Some members of the parliament in Israel, known as the Knesset, have introduced a bill that would make it illegal to share information about Jesus in the Jewish state. The bill, if passed, would impose jail time for anyone caught telling others about Jesus.
The two lawmakers who introduced the bill are Knesset members Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Asher, who are both members of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party. The bill is aimed at preventing what they see as an attempt to convert Jews to Christianity. The proposed legislation has caused outrage among Israel’s Christian community, who fear that they will be targeted and persecuted for their beliefs. Many have expressed concerns that the bill is a violation of religious freedom and the right to free speech.
The top spokesperson and Vice President of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem said to Premier that it was not the first time the ban was being made.
“He’s made a habit every year, every time he gets re-elected in the Knesset to introduce a bill like this. And it never goes anywhere.
“He introduced one back when Netanyahu was prime minister for a couple of years in the late 1990s, because a book translated into Hebrew that was preaching the gospel through the book, was mailed to a million Israeli homes, and there was no way to collect them and throw them away. So he was alarmed and Moshe Gafni introduced a bill that actually would have banned the New Testament in Israel and criminalised possession of the New Testament. That bill got shot down.”
He further said that though it draws concern, the bill is unlikely to be very effective. Parsons says that although the bill is concerning, it’s unlikely to go anywhere.
“We don’t know if the judicial reforms weaken the Israeli courts enough, the courts would normally defend freedom of speech and defend religious freedom for all. If the Knesset is going to do it, they’re going to defend it and declare this law void.
“But if the courts weaken enough now through this whole process, then that’s a possibility. It’s sort of a new Netanyahu right now, how much leverage do these parties have over him to not only stay in power, but to help shield him from some of this personal liability he’s facing, but we’re a long way from this.”
“Moshe Gafni, has a particular axe to grind. He wants to stop the gospel here. But I don’t think there is a lot of support for it.
“There’s all sorts of problems with the wording of it – it does not specify Christian or gospel, it just says religious materials to try and get someone to convert. If you go on the internet, there’s all sorts of stuff – Jews trying to convince Christians you need to be over here in Judaism. And I don’t see how they can enforce this – it’s about material or speech to try and get someone to change religion from the Moshe Gafni perspective, for whom the ultimate missionary material is the New Testament. So possessing a New Testament in Hebrew in Israel, are you going to go to jail? I don’t think the majority of Israel and the majority of the Knesset is going to go that far.
“I think this is one guy grinding his axe.”
The bill has also sparked outrage among some members of Israel’s Jewish community, who view it as an attack on their democratic values. Critics argue that the bill would create a chilling effect on free speech and limit the ability of individuals to express their religious beliefs.
In response to the proposed legislation, Christian leaders in Israel have called for a dialogue with Jewish leaders to address their concerns and find common ground. They have also called on the government to uphold the principles of religious freedom and protect the rights of all citizens, regardless of their beliefs.