Unpacking the motives of an accused undercover American in Israel and lessons learned for Christians wanting to engage Haredi Jews.
How far can one go to “reach the Jews”?
The apostle Paul put himself “under the law” to give the gospel to his Hebrew brethren (1 Cor. 9:20).
Allegedly a Gentile, Michael Elkohen did the same to reach the modern Jews most fastidiously under the law—the Haredim, often known in English as “ultra-Orthodox.”
Approximately 1.2 million Haredim live in Israel, jealously guarding their traditions.
Dressed in black-and-white garb with a hat, long beard, and side curls, in 2011 Elkohen appeared next to an Iranian Christian on MorningStar TV and prayed for a Muslim world revival.
“When Jesus walked the earth, he was Jewish,” Elkohen told the host, Rick Joyner. “The church, the non-Jewish part of the body, is supposed to stir us to jealousy.”
For more than a decade, his would-be jealous Haredi neighbors were completely unaware. To the insular community in the French Hill section of Jerusalem, Elkohen was a beloved rabbi, scribe, and mohel—performing circumcisions.
In April, the Israeli anti-missionary organization Beyneynu sent shockwaves through the Haredi world with a report claiming that Elkohen was in fact a missionary from New Jersey, whose father is buried in a Mennonite cemetery.
“Other anti-Semites attack the Jews as individuals or as a people,” said Tovia Singer, a rabbi and founder of Outreach Judaism. “But the missionaries are attacking the Jewish faith and working to erase it from the planet.”
The spiritual damage is considerable.
Though there is no evidence anyone was converted in Elkohen’s community, Singer claims that the alleged missionary’s manuscripts and religious services are all invalid. And his presence at prayer may …