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"Christian Aliyah" and Rabbis Gone Wild
"Before 1900 private guests and 2 billion people around the world, the royal House of Windsor,represents the only reigning monarch of the ancient dynasty of Kings David and Solomon. It set the stage for the Davidian Dynasty to continue now through Prince William and his Israelite bride, Catherine Middleton… Of course, the Lost Tribes have truly been lost for about 2700 years. Yet, through the studious documentation of Jewish scholars, such as Yair Davidiy with Brit-Am, and Rabbi Avraham Feld with Kol Ha Tor, the Tribe of Ephraim has now been identified as the descendants of the Anglo-Saxons on the Isle of Britannia that eventually by her Davidian rulers became the British Empire." --- Dr. Robert Mock of Biblesearchers.com
In part 1 of Jewish Israel’s investigation, we disclosed that the leader of a group of 1000 evangelicals, who are seeking to make aliyah and settle in Samaria as "converted Jews", is an active and committed messianic Christian. In part 2 of our report, we explored the politics involved in promoting this endeavor and we exposed several Israeli politicians who are bolstering an evangelical Christian foothold in the Jewish state.
In this third, concluding part of this series, Jewish Israel examines the "spiritual" dynamic of the movement which inspires "Christian aliyah", especially taking a look at some of the rabbinic personalities involved in this precarious venture.
Wild Weeds Take Root
Baruch Abrahamovich (Avramovich), the leader of the Christian messianic group which aims to make aliyah and establish a commune-like settlement in Samaria, is connected to both Christians and Jews enamored with the so-called Hebraic Roots or Restoration of Israel movement.
As indicated in our previous reports, Abrahamovich has featured messianic Hebraic roots leader Eddie Chumney on his Christian radio show and was apparently introduced to influential Israelis by Ben Ehrhardt, one of the foremost leaders of the Ephramite sect of the Hebraic restoration movement. One former Ephramite who found her way to Judaism writes :
"Erhardt exemplifies a large percentage of rank and file Ephraimites, particularly those who desire to live in Eretz Yisrael while holding fast to their Messianic beliefs, which, ironically, they passionately disavow as being Christian in nature…He preaches total disassociation from any former members of the Ephraimite movement who have rejected Jesus as G-d or Messiah.
On Ehrhardt's Facebook page, he seems to imply that Abrahamovich is laying the groundwork for future Christian aliyah and that this plan has been in the works for three years now. Ehrhardt was at one time collaborating with Joel Bell in Bell’s World Biblical Zionist venture, also aimed at preparing the way for Christian aliyah.
Jewish Israel spoke with both Rabbi Avraham Feld and his brother, Rabbi David Feld. We will address the Rabbis’ reactions later in this report.
Discovering Hebraic Roots or Just Digging In?
Generally it can be said that the "Ephraimite," "Restoration of Israel", "Two House" or "Ten Triber" movements are Christian messianic sub-sects. The adherents of these sects, sometimes referred to as "Joes"– for the house of Joseph, or "Northern Kingdom Israelites", consider themselves grafted-in to the Jewish root through Jesus. They believe that the Land of Israel is their eternal inheritance to share with “their brother Judah”( the Jews) as co-heirs under a new covenant governed by jesus. Many, but not all, of these cults promote the idea that certain "born-again", “Christian Zionist” sectors of the church are part of the “lost tribes” and actual blood descendants of the ancient Israelites.
The Hebraic Roots movement was at one time considered fringe, but it is gaining popularity, with respected publications, such as the Jerusalem Post Christian Edition, which has featured articles on the subject.
According to a recent video produced by missionary Christine Darg, who is closely affiliated with the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus and the International Christian Embassy, Jerusalem (ICEJ), "The Hebrew Roots movement strongly emphasizes the completion of the unified House of Israel in jesus christ, who's known in Hebrew as 'yeshua'. And this commonwealth of Israel is made up of Jews and non-Jews alike – what the apostle Paul called 'the one new man'." Darg goes on to say that "Adoption and engrafting into a commonwealth of Israel has now made it the right of every born-again believer in the messiah to participate in the lifestyle of the Jewish people.”
[Note: Christine Darg and her husband Peter can be seen studying with Rabbi Mordechai Machlis in Jerusalem. One has to wonder whether teaching Torah to missionaries is the wise thing to do. We've written to Rabbi Machlis about this matter and we're awaiting a response. Jewish Israel also has this video of Rabbi Yehuda Glick, when he was with the Temple Institute, taking part in a "ceremony" with Darg].
It should be noted that Hebraic Roots movements are made up of varying messianic streams which have inconsistent, some would say, evolving ideologies. The leaders are often at odds with one another, and more than a few of the personalities involved are confused and colorful, to say the least.
Like other jesus sects, many adherents of the Ephramite movement no longer consider themselves "Christian", although they remain christ-centered. Their "Jewishness" is manifested by their replacing certain "pagan" church traditions with Jewish rituals and observances. Some Hebraic roots leaders absurdly proclaim themselves to be "Torah observant" and have taken on the title of "rabbi", while fiercely holding fast to their belief in jesus and preaching the gospel.
Like other messianic groups, no matter how you contrive, contort, and package them, these sects remain Christian by any other name. Some theologians consider the Hebraic Roots doctrine to be a modern-day spin on British Israelism, a belief that people of Western European descent, particularly those in Great Britain, are the direct lineal descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
It is important and fair to note that more than a few members of these messianic sects, including Jews lost to Christianity, have indeed made the crossover into authentic Judaism or have joined a number of burgeoning Bnai Noach groups. These successes have encouraged and inspired certain Torah observant rabbis and scholars, to deem the evangelical thirst for the Hebraic Roots of Christianity to be part of an end-times prophetic process.
These observant Jews initiate and participate in scores of Hebraic Roots courses, lectures, conventions, retreats, tours and other activities aimed at attracting fundamentalist Christians who are captivated by the Holy Land and the "Jewishness of Jesus". It goes without saying that for some, the windfall of Gentile tourism and interest in Israel has become a source of income. However, we need to ask if in their well-intentioned eagerness to teach Torah to devout evangelicals, are these Observant Jewish teachers being naïve? Are they perhaps inadvertently fueling a growing christ centered movement intent on laying claim to Israel?
While many members of these christian messianic Hebraic Roots sects are characteristically "pro-Israel", combat anti-Semitism, and disavow the targeted proselytizing of Jews, they do aspire to settling in Israel and are focused on reconciling Judaism with jesus. That Esau's bite has at present been replaced by his kiss, should hardly be a source of comfort for anyone concerned with Jewish spiritual continuity, or for any Jew who has a good grasp of Jewish history and its philo-Semitic and anti-Semitic cycles.
While the aggressive proselytizing tactics of Jews for Jesus have, for the most part, failed miserably in Israel, bringing Christians closer to their Jewish roots is exacting a toll in the Jewish state. The Baptist Press just released these figures:
"Now there are an estimated 150 Jewish [messianic] congregations around Israel meeting in different languages. The number of believers is estimated to be around 20,000, growing exponentially from 1948 when 12 Jews who believed in Jesus could be counted, to 1987 when there were 3,000 and 1997 where there were 5,000.”
The most recent statistics, honed from Christian, Jewish and U.S. government sources on the growing numbers of Israeli "Jewish believers in Jesus", increasingly support the figure of 20,000. Although one can assume that the statistics include significant numbers of non-halachic Jews, it nevertheless remains disturbing because it would seem to indicate that, outside of Christian missionary efforts, there are serious costs involved in Jewish attempts to embrace and proselytize zealous Christians via Hebraic roots programs, lectures and tours.
Indeed there appears to be a tug of war between Christian and self-styled Jewish missionaries. It's as hard to tell who is winning the numbers game in Israel as it is to determine just who is who (Christian or Jew), but there is no question that lines are being severely blurred and fences broken in the tumult.
Playing with Prophecy : Make Room for jesus
A number of Torah observant Jews attribute the intense "love for Zion" among Christians, and their increased spiritual confusion, to messianic birth pangs. With great anticipation, these Jews cite Zechariah 8:23 – a time when "ten men of all the languages of the nations shall take hold of the hem of a Jewish man, saying, ’Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’"
Meanwhile, messianic Christians are also reveling in the turmoil. They see new testament prophecy being fulfilled in the formation of one new man:
“For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.” (Ephesians 2:14)
“This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 3:6)
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
As the concept of jesus and his teachings are increasingly introduced into Israeli society, the wall separating Jews and Christians is indeed eroding.
Jewish Israel wonders if certain Torah observant rabbis and activists are aware that they may have pushed the lost tribes envelope to absurdity or jumped the gun on messianic prophecy to the point where they lit some flames among Christian friends which are now burning out of control.
Rather than admit and rectify mistakes, there is at present an attempt to sift, accommodate and adapt the problematic aspects of Christian doctrine as the expense of Jewish foundations: An example of this untenable compromise can be seen at Rabbi Avraham Feld's Kol Ha Tor site:
Other rabbis have taken a more sophisticated approach and have gone ivy league to legitimize their take on Christianity's Hebraic roots and the up and coming "reconciliation". A recent sampling of the fruits of Rabbi Riskin's theological diplomacy can be found at the Hebraic Heritage Christian Center (HHCC) website . Excerpt:
"…We owe a deep debt of gratitude to the Jewish people in general and in particular to the thousands of Jews in the first century of the common era who believed that Israel’s messianic expectations were being fulfilled in the person of the Jew Jesus of Nazareth and who recognized Jesus as both Messiah and Lord, becoming incarnate to extend the promise of Israel’s salvation and blessing to all the families of the earth. We also owe those Jews our gratitude for bearing witness of their understanding in a continuing chain of events that resulted in the turning of millions of Gentiles to faith in the God of Israel, a reality that continues to the present day.
We fully appreciate the fact that the salvation which we as Christians cherish is “from the Jews,” in the words of Jesus, our Lord…"
Not wanting to aggravate their burgeoning relationship with certain authentic, albeit confused, Jewish rabbis ( as opposed to Christian rabbis), some members of these Hebraic Roots cults skirt or deemphasize the man-god aspect of their beliefs and toy with semantics, while continuing to emphasize jesus as their messiah. The following excerpt from the watchmen of Israel site illustrates this play on words.
Again, it's important to note that regardless of the linguistic gymnastics, the Restoration of Israel movement remains christ centered and intent on settling in Israel.
So now that Israel has embraced and uncorked christian messianic fervor and has opened the gates to ardent jesus enthusiasts and evangelizing lovers of Israel, how do we Jews put the jesus genie back in bottle, without destroying the positive aspects of Israel's alliance with non-proselytizing Christians who take a moral stand with the Jewish state?
Rabbis on the Spot and in the Spotlight
In this report series, Jewish Israel previously noted that Knesset MK Lia Shemtov had reportedly told Arutz 7 that the group of Christian wannabe Jewish settlers "is being supervised by an Israeli rabbi."
Perhaps this particular rabbi is from the list of scholars and teachers who are involved with Hebraic Roots ventures. He could be affiliated with the nascent Sanhedrin or with the Temple Institute, as rabbis from both of these organizations have been in contact with evangelical missionaries, Ephramites, and messianic leaders. Those encounters, including some admitted mistakes, have been part and parcel of efforts to develop the foundations of the burgeoning Noahide movement.
But when it comes to the Hebraic roots movement and attempts at the "reunification"of the Gentile "lost tribes" with their Jewish "brothers", Rabbi Avraham Feld, of Kol HaTor and Yair Davidy, of Brit Am, are certainly front and center.
While researching for this report, Jewish Israel was surprised to see the Maccabee Institute, a charity organization, whose purpose is to fight assimilation and promote Jewish heritage, mentioned as supporters of Brit Am, an organization which "avoids the discussion of religious differences" between Jew and Gentile members of the "Lost Ten Tribes" and envisions Jewish and Gentile reunification and co-inheritance of the land of Israel.
The Maccabee Institute, located in Israel, is headed by Rabbi Avraham Feld and by Rabbi David Feld. They have been consistent and firm supporters of Brit-Am Israel from the beginning.
Sure enough, when we went to the American Friends of The Maccabee Institute website we found this headline:
Mossad Maccabee is user friendly to Ten Israel !!!! The link led to this page. Excerpt:
"We appreciate the awakening of our long lost brothers and sisters of Ten Israel !!!!
We are dedicated to informing Judah of this remarkable, sensational and long-awaited happening !!!!
We have some activities ‘on the ground‘ to help encourage, further and promote the
reconcilliation of the Tribes . All of this with mutural respect and patience .
We favor practical, loving and halachic ways to achieve a new and renewed connection between."
On May 1st, Jewish Israel contacted Rabbi David Feld, President of the Maccabee Institute, to express our concerns and to discuss any connections he may have with recent Christian attempts at aliyah.
Rabbi David Feld was very attentive and concerned. He told this writer that he has met with members of the Hebraic roots movement and that he originally thought the Ten Tribers/ Ephramites were Noahides, but he now realizes the dangers involved.
Rabbi David Feld told us that he is not associated with "Ten Triber" movements and he was unaware that his homepage was welcoming them. He assured us that any confusing links and references on the Macabee Institute site would be removed. Rabbi David Feld reiterated that he is adamantly opposed to missionary activity and believes that there should be clear lines drawn between Judaism and Christianity. However, he does support upstanding, moral non-Jews who are seeking to learn more about the Noahide Laws.
A few weeks after the above conversation took place, the linked reference to the Ten Triber movement on the the American Friends of The Maccabee Institute homepage was removed. Nevertheless, the existing page content remains.
Deprogramming the Church with a Smile
Rabbi Avraham Feld was very concerned that any report on the subject of recent attempts at Christian aliyah should not jeopardize his efforts. Throughout our conversation, he kept stressing the importance of showing a friendly and welcoming face to these gentiles. He confirmed that that "Ten Israel (Ten Tribers) are goyim" and that the Ephramites are "a confused group."
Rabbi Avraham Feld said that he knows Baruch Abrahamovich well and has presented him with a friendly face in order to neutralize his Christian pagan beliefs. He personally gave Abrahamovich counter-missionary books in Russian. He says that Abrahamovich understands that he can't seek residency in Israel until he and his group "grow" in their understanding of Judaism. Feld would not classify Abrahamovich as a "Christian", even though he still believes in jesus. Feld said Abrahamovich is evolving in the Hebraic Roots movement.
When asked about the wide and perplexing publicity that the aliyah scheme was receiving, Rabbi Avraham Feld said that Avrahamovich went to the media with the story in the hope of getting the ball rolling on the aliyah idea, but that the media sensationalized and distorted the story. With regards to Knesset Member Lea Shemtov, Rabbi Feld feels that the Yisrael Beiteinu Party used the opportunity as a publicity stunt.
Jewish Israel feels that Rabbi Avraham Feld's efforts with messianic sects have gone beyond friendship.
Like his brother, Rabbi Avraham Feld was unaware of some of the problematic offerings written on his website such as:
- "see the Land where Jesus walked, spoke to the woman of Samaria and taught his followers"
- "Guidance on the problems facing returning 10-Tribers, opportunities for acquiring property and settling in the Land"
- "Obtaining a personalized certificate of rabbinic approval which may count as future attempts at Israeli citizenship and/or conversion"
This writer did not receive a direct answer in our phone conversation with Rabbi Avraham Feld to the following question: "Until these people have abandoned a belief in jesus, is it right to encourage their attempts at 'reconciliation' with Judaism and efforts towards aliyah?"
However, a very passionate, prophetic and, ironically, shortsighted article by Rabbi Avraham Feld can be found on the Kol HaTor site. Rabbi Avraham Feld feels that the Lost 10 Tribes will be returning to Israel with their idols and that we need to embrace them and their religious process as they return to "Halachic Torah Judaism".
Rabbi Feld repeatedly emphasized that he uses the Hebraic Roots movement as a means of getting people out of church and away from paganism. Indeed Rabbi Avraham Feld has enjoyed a reputation as an effective counter-missionary and cult-buster. But it seems that in his enthusiasm and grandiose ambition to deprogram the church, he may have forgotten how vulnerable and spiritually bereft his own people are in the predominately secular state of Israel. Even our prominent Torah observant leaders are increasingly susceptible to growing Christian influence.
Is it appropriate, permissible, or wise for a Torah observant rabbi like Avraham Feld or a not-so observant entrepreneur like Anne Ayalon, wife of Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon, to encourage zealous fundamentalist Christians to connect to "the Land where Jesus walked", whether it be for spiritual or commercial purposes? Is it sound thinking or insanity for Israel's Knesset members to open the aliyah gates to a mass influx of members of "evolving" jesus cults? Are we Israelis playing with fire and jeopardizing our heritage and inheritance?
Surely we're capable of showing "a friendly face", promoting tourism and generating support for Israel among gentiles without selling our birthright to those who think Prince William and his bride Kate are Israelites who have inherited the Davidic dynasty.
A Statement from Rabbi Sholom Gold
In lieu of our findings, Jewish Israel's rabbinic director, Rabbi Dr. Sholom Gold, has issued the following statement regarding involvement with the Hebraic Roots movement:
"For a Jew, any Jew, to encourage devout Christians to explore the so-called Hebraic roots of Christianity or to advance any movement associating Christians with the lost 10 tribes is nothing short of playing with fire. It shouldn't be done in the name of interfaith reconciliation, as an attempt to second-guess biblical prophecy, or as a means to encourage tourism, commerce and/ or settlement in Eretz Yisrael. It is the height of irresponsibility and deception for a Torah observant scholar or rabbi to engage in such endeavors. One wonders if such spiritual leaders have lost their grounding and are perhaps suffering from a type of messianic complex."
Some Sanity from an Ex-Messianic
Jewish Israel recognizes that there are indeed non-Jews and lost Jews who are searching for the truth that authentic Torah Judaism has to offer. We feel these individuals should be compassionately and wisely assisted, rather than frantically pursued by those stumbling on an ungrounded, prophetic trip. We know that there are wise and discerning members of the Jewish nation who understand the conversion process and the personal anguish involved in such a journey. Penina Taylor, author and director of Shomrei Emet is such a person.
Penina offered some good, practical advice on how to curb Christian messianic aliyah fever. She suggested that government officials and organizations, such as Nefesh B'Nefesh and the Jewish Agency, employ specialists in the counter-missionary field who can review applications and conduct interviews in cases where attempts at Christian or messianic aliyah are suspect.
Rabbis and rabbinical institutions dealing with conversion candidates should also turn to counter-missionary professionals who understand the semantics involved. As an example, Penina said that many messianics will find room to renounce jesus as messiah, because the name "jesus" has a pagan non-Jewish connotation, but they'll continue believe in him as yeshua hamashiach, the Jewish messiah.
We asked Penina what her views were on those with counter-missionary and kiruv experience who feel we need to first and foremost show a friendly face and lovingly embrace those who are immersed in the Christian messianic movements. Penina responded as follows:
"While love is an extremely important aspect of bringing Jewish people back to Judaism, love alone is not sufficient. They must be made to understand that what they have embraced is not compatible with Torah-true Judaism. For Christians who want to become a part of the Jewish people, it is even more critical for them to first make the commitment to abandon their idolatrous ways before being welcomed into the fold and family of Israel."
Jewish Israel will be sending all three segments of this report series, in Hebrew, to MK Lia Shemtov and to other members of the Yisrael Beitenu faction, Likud MK Danny Danon, the State Comptroller, and a number of leading rabbinic figures.