Monday, December 12, 2016

Baha’is should start teaching in Israel.

Why not Baha'is ?
The rule that Baha’is do not teach their Faith in Israel goes back to the time of Baha’u’llah, and was confirmed by Abdu’l-Baha. There is a short paper by Dr. Kavian Milani, in Persian, that quotes Baha’u’llah’s words, forbidding teaching in “Sham” (the Ottoman province of Syria which includes present-day Israel and Palestinian territories). (link updated August 2015)
  1. However there is not a clear reason for the prohibition from the quotes. Nobody understands it. Baha’is obey only because Baha’u’llah said so. It seems to be a permanent rule, only the boundaries of the area around the Baha’i World Centre where there is no Baha’i teaching activity have changed, as governments have come and gone.
  2. Nevertheless people did become Baha’is in Palestine at that time, and there were small Baha’i communities in various towns and villages in the north. However in the 1940’s, as the Israel/ Palestine conflict developed, Shoghi Effendi asked the whole Baha’i community to emigrate. To this day, there are only a minimum staff serving at the Baha’i shrines and gardens and in the offices there, there is no “Israeli Baha’i community” as such. People who do become Baha’is are asked to leave. Again, so far as we know the reason has not been stated.
  3. The Baha’i teachings hardly favor the idea of a state that is designed primarily for people of one ethnic and religious identity. Baha’is favor unity in diversity and the abandonment of prejudices of all kinds. Perhaps Shoghi Effendi’s decision was a quiet expression of disapproval for the Zionist foundations of Israel (which I recognize today is much more diverse than just a Zionist project).
  4. As a sidelight on this, at one time in the 1920’s there were rumors of plans to bury a leading Zionist on Mount Carmel, and Shoghi Effendi was engaged in raising funds to buy land around the Baha’i shrines to prevent it (See Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Priceless Pearl, p. 97)

Israeli Penal code

Regarding teaching other religions in Israel, from what we have read, as recent as 2015, the Israeli penal code, enacted in 1977, bans only missionary activity that involves any “material benefit,” or is aimed at minors. Tourists to Israel (one third are now Christian evangelicals who are largely very pro Israel politically) are also legally permitted to share their religion with Israelis.

The issue with the Mormons in 1984 over the building of a campus in Jerusalem was ultimately resolved with them agreeing formally not to engage in missionary activities. Many or most other American Christian organizations have followed this practice.

While the Jewish ultra-Orthodox sects are said to “completely ignore these prohibitions in their own missionary activity”, the Jewish Messianic (which converts Jews to Christian faith, e.g. Jews for Jesus) who are very publicly active in Israel, and legally so. Conservative estimates of their number is 20,000 individuals in more than 100 congregations. During Prime Minister Netanyahu’s last government, Yad L’Achim unsuccessfully pushed to have the law amended to ban such missionary activity.

So if Christian evangelicals, Mormons, Jewish ultra-Orthodox, Jewish Messianic etc can be publicly active then why not the Baha’is who are trying to reform the youths and children of the society for betterment and advancement of the society.


Rachamim Slonim Dwek said...

Why you should not teach it in Israel? Because prostelysation in Israel is a felony crime. Jews find attitudes like yours to be extremely offencive apart from the ilegality. If you respect others you will not push your subjective views on anyone else.

Lastly, if you are a Jew who adopted the Baha'i faith you have spit in the faces of your ancestors. I am quite sure you know nothing about the faith you were born into because if you had you would not have fallen for a 19th Century invention that offers nothing original, at least so far as Judaism is concerned. You should have studied your own religion before shopping for others.

Rachamim Slonim Dwek said...

You should talk to an actual Israeli attorney because you have zero understanding of our law. You also show zero understanding of our culture by using the term "ultra orthodox missionary." There is no such thing. Jews reach out to other Jews, not to non Jews. You really should study these things. For the record, any one trying to convert Jews to any other religion will spend time in prison and should feel lucky because most Israeli Jews react violently to such obnoxiousness.