• ISRAEL \ Aug 07, 2002
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    Christian dimissed from his job due to his religious beliefs
Christian dimissed from his job due to his religious beliefs Over the years we have noticed reports from Israel about ?persecution? of local believers in Jesus, Jewish or non-Jewish. In the course of the last decade or so, the Orthodox religious sectors in Israeli society have been gaining political and cultural clout. As a result, their representatives in the Israeli parliament have acted with increased hubris, as have their adherents in Israeli society.

Yad Le?Achim is a semi-governmental organization, dedicated to combating what its leaders describe as ?the mission? and its emissaries, ?the missionaries?, which are buzz words for the evangelical church in Israel, and for evangelical Christians, be they Jewish or otherwise.

Yad Le?Achim has sought various ways in order to intimidate, harass and obstruct evangelical life in the country, with a particular concern for evangelical witness. Most of the means it employs are ludicrous, and evoke nothing more than a dismissive smile.

Grace and Truth Christian Congregation in Rishon LeTsion has long been in the forefront of Yad Le?Achim?s concerns because this congregation has, in the course of the years, led the way on many fronts. This congregation is one of the few congregations that are openly Christian, frankly and broadly evangelistic, active in opposing restrictive legislation on freedom of religion, and growing.

The building project of the new church has become the object of determined Orthodox opposition. The legality of the building permit was opposed and, when roundly defended by the courts, opposed again before the Supreme Court of Israel, which has yet to decide whether it will hear the appeal, and when.

Consequently, Yad Le?Achim has stepped up its efforts to harass members of the congregation. It has sent representatives to the homes of congregants, posing as officials and who took advantage of the totalitarian background from which many of them came, to threaten them with deportation and loss of employment. They have repeatedly sought to disrupt worship services. They have also taken to pressuring employers to terminate the employment of Grace and Truth congregants. Until now, all such efforts were crowned with the failure they deserve.

A few months ago, Yad Le?Achim began to apply pressure on the Petach Tivka (a town in the centre of the country) municipality in order to obtain the dismissal of Ze?ev Bern, a computer and computer systems technician serving the municipality?s schools. Mr. Bern has an excellent professional reputation and he is much esteemed by the school principals he served, as well as by all his co-workers.

After having various means of pressure applied to him in order to obtain his resignation, Mr. Bern was finally dismissed due to his religious beliefs and in spite of his excellent professional performance. Needless to say, he had never used his contact with the children at school in order to promote his religious views. To have acted otherwise would have been contrary to his own religious convictions, and those of the church to which he belongs. We believe that it is immoral and contrary to Gospel principles to take advantage of the innocence of children, or of trust put in an individual for another purpose, to promote one?s religious convictions.

If we do not contest this dismissal, we will have opened the door to further such action against many believers in Israel. Israel?s Basic Law forbids discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex or political persuasion. Obviously, after such treatment, Mr. Bern does not wish to return to his previous employment, from which he would be dismissed after a few months for any one concocted reason within reach.

The Congregation have decided to press charges against the Petach Tikva municipality for unlawful dismissal on the grounds of religious convictions. In a Church Members? Meeting held on Tuesday, July 23, the congregation voted:

1. To oppose the unlawful dismissal of one of our members by all legal procedures. Our goal will be to be awarded maximal punitive damages, so as to render further such dismissals unlikely.

2. To fund the legal battle from our own severely limited resources.

3. To assist the Bern family (Ze?ev, Rita and their two children) to feed themselves and meet their financial obligations until alternative employment is found. This could take some time in light of present economic conditions in Israel. Assistance will be in the form of a non-interest loan, to be paid back from the damages awarded by the court.

4. To fund these expenses by increasing congregants? weekly contributions to the best of each family?s abilities, and beyond current undertakings to the church.

Your prayers and support are needed in defending the local believers in Israel: we kindly ask you to contact your representative lawmaker and your government to protest the unacceptable infraction of basic human rights to employment and the obvious religious motivation of Mr. Bern?s dismissal.

For more information, you may contact us at bmaoz@attglobal.net