We were driving in the Galilee, waiting for a red light to change, when they came up to the car. Their smiles were engagingly open as they wished us a fine trip. Then they offered us the flyer.
Jews for Jesus. Who says that evil can't be imported, and delivered, free of charge, direct to your car door?
Don't get me wrong. The members of Jews for Jesus are pure souls. They are among the most wholesome, guileless, truly well-meaning, fundamentally lovely people you will ever meet.
More's the pity, therefore, that there's a special place in hell just for them.
I would like to begin by saying that I have nothing personal against these people. But that would be a lie.
The reason is that, grinning all the way, they want to take something personal from me. My history, my belief system, my ancestry. The flyers say they are concerned for my soul, and I believe them with all my heart. It's precisely my soul they're after, all right, mine and as many others as possible.
They're out to harvest Jewish souls in the name of Christ. And they're out to do it right here.
Make no mistake, I believe that these Christians must have every freedom to worship Jesus as their lord and messiah, perform every ritual, celebrate every holiday that they see fit. If they want to do Born-again Kiddush and Last Supper Kneidelach and Savior Shalosh S'eudes - gezunterheit.
And if missionary activity is a commandment in their view, I wish them every success - just one thing:
Leave the Jews alone.
The world is a target-rich environment for the missionary, the Protestant Christian world in particular. There's no end of lapsed Methodists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Anabaptists, whom you're free to try to cajole into Christ.
You don't need us. Jesus doesn't need us. Leave us alone.
It's a safe bet that the Jews for Jesus who may be reading this are rolling their eyes by now, classifying me as Unbeliever Type G-639-L and writing me off.
But bear with me for one brief moment, if only to read the next sentence, which has specifically to do with you, as well as with your Jewish prey, thousands of years of Jewish history, and evil:
Proselytizing is persecution.
Granted, it's not the same as burning us at the stake for Christ's sake, firebombing our homes for Christ's sake, staging apres-church pogroms for Christ's sake, ostracizing and terrorizing and beating our children for having killed Christ, lynching Jewish adults for church-distributed blood libels, torturing Jews to force them to convert, converting entire Jewish communities on point of death, deporting entire Jewish communities on point of death for having resisted conversion, or, after eliminating the conversion option, annihilating entire Jewish communities with the complicitous blind eye of the Holy See.
But there's more than one way to wipe out a people, and poison, like gas, comes in many forms. Sometimes it looks like a leaflet. Sometimes it looks like the Internet. Sometimes it looks like a smile.
It should have occurred to you by now that Jews in the post-Holocaust era have a mission, no less than you. We have some saving to do of our own. In ways which are as individual as each Jew in the world, it has been left to us to save Jewry itself - its faith, its culture, its values, its memory, its history - from extinction.
Look around. There aren't that many of us left. There are 2 billion Christians in the world, and nearly a billion and a quarter Muslims.
There are barely 14 million Jews left alive on this planet. In 1933, that number was 15.3 million. Leave us alone.
The true evil of Jews for Jesus, is the movement's readiness to take advantages of the weaknesses of Judaism in our day, in order to further weaken it. Judaism's agonizing inability to reach its estranged youth is the stuff of Jew for Jesus dreams, the fantasy that, in the end, they will succeed in converting us.
Sorry, I'm not supposed to use that word. Under the Jews for Jesus creed - which appears aimed at confusing its own adherents at least as much as it seeks to "turn" us non-believers - Jews for Jesus members do not convert you, they just get you to believe that Jesus Christ is the lord, and that only through Jesus can one be saved.
The faithful may well be much too busy with salvation to concern themselves with extinction. There's clearly plenty for them to do, judging by some of their Websites, where I happened upon this useful piece of instruction from the founder of Jews for Jesus, Martin (Moishe) Rosen:
"Hey, if you don't know any Jewish people, you can look in the phone book for surnames that are always Jewish: Cohen, Katz, Levy, Rosen (and anything that begins with Rosen, like Rosenberg, Rosenbloom or Rosenfeld)."
And now, here in Israel, in a venture as predictable as it is indecent, they've set themselves a new target, Russian Jewish immigrants, descendants of the Jews Hitler didn't get the chance to kill.
May they fail.
There are those who will say, and I applaud them, that we should engage and embrace members of Jews for Jesus, showing openness to them rather than the cold shoulder that drives them further away. I applaud those who say this and act accordingly, but I don't have it in me.
It really comes down to this: It's hard enough to be Jewish as it is. It's tough to be Jewish if you're secular, and it's no less difficult if you're religious. It's tough to be Jewish in the Diaspora if you live among non-Jews. It's tough to live there if you live among lots of Jews. And it's tough as nails to be Jewish in Israel, atheist, knitted kippa, Haredi, or fusion JUBU.
If you're a Jew for Jesus and you're still reading this, you may well be thinking: This guy sounds riled. He needs a friend in Jesus.
You're thinking wrong. This guy needs you to keep your salvation to yourself.
Believe whatever you want. Practice whatever you preach.
Just stay the hell away from us.
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