NEW YORK (Dec. 19)
Israel was warned of the potential dangers inherent in allowing Brig-ham Young University, the educational arm of the Mormon Church, to follow through with the construction of a $15 million campus on Mt. Scopus in Jerusalem.
“We are urging and we are trying to call attention to the potential dangers inherent in this project,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, at a news conference at the organization’s headquarters here yesterday.
His remarks followed the release of a document by the JCRC’s Task Force on Missionaries and Cults outlining what it termed the “recent escalation of both missionary and cult activities in Israel.” The list contained brief outlines of the activities in Israel of nine missionary groups and four cults.
Julius Berman, chairman of the Task Force and a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told reporters that the JCRC’s efforts seek to “sensitize” and inform the Israeli public and government of the activities of these organizations.
Berman noted that the JCRC is among the groups both in Israel and in the U.S. that object to the planned Mormon center opposite the campus of Hebrew University. “We have a right and we feel we have the responsibility,” Berman said, to “sensitize both the Israeli populace and Israeli government to facts that we are aware of that we believe they’re not aware of.”
MORMON TRAINING MANUAL CITED
The JCRC said that while officials for the Mormon Church assert the Israeli project “will not be a center for missionary activity, documents clearly show otherwise. Among those documents is a training manual prepared by the Mormons on how to proselytize to Jews, and a Hebrew translation of a major Mormon treatise.”
According to Hoenlein, the JCRC is urging that both sides–Israel and the Mormon Church — come to a resolution in order to bring a halt to the controversy over the Jerusalem center. But he cautioned that “We are not trying to change the legal process” in Israel.
“We’re not trying to tell the Knesset what to do,” Hoenlein said. “We’re not telling Shimon Peres what to do. We’re alerting them to the dangers that impact on us and we believe impact on Israel. It is out of our love for Israel that we speak out.”
The JCRC’s Task Force said the Mormon Church has 29,000 full-time missionaries throughout the world and that Mormons are committed toward spending two years toward missionary activities. “They have a right to do it,” Hoenlein said. “But we also have a right to try and protect Jews from that kind of influence.”
OTHER MISSIONARY GROUPS
Among the other missionary organizations and individuals active in “large proportions in Israel,” according to the JCRC, are:
* The International Christian Embassy, founded in 1973, as a means for the world Christian community to express its concern and support for Israel. The JCRC said the ICE serves as an umbrella organization for a number of missionary groups in Israel, including Voice of Hope Radio and Bob Lindsay’s Baptist Church.
* Project Kibbutz, founded in the early 1970′s by Art Carlson, which works with the Tulsa Christian Fellowship headed by the Oral Roberts University professor,Charles Farah. The group claims to work as kibbutz volunteers to allow kibbutz members free time. The Israeli government has revoked the group leaders’ visas.
* Beth Shalom, known as Midnight Call Ministries in the U.S.,attempted to construct a $7 million hotel complex and convention center in Gilo. This, the JCRC said, was to serve as a front for their world missionary headquarters. Adverse publicity forced the proposal to be withdrawn.
* Christian Broadcasting Network, headed by evangelist Pat Robertson, is the largest non-commercial television network in the world. Its proselytizing programs are now broadcast into Israel and the Mideast. The JCRC said the CBN is planning programs that will be directed toward children.
* Morris Cerullo, head of World Evangelism, responsible for the distribution of 25,000 Hebrew-language New Testaments in Israel, recently led a 500-person mission to Israel to announce that the end of the world is near and that there is little time left to accept Jesus.
* Jimmy Swagart, the evangelist, is supported by the First Assemblies of God Church, and currently involved in proselytizing activities in Israel.
* Mike Evans, founded “Beth Yeshua,” a Hebrew Christian group, which originally began its activities at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He is also founder of “Mike Evans Ministries” whose sole purpose, is to comfort “God’s chosen people,” according to Evans.
* Jews for Jesus concentrates its activities in Israel during the summer months when there is an abundance of tourists. They stage concerts, plays and other events all over Israel to attract converts.
INCREASE IN CULT ACTIVITIES
The JCRC also said there “has been a significant increase in cult activity within Israel.” These groups include:
* Transcendental Meditation, whose plans to construct a kibbutz in Migdalim in the West Bank have been approved by the Jewish Agency. The Health Ministry in Israel was unaware until recently that TM was not only a therapeutic but also a religious group.
* Hare Krishna, a sect of an Eastern religion, recently had two of its members tour Israel’s major cities and deliver talks to large audiences in an attempt to gain recruits for their planned kibbutz.
* Church of Scientology, headed by Ron Hubbard, is one of the largest groups active in Israel. It has been reported that 20 percent of the teachers in the Beersheba educational system are affirmed Scientologists. The Church has translated Hubbard’s basic book, “Dianetics,” into Hebrew.
* Unification Church headed by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, has, the JCRC said, attempted to gain legitimacy for its organization by inviting on a regular basis top Israeli professors to conferences sponsored by Church “front” organizations.