Uncovering Christian efforts: What’s the price of support during war?

Israelis have been traumatized by the tragic events of Oct. 7. Many organizations abroad, mainly Christian and Jewish, have been donating massively to causes supporting the war effort and traveling to Israel on missions to offer consolation and tangible aid to a grieving nation.

Faith-based supporters of Israel have made significant contributions to the Jewish state, both politically and economically, and those who come with no hidden agenda are greatly appreciated. Others apparently aim to spread the gospel among Jews and are taking advantage of their vulnerability during this distressing time.

With the surge in global antisemitism and hostility toward the Jewish state over the last three months, political and emotional support for Israel from faith-based groups is comforting. Their significant monetary donations and volunteering on farms and IDF bases in the country are invaluable. So, the dilemma for many is: Do we ignore the danger posed by those among them who successfully influence Jews to become Christians?

Below are just a few examples of organizations that seem to be taking advantage of the war situation to spread the gospel in Israel.

US-BASED MISSIONARY Curt Landry – referred to as “Rabbi Curt Landry” on his website – promotes the One New Man theology, which, leading anti-missionary Rabbi Tovia Singer said in an interview with the Magazine, “is designed to create a melding of Judaism and Christianity. But theologically, it’s Christianity.”

“The mission of Curt Landry Ministries is to be a bridge of unity and restoration between Israel and the Church, releasing God’s fullness throughout the Earth,” states the One New Man website, which describes itself as a network of “a community of believers, resources, and more from Curt Landry Ministries.”

Recently, Beyneynu, a nonprofit organization that monitors missionary activity in Israel and abroad and works to raise awareness about the missionary agenda to Jewish leadership and the worldwide Jewish community, received a complaint from an IDF soldier that he and others in his unit were given a copy of Landry’s book Reclaiming Our Forgotten Heritage: How Understanding the Jewish Roots of Christianity Can Transform Your Faith, which promotes the One New Man tenet.

SHANNON NUSZEN, founder and director of counter-missionary NGO Beyneynu (credit: SHANNON NUSZEN)

Shannon Nuszen, founder and director of Beyneynu, told the Magazine: “The One New Man theology spoken about by evangelicals may sound like a message of unity and solidarity, but it’s actually a reference to when Jews will accept Jesus and we’ll all be under the rule of their messiah.”

Landry mass-produced his book that was translated into Hebrew and appears to be targeting Israeli soldiers, some of whom have said that they were asked to send photographs of themselves holding the book and that for every photo received, a donation would be made for tactical gear. “This is only one example of how Christian missionaries are weaponizing war to convert Jewish people to Christianity,” she said.

THE FELLOWSHIP of Israel Related Ministries (FIRM) is open about its mission to “transform lives in Israel through Gospel-centered ministries. Your trusted partner for Gospel impact in Israel,” its website explains. Neither does it hide its targeting of Israeli soldiers during wartime by donating military equipment.

According to an October 11 email from FIRM, “Through the help of generous people like you, one of our local partners was able to provide critical gear and equipment to reserve soldiers…

“When our partner showed up to the base with this equipment, he couldn’t have imagined just how powerful the impact would be…

“The believing body came through with the help of people like you in the moment they needed it most! The soldiers were blown away by this outpouring of love. This is exactly what they needed that day.

“The soldier that communicated this need to our local partner is one of the few believers in his unit. This generous act opened the way for him to share about the love of Yeshua with his entire unit…

“Believers like you helped make this powerful, tangible encounter with the love of Yeshua possible for people in Israel in a time they need it most.”

Messianic communicator Ron Cantor is president of Shelanu TV, “the only 24/7, Hebrew-language TV channel sharing the message of Yeshua,” his website says.

An email from Cantor, sent to his followers on November 20, acknowledged that “many people, maybe the majority, turn their lives over to Yeshua in the midst of personal crises or national crises,” and he discussed how to trap them, including through the purchasing of equipment for IDF soldiers.

“Israel is under judgment,” he wrote. “We need to pray for Israel’s repentance, and we need to reach them with the message of the Kingdom of God. If you get his newsletter, I know that you love the Jewish people. When you see their resistance to the gospel, you don’t get angry with them, you pray for them.

“The fact is, Shelanu is a fishing business. Jesus said that evangelists are like fishers of men. Every fisherman needs a net. The net that we use is a vast array of video testimonies, teachings, interviews, Hebrew worship, and so much more. But we can multiply these nets if we have the resources.”

In a November 30 email that included an appeal for donations for IDF equipment, he referenced his direct communication with the Israeli soldiers.

“I met [IDF soldier] Dovev shortly after the war began in his moshav (farming neighborhood), about 15 minutes from Gaza… He had heard that we had been helping soldiers and survivors. He told me the needs of his unit. They’re unique handles that are added to an Uzi to make them more stable and accurate…

“He asked if we would buy one of these for his unit. It was $6,000, and we immediately said yes…

“He wanted to thank you for your generosity. He understands that these funds are coming from believers from all over the world who love Israel and are standing with Israel even as the world continues to blame Israel for October the 7th,” the email concludes.

LAST MONTH, one group in particular thrilled Israelis on their arrival. About 15 American cowboys joined other volunteers working the fields of Judea and Samaria through the American evangelical organization HaYovel, which, as explained on its website, “bring[s] Christians to Israel to serve the land and people, enabling them to connect to the land of their faith, restore Christian Jewish relations, and confirm Israel’s right to their ancestral homeland.

“After serving in Israel, volunteers return to their homes with a renewed sense of purpose, a strengthened faith, and a zeal for God’s worldwide plan of restoration that began with Abraham.”

As reported last month in the Magazine, HaYovel, founded by Tommy and Sherri Waller, operates under the supervision of Rabbi Eliezer Melamed of Har Bracha in Samaria. Volunteers are required to sign a statement that they will not engage in proselytizing activities during their stay.

Tommy Waller, its president, denies that his group is focused on missionizing Jews. “My purpose for this trip in Israel is to bless and serve the Jewish people by volunteering, not to proselytize, evangelize, or to ‘win souls,’” he said. “Therefore, I will not engage in any proselytizing, actual or having the appearance thereof, during this trip. This includes any conversation or argument with anyone outside the HaYovel program that attempts to justify or validate a personal belief, conviction, or understanding of the Bible. As a guest of the nation of Israel, I will strive to show honor and respect to the established spiritual and political authorities.”

However, it appears that he speaks differently when addressing his Christian followers in the US. For example, speaking as recently as March 2023 at Mike Bickle’s International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, Missouri, an evangelical missionary organization, he said: “It’s not that complicated. Let’s work to support, to give comfort, to engage with the Jewish people, to show them what our faith is, who Yeshua is… that’s exactly what HaYovel did.”

Speaking at the Nathaniel Foundations church in December 2022, he said, “When we participate in the act of servitude, we change the way that the Jewish people see it… We’re coming there as a witness of who God is, of who Yeshua is. And to the Jews in Judea and Samaria, that’s good news. It’s good news. And so, we want to bring good news to the Jewish people.”

“RESTORATION” IS a buzzword used in the Christian world,” Nuszen told the Magazine. As a former evangelical Christian missionary and daughter of a former Assemblies of God minister, she understands the inner workings and behind-the-scenes tactics and manipulation used to convert Jews to Christianity.

“‘Restoration’ refers to a two-phase process in preparation for the Second Coming of Christ,” she explained. “Phase one is the physical restoration of the land and people, which is why you see Christian aid in aliyah and reclaiming land. Phase two is the spiritual restoration, which is the final step when they believe all of Israel will be ‘saved.’”

A clear sign of Phase two, she said, is the recent launching of Pentecost 2023.

“There is a tremendous fervor that was launched just this year,” she continued. “Christians feel that there’s a deadline approaching, and that the gospel must be preached, and Jews must come to salvation before the year 2033. Time is running out, which is why we’ve seen such an increase in Christian focus on the land and people of Israel.”

On May 28, Pentecost 2023 was launched in the Old City of Jerusalem, at the foot of the Temple Mount. Indeed, a description of the event on the Pentecost 2023 website indicates that the goal of the organizers was not merely to pray for Israel and Jerusalem but to make Jews into “believers.”

“On May 27th and 28th, 2023, a coalition of believers in Israel and the Nations, denominations, missions and prayer organizations are calling believers everywhere to set aside an hour to pray both for Jerusalem and the Jewish people and for the Gospel to go to the ends of the Earth and communities of worshiping disciples to be raised up everywhere,” the website states.

Furthermore, “To assist and bring focus to the prayer, we are partnering with different groups from Israel and the nations of the Earth in a 26-hour broadcast with different key partners leading prayer from their part of the world. Crescendoing in several high points throughout the day including a broadcast from the Southern Steps of the Temple in Jerusalem at 10 a.m.-12 noon.

“At the very place that 3,000 were added to the number of the gathering of believers on the Day of Pentecost, many of the organizations who are participating in the decade of activities responding to Jesus’s Great Apostolic Commission to Go and Make Disciples of all nations and who have set a goal of 2033 (the 2,000th anniversary of the death, resurrection, ascension, and pouring out of the Spirit) for many discipleship goals. As well as a commissioning broadcast to raise intercession for Jerusalem at 6 p.m.-8 p.m.”

An article titled “Israel has a missionary problem,” posted on the B’nai B’rith International website, discusses “the age-long efforts of Christians to convert Jews – with the Jews in Eretz Israel set as a prime target. A plethora of organizations and umbrella groups are engaged today in a multi-million-dollar campaign to convert Jews in Israel and around the world.”

In Israel, there are more than 300 messianic centers, more than 200 websites dedicated to sharing the gospel – most of them in Hebrew – and an estimated 30,000 Jewish believers in Jesus in Israel, according to Beyneynu.

“If we go back to 1973, there weren’t even 10 messianic congregations, so the number has grown exponentially,” Singer told the Magazine. The reason for the unprecedented success of the movement in the Jewish state in recent decades, he explained, is that “in Israel, there exists a phenomenon that could not and therefore does not exist anywhere else in the world. In the US, it’s extremely unlikely that a synagogue in Los Angeles or New York has any relationship with an evangelical church. In contrast, here in Israel, because there is so much partnership between evangelical Christians and Zionists and Jewish communities, there’s a network and integration that places Israeli citizens in enormous danger.

“And that’s why the growth in Israel of the messianic movement is so striking. It’s only in Israel that evangelical Christians can come and expect to have a network of relations with Jewish people, as they work in Israel and engage in all kinds of network activity that could never exist in Chicago and Philadelphia.”

What is the concern over Christian help for Israel?

JEZLIAH VILLARREAL, a convert to Judaism, grew up in an evangelical church in Texas. “Our purpose on Earth was to missionize and preach the gospel to the world,” she told the Magazine.

She said she is increasingly worried about the acceptance of help in Israel from certain Christian groups.

“I know it’s not the popular thing to say, but hear me out because I know. This is my area of expertise. Just as much as we’re protecting ourselves on the physical side from Hamas, the terrorists, we need to protect ourselves spiritually because there are groups here within Israel that have managed to reach many of our youth… and they prey on them.”

These missionaries see the current crisis in Israel as an “opportunity,” she said.

Nuszen concurs. “In the realm of interfaith dialogue, Christians are often mindful of the need for sensitivity when broaching topics related to conversion with Jewish individuals. When communicating with a Jewish audience, they choose to employ Hebrew terminology and use the name Yeshua when referring to Jesus. Instead of using the word ‘convert,’ their emphasis is on the idea that one can maintain his or her Jewish identity while simultaneously embracing Jesus as the messiah,” she said.

“On the flip side, within their own Christian community, discussions on this subject tend to be more straightforward and open. In fact, many ministries go to the extent of maintaining separate websites, ensuring that any mention of Jesus is entirely absent when targeting a Jewish audience.

“The crucial aspect of my missionary training, aimed at connecting with Jewish individuals, was acquiring the ability to adapt my language and integrate Jewish terminology,” she stressed.

Ellen Horowitz, a writer and researcher who has explored the challenges and complexities of Israel’s alliances with fundamentalist, evangelical, and messianic Christian groups, told the Magazine: “In the days before theologically based interfaith and mega-church happenings on behalf of Israel, there was a dignified breed of righteous gentile defenders of the Jewish state who were likely equally devout and ‘biblically’ inspired, but who had enough sensitivity and respect for the Jewish people to keep their personal religious expression to themselves.

“Untold sums and major support for Israel were raised from these cross-denominational, bi-partisan gentiles. They took a grounded, moral stand with the Jewish state – without any missionary agenda – and won the love and respect from Jews across the political spectrum in both Israel and the Diaspora.” 

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