Israeli congregation wins restraining order after 9 years of ‘harassment’ from anti-evangelism group

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An Israeli congregation announced it won a court case against a prominent anti-evangelism group after years of alleged harassment, including property damage.

Pastor Israel Pochtar of Congregation Beit Hallel, a Messianic Jewish congregation — Jews who believe Jesus was the Messiah — in the southern coastal city of Ashdod, announced a restraining order preventing ultra-Orthodox, Jewish anti-missionary organization, Yad L’Achim, from coming within 100 meters of the congregation’s property and personal homes.

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“It has been nine years of systematic oppression, harassment and outright persecutions on many levels, fueled by a hate-campaign led by Yad L’Achim where they have called time and time again for actions against us, declaring their goal is to stop our work completely and drive us out of the city,” Pochtar said, filming a demonstration outside his congregation’s building.

Pastor Israel Pochtar, leader of Beit Hallel Congregation, announces a victory in court against an anti-missionary group that has been allegedly harassing his congregation for nine years.

Pastor Israel Pochtar, leader of Beit Hallel Congregation, announces a victory in court against an anti-missionary group that has been allegedly harassing his congregation for nine years.

The pastor said it began in 2011 with a mass demonstration outside the building that now houses a 350-member congregation. It continued every Friday, with protesters filming and intimidating them, he said.

Voice of Judah Israel, of which the congregation is a part, reports Yad L’Achim put up posters with Pochtar’s home address. But following the ruling, the group must obtain a permit from the city to protest and is prohibited from filming members, including children.

Though evangelicals have a strong relationship with Israel, proselytizing is strongly discouraged in the Jewish State. It also has little tolerance for missionary work, which is illegal for minors.

“No synagogue or mosque would accept that people who oppose their faith would come and harass them like this,” the congregation’s lawyer, Ludmila Zakharchuk, told Kehila News. “It’s scandalous. Harassing or disturbing a religious practice is prohibited in the law, but the police haven’t cared enough to enforce it. We had no choice but to go to court.”

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Yad L’Achim celebrated a victory this week after waging a campaign against GOD TV’s Shelanu channel, which the Israeli government announced Sunday will be taken off the air. It claims the channel hid its missionary agenda when applying for a license.

Last week, an Israeli bus driver was fired after the group demanded the Kavim bus company terminate him for the violation of preaching to minors, Israeli media reported.

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Congregation Beit Hallel’s pastor celebrated the court victory, asking for continued prayers.

“This is such a significant victory and breakthrough for not only Beit Hallel Congregation, but for all local believers in Israel,” Pochtar wrote.

“It is so crucial to stand against injustice, especially when you know your rights and the law is on your side. We have to ‘prepare our horses for battle,’ so we can see God’s victory in the lives of all local Israeli believers who face religious oppression every day simply for their faith in Yeshua.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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