The leading hassidic authority, Rabbi Shmuel Wosner, called through the “Hamodia” newspaper to pray on the Fast of Esther for success in the struggle against “the edict of destruction and the spreading of missionary activity in the holy land”. The Rabbi is responding to the court’s decision to allow the Congress Center in Haifa to host the Jehovah’s Witness group.
Two weeks ago, the local court in Haifa required the Congress Center in the city to provide services to the Jehovah’s Witness group. The services were terminated earlier due to pressure by ultra-Orthodox groups in the city and a request by the ultra-Orthodox organization “Yad L’Achim” which fights against missionaries.
Due to the fact that the Congress Center is a large and central hall, the ultra-Orthodox had a hard time continuing to hold events there since the hall also serviced missionary groups, which in their definition are “getting close to idol worship”.
The Grand Rabbi of the Seret-Vizhnitz sect, Rabbi Eliezer Hager, moved his grandson’s wedding a year ago from the Congress Center to a hall in the center of the country.
Before the trial, the mayor of Haifa, Yona Yahav, tried to calm the parties involved in the case. “The requested the Congress Center to prevent as much as possible within the framework of the law, events that will harm the community”, declared the Haifa municipality spokesman.
During the course of the trial, the court requested a judicial opinion on the matter from the Attorney General, Menachem Mazuz. Mazuz’s opinion was that even if the center was under completely private ownership, it is still considered a public place and therefore according to the law, you cannot discriminate against different groups that want to hold events there. The court accepted Mazuz’s opinion and ruled accordingly.
In light of the ruling, the Yad L’Achim organization decided to take the struggle a step further and turned to Rabbi Shmuel Halevi Wosner, who serves as the highest Halakhic authority in the Hassidic world.
In his plea Wosner requests “prayers and supplications on the Fast of Esther, against the edict of destruction and the spreading of missionary activity in the holy land God forbid." In his plea he cites the event in Haifa and defines the court’s decision as “shameful” and a decision that “could lead to mass missionary activity and the destruction of additional souls, God have mercy”.
The head of the Yad L’Achim organization, Rabbi Shalom Lipshitz, sounded devastated in a conversation with ynet. “Where have you ever heard of such a thing? Is it the intention of the state to uproot Jews from their religion? I want to cry”, says Lipshitz.
The manager of the Congress Center, Ilan Granit, responded, “Throughout the year of the trial we did not serve the Jehovah’s Witness group”. Now, he adds, “as soon as they turn to us, we will deal with them in the same way we deal with everyone else. We are obligated to follow the decision and we will make sure not to discriminate, according to the court’s decision”, he emphasized.