A Jewish Christian couple in Israel, Serge and Naama Kogen, is being harassed by an ultra-orthodox group that accuses them of trying to convert youths to Christianity.
So said Release International (www.releaseinternational.org) a United Kingdom based registered charity adding that the couple - Messianic Jews who live in Mevasseret Zion, a suburb west of Jerusalem, have been accused of being 'missionaries' targeting and manipulating local youths.
Release observed that the couple is native Israelis who strongly deny charges of 'proselytizing' adding that the hard-line Jewish group, Yad L'Achim, has staged a protest outside the Kogens' home, posted leaflets about them in the neighborhood and even taken out a full-page advert in a local paper denouncing them.
“During the demonstration on June 26, about 20 supporters of the group used megaphones to attack the couple verbally for 90 minutes. Since then opponents have threatened to burn down the Kogens' home,” it stated.
Quoting Compass Direct news agency and Middle East Concern, it noted that the false claims appeared to be based on the fact that the Kogens had been helping a teenage neighbor who was experiencing problems at school and at home.
It said that the 16-year-old girl strongly denied Yad L'Achim's claims against the Kogens as the group demonstrated outside their home. “In fact, she insisted she had not even become a Christian. 'They are just good people,” she said.
According to Release, Serge and Naama insisted they have never discussed religion with the teenager – and had sought permission from the girl's mother for her to attend their congregational worship when the teenager herself had expressed an interest in doing so.
It observed that it was the girl's mother who first made proselytizing allegations against the Kogens to local police, who investigated but found nothing illegal. Yad L'Achim then took up the case and brought court proceedings against the Kogens and their congregational leader – a case that was dismissed by a judge on June 14.
Yad L'Achim is reportedly trying to push for new 'anti-missionary laws'. Under Israeli law, spreading one's faith is legal but 'proselytizing minors' and offering 'material incentives' to conversion are not. Yad L'Achim is a fringe group whose views are not representative of most Israelis, according to the Kogens' congregational leader.