On October 26, the Knesset Finance committee heard and rejected a request by the Tel Aviv-based ministry Yachad to receive non-profit status under article 46, denying Yachad’s donors the possibility to receive a tax deduction on their donations. One of the primary reasons the request was rejected (despite including a supportive opinion from Israel’s High Court of Justice) was because it received bipartisan support.
MK Moshe Gafni, who chairs the Finance Committee and is a fierce opponent of Israel’s Believer community, invited the head of the opposition, Yair Lapid, to express his support to this rejection. Lapid is not a member of the committee, but his statement of opposing missionary activity persuaded the people in his party, as well as other lawmakers in the opposition. Together with Gafni’s shrewd tactic of clumping Yachad together with the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization, which was making a similar request, the rejection was unanimously approved.
It seems, however, that Lapid was duped by Gafni. Lapid cannot have been fully aware of which non-profits were being rejected, as he referred only to “missionary organizations.”
KNI spoke to a few leaders and pastors from the local body to see what they had to say about the issue.
Howard Bass, pastor of Nachalat Yeshua in Be’er Sheva expresses understanding about the decision.
“For them we are all the same, Messianic Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Roman Catholics, anyone who believes in Jesus. I am personally not bothered by this. I wouldn’t expect a Jewish country under Rabbinic Judaism to accept us. If we receive anything, we can be thankful, but I don’t expect it. In the US there are people who only donate to organizations that have the tax break, and I don’t think it’s the right way to give to the work of the Lord. I understand the lawmakers’ decision.”
Shmuel Aweida, pastor of Beit Eliyahu congregation in Haifa was not surprised by the decision either.
“If there was anything that united the Haredim with the Lapids, of both generations, it’s the ‘threat’ of the Messianic Jews. It’s the regular rhetoric about the Jewish people almost being wiped out. As a leader of several non-profits I have often considered whether to apply for article 46, but since the chances of being approved are close to zero, it’s just not worth the effort. The tactic of putting us together with Jehovah’s Witnesses is not new either. I always joke that the primary reason I arrange blood drives in our congregation is so that people will know that we are not Jehovah’s Witnesses. Maybe more congregations should do that.”
Meno Kalisher, pastor of Jerusalem Assembly House of Redemption, urges to give the lawmakers the benefit of the doubt and not dismiss them as discriminatory.
“Maybe I’m too naïve, but I think the problem is that Yair Lapid and some lawmakers are just not familiar with the Messianic fellowship. I would recommend that the national board of Messianic elders should meet with Yair Lapid and some of the people from that Finance Committee, and explain to them who we are. Of course, some of the lawmakers hate everything that has anything to do with Jesus, I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about the others. When [Gafni] clumps us together with Jehovah’s Witnesses and these weird cults, of course they are going to reject it. It’s hard for me to blame them, I can understand where it comes from. So before we judge them and give headlines saying they are bad or discriminating, let’s talk to them. I think they can get article 46 approved if they only have a dialogue with the lawmakers in advance.”
Pray for such a meeting to be arranged and for God to touch Yair Lapid’s heart to realize his error in the finance committee.