What would Muslims do if the Koran were burned? Or what would world reaction be by Jews if the Torah went up in flames? Well just last week here in Israel, New Testaments, the book revered by Christians worldwide, were rounded up and burned.
The Israeli newspaper Maariv first reported this incident on Tuesday. Maariv splashed pictures across its front page of New Testaments on the ground being burned. According to the story, young yeshiva (religious seminary) students, with the assistance of the deputy mayor of the Israeli town of Or Yehuda, collected New Testaments, which had been distributed throughout the community, and burned them. In a follow up story in The Jerusalem Post, the deputy mayor called his actions "purging the evil among us."
Tragically, the incident is just the latest in a series of attacks against Messianic Jews, who believe that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. The most glaring example is the March 20th bombing that seriously wounded Ami Ortiz, the 15-year-old son of Messianic parents in Ariel, Israel.
After this latest incident, we spoke with Victor Kalisher, the director of the Bible Society here in Jerusalem. As the son of Holocaust survivors and a Messianic Jew himself, Kalisher expressed shock at the incident. You can watch a segment of that interview.
Thankfully, several Jewish groups have condemned this incident. The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement that said in part:
"We condemn this heinous act as a violation of basic Jewish principles and values," said ADL Interfaith Director Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg. "The Jewish people can never forget the tragic burning of Talmuds and Torahs throughout history. It is essential that we respect the sacred texts of other faiths. We call on rabbis and Jewish leaders of all streams and parties to denounce this incident and remind the demand of respect. While there may be legitimate concerns of proselytizing, these matters must be addressed through the proper legal channels. It is unacceptable and not legitimate to burn someone else's sacred texts."
Rabbi David Rosen, international director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee (AJC) declared: "Burning books, especially scriptures of any religion, is a travesty of Jewish ethics and historical experience. No provocation can justify such outrageous behavior. We hope a strong reaction from Jewish leaders in Israel will serve as a deterrent against the repetition of such deplorable acts."
The town of Or Yehuda also issued a statement, which read in part: "The city of Or Yehuda renounces this action totally. The city of Or Yehuda has no connection to this action."
It's likely these statements and others are welcome by Messianic Jews here in Israel. It's also likely they hope their right to worship freely and share their faith within the law will be safeguarded in the future.