Angry mob protests outside Messianic concert in Jerusalem

Lehava chairman Benzi Gopstein is being arrested by police outside a Christian event in Jerusalem on September 22, 2016. (Photo by Dor Kedmi/Flash90)

Dozens of members of an Orthodox Jewish organization violently rioted outside a Messianic concert in downtown Jerusalem, physically threatening concert goers and injuring several in a frenzied mob scene at the Pavilion on Thursday night.

The concert, not evangelistic in nature, was meant to be a screening of new Messianic worship music and most (if not all) of the attendees were believers, so it is unknown why the organization, Lehava, targeted this event.

Shelly Greenberg who attended the concert said kids came running into her arms for protection when she showed up that night.

“It became violent, way more than usual,” she told KNI. “It wasn’t the regular protest. I’ve run some events in the past and the protests were never that bad.”

Greenberg said the staff found alternate ways to get people into the concert, away from the “raging crowd.”

Police also got hit and pushed but seemed to do little to quell the riots and even the leader of the group seemed to have trouble getting them under control. Some people sustained minor injuries and adjacent shops in the building were damaged as well.

After about two hours, either the police or a protestor released pepper spray sending the whole crowd into fits of choking and vomiting.

Jenya Lempert who attended the concert with his teenage daughter took video of the 60-plus protestors as they blew whistles and blocked the entrance to the concert, harassing the concert goers. He said the situation grew dangerous and the protestors showed no signs of letting up.

“It was a pure act of hatred,” he told KNI. “They hate us, they were standing against us, they brought their minors as human shields and they misbehaved – at best.”

Most of the protestors were minors, Lempert noted, and took orders from the few older men who appeared to give the younger ones orders as to what to do. The police were not equipped with riot gear and responded only after he called for help for his daughter.

The concert, sponsored by the Messianic Jewish Alliance of Israel and produced by Yuval Arts, is held bi-annually in order to showcase new music written by believers that could be used in congregations around Israel.

Jael Kalisher, production manager, of the event, said the riots actually had a positive impact on the concert.

“They caused such unity among those who came, and something I kept on hearing afterwards is that people felt like a family,” she told KNI. “I’m deeply thankful to God for the fact that the reaction from the audience was patience, love, prayer, understanding. Yes, some were shocked, scared even, but as a whole people gathered towards one another, in unity, oneness, in worship.”

Ben-Zion Gopstein, head of Lehava, leads a protest outside the Messianic music concert in the Pavilion, Jerusalem

This isn’t the first time Lehava has protested Messianic gatherings at the building which houses the Pavilion, home to the King of Kings congregation, a media school and other Messianic organizations and events. The venue is in the center of the Clal building, an open atrium mall with shops and offices throughout the multi-level building.

Two years ago protestors from the Orthodox organization Lehava disrupted a performance by an Armenian church choir in Jerusalem’s Clal Center, home to several Messianic congregations.

Another believer who came to attend the concert from Beersheva (believers are no strangers to Orthodox protestors there) had heard about the protest on his way to the city.

“I was used to demonstrators before at these Messianic concerts, so thought it was just a relatively small group of ‘haredim’ hanging around just to make a presence. When we arrived, we were led another way into the Pavilion in order to avoid the demonstrators, and that went very well.”

The concert remained uninterrupted as protestors did not manage to breach the actual hall. After the concert, audience members were funneled out a different way so as to avoid the mayhem in the lobby. But according to witnesses, the protesters eventually found the other exit and harassed people there as well.

“They blocked our way, cursed, spit, were verbally abusive, called us all dirty missionaries who should go back to Russia. They were very unpleasant, and the children that were part of them are already full of hatred for Yeshua and those who believe in him in a similar way that Hamas indoctrinates Muslim children to hate Israel and the Jewish people.”

As a part of the violent protest, members of Lehava threw frogs at the concert-goers.