Israel Update

Persecution Against Israeli Believers Turns Lethal

by Shira Sorko-Ram

On March 20, an individual dressed in an Israeli army uniform, with head lowered, entered an apartment building in the West Bank town of Ariel. He walked up three floors to the apartment of David and Leah Ortiz, leader of a Messianic  congregation. Security cameras watched him set a package at the door of the apartment, and leave.

The cleaning lady, Marina, came to the door and saw a lovely Purim  present wrapped in red cellophane with chocolates just underneath the transparent wrapping and a card that said, “Purim Sameach!” (Happy Purim). It is the custom in Israel to exchange gifts during this happy holiday, commemorating Queen Esther’s intervention, thereby saving the Jewish nation from Haman, a hater of the Jewish people.

Marina brought the package into the dining room and called Ami, one of five children, and the only one of the family at home. She showed him the package. Ami called his mother who was on her way to Jerusalem and she responded that the present must be from one of the neighbors.

Ami sat down at the table and pulled the ribbon off the package, and flew backwards, his body ripped to shreds. He was found on the kitchen floor in a pool of blood. An ambulance came and he heard the words “Don’t move! Don’t move!” The thoughts going through his mind, as he told Boaz Gaon, journalist from the daily Hebrew paper Maariv was, “What is this? What is this? Why me? Who can do a thing like this? Someone tried to hurt us…to hurt my father….”

Fifteen year-old Ami is already 6’2” and captain of his high school basketball team. Before the terrorist attack, he was a thin 142 pounds. After six weeks in the hospital he now weighs 120 pounds. But he is alive! In the first hours after the attack, there was no certainty he would survive. The call went out for prayer. As Ami hung on to life, the doctors were considering amputating his legs. But God intervened! His doctor, who according to Gaon has been caring for terror victims for 15 years, said Ami was injured by hundreds of pieces of shrapnel from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head. He lost parts of two toes on his right foot, and ultimately will have scores of operations. Large pieces of shrapnel are lodged in his lungs.

The doctors worked furiously to save both of his eyes by extracting shrapnel - and they succeeded. His parents know it is a tremendous miracle and an answer to the thousands of people who are praying. His hearing is impaired but again the doctors believe it will continue to improve. (Maariv 18Apr08)

An incredibly cynical and even absurd report was published in the English section of Haaretz newspaper on March 25. I quote:

“Police are investigating the possibility that the explosion occurred while the boy was opening a Purim gift basket. Police reportedly believe the blast was caused by some sort of firecracker used during Purim celebrations.

“The parents of the victim are members of the Messianic Jews movement, which the police classify as a cult…

“The police emphasized that there was no proof to support the theory that the explosion was deliberate and malicious.” (Haaretz 25Mar08)

There are some puzzling questions concerning the Haaretz report:

1. A firecracker?? A firecracker with hundreds of pieces of shrapnel?

2. Are the police authorized to create classifications of who and what is a cult?

3. The police emphasized they have “no proof” that the explosion was deliberate. Why would they say that? Police leave all options open until they make arrests.

In response to this article, there were a number of talkback entries on the internet. I quote three of them:

1. You call this “journalism”?? I just returned from the hospital, where this 15-year-old kid is FIGHTING FOR HIS LIFE. He was brought in COVERED with shrapnel, severe burns and in CRITICAL condition!

The surgery will take all night. The “Purim gift” was a large bomb packed with metal shards, designed to kill, and the kid was hit in vital organs and arteries... and both eyes. It was built by someone who obviously knew what he was doing. The police and Shabak [Israel Security Agency] have been with the family for hours gathering evidence.

Hey - I’m no reporter, I’m just a neighbor, and I was able to put the story together in 10 minutes.

Jonathan Lis [journalist], be ashamed. Haaretz, be VERY ashamed.

2. It is interesting to note the Israeli police have labeled Messianic Jews as a “cult.” Such prejudice appears to give legitimacy to violence against followers of certain religions in Israel.

3. I am writing from outside Israel and I am shocked by your irresponsibility. I am not sure what your bias is but it is amazing how you can take such a serious story and make a joke of it. (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/966623.html)

Persecution in Ariel began two years ago
It started two years ago when posters began appearing around Ariel with the faces of David and other Messianic believers and with the warning of “Beware! These people are Christian missionaries who are impersonating Jews and who belong to the cult of Messianic Jews.”

There is an organization in Israel called “Yad L’achim” which has one purpose for its existence - to persecute and destroy the Messianic movement and Christian organizations in Israel. It has deep connections within all governmental institutions. When Gaon from Maariv asked the head of Yad L’achim, Rabbi Shalom Dov Lipsheitz, why they persecute the Messianic Jews, he answered, “Ortiz and his friends are soul-murderers. Destroyers of Jews. Offspring of Crusaders.

“They flooded the streets of Jerusalem with blood. They are smiling monsters with pockets full of cash that streams in from America. Their goal is to convert to Christianity the Israeli nation and not to leave out a single pure soul.”

He continued his ranting: “They want all Israel to convert to Christianity. Every Jew that does not convert is blocking the coming of redemption. Hamas, what do they want? Land. They [Messianics] want something else: our souls. Every Jew they grab is a huge gain for them. Every Jew is prey.”

When Gaon asked the Rabbi what happened to Ami Ortiz, he answered, “According to what I heard, the box that exploded had in it a few toy gun caps.” (Ibid.)

Persecution on the rise
Persecution of the believers has steadily increased over the last few years. In Arad, there are several thousand Gur ultra-Orthodox young men attending a yeshiva there. These men do not work nor serve in the army, and they have little with which to entertain themselves outside of their rabbinical studies. And so they head over to the homes of the believers, yell and scream obscenities, harass the children and make life difficult for them day after day.

The police do nothing. In fact, the police recently detained Debbie Figueras, the gentle and quiet wife of the leader of the Arad congregation. When Avraham Milshtein, a known serial Gur provocateur against believers came on their property at night shouting and disturbing their children, she went outside to take his picture. He started walking up the street and put some bags in front of his face. Debbie tried to pull the bag away with one hand and take his picture with the other.

Half an hour later the police came to their house to detain Debbie for assault! They made her sign a document saying she will not make contact with Milshtein for 30 days or she will have to pay a fine of ₪2,000 (NIS). She said she told the police, however, that it was impossible not to be in contact because Milshtein stands outside their congregation every Shabbat to harass the congregation as they gather for worship.

Also the readers of the MaozIsrael Report know that Israel and Pnina Comforti have been harassed for several years by Yad L’achim and the local rabbinate in Ashdod. They have done everything in their power to close down the Comforti’s bakery, “Pnina Pie,” by illegal means and by standing in front of their bakery and passing out flyers to keep customers at bay. Again, the police do nothing. Because of the contributions of believers through Maoz and other Messianic organizations in Israel, Pnina Pie is still operating. But the Comforti’s have faced debilitating persecution.

When the Maariv journalist Boaz Gaon visited Howard Bass, leader of the Beer Sheva congregation, the local head of Yad L’achim appeared and stood face to face with Bass,  shouting obscenities in English that you can’t even imagine (they printed them verbatim in the article) for 30 minutes - until the journalist finally let him know who he was. When Gaon asked the rabbi why he was doing this, he said of the Messianics, “They are killers of innocent souls. They are like Hamas, only worse.”

It is difficult to internalize the hatred these people have for the followers of Yeshua. It is true that Christendom persecuted the Jewish people for many centuries. That is why it is so important to differentiate any kind of institutional religion from those individual believers, Jewish or Christian, who have had a born-again experience and who are proven believers because of their love one for another.

Hatred comes from same spirits world-wide
When the Crusaders or whoever else murdered Jews, they were unmitigated, hell-bound sinners. When Muslims live for the day they can kill and be killed for the sake of destroying the Jewish people, they have been conquered by the same satanic hordes of spirits that the Crusaders possessed. And when ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel rail and blaspheme followers of Yeshua, burn down the believers’ places of worship and ministry, and now attempt to kill believers, then they too have been possessed by these evil spirits.

If these Jewish rabbis, some of whom are survivors of the Holocaust, only understood that they are acting in the same violent way to a minority group in Israel as did the German people to the Jews in the 1930’s, paving the road for Hitler and his demonized followers.

If Yad L’achim is found guilty (a very very big “if”) of planting this bomb at the Ortiz’ home, then it would be a great victory for justice and democracy if this violent group were classified as a terrorist organization in the U.S., thus preventing them from soliciting tax deductible funds. Drying up their stream of money from America of course would restrict much of their activities.

Police have made no arrests
It is puzzling why the police have not come up with any suspects after six weeks, being that they have the video of the person who planted the bomb. In fact, they have pictures of people who were casing the Ortiz home before the bomb was planted. Could it be that pressure is being brought upon the police not to find the suspects? If so, who is initiating this pressure? If a highly placed religious ruler (who initiated the act or at least gave his blessing) is implicated, what will the police do?

The Ortiz family is convinced they must do all in their power to keep such terrorist activities against Israel’s Messianic Jews from happening again. This is the first time in the history of modern Israel that ultra-Orthodox extremists have allegedly tried to kill a Messianic believer, although they have been ratcheting up the level of violence, especially in Arad where they set fire and did heavy damage to a believing club for elderly people a couple of years ago. If the Orthodox terrorists who planted the bomb are not apprehended, or if they are able to plea-bargain themselves to a short jail sentence, it is the Ortiz’ conviction that they will be emboldened to attack other believers.

Therefore David has hired a criminal lawyer to push for apprehending the perpetrators of this terrible crime. The challenge of the believers of Israel is how to handle such attacks with wisdom and love. Because of who we are - people of love and forgiveness - we do not react violently. Above all, we must show the character of Yeshua.

But we must also let our voice be heard. The Book of Acts records the incident when Paul’s sister’s son heard of a plan to kill his uncle. Paul told his nephew to give that information to the commander, so that he, Paul, would not be murdered. Paul also used the legal institutions that were available to him.

Persecution of Messianic Jews will in the end bring trouble to Israel. God has never looked lightly on persecutors of his people.

For now, David Ortiz will have a guard at his congregation when they meet, and he has beefed up the security around his home. Obviously, the intent of the bomber was to kill David and Leah.

The Ortiz family asks for your prayers - one of the most important being that Ami’s life not be traumatized by this event, and that he will grow up to be a healthy young man - spirit, soul and body. That Ami will be an example of God’s grace through his character and God’s power through a miraculous healing of his body and emotions.

Ami Ortiz has always been a child that had a close relationship with his Messiah. For whatever reason, God has allowed Ami to be in the frontline of the war declared by ultra-Orthodox extremists on the Messianic believers in Israel. How grateful we are that God did not allow his life to be taken. In fact, Ami’s life has already been greatly used by God in that this attack against him has united the Messianic Jews and Christian believers across the country as nothing else ever has. And unity with love is the ultimate weapon against Israel’s enemy, Satan.


Ari and Shira Sorko-Ram are the founders of Maoz Israel Ministries. The mission of MAOZ is: 1) To declare the Message of Messiah and make disciples in the city of Tel Aviv and throughout Israel. 2) To raise up Israeli leaders to prepare for the coming spiritual awakening among the people of Israel. 3) To educate and inform Christians world-wide of the strategic importance of Israel and the Jewish people in God's plan for world revival. The MAOZ web site is http://www.maozisrael.org/.

 

 

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