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Riots in Beer-Sheva

Category Articles
Date January 31, 2006

Today at our service to worship and celebrate God our Savior, we found ourselves confronted by a throng of about 500 men, women, and children who had come to prevent us from baptizing two believers. Apparently they had heard the good news from Arad, from which the two belong to the congregation there, and the plan was for a number of them in the congregation to come over to Beer-Sheva and participate with us in the holy-day celebration, and the immersions would take place in the baptismal on our congregational property. The religious opponents of the good news forced their way into the grounds of the “Old House”, creating a disturbance and claiming that they were going to rid Beer-Sheva and Israel of us. I won’t quote some of the things mentioned.

When they first entered, and before we realized that this was an organized event, we told them that they were welcome to stay and be part of our service. Once they began to make noises and wander throughout the house and property, more showed up and so did the police. The police at first let it go on, as long as we were agreeable, but once it became crystal clear to all what was happening, the whole mood and atmosphere changed to wild religious frenzy and hostility. They began to dance and sing “Am Israel Chai” (The people of Israel live), which we even joined in for a bit, but it was evident where all this was leading. They began overturning chairs and knocking things around, all the time concerned about the baptisms. When they discovered the pool, they went wild, and began to even push the police around, who by then had called in reinforcements. They threw tables and other objects into the pool, including me, in the process of which my multi-focal glasses were also broken. They threw to the bricked ground our specially high-wattage overhead projector, which is necessary for our semi-outdoors facility. One brother was hit with a fist on the jaw; at least another one was spit on pretty much; a couple of cars received kicks and dents; the front gate handle and lock was torn off and damaged; and the part of the fencing around the top of the wall of the house was broken down. Everyone keeps asking me how I feel after getting hit so many times, but apart from being pushed into the water (and we’re only supposed to be baptized once!), I don’t recall other blows. A policeman did grab me by the throat in all the confusion and unruliness. Even children participated in the destructive and profane acts, and the parents admitted to teaching them to behave that way towards us!

The police handcuffed a couple of the more violent who had hit the brother and resisted the police, but after the chief Sephardic rabbi Deri arrived to what was in fact an illegal demonstration and invasion of private property , and “religious” property, at that , the police let the two go with a warning. Whether this is collusion on the part of the police and the religious authorities I don’t know, but the police find themselves in the moral dilemma of protecting the citizens of Israel on the one hand, and of themselves disliking the conduct and attitude of the religious extremists and of not wanting to believe in Yeshua as the Messiah, the Son of the living God and of the likes of us Jews who do believe in Him.

We are turning over to the police some video footage that was taken, and some other photos, so that they have some visual evidence of the nature of the disturbance. It is the nature of men doing what they think is the will of God to claim that we provoked them to act in self-defense, rather than they being held liable for breach of civil and even criminal law. Just as with the ongoing anti-messianic demonstrations in Arad, if the religious were to do and say to Muslims what they do to us who believe in Yeshua, they would probably be dead by now. Thank God for His Spirit in us which is not the spirit in anyone else! One of the girls who was going to be baptized today (and was in another location today) is over 18 and the daughter of a believing family. In other words, according to Israeli law regarding freedom of religion, she falls into the category of continuing in the faith group into which she was born. Yet the religious extremists do not recognize any law when it comes to leaning on their own understanding.

But praise the LORD, He rescued the day and after a couple of hours of all this we went ahead and had our modified 🙂 service, praying for the police, who were still around in force, and for the lost sheep of the House of Israel, most of whom still do not know who or what they are doing or resisting. Some rocks were still being thrown over the wall after the crowds were eventually dispersed. Apart from concern over the security of the property, we are all in a good spirit and thankful for knowing God as our Father and His Son, the Lord Yeshua the Messiah.

In the name of the exalted and glorified Savior,

Howard Bass
(Pastor of Beer-Sheva congregation)

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