Settlers living on the western hill of the religious community of Har Bracha recently sent a letter to the community secretariat, protesting the housing of Evangelical Christians in their neighborhood.
According to the residents, the presence of the Christian volunteers – who arrived to work in the community's vineyards – violates the fabric of their society, and as a result – they hardly leave their houses.
"When we came to live in a religious community, we never imagined that one of these days we would be forced to live alongside people of a different religion, which doesn't match our faith and lifestyle," the residents wrote.
"We're not interested in associating with them, or alternatively – staying away from the public domain… We live in a small, intimate place, which is greatly affected by the composition of the population living here."
The residents warned the community secretariat that the Christians' presence in their neighborhood may affect the possibility of taking in new families in light of the fear that "the hill will be branded – at least by outsiders – as a characterless place which takes in any 'vagabond.'"
The Christian volunteers are part of a large group of American volunteers affiliated with Yuval – a pro-Israel Evangelical organization. The group includes dozens of people, and their stay in Har Bracha was made possible after the community rabbi, Eliezer Melamed, met with them and ruled that they are not missionaries.
The rabbi's stand was recently published in detail in the Beit El Yeshiva website, under the title, "Respect and love for the lovers of Israel."
Rabbi Melamed discusses the question of the Christian supporters of Israel, ruling that "in recent years we are witnessing increasing support for Israel on the part of Evangelical Christians. They view the State of Israel as the miracle of realization of the prophets' vision…
"They stand by us and their support is very important to us as they are a key element in the United States, the strongest country in the world today."
In the article, Rabbi Melamed explains that these are not Christians "seeking to convert us" and even refers to them as "Righteous Gentiles."
The community spokesman, Yaakov Idels, added: "Rabbi Melamed looked into the issue thoroughly and came to the conclusion that in this specific case there is no reason for concern, as this is a good thing.
"In such matters we rely on his opinion, and as far as we're concerned, he decides and we accept his ruling unconditionally."
The rabbi's stand is supported by Har Bracha Committee Chairman Yonadav Zar. "The Christian volunteers came here to help. Naturally, they need a place to stay and we're happy to accommodate them.
"It's natural for people to fear the stranger and unknown. The people of Israel have suffered for 2,000 years from persecutions in the name of the Christian cross, and the fear of certain residents is understandable, but I think we must overcome these fears."
Former Jerusalem Council Member Mina Fenton, who has launched several battles against Christian organizations in Israel, is unimpressed by the calming messages of the community representatives.
"This is a very serious affair," she says. "It's the first time Christians are accommodated in a Samaria community, and the first time the rabbi approves of it. I'm not sure that he had all the information on the nature of these people.
"I've learned about these Christian volunteers and others. They began as a one-family project, and now they're an organization of hundreds of people with Christian goals.
"I have already turned to dozens of rabbis, who are conducting a halachic inquiry into this matter."