Is it illegal for Christians to evangelize in Israel?
Israel allows individuals to practice their own religion but there are laws that specifically prohibit proselytizing.
Technically, proselytizing in Israel is not illegal and missionaries are therefore, supposedly, allowed to evangelize. However, there are laws that make it illegal for any person to convert anyone under 18 years of age, from Judaism to another religion, unless one of the minor’s parents is already an adherent of the religious group that is seeking the conversion.
Moreover, despite the legality of proselytism, Israel has taken a number of steps to discourage it. Furthermore, Israel actually encourages the perception that proselytizing in Israel is illegal and therefore a criminal offense. It has been assumed that Israel does this to minimize proselytizing without actually having to enact strict and potentially embarrassing anti-proselytizing laws.
It is also common for Israel’s Ministry of Interior to detain individuals suspected of being Christian missionaries, and require such persons to obtain bail, and then pledge to abstain from Christian missionary activity. In addition many have been refused entry into the country. Israel has also cited Christian proselytism as a reason to deny student visas, work visas, religious visa extensions, and permanent residency petitions.
Therefore, it should also be of no surprise that Christian organizations, such as The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, who have held rallies in over 185 different countries and territories, including numerous Communist, and North African countries, have never been allowed to hold a Christian evangelistic rally in Israel.
Moreover, The Voice of the Martyrs, a non-profit, inter-denominational Christian organization dedicated to assisting the persecuted Church worldwide, lists Israel as a country Hostile to Christianity.
Their website states that there are more than 120,000 Christians living in Israel, which includes 17,000 Messianic Jewish Christians and an estimated 8,000 Palestinian Arab Christians. Both Arab and Jewish Christians are persecuted and harassed, sometimes violently. In Israel, the well organized, and well funded ultra-orthodox Jewish group Yad L’Achim is dedicated to removing the witness of Jesus from Israel. This group, and others like it have increasingly resorted to violence and harassment of Messianic Jews, Christians and missionaries in recent years.
Quotes from The Voice of the Martyrs Feb 2014
“Modern Jewish society in Israel rejects any form of proselytism, including evangelical sharing of the gospel. In the past, the Israeli government has denied citizenship to Messianic Jews (Jews who follow Christ), and city governments have burned Bibles and other Christian literature. VOM has shared stories in the past about Messianic Jews and foreign Christian workers who have been harassed by ultra-Orthodox, anti-missionary Jewish groups.”
“While most persecution against Christians in the Holy Land is at the hands of radical Muslims, believers are also persecuted by anti-missionary Jewish activists. The activists sometimes spray graffiti on Christian Churches in what are called “price tag attacks” (exacting a price on anything that seems to threaten Jewish sovereignty). A few months ago, they painted “Jesus is a monkey” on a church that is a major pilgrimage site for Christians.”
“In 2008, an evangelist in Israel named David Ortiz received a traditional Purim gift basket at his front door. When his 15 year old son opened the package, it exploded in his face. His body still carries the scars and pieces of shrapnel from the bomb, which was planted by a Jewish extremist who was angered by the Ortiz’s Christian outreach work.”
A large portion of the Jewish population in Israel are secular atheists and therefore hold no actual religious affiliation. However, the religious Jews, and most notably the Orthodox Jewish sects, are intolerant and openly antagonistic, often to the point of violence, to any Christian proselytizing in Israel (many YouTube videos document this). They consider themselves to be the “Master Race,” “the chosen of God,” and therefore all others are inferior people. …
—Information above came from various sources including the US State Department reports on religious freedom in Israel—