Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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26 Shevat 5760 - February 2, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Zionist Yeshivos and Settlements Take Money From Evangelicals

by S. Yisraeli

How many people know that there is an organization called Christian Friends of Israeli Communities (CFIC), which supports Jewish settlements in Judea, Samaria and Gaza?

"Contact Christian Friends of Israeli Communities," invites its Internet homepage, "to find out how you and your church or organization can join with us to encourage these brave Jewish settlers."

The organization's main project is Adopt-A-Settlement. Forty- five Jewish settlements beyond the Green line have been adopted by Protestant churches in the U.S, Europe and the Far East. Most of these churches are evangelical. The Christian communities finance various needs of the settler communities.

However, according to a report by Baruch Kra in Ha'aretz, it turns out that the project is just one part of an intensifying system of economic links between the settlements and the churches.

In a report published in November in Ha'aretz, several national religious rabbis were cited who were angry about the phenomenon. Rabbi Elyakim Levanon complained that the situation could only lead to an increase in the power and influence of gentiles in Eretz Yisroel. Levanon is the rabbi of Elon Moreh, which has been "adopted" by a community in Florida.

After the article appeared, settlers who support taking money from Evengelical Christians asked the newspaper why no rabbi was prepared to defend the connection with the Christians in public.

They complained, for example, that the rabbi of Nir Yeshiva in Kiryat Arba, Rabbi Eliezer Waldman, goes on fundraising visits to Christian churches several times a year. Ha'aretz then spoke to Rabbi Waldman who does not deny this, but he was not really keen to confirm it either.

"I don't want to go into it," he said. "To the extent that there is a connection like this, it is with specific individuals. We have a connection with Christian groups, who come here to encourage us."

Beyond the moral support, is there also financial support?

"It isn't right to talk about contributors without asking their permission to do so."

"Such a thing does exist," said Rabbi Waldman, but he insists upon not revealing the names and place of residence of these Protestants from Florida.

Ha'aretz asked Rabbi Waldman that if Rabbi Levanon claims that there is a problem with the multiplication of the rights of Christians in every area, should this not apply to contributions that come directly to such hesder yeshivas?

Rabbi Waldman replied angrily "True, I'm a rabbi," he says, "but I do not engage in halachic rulings. This you have to ask people who do. I consult them. Altogether, it's a shame that in our society we devote too much attention to journalism and gossip, and I don't want to say worse things.

"The phenomenon in and of itself is connected to the process of winning hearts, to the advancing of the words of the prophets. It is true that there are those who are missionaries, but there are also those who are not missionaries."

Rabbi Waldman's fundraising is a breakthrough. All the other elements who benefit from the Protestants' contributions claim that fundraising from Christian churches for religious institutions is going too far. Rabbi Waldman, they say, has overstepped the line.

According to Ha'aretz, another association that is pursuing evangelical Christian money is Shuva Yisrael (Return Israel). In contrast to the CFIC, Shuva is an association of Jews. It is an initiative of the Samaria regional council.

The association's first project is the construction of a community center in the settlement of Einav. To date, the association has succeeded in raising $4.5 million for it.

The difficult part, explains Mel Bornstein, the fundraising consultant for the association and for the Foundation for the Development of Samaria, is identifying the suitable evangelicals. Only a minority of them support Israel, and only a smaller minority of those who support Israel are prepared to commit themselves not to engage in missionary activity.

The Protestants have two approaches, the Ha'aretz report noted. The prevailing approach holds that the Christian religion must replace the Jewish religion; the minor approach holds that the two religions can live side by side.

"In our method of working," said Bornstein, "we never even encounter this problem. The idea is very simple."

"Instead of raising funds from an organization, or from a single individual, our people visit all the evangelical communities in the U.S., and raise funds from private individuals. Everyone gives $10, or even $5. We are not interested in money from one person, or from one organization that could be influential."

This, in part, is the reason they do not solicit funds through the CFIC.

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