit shocking to many of you. I will include a link in it, to a cable-network television news broadcast, about the very intense persecution of Messianic Jews in the Southern-Israeli city of Arad, by a large group of Haredi Jews called the Gur Hassidim.

As you all know, I am not a believer and do not hold any religious beliefs whatsoever. However, what is happening to the believers in Arad is absolutely incredible, unacceptable and entirely non-democratic.

In March of 2004, about 18 months ago, these Hassidic people stared demonstrating against Messianic Jews in Arad. It started as sporadic demonstrations, sometimes outside my sister’s home, who’s husband is the local pastor, sometimes outside where the little Messianic congregation of Arad meets, etc. In time, these demonstrations – which were not curbed by the Police force – escalated and got much worse. They now randomly attack believers in the streets wherever they recognize them, in some cases shouting at a single mother with her little girl who is under 5 years old “dirty Christian you filthy Christian” and to the girl they shout “your mother is a whore! Your mother is a prostitute!”. It’s one thing for you guys to read this in your comfortable homes. It’s quite another to go through it – on a daily basis by now – as these people in Arad have been.

My sister and brother in law, Debbie and Yakim Figueras, along with their 4 children, have endured this too. Almost every day there are a few of them that somehow ambush the house – sometimes stoning it early in the morning, sometimes just suddenly banging on the windows and shouting obscenities, like “Jesus the bastard” “Nazi’s” “filthy Christians” etc. And every week, on the same day, there is a major demonstration outside their home, with the Gur Hassidim carrying big signs against believers, and shouting obscenities again – with police looking on and many times giggling with the demonstrators. To say the least, this is absolutely weird. However, with every attack that went unchecked by the authorities, these people get more bold and daring, and things are escalating at an alarming rate by now.

Not long ago my sister was driving with three of her children, to pick up her eldest son from a music lesson at the local conservatory. As she stopped, two of these Gur Hassidim walked by and recognized her. One stayed by her car, the other left. My sister, innocently thinking there was some value to this, waited and relented to talk to the one who stayed, thinking there was some point in quoting scriptures to him. She didn’t realize that the only God these people really serve, as you will see in the attached video-clip, is the god of hatred and ignorance. Within a few minutes the other man came back – with reinforcements: Her car was now surrounded by 15 of them, screaming, cursing, hurling insults at them and Jesus, Shouting at her that she’s a filthy Christian, shouting at the kids (aged almost 2 and almost 4) that their mother is a filthy Christian and they need to leave Arad and “stop kidnapping and baptizing children! BUSLOADS of children!” My sweet little nephew Yair, leaned his head out the car window and growled back at them. I was mortified when I heard this.

Needless to say this is yet another traumatic event for all of them to go through. It took a while before the conservatory staff opened the doors and let her and the children in, for safety. At another instance, Police authorized the Gur Hassidim to demonstrate outside a place where the believers were having the Sabbath meal and worship. Things got out of hand pretty quickly, and when the believers wanted to leave the building, the police – who was there all along but was out of control by some point – did not let them leave the building because they could not guarantee their safety. So now the believers were trapped inside.

Over a month ago, my brother-in-law wrote a letter to the Israeli chief of police, in which he gave the history of the past 18 months, and asked for his immediate intervention as things were getting worse and he feared physical assaults would be next. He asked him, among other things, why the police sanctions demonstrations where they are not in control and cannot guarantee the well being of the people being demonstrated against. There was never any response to this letter. Unbelievable.

A couple of weeks ago, things reached a new low, when a chess-playing club owned by local believers, in which they handed out Bibles and Messianic literature, was burned down – and mysteriously, next door a new Chess club opened – owned and operated by the Gur Hassidim. Some reporter from one of Israel’s two leading newspapers called my sister up and asked her some questions about this incident. She was very bold about it and the article came out as a huge 2 page full article, with bombshell quotations from her, and the reporter pointing to the fact that the police is not really doing anything and that at the rate things are going, lives will be lost before this is over. They had a large picture of the burned down club, and huge letters quoting a philosopher who said “In a place where they burn books, there they will also burn people”. I thought that was amazing, that they had it in there. The funny thing was that they got the facts wrong, and wrote that Debby Figueras (my sister) is “the sect leader”. You couldn’t find someone more shy and not interested in leading than my sister, and me and my friend Amir, a believer guide who called and told me about the article had a great laugh about that concept.

My brother in law Yakim, went and had a meeting with the mayor of Arad, where he presented their case, expressed his concern and tried to enlicit his help. The mayor said quite simply that he knows things are very bad, he does think things will end with bloodshed, but he has no intention whatsoever in getting involved… Can you believe that?! This is the mayor of the city Apparently his coalition is not doing well, and therefore his only real allies in the city hall coalition are, unfortunately the Gur Hassidim.

By now it has become amply clear that the authorities are not at all interested in implementing the democratic right of Freedom of Worship in Israel, when it comes to the Messianic Jews in Arad. They will most probably only take action if and when there is bloodshed. That is what concerns me. And that is why I am writing this letter to you – friends from Bible school, friends from my former musical period, people I guided through Israel, etc. The believers in Arad need your help. It is my belief that the only time the authorities in Israel will start putting an end to the escalating persecution of believers in Arad, is when the government and police force realizes that this little minority, which is so easily ignored, has many friends around the world who are watching, with growing concern, and will hold the government accountable to what is going on. When the government sees that they are beginning to look bad around the world, when foreign diplomats and senators and ambassadors tell the government they are concerned about what is going on in Arad, the authorities – if only for selfish reasons of looking good – will quickly give orders for the persecutions there to be stopped.

This is not just my sister and nephews. These are your brothers and sisters of your own faith. And believe me, they are suffering, and have been going through this for a long time – with absolutely no protection. It’s a miracle that no one has been hurt so far.

So I ask that you all take some sort of action: Write the Israeli government offices – the Prime Minister’s office, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Justice, The Israeli Police Force. I will include their email addresses. These offices, if flooded with emails from Christians around the world, enquiring-of and demanding the safety of Messianic Believers in Arad, will no longer be able to claim they didn’t know about it. Write your senators, ask them to contact the Israeli ambassador and tell them their constituency members are very concerned about the blatant violation of human rights in Arad, and of the Democratic right of Freedom of Worship. It’s amazing – in the Jewish State of Israel, you can be a Buddhist, a Bahhai, a gay or Lesbian – and your democratic rights are fully protected and upheld. But if you’re a Messianic Jew, they will do nothing for you unless they absolutely have to. This is partly because Messianics are not loud and boisterous and demanding, and therefore are easily overlooked and easy to ignore. If you could bring their plight to the Israeli government and authorities, it would be very helpful.

In the attached link, you will see news coverage of some of the – believe it or not – more peaceful events of persecution in Arad. It’s in Hebrew, but you’ll get the gist of it. (Actually, you should send this link to the Israeli Ambassador in your countries and ask him what the heck is going down in Arad).

Let me just translate some of the highlights for you:

It starts with the Narrator saying that these pictures are part of a two-year war waged in Arad by the Gur Hassidm against the Messianic Jews. Then you see some of them, harassing believers who give out clothes to poor people, saying “this is how they take children and baptize them to Christianity; they give them some clothes and food and then they tell them, come and bow down before Jesus, the bastard” (they actually don’t use the name Jesus or Yeshua here, but rather call him Yoshkeh, another derogatory name for him). Then they show the burned down chess club and burned bibles etc, and an English-speaking believer talks for a bit. You’ll notice he says “I guess they’re coming up with a final solution now, of some sort burning” he is alluding to the fact that this behavior is very reminiscent of Nazi behavior in pre-world war 2 Germany. And he’s right – and the news anchor echoes that at the end.

Next you’ll see a Gur Hassid shouting “who wants to sell their soul to Jesus, the bastard? Just dip in the sea, sell your soul to a bastard who has been buried and rotting under the ground for 2000 years, and you’ll get rags! Jesus the bastard is giving out rags Rags from the bastard. Next you’ll see him saying to the believer there – “He’s a bastard. Yeshua is here. Here!” – as he stamps his feet indicating Jesus is under him.

Many of you have been to Israel, and I guided many of you through the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum. I always pointed out the process of Humiliating Jews in public, in order to show they are less than human, and therefore do not have human rights. The public in Germany didn’t really resist, until it was too late. Take a look at this scene. It may ring a disturbing bell. What you are looking at in this article is a hate fest, clear and simple. You’re looking at a freakish mutation: Jewish Nazi’s. Clear and simple. Jews, blinded with hate, persecuting other jews, and hurling unbelievable insults at them and Jesus.

Next you’ll see a local secular Israeli, complaining that the mayor needs to put an end to this hatred because there is no reason for it. Little does he know that his mayor has no such intention. He ends by saying – The Gur Hassidim here in Arad will not give up, I know them. They are a large community here in Arad and they will absolutely not give up. The mayor needs to stop this. What is he sitting there for?!”

Next you see a Gur Hassid saying “they kidnap children and baptize them to Christianity. Stay away from them” – – Does that remind you of allegations by Nazis and other antisemites against Jews in Europe? Then you see them addressing and humiliating a local secular citizen who tried to defend the believers. You’ll understand this part – it’s in English.

Next the reporter says “while Mayor Brill burries his head in the sand, 200 Messianic Jews in his city are persecuted in a manner which is reminiscent of sights from the exile period”.

You’ll see a Messianic woman walking by, holding her little daughter, and they say “this is Rebekah Frei, born to a Haredi family. She was kidnapped by the Christians and made into one. Know the truth!” – as they lie, outright. Next, she is interviewed and says how they spread lies about her, publish her picture and address in the streets, saying she’s a dangerous Missionary. Then you see one of them heckling a Russian believer, saying “where is Yeshua? Yeshua is in Chernobil (where they had the nuclear disaster years ago).

It ends with the reporter saying: “it would be interesting to see what an outcry there would be if this happened in any other country against Jews. Germany, for instance” – clearly stating that there would be a major outcry of anti-Semitism if this level of persecution happened in any other country.

It’s important for me to stress these pictures were taken by believers in Arad. You’ll notice them lining a street as a car tries to leave – this is when they are harassing believers on their way to and from services.

It will not be enough to just forward this email to other believers. I ask you to take action. Write, call, email – whatever. Make the Israeli government know these few believers have the world’s attention, and Israel’s democratic rule is being tested here. The total insensitivity of calling Jesus a bastard time and time again, is absolutely unacceptable, as is the blatant trampling of the rights of the Messianic believers in Arad. Mother’s should not need to put up with these levels of stress, and children should not be made to grow up in Israel as if they are in Germany in the 1930’s. This whole situation is drastically wrong, and the people persecuting them are absolutely primitive and Evil.

Please take action. We need your help. Please feel free to forward this email to any of your friends and anyone who may be concerned about the well being of believers in Israel, or anyone who may be in a position to help. Any press and Media attention to this issue would be helpful, too.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Shmulik Eitan.

The news clip: http://news.walla.co.il/?w=/3807/770929

The Israeli government addresses: http://www.gov.il/FirstGov/BottomNavEng/Contact

General Government website: http://gov.il

Israeli Police Force: http://www.police.gov.il/english/default.asp – the Police Commissioner in Israel is Moshe Karadi. He needs to understand people all over the world want to see him, as the head of police, enforcing the democratic rights of Messianic Jews in Arad. As I read the very first statement on their website about the Israeli Police seeking to implement, blab la bla, I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Simply put, the Israeli police clearly needs to get their biblical-word-for-donkey in gear and do more than talk.