Erev Shabbath Qodesh Parshath Matot-Masa'ei 5767
It only takes one christian missionary to ruin my day. So you can imagine what 30 of them did to me yesterday. Yeah, I know what some of you will say:
They can only have power over over you...if you let them.
That may be true to a certain extent, on an emotional or psychological level. Yet, when Jews fail to respond to missionaries*, at least in some way, then complacency, avoidance, numbness, and other manifestations of denial, of the true threat of christian missionaries, can assert a more profound and dangerous power.
Yesterday, I was sitting in the shuq (Mahaneh Yehudah) in Jerusalem, having coffee and trying to refocus, deciding what else I would try to accomplish in the city before making the long trek back to the Shomron (Samaria). Then I heard it...the singing, the guitars, and the proverbial tambourines, and I knew what was about to make its way around the corner. The volume grew louder; my nerves grew more aggravated. The over-sized Israeli flags made their appearance first, above the heads in the Thursday evening, pre-Shabbath crowd. A man with a huge, Yemenite shofar (horn) made periodic blasts, further announcing their presence.
Usually what happens to me when I encounter christian missionaries is that the weight of responsibility for the spiritual fate of the entire Jewish People bears down upon me. Some of you know exactly what I'm talking about. It may sound silly and irrational, but yesterday was no different. The anger can become overwhelming. I knew I had to do something. But, what? My anger can really get in the way of my thinking rationally, and has gotten me into trouble more than once. As the make-shift parade passed by my table, I was handed a pamphlet. I accepted it, then ripped it up, through it back at the stunned lady who had handed it to me, and started yelling [various epitaphs] in Hebrew. My goal was to communicate with the on-lookers, not the paraders.
Close by two yeshiva students were trying to explain to an apparently secular Jew what was what happening, and why it was wrong. I joined it. The students pointed to me, in a gesture for their to listen to me, as they weren't so confident speaking in Hebrew. The secular Jew said he was unwilling to talk to me, but I was too aggravated and angry. I don't know how, but I immediately calmed, and told him that was understandable. He listened after all, and we ended up having a pleasant talk. He wanted to know why their parade of singing was a problem. "They have their path; we have ours."
With an Arab listening in, I responded saying that:
The Yishma'elim (Arabs) want to murder our bodies; the christians want to murder our souls.
Torah never entered this discussion. Although in retrospect, it probably should have. My partner in this dialog and I shook hands, and I proceeded to leave the shuq. Then, I realized I had forgotten to purchase one of the very things I had come to the shuq to purchase in the first place: hilbeh**. Back I went to the second or third best place in Jerusalem to buy hilbeh, depending upon whom you ask. Sure enough I encountered the missionary parade on another pass. That was it. I could not grab, rip-up, and stomp on enough of their literature. I could not yell at them enough. I was intent on waking each and every one of my fellow Jews up from their denial, saying: These people are dangerous. Do something.
I looked around, and was please to find that some Jews were doing something. There were various approaches. One man, who looked like he could have been from Nahla'oth or Yo"Sh (Judea & Samaria), followed the paraders, calmly explaining in Hebrew to the on-lookers the truth nature of the parade. Another young man, possibly from Nahla'oth, walked in front of the parade, singing along to the tune, yet cleverly changed the words to the Hebrew for "Here come the christian missionaries. Be careful and stay away from them." Haredim generally appeared to go about their business, yet also did not hesitate to show support for the various anti-missionary statements. Their interventions were probably too subtle for me to detect. A few may also have been quietly explaining the ultimate goals of the parade participants. A yellow-pinned, Habadniq was also warning people, acknowledging me and my actions with a nod.
Several shuq-goers were shocked by the hutzpah of the relatively straight-forward literature, and followed my example by ripping it up. Whatever actions are to be taken, I find it important, t the very least, to point out that these individuals are missionaries, and that they mean business. As an English-speaker, I am more likely to catch the key phrases in the words of their songs or literature. As an immigrant from the U. S., I [along with other Americans reading] tend to have more experience in recognizing missionaries than native-born Israelis.
I'll let you learn for yourselves what we, as Jews, are ideally supposed to do in such a situation, from the Ramba"m's Hil. Avodah Zarah weHuqoth HaGoyim, chap. 7, politically-incorrect, far from subtle, but true.
Criticize my actions if you will. (I have already gotten plenty of "feedback," as you can imagine.) But, at least I didn't take another approach, like some Jews do: Deny that they're a threat, and kiss their...
*Some anti-missionary organizations suggest that Jews refrain from engaging in arguments with missionaries. Contacting such anti-missionary organizations, asking them for advice, volunteering to help, or simply visiting their websites each constitutes a "response."
Jews For Judaism
Yad LeAchim (Israel)
Yad LeAchim (USA)
Lev LeAchim: 1-800-366-100 (Israel)
**Hilbeh is a Yemenite condiment based on fenugreek seeds.