Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Israel's National Bible Championship in Jeopardy

In addition to blue & white, fireworks displays, barbques, and general day off, Israel's Independence Day is also marked by the annual "National Bible Contest" (or in Hebrew, Chidon HaTanakh, חידון התנ"ך). These champions are truly amazing, and I've met many of them over the years from Israel and the Diaspora; one was my Israeli roommate in Yeshiva in Israel, and when I asked him off the cuff (after looking up the answer in advance) how many times it says "bakbuk בקבוק [bottle]" in the Tanakh, he was able to nonchalantly throw out the correct answer (3), as well as cite chapter and verse of each instance. It's no wonder he's now one of the judges for the annual contest.

However, this year's contest has hit a snag. NRG reports today (in Hebrew) that participation of one of the contestants from Israel...is problematic! The contest is defined on the National Bible website as follows:
The International Bible Contest for Jewish Youth is an impressive annual event, to which a number of young high school students come to Israel and meet with a similar number of Israeli youth, for a number of weeks enrich themselves with many experiences and deepen their connection to Israel, the traditions and the Bible. The process begins with in their own countries tests. The winners of those national contests, arriving in Israel will take part in the contest for overseas youth...and the successful ones will participate in the final contest on the Israeli Day of Independence in Jerusalem.
NRG reports that the counter-missionary group Yad L'Achim is endorsing a ban on this year's contest -- not because one of the contestants isn't Jewish (which is clearly stated in the Mission Statement above), but because the contestant, 11th grade Israeli teenager Bat-El Levy from Jerusalem...is a follower of the "Jewish Messianic" sect of Christianity.

Yad L'Achim is currently in touch with Israel's Ministry of Education and leading rabbis around Israel -- calling for Bat-El to be disqualified from participating...or for all religious participants to boycott the contest.

**Israel's Ministry of Justice has determined that according to Israeli law, Bat-El is in fact Jewish (although she and her family are part of the Jewish Messianic sect), and she can therefore participate. I guess they are of the opinion that once a Jew, always a Jew, despite conversion or acceptance of another faith.

Some say, let her participate and lose -- which will show that Jews in fact, do excel in Bible studies. Other are worried what might happen if she wins.

I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this...


Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

21 comments:

Rafi G said...

I doubt there is a legal way to prevent her from participating.

Anyway, what is the difference what stream she is part of? if she is Jewish she should eb allowed, as per the rules. it does not say it is only open for religious jews, or only Orthodox jews, or any other specific group. just Jews. She is jewish so she should be allowed to compete.

Being that she is really jewish (as you say the MOJ confirmed it, it means, probably, that she was Jewish anyway and her family decided to follow that stream. She probably did not go through a conversion to consider herself jewish.

If you ban her, where do you draw the line? Should we ban Chabad children from participating? What lines should we delineate for qualification?

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Rafi: The definition of Jewish Messianism from Wikipedia is as follows:

Messianic Judaism is a religious movement whose adherents believe that Jesus of Nazareth, whom they call "Yeshua," is both the resurrected Jewish Messiah and their Divine Savior.

Messianic Jews consider themselves to be Jewish.


Do you think that Jews who believe Jesus to be the Mashiach, the same as Reform or...Chabad?

How about the Catholic priest who converted from Judaism? He would be considered "Jewish" by Israel's MoJ as well.

Rafi G said...

what is the difference in believing a dead rebbi is mashiach than believing Jesus is? obviously it is debatable, but if you ban her, be prepared to have a pla to draw a line that will allow the chidon to continue and not be cancelled due to legal problems and societal problems.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Rafi: I'm sure that Dr. David Berger would agree with you about Chabad Messianics.

I can even see your thesis that the chidon be canceled due to legal and societal problems -- coming to fruition.

mother in israel said...

I think Yad leAchim is making a mistake. Calling attention to it is just going to get her a lot of sympathy and attention from the media. Watch for interviews with her and her family all over the place.

My son said that Bat-El is the representative of the "chiloni" track. One spot is saved for them, because they generally get much lower scores than those from the religious track. Her chances of winning are slim.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

MoI: I think you're right. Yad L'Achim should fight the battles it can win (there are so many...)

I'm positive the media will have a field day with the "oppressed, secular minority girl" -- just the sort of thing YNET and Haaretz will lap up.

YMedad said...

And if she wins...

...and makes the sign of the cross?

Just kidding, only Catholics do that.

But it reminds me of a joke I heard in 1966. Two Israelis are discussing the economic problems (any of you recall the mittun?) and one suggets that Israel make war on the the U.S.. The other aks, 'how will that help'? and the reply is that just like Germany, it lost and then got the Marshall Plan and is now an economic giant. And the doubtful Israeli then murmurs, 'but if we win'?

ellen said...

She may very well win, because evangelical Christians (which include messianics) are very adept at Bible study. Although,this is most likely a PR stunt to draw attention to the poor persecuted messianics (Calev Myers of JIJ,org,il is probably behind this)Yad l'achim should tread carefully and think well before they act.

Some ideas to consider:
a) the politically correct approach: change the rules to include Christian youth. Make it an international/ interfaith Bible contest
b) the polite, but truthful approach: introduce her as a Christian contestant - the child of Jewish converts to Christianity who reside in israel (this is the great compromise, as it exposes her and her family for what they are -without destroying the child - and exposes us for being a very stupid and confused people)
c) the proper (strict or lenient) halachic approach. Have a very well-spoken and respected rav (like Simcha Kook) stand up like a mensch, and issue a proper ruling which deals with the
issue of apostasy in Eretz Yisrael. He should either allow her to compete or politely forbid her participation. But at any rate the people of Israel will get a proper education on the matter and view the rabbinate in a critical, thoughtful and positive light.
d) the idiotic approach: Have a gang of hareidim yell, spit, and burn trash cans outside of the bible contest (and make sure the international media is there)

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Ellen; I doubt option D will happen since the Chareidi community in general doesn't really care about the Chidon HaTanach for many reasons because:

a. it's organized by the Zionists.
b. it's Tanach
c. participation does not include Chareidim (by their own accord)
d. it's on yom haatzmaut.

for all of the above reasons, I don't think they will care :-)

ellen said...

well, I hope you're right. But those are also four reasons for men in black to yell, spit and burn trash

Akiva said...

Rafi - Jewish messianics PRAY to a dead-man-god-idol. Chabad moshichists pray to Hashem.

Jewish messianics are not Torah observant. Rather, they apply the trappings of mitzvah observance that makes them look charedi.

Chabad moshichists are completely mitzvah observant.

Jewish messianics modify every bracha and statement of Hashem to mention their dead-man-god-idol.

Chabad moshichists add tefilot at the end of davening or at places where optional prayer is permitted, specifying acceptance of the 7th Lubavitcher Rebbe as their king, teacher, and the Jewish Moshiach as described by the Rambam.

Jewish messianics are DECEPTIVE. Chabad moshichists are loud annoying propagandists with a message that doesn't mix well with normative tradition.

Sorry, it's NOT the same thing.

Lion of Zion said...

AKIVA:

"Chabad moshichists add tefilot at the end of davening or at places where optional prayer is permitted, specifying acceptance of the 7th Lubavitcher Rebbe as their king, teacher, and the Jewish Moshiach as described by the Rambam."

what does this mean? that the rambam describes the 7th rebbe as king, teacher and moshiah? or that the rambam provides for the addition tefilot to this affect at the end of davening?

MOTHER IN ISRAEL:

"My son said that Bat-El is the representative of the "chiloni" track. One spot is saved for them, because they generally get much lower scores than those from the religious track."

the real story with the chidon is not the particiaption of a messianic jew, but that non-datiyyim no longer have any jewish literacy

mother in israel said...

Ellen, I don't know who is preparing her, but I doubt that there are many missionaries who know the bible in Hebrew as well as these kids. The evangelicals tend to be uninterested in how many times it says "bakbuk" in the Tanach. To win you need to know the relevant sections practically by heart, and you have to study with someone who is very familiar with the contest and the kinds of questions that are asked.

The back of the hill said...

Some ideas to consider:
a) the politically correct approach: change the rules to include Christian youth.


Ah, yes. But keep the focus on Tanach - none of this eN Tee shtoos. I like that. I can't imagine many Christian teenagers qualifying, though.

d) the idiotic approach: Have a gang of hareidim yell, spit, and burn trash cans outside of the bible contest

Sounds like a good sound plan! By which I mean that that is precisely what will happen.

-------------------------

As far as J for J is concerned, if an idolater meets the criteria for being Jewish, halachically he/she/it is Jewish. Even Jesus (if he existed) and Paul were Jewish. Judaism is both more than a matter of halacha, and less. The multitude who left Egypt were Jewish by halacha. But Ruth was Jewish from within.

Some Jayferjays may have started life as Jews al pi halacha. But the very un-Jewish nature of their belief system places them beyond the reshus ha yehud, as it were.

Baruch de Spinoza was placed in cherem for far less.

Surely a Jew for Jesus should be considered as worthy of that treatment?

If the girl in question publicly admits her beliefs, she would disqualify herself.

J fer J in any case makes such a person poresh min ha tzibbur, and poresh mi darkei tzibbur, as far as most Jews are concerned. More so than chabad (by a very wide margin), and also more so than neturei karta (by a slim margin).

Rafi G said...

Akiva - you missed my point. I was not equating the chabad meshichists with these Messianics.

I was saying that if the rulkes allow anyone Jewish to participate, and you start differentiating between who believes what (and not just leave it at "jewish"), you leave the door open for someone to come and say "what "they" believe is just as much in conflict to Judaism as this".

As I said it is debatable. chabad meshichism does not bother me all that much, but many other people would say they are pretty similar, despite the technical differences you mention (that most people probably are not all that aware of).

And if you ban her, I can see the left wingers, or secular, or messianics or someone else, petitioning the court to ban chabad students. I do not know if there are any, so it might not make a difference. But if there are, be prepared for defending that.

If the only criteria is jewish, and you start saying it depends on belief, there is going to be a lot of fighting over who believes what and who should or should not be allowed to participate.

Batya said...

She Must Be Some Sort Of Genius. I agree with rafi g

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Akiva: Chabad Mashichistim are not all of Chabad (and they are only a minority).

However, those who add prayers, specifying acceptance of a DEAD PERSON -- the 7th Lubavitcher Rebbe as their king, teacher, and the Jewish Moshiach is not what is described by the Rambam, who said the Mashiach must be a living person!

Chabad Meshichistim add SHLITA to the dead Rebbe's name.

Lehavdil (or not); Early Christians were 100% Torah and mitzvot observant Jews as well, yet they believed a dead person was also mashiach.

For Chabad Meshichistim (again, not all of Chabad) to believe the Rebbe is alive, and is mashiach runs counter to normative Judaism.

Akiva said...

Lion - meaning they hold the Rebbe met the criteria according to Hilchos Melachim uMilchatonim 11.

Rafi - The point is the definition of Jewish remains fluid per the medina, and the law of return follows the nazi (y'm) definition, not the halachic one. Jewish is a national-ethnic-decent-and-belief system.

If you convert out, you're out. If you call yourself Jewish but pray to idols, it's not.

Jameel - Clearly all Chabad are not moshichists, and all moshichists are not loud, annoying, and acting wacked.

But no, the Rambam said he mustn't have been "killed". The Gemora itself says "if (Moshiach) is from the dead, he'll be like (the navi) Daniel". (But that is not the majority position.)

I agree with your final statement, it is counter. But, lengthly well sourced arguments can be made that place it, conceptually, within the edge of halachic and hashkafic boundaries. That's conceptually, the actions of some moshichists certainly appear to be crossing the other side of that edge, and your historic comparison (G-d help us) is apt.

FC said...

As the song says, "Ain't nothing like the real king."

Nachum said...

"But no, the Rambam said he mustn't have been "killed". The Gemora itself says "if (Moshiach) is from the dead, he'll be like (the navi) Daniel". (But that is not the majority position.)"

I take it you haven't actually read either source? I have. You are misquoting both of them, very badly.

Gee a Moron said...

Just have the Rabbinical High Court revoke her Jewishness (even if she was born Jewish).
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1209626992623&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

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