Israeli Messianic Non-Profit Organization is Denied Tax-Exempt Status

The Finance Committee of the Knesset voted unanimously to deny a Messianic non-profit organization of obtaining tax-exempt status for charitable donations. Fifty-five non-profit organizations were presented before the committee for approval, and only Yachad Ramat Hasharon was refused. Yachad is the the legal non-profit entity for Maoz Israel and Congregation Tiferet Yeshua in Tel Aviv.

The Hebrew news site Ynet reported that the reason for the Committee’s refusal is that they are a “missionary organization” involved in the “spread of Christianity”. Committee chairman MK Moshe Gafni said: “If we confirm the benefit of this organization, it means the State encourages fundraising activities undermining the Jewishness of the state”.

This is the first time, and a troubling precedent, in which the Israeli Knesset has denied tax benefits for an Israeli Messianic-related non-profit organization. In fact, it is also the first time, according to the Ynet article, that any organization has been rejected, since previous to the current Knesset, the Finance Committee did not have authority to deny tax benefits for individual non-profits, but rather approved all requests as a whole that were recommended by the Tax Authority.

What does this mean for other Messianic non-profit organizations in Israel? What will be the ramifications? Yachad Ramat Hasharon’s case involved a new application, but will other Messianic non-profit organizations currently approved for tax deductible donations have their status revoked in the future? Is the Messianic community in Israel being discriminated against by the Israeli government? Is this a new tactic against Messianic non-profits? This precedent could be a slippery slope, not just for Messianic organizations, but for all non-profit organizations in Israel that are disagreeable to certain factions in the government.

[Update July 15, 2015]: The title of this article was changed from “Stripped of Tax-Exempt Status” to “Denied Tax-Exempt Status”.

[Update July 16, 2015]: Additional source on Knesset denies tax benefits to Messianic Jewish NGO