“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10
After a respite of a few months from attacks at a Messianic-run shelter, the property was broken into last week by a group of men armed with metal rods and rocks while six women were alone on the premises.
Five months ago KNI reported about regular attacks by the violent anti-missionary organization Lehava against Adullam, an outreach and community center for at-risk youth managed by Messianic Jews. Even Yad l’Achim, a less violent anti-missionary organization, also incited violence by “exposing” the center as a “missionary honey trap” on its website [in Hebrew] in February.
The attacks ceased during coronavirus lockdowns and during that time, Hands of Mercy, led by Yariv Goldman, repurposed the center as a women’s shelter in order to respond to the needs of several vulnerable women. After the lockdown was lifted, they continued to use the upstairs rooms to provide shelter for the women, while resuming outreach activities with youth at risk in the downstairs space during the day. Halel Goldman, Yariv’s daughter, manages the center and regularly stays overnight at the premise with the women.
In the early morning hours on July 3, a group of young men broke into Adullam armed with metal rods and rocks while the five vulnerable women and Halel were present.
“When Halel tried to chase the attackers out, one of them attempted to stab her with the metal rod, while others kicked her, threw rocks at her and hit her chest,” Yariv wrote in his latest newsletter. “They eventually threw the large metal rod at Halel and a nine months pregnant lady who is staying with us. The metal rod narrowly missed the pregnant lady.”
“I don’t want to call it ‘renewed attacks,’” Goldman told KNI. “It could be a random attack, not an organized resumed activity. Back in February they arrived in large groups of 20, this time it was just a handful of maybe seven or eight young men. We have indications that the earlier attacks were probably encouraged by Lehava and Shuvu Bonim, Rabbi (Eliezer) Berland’s yeshiva. We don’t know if the recent attack was orchestrated by them or if it was an individual initiative.”
Shuvu Bonim is viewed by many as a cult. Berland has served a prison sentence for rape and sexual misconduct and is currently being held on suspicion for fraudulent extortion of money. This accusation is based on recordings of him instructing cancer patients to pay him for their healing, while encouraging them to refuse medical care.
“They came and tried to vandalize the entrance to our place, but Halel noticed them and ran out to stop them,” Yariv told KNI. “She was able to chase them away, while they threw rocks and tried to kick her, spit on her, threw the metal rod at the pregnant woman, which thankfully missed. Halel had a mark from the rocks for a few days, but nothing that needed medical care.”
“These people commit hate crimes in various places,” Goldman expounded. “Not only against us. They have also attacked a place for LGBT youth. Anything that doesn’t follow their religious views, they attack.”
In security camera footage of the attack shared by Yariv, a group of young men can be seen entering the premises and then being chased out by Halel. They then proceed to kick and throw, presumably rocks, before they leave.
“We have reported the attack and the police are investigating the crime,” Yariv wrote in the newsletter. “We hope they will take firm steps to fight this form of violent extremism against innocent people.”
Yad l’Achim’s accusation that the center is intended for missionary purpose was dismissed in February by the then manager of the center, Michael.
“Our prayer is for everyone to be saved,” Michael told KNI back then. “But because these people are in a confused situation of searching for the truth, it’s not the right time to push for a different faith. If they ask us, we will gladly explain to them what we believe and why. But we are not forcing our faith upon them. We are not demanding that they listen to a sermon or pray a prayer to receive help. Even if an angel from God would come and tell us that ‘this specific person will never be saved’ we would still help him. That’s what we do here. We have received a mandate from God to serve and love everyone.”
Yad l’Achim claimed in its report from February that Adullam had connected with other youth-at-risk centers in Jerusalem which they cooperate with. The article proudly claimed to have “exposed” Adullam and convinced the other centers to disconnect, while working on providing a “true alternative” for the youth at risk. But Yad l’Achim never provided updates on alternative centers and Yariv denies that any connections with Adullam have been cut off.
“We have cooperation with other centers, including Haredi ones. They know we are believers, but they still work with us, because they know we are here first and foremost to help. We will not keep our faith a secret, but neither will we force it upon anyone as a condition for help,” he told KNI. “There is a religious place that asks us to send our volunteers to help them, it doesn’t matter to them that we are believers, as long as we have a heart to help.”
Yariv stresses that the attackers are a small minority among the religious.
“We have Haredi neighbors who came up to us after the previous attacks and apologized. They said that they stand on our side, and these attackers are not representative of what they believe.”
Yariv also told KNI that this normalization is happening in many places.
“We are working with the social services of the state in many places now. They know we believe in Yeshua, and they still work with us. It’s important for us to preserve and expand that. Also, many of the ex-Haredi people, and even currently Haredi people, who visit our center in Jerusalem also volunteer with us when we go out to help drug addicts and needy people in Tel Aviv. It helps themselves just as much as it helps the others. We call that outreach La’asot Mashehu Tov, to do something good, and Halel is leading that too.”
A quick glance at the La’asot Mashehu Tov Facebook group shows photos of people, including Halel, helping out on the streets, preparing food parcels and giving out clothes in Tel Aviv, Abu Gosh, Bnei Brak and Sderot.
Currently, Hands of Mercy is fundraising to move the Adullam center to a different place to avoid further attacks.
“We want to separate the center for visiting at-risk-youth from the women’s shelter, putting the center in a more central place where attacks will be more easily prevented. We want to move the women’s shelter to an undisclosed place outside of Jerusalem which will have the peace and quiet that these women need. The need is so great. If we could afford a place with twenty rooms, we would be able to fill it with forty women in need. The need is immense, but we need the resources for it. We ask for prayers and financial help to meet the needs of these vulnerable people.”
“Also, if you have local readers in Israel, from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, tell them we need volunteers,” Yariv told KNI. “These women need intensive care 24/7. If Messianic women from the area could commit, even to just an hour a week, or three hours a week, it would take a lot off Halel’s immense workload. Just to sit and talk, listen to them, cook an omelet, give a hug, whatever. Each one of these women has horrifying stories and have been through indescribable traumas.”
In the newsletter, Yariv expanded on how these women have been through abuse and trauma and need to recover from PTSD, panic attacks, addictions and eating disorders. He also wrote that many ex-Haredim are suicidal after losing their families and communities.
“I don’t know why, but specifically women who leave the Haredi community go through such horrifying things,” he said.
“We also have men who turn to us who have nowhere to go, but we don’t have anywhere to send them,” Yariv said. “We wish we could open another center for men, for people with a traumatic past, for men who need a drug rehab. Most drug rehab centers in Israel are Russian-speaking and don’t address people from a Jewish religious background.”
Yariv stressed that as long as the religious communities don’t take initiative to help these people, they have no right to criticize the work of Adullam.
“I was interviewed for a radio program a while ago but they never aired it,” Yariv told KNI. “Apparently, they wanted me to come off bad, so they couldn’t air it. But in it I told them I want to normalize relations between Messianic Jews and the rest of the Israeli society. Either you come and volunteer with us, or stay quiet. These ex-Haredi women have been through abuse and your Haredi community are not helping them. As long as we are the ones helping them and you are not, you have no right to tell me what to do and what not to do.”
“You want to help? Great, come and help. You can be religious, Haredi, it doesn’t matter. We welcome your help. Don’t scoff us off as if we are the outsiders. We are a part of the Israeli society, and as such, we will extend help.”
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40