JERUSALEM, Israel – A Messianic Jewish congregation in Ashdod has won a court case against the Israeli anti-evangelism organization Yad L’Achim.
The court issued a restraining order against members of Yad L’Achim for harassing Jewish believers in Jesus and trying to prevent them from attending worship services at Beit Hallel, home to about 350 worshippers.
“They harassed us for so long. We filed dozens of complaints with the police and nothing happened so eventually we went to court,” Ludmila Zakharchuk, the lawyer for Beit Hallel told Kehila News. “We won the court case just a few days ago.”
The court has banned members of Yad L’Achim from coming within 328 feet of members’ private homes and the congregation’s property. The court also forbids Yad L'Achim from using loud music to drown out Messianic worship services or to film or photograph the congregation and its members. Yad L’Achim must also obtain permits for every protest it organizes against the congregation.
Beit Hallel says it has been harassed by the anti-evangelism group since 2011 and the harassment increased in 2018, when a group of Haredi Jews vandalized the Messianic worship center.
According to the organization’s website, Yad L’achim describes Messianic Jews – Jews who believe Jesus is the Messiah – as a “cult” and admits to trying to shut down the Beit Hallel worship center.
“In January 2020 they organized a large anti-missionary convention here in Ashdod with more than 30 rabbis and, from that point, they started to come to our congregation to harass us every Friday when we have our meetings,” Zakharchuk told Kehila News.
Yad L’Achim’s website reports that about 500 Haredi Jews attended the conference in January to “increase awareness of the destructive missionary activity and to stand united in crushing counter measures.”
The Deputy Mayor of Ashdod Rabbi Yechiel Weingarten praised Yad L’Achim for its efforts to “purify the city” of Jewish believers.
Zakharchuk said Yad L’Achim’s harassment increased after the convention.
“In the beginning, right after the convention they were maybe 10 people. They made some noise, had public prayer and prevented people from entering our building,” Zakharchuk said. “Then they raised the amount of people who came to harass us to 30, and then they started to send busloads of people from Bnei Brak with 50 or more people. On Purim they came with loudspeakers and distributed leaflets. It just got worse and worse, with noise specifically intended to disrupt our service. This went on until the coronavirus lockdown.”
The harassment continued after Israel lifted virus restrictions.
“Eventually they showed up again, giving out flyers, putting up Yad L'Achim posters, harassing and taking photos of the people who attend the congregation,” Zakharchuk said. “Because of the corona limitations, we operated the Sabbath school for the kids outside, in the parking lot. They came and harassed them too, took photos of them, gave out leaflets – to children.”
Zakharchuk said the congregation was forced to take the matter to court because Israeli police did little to protect the congregation.
“No synagogue or mosque would accept that people who oppose their faith would come and harass them like this. It’s scandalous,” Zakharchuk said, adding that the congregation asks other believers to pray for them as they engage in “spiritual” and legal warfare.