The Jerusalem Post is running a feature on a Jerusalem-based centre which is a 'cover' for Jews for Jesus and which is targeting teens. The police are doing little about it -- Police Spokesman Shmulik Ben-Rubi feebly asserts, "as far as we know, they are not trying to convert kids" -- and an anti-Missionary spokesman ends off the article wondering, "The case is very clear. Why aren't they being properly investigated or prosecuted? It's a very good question."
The answer, I'm afraid, is obvious. It's not that the authorities don't care; they simply do not understand what they are dealing with. Because Israelis have had little exposure to Christianity and to Christians, they lack essential context. They do not understand who or what Jews for Jesus actually are -- and certainly not the threat they pose.
Here's a concrete example. A good 20 years ago, when my parents first went on Aliya, my younger brother attended a religious kindergarten in Jerusalem. One day, around December time, he came back with a drawing he'd made. It featured a channukiah -- and beside it, a tree, which bore a suspicious resemblence to a Christmas tree.
When my parents asked him what the tree was, he replied that he didn't really know -- he'd copied it off the girl sitting next to him (I'll leave the ethics of the situation for another post). My parents followed up, and discovered that the girl was the daughter of open Jews for Jesus, who had moved to the neighborhood with the express purpose of converting people -- and who had already hosted several of the kindergarten's children in their home.
When they rushed off to tell the kindergarten teacher -- expecting her to be horrified -- they discovered, to their own horror, that she already knew.
"I knew they were in favor of Jesus, but they're Jews, right?"
So what's the solution to such naivete? Short of radically changing Israel's demographics, one part is for Israelis to learn a little bit more about other religions. If you don't understand that most Christian denominations believe you must convert others in order to be saved, how can you possibly recognize the danger when you face it?
A larger part of the solution, dare I say, is for Israeli Jews to learn a little bit more about their own religion. If you don't understand some basic concepts about the Messiah in Judaism, and about Mitzvot, for example, your chances of being taken in by what your friendly Christian missionary is telling you are, unfortunately, greatly increased.