Michael Ben-Ari a religious conservative was photographed tearing up a copy of the New Testament which was given to him by Israeli Evangelicals-GIORGIO BERNARDELLI-ROME-Yesterday a photographer captured the shocking scene of Israeli MP Michael Ben-Ari
tearing up a copy of the New Testament and throwing it in the bin. He did not commit this act in just any old place; he did it in the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament. Mr. Ben-Ari is a member of HaIhud HaLeumim (National Union) a religious Jewish right wing party close to the Occupy Movement.
The gesture - which brings to mind the action of U.S. pastor Terry Jones who set fire to a copy of the Koran - was in response to an “unacceptable provocation” by the Israeli Bible Society, an Evangelical entity which in recent days sent a copy of the New Testament in Jewish to all 120 Israeli MPs. ““We are pleased to send you this book which we hope will help you and illuminate your way,” the accompanying letter written by Victor Kalisher read. “We hope and pray that this book may help you in your important position in service of the people.”
A very unwise move in a country like Israel where Christian proselytism is a topic that has always caused tension. Arutz Sheva, the news agency that is most sympathetic to the religious conservatives, promptly reported the news the other day, with the headline: “Christians Flood Knesset with ‘New Judaism’”. The article said many MPs were furious about this gesture and that Tzipi Hotolevy, a member of the Likud party, has specifically asked Knesset’s president, Reuven Rivlin, “to put a stop to the dissemination of what she said is outright missionary material in the Knesset.”
But yesterday, Michael Ben-Ari decided to go even further and got a photographer to capture the moment when he publicly ripped the pages out of the book in question and then threw them in the bin. As he did so he said: “This abominable book [the New Testament] brought about the murder of millions of Jews in the Inquisition and autos da fé.” “This is a provocation by church missionaries and there is no doubt that this book and those who sent it belong in the garbage can of history.”
One look at the MP’s CV and it becomes instantly clear as to why he decided to make this gesture. Mr. Ben-Ari who is 48 years old was born to Eastern Jewish parents and grew up in one of the roughest neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. Today he lives in the Karnei Shomron settlement and is the first Israeli MP to not hide the fact that he is a follower of Meir Kahane, founder of the racist party Kach. The party was banned in Israel for inciting anti-Arab hatred after the massacre of 29 Palestinians in 1994 by colonizer Baruc Goldstein at the Tomb of Abraham in Hebron. For this reason, the U.S. has denied him a visa on more than one occasion, referring to U.S. anti-terrorism legislation. In 2009 Mr. Ben-Ari captured people’s attention when he made some inflammatory comments about Benedict XVI’s visit to Israel: “Giving the Pope a State welcome would mean turning one’s back on the millions of Jews who were killed throughout the history of Christianity.”
The MP’s glaring insult to the New Testament could have repercussions for relations between Israel and Evangelical conservatives, who have been one of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s foremost allies in the U.S. The incident comes just a few weeks before Mormon Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel. . As part of his race for the White House Romney added a visit to Jerusalem precisely in order to show a break with the Obama administration on the issue of the country’s closeness to the Jewish State.