Messianic materials used in Israeli schools

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Screenshot of animated Bible series by The Bible Society of Israel

Religious organizations in Israel are outraged that the Ministry of Education recommends the Bible Society’s YouTube videos as supplementary learning materials for high schoolers.

The Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom (Israel Today) published an article last week [link in Hebrew] about the controversy involving the Israeli Ministry of Education and the Bible Society in Israel. The Ministry of Education currently recommends a few of the Bible Society’s YouTube videos as teaching aids for high school Old Testament classes, and this has provoked anger from local religious organizations Be’Tsalmo and Yad l’Achim.

The Ministry of Education’s website links to the Bible Society’s videos about the Tower of Babel, Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, finding a wife for Isaac, Jacob receiving the firstborn blessing, and Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dream.

The article refers to the Bible Society as a missionary organization (a derogatory term in Israel) and points out that a child who watches one of the recommended videos could easily find him or herself watching a New Testament-themed video.

Be’Tsalmo, a religious Israeli Jewish human rights organization, is demanding that links to the Bible Society’s videos be removed from the Ministry of Education’s website immediately, pointing out that Israeli law forbids Christian materials from being taught to children. Christianity is introduced in sixth grade as a world religion.

Yad l’Achim, whose self-declared mission is to prevent Jews from going astray and to reinstate those who have, claims that not only are millions of Jewish Israeli children already being deprived of a religious education by secular schools, but now they are being exposed to Christianity, which has historically persecuted Judaism.

The organization is infamous for harassing local Messianic congregations and individuals and claims that the Bible Society distributes materials with the intent of misleading Jews. They call Messianic Judaism a “Christian cult” and accuse Jewish believers of hiding their affiliation with Christianity while faking adherence to Jewish values in order to lure unsuspecting Jews.

The Ministry of Education has said that it will reevaluate the content recommended on its site.

Victor Kalisher, the Bible Society’s general director, responded to Kehila News’ request for comment on the issue and requested that his response be published in its entirety:

“The materials the Bible Society in Israel produces are faithful to the Word of God – the Bible. The Society maintains the true message and content of the full Bible and gives it the honor and dignity it deserves. The Bible is the greatest advantage and heritage of the People of Israel (Romans 3:1-2), and our desire is that the Word of God, in its entirety, be available and accessible to them. We serve the local body of believers in Israel and also make our materials freely available to anyone who seeks or desires to have them.

“We were approached by a representative of the Ministry of Education about using our materials, and gave permission to do so freely. This showed us that there are people in the Ministry and system of education in Israel who want good, true, and quality materials and values to be used for teaching. This is even more important when we see that other materials, which misrepresent the Bible and God, are also recommended by the Ministry of Education. Our Bible stories on YouTube have been watched hundreds of thousands of times and this is the best indication that they are serving their purpose well. For example, the story of creation has already been watched over 100,000 times; the stories of Moses, and Adam and Eve – about 80,000 times each.

“Those who truly care about the People of Israel knowing their own Bible and about Israel’s spiritual condition should rejoice, instead of discriminating against us and our materials. I gladly invite them to examine our materials that the Ministry of Education recommends, but to do so based on adherence to the Bible itself. They will then see, as they already know, that our materials faithfully represent the Word of God!

“I also would like to take this opportunity to ask KNI’s readers, our brothers and sisters in the Lord worldwide, to stand with and support the Bible Society in Israel’s ministry (www.biblesocietyinisrael.com) so that we can freely continue to make the Word of God known to anyone who desires. Please also pray against any discrimination in the Ministry of Education and our governmental system.”