Israeli Immigration Appeals Court rules foreign tour leaders are not missionaries
The Ministry of Interior refused to allow the entry into Israel of a Christian married couple who have served as tour leaders, bringing thousands of tourists to Israel in the past decades. A successful appeal to the Jerusalem Immigration Appeals Court overturned the decision.
Mr. and Mrs. Johnson (their names have been changed for the purposes of this article) are South African tour leaders who have been guiding pilgrimages in Israel for the last 20 years. Obviously, pilgrim groups coming to the Holy Land are an important source of income for the Israeli economy and help improve Israel’s reputation abroad, especially if the group leaders are friends of Israel. Half of all tourists entering Israel are pilgrims who are here to visit historical holy sites.
The Ministry of Interior is aware of the importance of tourism and used to make concessions to make the life of travel agents and tour leaders coming into Israel easier. In the past, Ministry of Interior policy permitted foreign tour leaders to operate in Israel with a tourist visa, as long as the tour group is accompanied by a certified Israeli tour guide.
Refusal of entry into Israel
The Johnsons have worked with Israeli tourism companies for decades. They accompanied hundreds of groups over this period and even rented an apartment in Jerusalem so that they would have a place to stay while guiding pilgrims. In 2015, suddenly and with no prior warning, they were both denied entry into Israel, each under a different pretext.
Border control officials argued that Mr. Johnson, in whose name the Jerusalem apartment was rented, meant to illegally settle in Israel. Mrs. Johnson, on the other hand, was refused entry on the grounds that her work as a tour guide was not properly certified. The couple made an internal appeal to the Population and Migration Authority at the Ministry of Interior, which decided to approve the renewal of their tourist visa, with the right to repeatedly re-enter Israel.
Information about alleged missionary activity
In early 2017, Yad L’Achim (a Jewish orthodox organization dedicated to maintaining religious and racial purity in Israel) sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior claiming that the Johnsons were engaged in missionary activity. Therefore, the Johnsons were summoned to an interview at the Ministry of Interior office. As a result, their request to extend their visa was refused. The internal appeal they filed was rejected, and they were ordered to leave Israel.
Thus, the couple – supporters of Israel whose livelihood depends on having permission to enter the Holy Land – had no choice but to turn to a law firm specializing in appealing Ministry of Interior decisions. Advocate Michael Decker submitted their appeal to the Appeals Court.
The parties’ arguments to the Immigration Appeals Court
Lawyers’ representatives of the Ministry of Interior claimed:
That the Yad L’Achim organization provided information claiming that the appellants were missionaries and that missionary activity is a criminal offense in Israel. According to the claim, the appellants were involved in converting Jews to Christianity.
Moreover, the Ministry of Interior’s own sources claimed that the appellants’ center of life is in Israel, since they have been here for extended periods of time. Thus, the Johnsons either intended to illegally settle in Israel or have already de-facto settled here.
Representatives of the Ministry of Interior found it difficult to present actual proof of missionary activity. Therefore, they presented the secondary claim regarding the couple’s center of life and suggested a possible compromise; the Johnson’s tourist visa could be extended for six months, subject to depositing a bank guarantee. After the visa expired, the couple would have to apply for a work permit in Israel.
Advocate Decker, for the appellants, claimed:
The accusation of missionary activity was based on information from a rival tour guide and was, in fact, a false allegation submitted to Yad L’Achim in order to harm the livelihood of the petitioners.
Moreover, the Ministry of Interior had no proof that the couple engaged in missionary activity. Furthermore, there could be no proof – the couple focused their activities on work with Christian pilgrims; as such, they never guided groups of Jews. Thus, any preaching of Christian doctrine was aimed at Christian tourists. If a person really wants to engage in missionary activity in Israel (converting Jews to Christianity), then guiding pilgrims is the least effective course of action.
Also, since other tour leaders are not required to obtain a work permit, there is no reason the Johnsons would require one. This request was a backup “condolence prize” for the Ministry of Interior after their main accusation could not be proven.
Lastly, the Johnsons are South African citizens. They and their family members all reside in South Africa, and their wages come from foreign pilgrims, so their center of life is not in Israel by any definition. Therefore, there is no reason to require a work permit that is not required of other tour leaders. The position of the Ministry of Interior is unfounded, and it needlessly harms both the appellants and the Israeli tourists, since the appellants will not be able to guide pilgrims who have already arrived in Israel.
Immigration Appeals Court verdict: There is no basis for the Ministry of Interior’s claims
Judge Menachem Pashititzky went straight to the heart of the matter when he asked whether the Ministry of Interior had proof that even a single Jew had converted to Christianity because of the appellants’ activity. In addition, the judge emphasized to the legal representatives of the Ministry of Interior that in any case, missionary activity is not in itself forbidden in Israel. The law in Israel only prohibits granting favors or money to entice a person to convert and/or persuade minors to convert. Since the respondent did not have evidence of any conversions (due to the appellants concentrating on work with Christians), the Ministry of Interior’s entire line of reasoning is baseless. The conclusion is that the Ministry of Interior rushed to conclusions that harmed the appellants on the basis of entirely invented, false claims.
Furthermore, his Honor agreed that the appellants’ center of life is in South Africa, and that they have no intention of settling in Israel. Beyond the arguments’ above, the allegation was disproven by common sense, the decades during which the appellants lived in South Africa and guided groups to Israel without settling here. In this context, the judge also noted that he did not understand the reasons for the change in the Ministry’s long-standing policy regarding the requirement for a work visa.
In conclusion, the judge ruled in favor of the appellants, since the respondent’s decision was deemed unreasonable and disproportionate. The couple will receive a tourist visa by the end of 2018, subject to a bank deposit of NIS 30,000 in order to ensure they do not illegally settle in Israel. They will need to apply for a work visa to continue working in 2019 and declare that they will not perform any illegal missionary activity during their stay in Israel.
Joshua Pex is a partner at the law firm Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh, which represented the appellants in this matter.
Advocate Joshua Pex is a partner at Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh law firm in Jerusalem. He specializes in immigration to Israel.
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Some thoughts on winning and losing
Photo: screenshot YouTube
Mid-term Congressional elections are nearing in the US and my Facebook feed is full of posts by Christian and Jewish friends who live there (and a fair number who don’t) urging anyone who sees these posts to donate money to political parties and candidates, join “get out the vote” campaigns and various other things meant to ensure that their side wins and, no less importantly, the other side loses.
It reminds me of Bashar al-Assad, the current dictator of Syria. I know some people won’t like me making this comparison, but just bear with me for a moment because I think there’s a lot we can learn from Assad as he has, according to most analysts, “won” the nearly 8 year long civil war in his country.
But what does that mean?
It means he’s retained his position as the leader of a country which was in fairly bad shape before the war started and is now utterly wrecked. The UN stopped counting casualties in the war about three years ago, estimating at the time that a half million people had died as a result of kinetic violence. By now that number is almost certainly doubled and perhaps as many more people have died in Syria of second order consequences such as starvation and disease. Beyond that, optimistic estimates say Syria’s physical infrastructure will need between $200 and $250 billion and a minimum of 10 years to get back to the point that it was the day before the war started.
So that’s what “winning” has meant for Bashar al-Assad.
Now, what does that have to do with the mid-term elections in the US?
Well, America isn’t as trashed as Syria is, but it’s in pretty bad shape and on a trajectory to get worse no matter who “wins” the elections in November, or the next elections in 2020.
In my last blog, I described the raging wildfires and drought in California and other western States. You can add to that tornadoes in the Midwest, hurricanes and floods in the Gulf Coast States, etc. The PHYSICAL destruction caused by these increasingly powerful natural disasters is bad enough by itself. But it’s also a pretty good metaphor for the spiritual/cultural state of America, which is, incidentally, still quite a bit better than the spiritual/cultural state in most other Western countries.
Be that as it may, America is already a post-Christian nation, and that’s not something that can be turned around by “winning” elections, or any other efforts designed to “make America Great Again”.
Let me put it another way; if you’ve spent more time in the last month talking to people about why they should vote a certain way than you have talking with people about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, than you need to reorder your priorities.
That goes for anyone reading this in any other country on this planet, very much including Israel.
My dear brothers and sisters, the end of this Age is at the doorstep and time is DESPERATELY short.
Very, VERY soon, you and I will be standing before our King, giving an account for what we did with the time, talents and energy He gave us during our sojourn in this mortal life.
When you get there, would you rather tell Him what you did to help “Make America Great Again” or even “preserve Israeli democracy” or would you rather tell Him about what you did to rescue your next door neighbor (or even your own children) from the Pit of Hell?
It’s not a rhetorical question, it’s something we all need to give serious thought to and then immediately start acting on those thoughts.
I think it’s helpful to remember what Hebrews 11:16 says;
“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them”
The earthly kingdoms we live in are falling down around our ears, socially, culturally, politically, economically and even physically. But the Heavenly Kingdom we’ve been promised will never fall and the WORST DAY you and I ever have in that Kingdom is going to be a trillion times better than the best day we ever had in the USA, Israel, or wherever else you are sitting while reading this blog.
So we need to stop trying to save the earthly kingdoms we belong to and get busy building the Heavenly Kingdom we’ve been promised. Bring your family, your friends, your neighbors and if possible even your enemies into that Kingdom. I’m looking forward to seeing you, and them, very soon.
Aaron is a member of Jerusalem Assembly, House of Redemption.
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Commentary on Parashat Ki Tetzei (When You Go Out)
DEVARIM (DEUTERONOMY) 21:10–25:19
As I was reading our portion this week from Deuteronomy 21:10–25:19, two verses “jumped out”, causing me to pause and reflect upon them a little longer. These verses can really shed more light on the events surrounding the death of our Messiah; once again, I am both amazed and blessed by the price that He paid for me/us!
And if a man has committed a sin worthy of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.
As we can see in these verses, some sins were worthy of death. These included, for example, sins of the wayward and rebellious son (Deuteronomy 21:18–21) and idol worshiping (Deuteronomy 17:1–6).
An interesting point that we find in Deuteronomy 17:6 is the way a fair trial should take place and the condition required to put someone to death:
On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.
How does this connect to Messiah Yeshua? The books of Matthew and Mark describe the unfair trial that Yeshua faced. Specifically, they both tell of the way that two witnesses were not able to give the same testimony (since they were false witnesses). However, in both accounts we see that the turning point took place once the High Priest approached Yeshua with a question:
But Yeshua kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Yeshua said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” Then the high priest tore his robes, saying, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?” They answered and said, “He is deserving of death!”
Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, “Are You the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” And Yeshua said, “I am; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” And tearing his clothes, the high priest *said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.
As we know, Yeshua was put to death – He had to be since He is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s Word. However, the way in which He died was very different from the way the Torah commands it to be done. In the Torah, the guilty person must be put to death first (mainly by stoning them), and then is to be hanged on a tree as a form of shaming. However, Yeshua was put to death in a Roman (gentile) way when He was crucified on the Tree (Cross). The Romans would put the person on the tree while still alive so that he would suffer a slow and torturous death, and then leave the body on the tree so that it would rot, or for the birds to eat.
Note that in the Biblical instructions, the person’s corpse should not hang all night on the tree, but rather the body should be buried the same day before sundown. This explains the multiple accounts in Matthew 27:50–60, Mark 15:37–46, and John 19:30–38, in which once Yeshua’s death was confirmed, Joseph of Arimathea asked to bury His body before sundown.
In closing, I want to point us to the book of Galatians, in which Rav Sha’ul (the Apostle Paul) references Deuteronomy 21 when he explains the incredible significance behind Yeshua’s death on a tree:
Messiah redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us — for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE” — in order that in Messiah Yeshua the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Yeshua is the fulfillment of the Torah (law) and the Prophets! He took upon Himself our curse (Isaiah 53), and through faith in Him, we can all — Jew and Gentile alike — be restored to the Father. This is the GOOD NEWS of Messiah!
This article originally appeared on Hope for Israel and is reposted with permission.
Moran is the Founder and Executive Director of Hope for Israel, which is a service and resource-providing ministry that aims to bring the hope of the Messiah back to Israel. It is also a resource center for current and timely news updates concerning Israel that provides daily prayer alerts, Bible teachings, and weekly blogs in order to help believers across the world understand what God is doing in the Land, how to pray for Israel and filter everything through the Word of God.
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The Temple Mount, Jerusalem
The state of things here for the last years reminds me of the days when Joshua Ben-Nun led the Israelis after 40 years of desert wanderings to conquer the Promised Land of Canaan, which YHVH had/has covenantally promised to give them as an everlasting possession, which still awaits fulfillment when Israel finally repents as a people and nation and calls upon Yeshua to save them.
The conquest then took several years, and the Israelis did not finish the job, leaving Canaanites in the land, which God said would become a snare for them thereafter. Personally, humanly speaking, I think that the Israelis simply got tired of so much fighting and killing and being killed or maimed, and just wanted to make do with a status quo that seemingly gave them the advantage.
Today, with perpetual threats of warfare throughout her 70 years of nationhood, I think that for many of the Jewish people — not to mention on the part of ordinary people among the Arab population — they are worn out from all the fighting and killing, and, having lost their faith and way in the purpose of the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, want a peace — a worldly peace, mind you — that will hopefully (wishfully thinking) put an end to the everlasting conflict. It is really uncanny how a carnal and spiritual enemy gains the upper hand. Look at how the LGBTQI agenda has flooded society and the political and even religious discourse.
NO WORLDLY PEACE AGREEMENT CAN ACCOMPLISH WHAT THE ONE TRUE GOD HAS PLANNED AND PURPOSED FOR HIS GLORY AND THE SANCTIFICATION OF HIS HOLY NAME. It might be like a band-aid or an aspirin — which we all appreciate for their temporary relief — but it can not, nor will not, cure the disease or prevent another and worse affliction.
When you pray for the peace of Jerusalem, the peace that David wrote of by the Spirit of God is the peace that is from God, not from man. The coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ will bring THAT peace, based on GOD’s righteousness. There are covenantal issues involved here, and not merely political, economic, military, social considerations as in other war-torn regions among various people groups. To ignore this, or to reject it, is to miss the whole plot. As those who profess to believe in the God of Heaven and Earth, and also in what He says, we are called and expected to have a prophetic voice in this matter, which is the testimony of Yeshua/Jesus/Yasua, calling all people everywhere to repentance, and proclaiming the gospel of salvation and the Kingdom of God. Otherwise, we simply take on a humanistic approach and join ourselves with others who do not know or love the Lord.
Even the enactment of a new Nation-State Law, declaring that Israel is the Jewish nation of the Jewish people, is causing an uproar, not only among the non-Jews who are citizens and residents here, but also among Israeli Jews and Jews who live outside. This law is simply reiterating what has been accepted ever since the Balfour Declaration more than 100 years ago acknowledged, and every other legal ruling passed by the “international community”: the Jewish people were allowed to return to their ancestral land and reestablish their nation, while recognizing the civil rights and liberties of other people groups. There is democracy, but the Prime Minister will be a Jew. This is no different than when Israel was a kingdom, and there were other tribes of Israel, as well as other Gentiles living in the land. Yet, the King needed to be from the Tribe of Judah. The U.S. Constitution stipulates that the U.S. President must have been born in the United States. The Bible also distinguishes between those “strangers” living among the Israelis: there were those who wanted to be part of the nation as good citizens and part of helping the nation succeed; and there were those who were simply “foreigners”, who acted as a threat to the welfare of the nation — whether religiously, or politically. The Law gave those who were “friends” greater privileges and rights than to those who isolated themselves and remained a thorn in the side.
This controversy over Israel’s new law, and seeking to determine her identity, just shows how EVERYTHING here is conflicted. Until the salvation of “all Israel” there will be no resolution to all of the conflicts — both external and internal. I have written before, the more “Jewish” that Israel becomes, the more difficult it will be for those who believe in Jesus/Yeshua. They may even pass laws prohibiting evangelism, or to restrict our right to teach that Yeshua is the only way to be saved. We see this from the very beginning when the rulers of the Jewish people told the Apostles to stop teaching in His name, and that people were afraid to say that they believed in Yeshua for fear of being put out of the synagogue (excommunicated from the Jewish community). There is nothing new under the sun! We pray and need the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to overcome these hindrances, not to necessarily work to get an unbelieving nation to overthrow their own religious sensibilities. More Gentiles are being saved as long as Israel remains an enemy of the gospel. This is the sovereign wisdom of God!
The God of Israel told the Jewish people that they were to be good citizens in other countries, seeking the peace of wherever He scattered them. This is also what He tells believers in Jesus wherever we live: that we are to pray for those in authority, seeking a quiet and peaceable life, and also the repentance and salvation of those leaders and peoples. The god of Islam, though, for example, has another agenda wherever Muslims are, and he calls upon them to forcefully (whether through terror or through the political process) take over a society and impose Sharia law upon all: the means may change, but the objective remains the same.) It is a spiritual battle between our God, who is good, and against the Devil, who is bad. Simplistic, and simple. People are mostly ignorant of the core issue, because we have been deceived into thinking that maybe it isn’t so cut and dry, or that our God isn’t the only one who has the right to determine and carry out His will. We have been saved by His grace and mercy! And He loves all, and gave His Son to die for all, wanting that they be saved and not condemned eternally.
This article originally on Streams in the Negev, August 11, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Howard Bass is the congregation pastor/leader of Nachalat Yeshua (Yeshua's Inheritance) in Beer Sheva, Israel.
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The authority of the Hebrew Bible
Questioning the Value of the Old Testament
Today, we are dealing with a significant problem in theology. Much of the theology is being taught to believers by preaching media stars and church leaders whom I would call low information preachers. They may have charisma, and they can hold a crowd well, but sometimes they say outlandish and even heretical things. Some of the most glaring examples are statements claiming that the “Old Testament” no longer applies to us or that it is irrelevant for New Covenant Christians. One such preacher even said that he put a sword through the Old Testament to be free from it. The error is even more glaring in the light of the numerous assertions in the New Testament of the authority and value of the Hebrew Bible. One has to ask if these preachers ever had one course helping them to understand the Hebrew Bible and its application to the New Covenant era. I doubt it. Of course, gaining insight into the Torah and the ritual system of the Tabernacle is much more challenging than gaining insight into the love chapter of I Corinthians 13. Yet these writings can be understood and applied. It is important to do so.
THE NEW TESTAMENT’S TEACHING ON THE AUTHORITY OF THE HEBREW BIBLE
The Teaching of Yeshua
In Matthew 5:17-18 we read, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter or the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Yeshua then goes on in the rest of the chapter to show how the Torah is applied in the New Covenant.
The Teaching of Paul
Speaking of the Hebrew Scriptures, Paul tells us in II Timothy 3:16-17 that all Scripture is “God breathed,” and is “profitable for doctrine, reproof and for training in righteousness.” He urges Timothy (and us) to study these Scriptures in order to demonstrate that we are proper workmen who can rightly handle the word of God (2:15). What sort of a workman starts by throwing more than two-thirds of the “materials” away? I wouldn’t want to live in a house built by such a workman!
In Romans 15:4, Paul tells us that the Hebrew Bible was written to “teach us so that through endurance and encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope.” In 16:26 we read that what has been revealed to us now has been “made known by the prophetic writings by the eternal command of God so that all nations might believe in him.”
Peter echoes this and says that the Scriptures came not by the will of men, but that men spoke as they were carried along by the Spirit (II Peter 1:20).
And we can go on and on. We really cannot understand the New Testament without the Hebrew Scriptures. Indeed, much of the New Testament is interpretation and re-application of the Hebrew Bible. So much of God’s future plan for world redemption and peace is in the Hebrew Bible. When the Apostles were teaching, there was no New Testament; they relied on the Hebrew Bible. In fact, the entire Early Church was made up of “Old Testament Only” Christians!
The current statements against the Old Testament are reminiscent of a false teaching in the 2nd century A.D. called Marcionism which was condemned in Church History. It is again time to correct this false teaching and restore the authority of the Hebrew Bible.
This article originally appeared on Tikkun International, August 2, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Dr. Daniel Juster, founder and director of Tikkun International, has been involved in the Messianic Jewish movement since 1972 and currently resides in Jerusalem, Israel, from where he serves and supports the Messianic movement worldwide. Dan was the founding president and general secretary of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations for 9 years, the senior pastor of Beth Messiah congregation for 22 years, and a co-founder of the Messiah Bible Institute in several nations. Dr. Juster serves on the board of Towards Jerusalem Council II, provides oversight to 15 congregations in the USA as well as overseeing emissaries in Israel and the Former Soviet Union. Daniel has authored about 20 books on topics ranging from theology, Israel and the Jewish people, eschatology, discipleship, and leadership.