Messianic Jews have won another battle for recognition in Israel. Israel’s Supreme Court has determined that a Messianic congregation in Jerusalem should receive the same tax exemptions as a synagogue. The battle began in 2010, when ultra-Orthodox Members of United Torah Judaism and the Shas party passed a law providing Jewish synagogues relief from all municipal taxes. Lawyers from the Jerusalem Institute of Justice (JIJ) then petitioned the court to also provide a Messianic fellowship with the same status, and they won. The ruling is significant in that it allows for full tax relief for all space used by the Messianic congregation.

According to JIJ, congregations applying for the discount will have paid back to them all municipal taxes incurred over the last 3 years. The Jerusalem Institute for Justice is encouraging all Messianic Congregations paying municipal taxes to apply for the tax break. The new ruling promises a major windfall of tens of thousands of shekels each year for Messianic congregations in Israel. As with any new law its implementation needs to be worked out on the ground, and already there is opposition. Secular Israelis fed up with corruption and scandals involving rabbis and religious organizations over the past years are not happy that synagogues don’t need to pay their share of municipal taxes.

Many feel that religious Jews are already an unnecessary burden on Israel’s struggling welfare system. The popular new secular government party, There is a Future, led by Finance Minister and former television personality Yair Lapid, has put a proposal on the floor of the Knesset to cancel the tax break for synagogues. Lapid had garnered support from many Messianics in Israel’s last election, particularly amongst the younger Israeli Believers who were attracted to his fresh ideas on economic equality. Now the Messianics find themselves, perhaps for the first time in their short history, partnered together with the Orthodox Jewish parties enjoying the new tax break.

When authorities visited the Messianic congregation in question, they took notice of “drums and a sound system in the hall.” Did such equipment belong in a non-profit religious organization? In his testimony before the court, the spiritual leader of the congregation was able to explain: “The gatherings in our meeting hall are for the purpose of prayer and Torah study. We use musical instruments and a sound system for praise. We believe that according to the Book of Psalms we are to worship God with all kinds of musical instruments, including drums and cymbals.”

As one of the lawyers from JIJ said, “Finally, the Messianics have a common interest with the Orthodox political parties. It is therefore very unlikely that anti-Missionary groups will challenge the new law as they themselves enjoy the same tax benefits. In its decision to grant the Messianics full tax relief for the past 3 years, the Supreme Court’s Appeals Committee referred to the congregation specifically as “non-profit Messianic Jewish organization that provides a sanctuary for prayer for all of her members.” The Messianic congregation was clearly not considered a church by the court, nor, for that matter, would they call it a synagogue.

Source: Israel Today

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Knesset Member and coalition chairman Yariv Levin wants to separate and boost the status of local Christian Arabs. “My legislation would provide separate representation and a separate reference to the Christian public,” Levin told the Israeli newspaper Maariv. “This is a historic and important step that can help to balance the State of Israel and to further connect us and the Christians, and I’m careful not to call them Arabs, because they are not Arabs.” Among the new laws proposed by Levin are:

• The right for Christians to be registered in their national ID cards as “Christian,” rather than “Arab”

• Mechanisms recognizing Christians as a separate minority for the purpose of providing state benefits

• Separate representation for Christians on regional and municipal councils.

A lawyer from JIJ said, “Finally, the Messianics have a common interest with the Orthodox parties. It is very unlikely that anti-Missionary groups will challenge the new law in order to prevent court recognition of Messianic congregations, as they themselves enjoy the same tax benefits. The Christians “have a different character” than the Muslims or Arabs, he noted. “They can identify with the state” and in so doing should receive the same recognition and benefits as the Druze. Levin went on to point out that “we (Jews) have much in common with the Christians. They are our natural allies, and a counterweight to the Muslims who want to destroy the country from within.”

He believes that if Israel begins to show special recognition, and grants preferred status to Christians, the effect will rub off on many Muslims who do not agree with the radical positions of their political leaders. But, Levin said that unfortunately Israel has to date done too little to help Christians feel that the state has their interests at heart, in the same way that it does the Druze. Much of that stems from lumping all Arabs together when dealing with ethnic tensions and national security threats. Levin hopes his new legislation recognizing Christians as a separate minority group will change all that, and help a growing number of local Christians take pride in their Israeli nationality.

Source: Israel Today

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New ambassadors from Hungary, Serbia Turkmenistan and the tiny island nation of Micronesia recently submitted their credentials to President Shimon Peres at an official ceremony in Jerusalem. In light of the special friendship that has blossomed between Israel and Micronesia—which has a strong record of voting in favour of the Jewish state at the United Nations—Ambassador Asterio Takesy was permitted to break protocol and address Peres in his native tongue. Usually, a new ambassador presenting credentials will tell the president, “I have the honour of submitting these credentials to you.” But Takesy wanted to go further than that, and first expressed his appreciation for Peres and for Israel.

Micronesia has only four ambassadors worldwide—in Washington, at the UN, in Tokyo and in Papua New Guinea. Takesy is the ambassador stationed in Washington, and serves as Micronesia’s envoy not only to the US, but to Europe and Israel, as well. Takesy told Peres that by now it is well known that Micronesia supports Israel unreservedly in various international forums, and will continue to do so. “I represent a small country that has become a big friend of Israel,” he said. Takesy concluded by offering one of Micronesia’s 667 islands as a gift to the Israeli president.

Source: Israel Today

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According to a recent Gallup Poll, Americans view Israel in a more favourable light than any other country in the Middle East. Roughly seven in 10 Americans perceive Israel in a positive light. Israel has consistently been rated the Middle-Eastern country viewed most positively by Americans.

Source: Breaking Israel News

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