Finance Committee Unanimously Votes to Deny Missionary Groups Tax Benefits

YERUSHALAYIM -
Rabbi Moshe Gafni (UTJ), Chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Knesset Finance Committee, headed by MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni (UTJ), voted unanimously on Tuesday to deny tax exemptions to missionary groups operating in Israel.

One of the non-profit organizations, which goes under the innocent-sounding name “Together, Ramat Hasharon,” belongs to a Christian Messianic cult, and uses a variety of ways to get Jews to convert. At times it uses material inducements to lure minors, in violation of the law.

The second non-profit, “Zion’s Watch Tower,” also operates under false pretenses; it also belongs to a Messianic cult.

Data provided by the Justice Ministry, which registers non-profits, made Rabbi Gafni suspicious that the two groups were in fact missionary cults. Staffers from his office contacted Yad L’Achim for more information. The evidence provided by Yad L’Achim left no room for doubt that the groups – seeking tax-exempt status for donations and discounts on property taxes – were indeed missionary cults.

Based on this evidence, as well as additional material presented to the committee, all 16 of its members voted against extending the tax breaks. This included representatives of all parties in the Knesset: Jewish and Arab, right and left, coalition and opposition.

In opening the session, Rabbi Gafni declared: “These non-profits conduct missionary activities aimed at getting Jews to convert out of their religion, and we are against approving tax breaks for them.”

In a rare move, the head of the Opposition, MK Yair Lapid, agreed with Rabbi Gafni. “We are voting against missionaries who operate to get Jews to convert out of their religion. The Jewish nation has a right to protect itself and its children.”

During the proceedings, the committee gave representatives of the missionaries an opportunity to present their side of the story. They denied that they run activities aimed at getting Jews to convert, but the evidence that had been presented to the committee was incontrovertible.

Rabbi Shmuel Lipschitz, one of the heads of Yad L’Achim, said, “We congratulate the Knesset Finance Committee and its chairman, Rabbi Moshe Gafni, for its unanimous vote to deny tax benefits to Christian missionary cults. We are witness to a kiddush Hashem when a united front rose up against an attempt to undermine the foundation of Am Yisrael. When it comes to opposing efforts to get us to convert out of our religion or to challenge our rights to live in our land as Jews, there is a wonderful consensus.”