Messianic Christians hosting Israeli backpackers questioned

January 20, 2010 by Henry Benjamin
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A report issued today by Israeli and New Zealand universities states that some 2000 Israeli backpackers are hosted in New Zealand by Christian Missionaries each year.

In the report, the University of Haifa’s Professor Yoel Mansfield claims that the missionaries “want to host the Chosen People for the spiritual experience”. From the Israelis’ persepective, Mansfield states that the backpackers use the missionaries’ service for “the cheap deal’. He states: “Regardless of conflicting expectations, both sides come out ahead. The Israelis even come out with unexpected spiritual gains.”

Rabbi Eli Cohen

But Rabbi Eli Cohen, a Sydney rabbi has made an intense study of messianic Christian groups and feels the report, co produced by Professor Alison McIntosh of the University of Waikato, has not gone far enough. He told J-Wire: “There is no doubt that most of the 2000 Israelis they claim utilise the scheme are untouched by it. But I understand around 5% actually develop a real interest in what their hosts teach them.”

HIT, Hosting Israeli Travellers, is a network of Messianic Christians who offer accommodation in their homes at very low rates. It is believed to have been founded by an Israeli. The backpacker signs up at a fee and receives a membership card with which they can apply to the HIT members listed for cheap accommodation.

A breakaway group, Chiburim, has expanded the operation around the world, including Australia.

One of the hosts is quoted but not named in the report as saying: “The most important benefit is being able to tell my Israeli guest about Jesus and about my love for Israel.” The report states that the New Zealanders proffer little information about New Zealand culture but express a surprising expectation of benefiting from the arrangement by gaining knowledge of Israeli culture.

Results of the study show that the hosts feel blessed for having hosted an Israeli and that their Israeli guests on the contrary found the accommodation  “very basic” and that the missionary preaching “can be quite tiring”.

The Israelis want the guest -houses to upgrade their facilities and “that their hosts should moderate their missionary zeal.”

But for Sydney-based Rabbi Eli Cohen, this is a situation demanding further investigation.

Gal Levy being baptised at Bronte

He told J-Wire: “A few years ago a young Israeli named Gal Levy who went through the scheme ended up being baptised on Bronte Beach. The Israelis are given copies of the New Testament in English and Ivrit. Many offer to observe Shabbat with their guests and advertise this on the internet There is no shortage of help and assistance for them as Chabad is well represented throughout the country. However, there is no doubt some of the messianic Christians are getting their message through and it then becomes a real problem. If the Jewish community were spend us much time and money on this issue as the Christians are, then they would a lot more attention at being able to accommodate the Jewish travellers.

Look at the missionaries and see how much one Jew is worth for them…and learn from them how much we should value ourselves.”

He added: “I would have liked to have seen the report address the issues where members of our community have been lost to the messianic Christians.”

Stephen Goodman, president of the New Zealand Jewish Council, told J-Wire that he had not received any complaints.

But in Sydney, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s Executive Director, Peter Wertheim, told J-Wire: “This is fairly typical of the dishonest methods used by proselytizers. They target people, especially young people, when they are psychologically at their most vulnerable, for example when they have just finished their army service and are a long way away from family and friends.  They also give their targets the false impression that you can be Jewish and Christian at the same time, deliberately blurring the differences and taking advantage of their lack of knowledge and experience.”

The ECAJ has called for some form of warning to Israeli backpackers before they leave the country.


3 Responses to “Messianic Christians hosting Israeli backpackers questioned”
  1. Brenda says:

    I can understand the Rabbi’s concerns at the information Christian Zionist give the Israeli travelers to NZ. It’s terrible that I do my best to help them navigate the purchase of vehicles, counter the propaganda that NZ is a safe country (no different when it comes to criminal activity), and give them tips on what’s value for money in our country. Yes, I also share my faith in their Messiah, but ONLY when they ask. It is not my intention to convert or coerce, if anything it’s to encourage these young secular youth to get a copy of the TANACH and read it for themselves. I love their county, their heritage, and their prophets from the BIBLE. It’s a threat to Israel’s religious establishment that Christian Zionists love them unconditionally.
    We aim to honor and help where we can as they end their time of serving and start out on the second part of their journey in life. Are we hurting Judaism? Probably doing more good – we want to stimulate them to think, freely, and to know their G-d…as Daniel says ‘those who know their G-d will do great exploits.” Love never hurts…

  2. Jan Robb says:

    I find it very sad that Religious Jews have the idea that hosts of which I am one, seek to convert as they say, young Jewish travellers. A Jew does not become a Christian, that is a term for the Gentiles only, they become a Messianic Jew if they profess a belief in their Messiah. Once a Jew always a Jew. If I as a Kiwi become a Christian I am still a Kiwi, a Christian Kiwi. This sort of ridiculous nonsence does untold damage to Judaism and Jews.
    I host many young Israelis, because I have a love for Israel, for her people, I have travelled, lived, and worked there as a volunteer, and see free hosting, as my contribution, support, and committment to Israel. My love and interest stems from reading and studying the Tanach, the history of the Jews.
    I do not seek to impose any of my beliefs on my guests, we have wonderful conversations, fun and fellowship, and I have been sometimes asked for a Hebrew New Testament which I can supply. I do not believe in religion, I am not religious, I have a relationship with G-d.

  3. Emes says:

    A profound quote from Rabbi Cohen that we as a community should take to heart…

    “Look at the missionaries and see how much one Jew is worth for them…and learn from them how much we should value ourselves.”

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