By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent
ARAD, ISRAEL (Worthy News)-- Representatives of a Messianic Jewish community in the southern Israeli town of Arad said Monday, March 21, they face "increased persecution" by ultra-Orthodox Jews who accuse the believers of missionary activities and want them to leave Israel.
"Last week they were two times at my house with megaphones," said a Christian involved in one of four Messianic congregations here. He spoke to Worthy News on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.
He said the religious war in this town of 25,000 residents also impacts other members of his Messianic congregation.
Among those targeted is widow Polly Sigulim, a Jewish mother of three Israeli soldiers. Last week, a crowd of some 200 Orthodox Jews gathered in front of her home shouting that she and other Messianic Jews should "leave Arad and Israel, a Jewish state."
"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 was heard saying.
In 2008, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled however that Messianic Jews have the same rights regarding automatic citizenship as Jews who do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah.
The case was brought by 12 applicants who had been denied Israeli citizenship mainly because they were Jewish believers in Jesus. Most of them reportedly received letters saying they would not receive citizenship because they "commit missionary activity."
Yet, despite the ruling, hard-line anti-missionary group Chasidei Gur have accussed the roughly 30 Messianic Jewish families in Arad of "being missionaries wanting to baptize as many Jews as possible."
Another ultra-Orthodox organization, Yad L'achim, has distributed footage in recent weeks of what it said were Messianic Jews being baptized.
Messianic Pastor Yakim Figueras made clear that his congregation does not want to force Jewish people to believe in Jesus, also known in Hebrew as Yeshua. However, he said "Everyone who believes in Yeshua truly, according to the New Covenant, believes that this is the answer for everyone."
The demonstrations against the Messianic community are linked to concerns among Orthodox Jewish leaders about the growing number of Israelis in Arad region who view Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. Messianic Jews say Jesus came to the world to offer salvation and eternal life to everyone who believes in Him.
Mainstream Christian groups generally view Messianic Jews also as believers and part of the 'Body of Christ', a Biblical term used to describe the worldwide Church of believers.
As noisy protests continue in front her home, Sigulim told reporters that she is not against Jewish traditions. "I do believe in the Torah, the prophets and also the New Covenant," she added.
A neighbor expressed concerns about her situation. "In Europe they shouted 'Jews out', here they shout 'Messianics out'."