Jew for Jesus could win Israel Bible quiz
Tipped off about Bat El Levy’s beliefs, an anti-missionary group has called on religious Jews to boycott the May 8 contest, at which she will compete against 15 other teenagers from Israel and abroad for a prize awarded by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
The group, Yad L’Ahim, has invoked Israeli law forbidding Christians from proselytizing in the Jewish state. But there is more at stake in the quiz, which is held on Israel’s 60th
Independence Day — the question of who has a better command of holy writ.
In a protest letter quoted by Israel’s Maariv newspaper, Yad L’Ahim chairman Rabbi Shlomo Dov Lipschitz said Levy “has a chance of becoming the world Bible champion” and that this could “greatly encourage” the spread of Christianity among Jews. He further argued that Levy should be disqualified from the quiz because she is, in his view, non-Jewish.
This was rejected by Israel’s Education Ministry, which runs the Bible quiz. “The girl is designated as Jewish, and her personal beliefs are not a matter of concern to us,” a ministry spokeswoman said.
Levy could not be reached for comment. A relative of the girl, who has already proved her scriptural mettle in regional Israeli contests, said she was busy studying for the quiz.
The relative, who declined to be named, confirmed that Levy and her family “believe in Yeshua Ben-David, the saviour from Nazareth” — Jesus’s Hebrew name. But Yad L’Ahim was wrong in branding Levy a missionary, the family member said.
“The family keeps its faith to itself. To these people, anyone who disagrees with their version of Jewish belief is the enemy. I hope God pays them back in kind,” the relative said.
Representatives of Israeli Jews who believe in Jesus say the community numbers between 8,000 and 10,000, out of a total population of more than 7 million. These so-called Jewish Christians keep a low profile to avoid causing offence in a state where many blame centuries of anti-Semitic persecution in Europe on Christian dogma.
There is also an issue of personal safety. Jewish Christians have on occasion been targeted for attack. In March, a homemade bomb was left in a building in the Jewish
settlement of Ariel, in the occupied West Bank, where members of the community resides. A boy was maimed. Last October, a Jerusalem church that holds services in Hebrew was damaged in a firebomb attack.
Should Levy’s beliefs disqualify her from this contest? Would it be offensive to Israel or to Jews if she won the Bible quiz?