On September 12, the Israeli High Court heard a petition from an ultra-orthodox group, the Gur Hassidim [see here] requesting permission to hold massive demonstrations outside the home of Polly Sigulim, a Messianic Jew.
ARAD, Israel – For the past seven years, the small Messianic Jewish community in the southern Israeli town of Arad has been harassed and persecuted by ultra-Orthodox Jews who accuse them of missionary activity.
The small desert town, with a population of 25,000 mostly secular residents, is home to a growing number of Israeli believers.
Yakim Figueras, pastor of one of the four congregations there, told CBN News that for years, religious Jews have subjected the believing community to sometimes daily cursing and harassment outside their homes.
“They come with either half-truths against us or complete lies…and they entice their own people and try to bring others against us,” Figueras said.
On Wednesday, a demonstration organized by Yad L’achim, the aggressive anti-missionary organization, brought about 200 protesters to the home of Polly Sigulim. Their message was clear.
“We hope that after we will be here and demonstrate and really speak from the heart, we won’t need to return again for demonstrations because the Messianic Jews, as they call themselves, will be erased from Arad,” demonstrator Benny Vulcan said.
One rabbi accused the believers of trying to destroy the Jewish people. Some carried signs that read, “Hamas wants our land, while Messianics want our souls.”
Protesters have often targeted Sigulim, a widow and foster mother whose grown sons serve in elite Israeli army units.
“Polly’s house is one of their focuses in town because one of the lies that were spread against us was that we kidnap innocent children, Jewish children, and baptize them into Christianity,” Figueras said.
Sigulim told CBN News she can withstand the persecution because she knows she is not alone.
“We have a very strong community here,” she said, quickly adding the other reason she can handle the harassment.
“I’m not worried because I have the heavenly father; I have Yeshua [Hebrew: Jesus] as the master of this house, and I know that our house is surrounded by angels,” she said.
Arad police say their hands are tied and they must allow the demonstrations to take place.
But some of the town’s residents are fed up with the protests.
About 25 residents who showed up for a counter-demonstration accused the protesters of racism. Some expressed concern about how the protest would reflect on Arad and on Israel.
But Sigulim and other believers were not at home on Wednesday night. They had gathered to pray during the protest for the demonstrators and for their community.
“Bless them, Lord Father. Pour out your Spirit on them,” Sigulim prayed.
Prayer: Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12). Lord, bless those who are persecuted, and bless and have mercy also on those who sincerely believe in what they are doing to oppose Jewish believers in Yeshua. May each of us know more of your love, mercy, truth and forgiveness. In Yeshua’s name we pray, Amen.
Since April 2004, the group has been holding smaller demonstrations weekly outside her home in Asad. The demonstrations included shouts and insults against Christians and Jesus. The authorities banned the demonstrations when the harassment began escalating.
Demonstration Against Messianic Jews
Bible Destroyed in Fire at Chess Club
Gur Hassidim has requested permission for a demonstration of 700 people. The High Court President, Aharon Barak, suggested a compromise of a 250-person demonstration once a year. He ordered the lawyers of the police and the Hassidim to discuss his idea, but they were unable to reach an agreement. As a result, a ruling on this matter from the High Court is expected to be issued soon. According to a September 21 report from Compass Direct, a Jewish girl became a Christian after reading a New Testament that was given to her by the Sigulim family. After she turned eighteen and was baptized, ultra-orthodox Jews began to organize demonstrations in front of the Sigulim home.
Pastor Yakim Figueras writes:
Demonstrations and harassment against Messianic Jews is prevalent in Asad. A blog posting by Shmulik Eitan recounts the treatment of his sister and her husband, Yakim Figueras, pastor of the Messianic Jewish congregation in Asad. Eitan claims that the family experiences abuse almost daily. Stones are thrown at their home and taunts are shouted at them, such as “Jesus the bastard,” “Nazis” and “filthy Christians.” Last year, a chess club operated by a Christian couple, Eddie and Lura Beckford, was severely damaged after protestors broke in and lit the facility on fire. On September 17, a demonstration at the chess club required police intervention after the demonstrators became unruly. The crowd disbursed only after police threatened them with arrest.
Pray that the harassment against these families will cease. Pray for the continued ministry of this congregation in the midst of this turmoil and adversity. Video footage of the demonstrations being held outside of the Sigulim home can be viewed is available online.
For more information on difficulties facing Christians in Israel, click here. Read Glenn Penner’s September 19 weblog, “Caught in the Middle in the Middle East” for further commentary on the response of Western Christians to persecution in the region.