Knesset Cuts Tax Benefits to Messianic Group
JERUSALEM, Israel -- The Knesset Finance Committee voted Wednesday to cut tax benefits to a Messianic Jewish congregation, saying it breaks the law by baptizing Jews.
While the committee, chaired by United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni, extended tax benefits to 54 other organizations for contributions to their work, Yachad Ramat Hasharon will no longer be eligible.
"The state does not need to fund groups that break the law," Israeli media quoted Gafni. "An organization that baptizes Jews is breaking the law and we certainly do not need to strengthen its activities. Any organization that we find breaking the law will not get the benefit."
"It's against the law to baptize Jews as Christians and if we would have authorized the benefit for this organization, it would mean that the government is allowing and even encouraging fund-raising for missionary activities that undermine the Jewishness of the state," Gafni concluded.
Despite the Finance Committee chairman's accusations, the decision is illegal under Israeli law so the congregation has firm footing to appeal and win a reversal.
Israeli law stipulates two illegalities in its penal code for missionary work. The first prohibits enticing conversion to another faith with material remuneration of any kind and the second prohibits proselytizing minors under the age of 18.
On its Facebook page, Yachad Ramat Hasharon describes itself as Watchmen on the Wall, providing a format to discuss revelation, prophecy and salvation.