On October 5, 1984, an article appeared in the local Ramat Hasharon newspaper stating that the Mayor of our city accused us, Ari and Shira Sorko-Ram, of being missionaries and that we had bribed Israeli young people to convert to another religion.
Although this may seem to be a fairly innocuous accusation on the surface, it is important to understand the background behind this charge.
The word missionary in Israel has very negative connotations. First of all, it signifies a paid foreign agent who believes that the Jewish people should all convert to Christianity and cease to exist as a people. No method is beyond the missionary, says this nearly universal Israeli view. Missionaries give generous benefits such as money and trips abroad in order to entice the Jew to leave his people and convert to Christianity.
Missionaries also, so they say, help Israeli Jews leave this country and pull them away from their family and historical heritage that God has given Israel. Missionaries in Israel are often compared to the Nazis, who physically exterminated the Jewish people, while missionaries attempt to "finish the job" by spiritually exterminating the Jewish people. Even this week a letter to the editor in the Jerusalem Post called Messianic Jews a "social disease".
YOU'VE READ ONE YOU'VE READ THEM ALL
In the twenty years that we have been in Israel, we have read in the local press scores and scores of articles about Israeli believers in Yeshua the Messiah. The stories are nearly always the same. The culprits are the sneaking, fanatical, foreign missionaries who despise the Jewish people and who will go to any length, even with bribes and tricks, to seduce the Jew away from his God, his Bible, his nation, his family and his heritage.
Since in the public view no sane Jew would fall for such humbug, the articles nearly always carry lurid tales of money, money, money, being the incentive for the Jew's conversion to Christianity. The meaning "to convert" means nothing more or less than to officially leave one's religion and join another. It has no spiritual significance in the average Israeli mind.
When the article referred to above appeared in our local paper, it was thus simply one of many, many such articles that appeared in the papers by journalists, who may have never even thought of checking the facts since they are so convinced that these stories are true.
Yet the truth is we are emphatically Jewish in our perspective, in our deeds, in our manner of living, in what we respect and love, and in where we live. We very strongly believe in aliyah (Jewish immigration to Israel), in the God of Israel, the Torah of Israel and its commandments. We celebrate our God given and national Jewish holidays, and we love and respect the Jewish heritage, as long as it does not disagree with the original source, the Bible.
Yeshua the Messiah, King of the Jews, Lion of the tribe of Judah, and Son of God is the central focus of our lives. He is our High Priest who brings us into the presence of our Heavenly Father, the God of Israel.
Our Jewish King has not called us to be missionaries, but as Jews, to return to God with all our hearts and all our minds and all our beings, and to warn our people of the coming judgment and to preach the Good Tidings that God has come to redeem His people through His Son Yeshua. By serving the King of the Jews, we can come into an intimate knowledge of God and His purposes for our Jewish people.
ISRAELIS BELIEVE THE NEWSPAPERS
However, unfortunately when the newspapers distort the truth about Israelis Who serve God and His Son Yeshua, the average Israeli believes every word of it. In fact, our Knesset (parliament) so believed these lies, that a few years ago they passed a law forbidding any individual (i.e. missionary) from bribing any Israeli to leave Judaism and convert to Christianity, on pain of a prison term!
Since it is against the law to bribe a person to convert to Christianity, we were being accused of committing a criminal act, not to speak of unethical behavior. The story was designed to keep neighbors and acquaintances at a distance from us.
Yet what charge can be more absurd? What kind of "convert" would a person be who changed his religion because of money? Obviously the accusers are without understanding of the Bible. God calls the Jewish people -- not to change our religion, but to ask God to change our hearts -- from a stony heart to a heart of flesh. He will reveal to us what it means to be a Jew -- to know that every Jew has a high calling on his life, to be a nation of priests and a light to the gentiles. A most solemn call which has no reversal and of which God will not repent.
...from the standpoint of God's choice they (the Jewish people) are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:28-29).
God has been angry with Israel not only for her own sins, but in her refusal to follow the God of Israel and His Annointed One, our people have failed to bring many other peoples into the Kingdom of God.
Therefore, we felt it was time that someone in Israel stood up against this barrage of lies in the newspapers. It is one of the tools Satan has used to keep our nation blinded to the only One who can help Israel, Yeshua the Messiah.
After praying and bringing the issue before our congregation, we went to court by suing the Mayor of Ramat Hasharon for malicious and damaging slander. If we had "bribed youth to convert," then we had committed a crime and should go to jail.
However, since Israel's Declaration of Freedom guarantees freedom of religion, we have a right to publicly speak of our faith in God, just as an Orthodox Jew has a right to speak of his. Therefore, we would continue to utilize that right, morally and gently, yet firmly. And we asked Mayor Verbin to publicly apologize for his accusation and pay part of our court costs.
The mayor laughingly answered the journalists saying he would not apologize nor pay damages. He added that he was sure we would withdraw our suit. No Messianic Jew had ever stood against such slander before, and they could not believe we would. However, we hired one of the finest civil rights lawyers in Israel who is known for his battle to insure freedom of religion in this country.
The case continued for about two-and-a-half years with many twists and turns (even having one judge promoted and another replaced in mid-stream).
CASE SETTLED IN COURT
On May 11, 1987, an agreement was reached with Mayor Verbin. We will translate verbatim from the Ramat Hasharon newspaper article in Tsomet Hasharon, June 5, 1987. (All parenthesis are our editorial comments.) Headlines: "Mediated Agreement -- Verbin will publish clarification that Messianic Jews Ari and Shira Sorko-Ram are entitled to cling to their faith and to publicize it in the framework of the law.
"Mayor of Ramat Hasharon, Moishe Verbin, is obligated by the Civil Court of Tel Aviv to publish in the newspaper Tsomet Hasharon, a clarification in which he says he did not (at any time) accuse the "Messianic Jewish" people Ari & Shira Sorko-Ram of giving financial gifts to children in order for them to change their religion, and also today he does not accuse them of such deeds.
Following that, the Sorko-Ram couple agreed to cancel their claim of 10,000 shekels because of the evil name (Hebrew expression for slander) which took place at the Municipality Council about two-and-a-half years ago and dealt with the subject of missionary activities in Ramat Hasharon and the cults active in the area.
"With that it was concluded that Verbin could publish (his personal opinion) that by their activities he does not look upon their activities favorably, and that Messianic Jews have taken themselves out of the community of Israel (sic!).
"According to the negotiated agreement between the sides, that received the status of a court decision, Verbin is obligated to publish at the beginning of the clarification that Ari and Shira Sorko-Ram are Messianic Jews who believe that Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel, and who see themselves as Jews in every way, who are faithful to the Torah of Israel and its commandments, and they are entitled to cling to their faith and to publicize it within the framework of the law."
Verbin agreed to publish this "clarification" even though he was under heavy political pressure from the religious parties in Jerusalem not to "give in." In fact, the religious factions had been active in pushing Verbin to make such accusations in the first place. However, God gave us a great victory.
The national news carried the agreement on their broadcasts and believers throughout the land rejoiced in this first stand against this kind of abusive and slanderous publicizing against believers. One Israeli reporter for a national agency, himself a believer, said he could not believe his eyes when the news came over his teletype.
Now other groups have initiated court injunctions. For example, David and Lisa Loden of the Netanya congregation went to court when investigated on a claim that they had bribed Israelis. The police investigation promptly came to a halt.
We feel it was a long battle of nerves, but God is greater than all the enemies arrayed against us. It should be noted that Verbin in the end did not apologize. Instead, he simply denied the whole thing! We did not press the issue of financial damages, as that was not at all the aim of the case.
BERESFORD VS THE INTERIOR OFFICE (OF ISRAEL)
Now we are involved with a very serious court case -- perhaps the most spiritually significant case ever to come to court since the history of the nation.
Shirley and Gary Beresford, members of our congregation, immigrated from Zimbabwe 11 months ago. Both Gary and Shirley are Jewish on all sides of their families. They were also faithful members and workers in the Orthodox community for many years.
Three years ago they gave not only their deeds but also their hearts to the God of Israel and God revealed Himself to them through the King of Israel Yeshua. When they received God's salvation, they saw in the Scriptures that God was calling His people to physically live in the Land of Israel.
When they made aliya, one of their sons reported them to the Jewish Federation in Zimbabwe. Upon their arrival in Israel, they were refused citizenship. The one and only reason: their belief that Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel.
Can an immigrant who is openly known as a Messianic Jew, immigrate to Israel? On October 26, the question will be debated in the Supreme Court in Jerusalem.
It is a day for fasting and praying, a day for tearing down strongholds and opening up the gates of Israel.
Does God want Jewish believers to freely and openly immigrate to Israel? The answer is yes! It is His revealed plan.
So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where the Lord your God has banished you, and you return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you...(Deut. 30:1-3, NAS).
While Israelis are flocking to gurus in India and becoming addicted to drugs, prostitution and crime, God wants to open wide the doors of our country to those who are a part of Israel's remnant that has been redeemed by the blood of the supreme Sacrifice.
WILL YOU PRAY? IF GOD BURDENS YOUR HEART, WILL YOU FAST?
We will report to you the results of the October 26 trial, as soon as possible. However, remember that that date may or may not bring a final decision. One of the leading tactics of the enemy in Israel is to wear God's people down. However long or short the trial lasts, we will stand with these new believers Gary and Shirley, whom God has chosen to stand in the gap.
PRAY THAT GOD WILL BRING CONFUSION TO THE CAMP OF THE ENEMY, AND THAT THEY WILL FIGHT EACH OTHER.
PRAY THAT GOD WILL SUPERNATURALLY ANNOINT LAWYER BEN MENASHE WITH KNOWLEDGE AND WISDOM THAT WILL CONFOUND THE ENEMY. (We are not talking about people being our enemy, but the powers of hell that are set against us.)
PRAY THAT IF THE BERESFORDS ARE CALLED TO TESTIFY IN COURT GOD WILL GIVE THEM THE VERY WORDS THEY ARE TO SPEAK.
PRAY THAT THE CASE WILL BE FINISHED QUICKLY SO THAT THEY CAN RECEIVE WORK PERMITS. (They have been in the country 11 months and have not been allowed to work until a court decision is made.)
PRAY AGAINST FALSE WITNESSES. Enough said.
KNOW THAT THIS CASE HAS SIGNIFICANCE FOR ALL OF ISRAEL. PRAY BELIEVING THAT WE HAVE THE VICTORY!
The Lord your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it (Deut. 30:5).
And we would greatly appreciate your financial help. The two cases mentioned in this letter are costing a total of $17,000. We have no institution or organization behind us. Maoz is an independent Messianic Jewish non-profit organization. And we have by no means finished paying for these cases.
We pray that you will feel yourself becoming more and more a part of God's plan for Israel as you give of your time and energies in prayer and also of your own financial resources.
In our Messiah,
Ari & Shira Sorko-Ram