JERUSALEM, Israel - The Birthright organization, which brings groups of Jewish youth from the Diaspora on tours to Israel, has honed its screening process to exclude Messianic Jews.
Birthright calls on applicants to swear that "I do not subscribe to any beliefs or follow any practices that may be in any way associated with Messianic Judaism, Jews for Jesus or Hebrew Christians."
Calev Myers, founder and chief counsel of the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, called the screening practice "a shame" and "blatant, ridiculous discrimination."
"Instead of drawing children of Messianic Jewish families closer to their Jewish roots, they are excluding them from participating," he said.
Birthright CEO Gidi Mark defended the exclusion of Messianic Jewish teens.
"There is unanimity in Jewish life that individuals who may be from Jewish lineage or family life and who choose the Messianic path ," he told The Jerusalem Post on condition on anonymity so as not to prejudice the Interior Ministry against his son.
"If my son had told them that he was a Buddhist, an atheist or a homosexual, they would have had no problem. Belief that Yeshua is the Savior is the dividing line," he said.
"Birthright assumes there is an overarching parameter for defining who is a Jew. But I think a lot of Israelis would feel more comfortable with me than with a haredi Jew from Mea She'arim ," he said.
"I don't understand their fear. Isn't it still a wonderful thing to bring a Jew closer to the land of Israel? Are we the boogeyman? Are they afraid we are going to come and steal their children away or something?" he asked, adding that his family observes Shabbat and all the Jewish holidays and is part of a local Messianic synagogue.
"The only thing different is that I read the New Testament, and I believe that Yeshua is the Messiah," he said.
Source: The Jerusalem Post