CBNNews.com - TEL AVIV, Israel - A Messianic Jewish couple spent more than eight hours in detention at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport Sunday, charged with alleged missionary activities.
Jamie Cowen, a US immigration attorney, and his wife, Stacy, in Israel to visit their two daughters, one an Israeli citizen and the other awaiting citizenship status granted by Israel's High Court several months ago, were not freed until they signed a document promising not to engage in missionary activities.
"This type of religious discrimination would be expected of Iran, not Israel," Cowen said.
"In the US, we imprison individuals suspected of terrorism. Here, apparently one can be jailed for his religious convictions. This is a case of blatant discrimination against basic rights. It is a story of a bureaucracy run amok. Someone has to crack down and bring in people of integrity," he said.
Cowen, who has visited Israel frequently, has brought substantial humanitarian aid into the country.
"I've brought $100,000 in humanitarian aid to Israel. We've provided lone IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers with about $50,000 in aid. This is unbelievable," he said.
The Israeli Interior Ministry, which ordered the couple's arrest, claimed to have "classified information" on their alleged missionary activities.
"The Immigration and Population Authority has reliable information that the Cowens were involved in missionary activity prohibited by Israeli criminal law during their last visit to Israel," an Interior Ministry spokesman said.
"This is the reason they were detained. As soon as they agreed to refrain from any missionary activity, they were allowed in," he said.
Israeli attorney Calev Myers, chief counsel of The Jerusalem Institute, said that a lot of the clerks in the Interior Ministry are ultra-Orthodox Jews.
"During the years that [the ultra-Orthodox] Shas [party] controlled the ministry, they made sure to appoint clerks who were willing to carry out their policies," Myers said.
"As a result, Israel is the only Western country where basic freedom of religion is denied. Today, those being discriminated against are Messianic Jews. Tomorrow it will be Conservative and Reform Jews," he said.
Source: The Jerusalem Post