Criticisms have followed the introduction of a bill by two members of Israel’s parliament, known as the Knesset, that will make it a criminal offence to persuade anyone to convert to another religion.
The unrelenting criticisms have continued to pour in, especially from Christians, both in Israel and around the world, over the proposed law which would outlaw telling people about Jesus in Israel as well as jail terms for anyone who does.
Israeli lawmakers, Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Asher, who are the authors of the proposed legislation, are ultra-Orthodox members from the United Torah Judaism Party. They submitted the bill in January 2023 as the Israeli judicial reform continues.
The 2023 Israeli judicial reform is a proposed series of changes to Israel’s judicial system and the country’s balance of power in a bid to curb the courts’ influence over lawmaking and public policy, granting the government more control.
If approved, the punishment for having conversations about Jesus with Israelis, whether in person or online, would be one-year imprisonment if with an adult, but two years if with someone under 18.
The proposed law states, “(Anyone) who persuades a person, directly, digitally, by direct mail, or online, to convert his religion, his sentence is one-year imprisonment, and if the person was a minor, his sentence is two years imprisonment.”
According to Premier News, a Christian news platform, the Senior spokesman and Vice President of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, David Parsons, said it was not the first time Gafni had proposed such a ban.
He’s made a habit every year, every time he gets re-elected in the Knesset to introduce a bill like this. And it never goes anywhere,” Parsons was quoted as saying, adding that “although the bill is concerning, it’s unlikely to go anywhere.”
Criticisms of the proposed bill have continued to pour in from Christians and Christian groups both in Israel and around the world.
Responding in a tweet on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, declared in Hebrew and in English that no bill that harms Christianity would be passed into law at the Knesset, allaying fears.
He wrote, “We will not advance any law against the Christian community,” CBN News quoted Netanyahu as saying.
According to history, Jesus was born and raised in Israel, hence, it is considered Christianity’s place of birth.
Christian pilgrims have also continued to visit the country as a way to connect with their religion as it helps them visualise and reimagine the events read in the Bible.