Millions of Christians were incensed during 2008 over public burning of New Testaments in Israel. Hundreds of New Testaments were distributed by Messianic (Christian) Jews in the predominantly Jewish Orthodox town of Or Yehuda. But the town’s mayor, Uzi Aharon, had Jewish religious students gather the New Testaments and burn most of them next to a synagogue.
Is this an act of isolated bigotry?
No. Burning of the New Testament is a religious duty according to Judaism’s highest religious authority, the Babylonian Talmud. It says
“the writings of the minim [Christians] deserve to be burned, even though the holy name of God occurs therein, for paganism is less dangerous than minuth [Christianity].” (Shabbethai 116) (See, “U.S. Government, Talmud Mock New Testament”)
The Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem, the official religious representative of the state of Israel, upholds the Talmudic view. What about the Israeli government? Will it prosecute Jewish fanatics who increasingly violate the rights of Christian Jews in Israel? Not likely.
The government of Israel doesn’t defend persecuted Messianic Jews, even though persecution violates their rights as Israeli citizens. The official attitude is that, as such missionaries have no business proselytizing, the consequences are left to the discretion of local magistrates and police. (See, “Christians in Israel: An Endangered Species”)
This raises the question of whether Israel is really the much-touted “democracy” it claims to be. In Israel open witnessing by Gentile Christians is prohibited. Witnessing by Jewish Christians to Jewish adults is tolerated. It is illegal for any Christian to witness to an Israeli minor. (Criminal Code Sec. 170, 172)
In a democracy, free exchange of opinions is encouraged; citizens believe that if all viewpoints are available, rational people can find the truth. In a medieval, religiously closed society, the ruling elite believe the people cannot be so entrusted. Attempts to religiously persuade are called “imposing your beliefs on other people” and “killing people’s souls.” Such “proselytization” is considered a coercive reprehensible act, worthy of punishment.
Especially since the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, the western world has agreed that free exchange of ideas (religious, political, scientific, artistic, etc.) is the barest requirement of finding truth. In the feudal age before the Reformation, the Bible was primarily confined to Latin. Laity were forbidden to privately interpret and teach it.
The gift of the Reformation was that it helped end restriction of ideas and resultant book-burning. This led directly to the US Constitution, with its First Amendment and the Bill of Rights.
The shame of the “modern” state of Israel is that it is returning to religious medievalism. It’s taking the world backwards.