"Shalom from Israel! We are very glad that you have indicated an interest in our work in Israel. … The campaigns are scheduled to begin in 2008 and continue throughout 2013. These campaigns could be the most important thing we in 'Jews for Jesus' have ever done to fulfill our mission statement of making the messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to our Jewish people."
This internal memo, obtained last month by Yad L'Achim, reveals a plan by 'Jews for Jesus' to sponsor an aggressive ad campaign to lure Jews in Israel to cults. Indeed, the campaign was launched last week, as hundreds of buses in Rishon Letzion, Rechovot and Bat Yam were plastered with huge banners proclaiming a connection between Jesus and salvation.
"You see," continues the memo, "in Israel today there are 5.4 million Jewish people – more than at any other time in history. But of that number of Israelis, only one-tenth of one percent (.001) believe in Jesus. This is the only place I the world where – when we do street evangelism – we don't need to wonder who is Jewish. All we have to do is walk outside and talk to everyone we meet!"
The memo also shares some of the "obstacles" missionaries face in their work in Israel. "There are some vocal members of the Knesset who would like to see legislation passed that would make evangelism a crime … [and] there is a strong religious minority that fiercely opposes our activities and that can quickly mobilize a crowd to combat our efforts."
Yad L'Achim's switchboard was inundated last week with calls from Israelis who were outraged by the Jews for Jesus message appearing on buses that included an invitation to call the cult to receive a free copy of a book on Jesus.
In response, Rabbi Sholom Dov Lipshitz, chairman of Yad L'Achim, sent an urgent letter to Arik Feldman, the director general of the Egged bus cooperative, with an emotional appeal to remove the missionary advertising. To Egged's credit, Feldman responded: "As soon as Egged became aware of the advertisements on its buses, the director of marketing ordered that these signs be removed immediately. I am hopeful that the matter will be dealt with quickly so as not to offend the sensibilities of the Jewish public."
But the aggressive missionary campaign is not limited to buses. They recently took out two-page ads in the written media, pushing their message in two-page spreads that invited readers to call a toll-free number and receive, at no cost, a book on Jesus.
Knesset member Rabbi Yaakov Cohen (United Torah Judaism) spotted similar messages on billboards outside of cities and quickly notified Yad L'Achim. At the same time, he appealed directly to the advertising company that manages the billboards, which agreed to remove the offensive messages.
"Without doubt, we are seeing a dramatic upturn in the missionaries' activities," says Rabbi Lifshitz. "Their methods are getting more and more brazen, and the are investing millions of dollars for their campaign, raised by supporters abroad who will pay any price to convert Jews. This is the time for all of us to enlist in the effort to draft legislation against missionary activities. If not now, when?"