Israeli minister threatens to shut down GOD TV over feared evangelical proselytising

Israeli minister threatens to shut down GOD TV over feared evangelical proselytising
3 min read
06 May, 2020
The Hebrew-language channel has drawn criticism over its aim to 'take the gospel of Jesus into the hearts of the Jewish people'.
Proselytising to under 18s is illegal in Israel [file photo-Getty]
Israel's communication minister has threatened to take a new Hebrew-language off-shoot of evangelical broadcaster GOD TV off the airwaves due to concerns that the channel aims to convert Jews to Christianity.

Israeli media reported earlier this week that Shelanu TV, a Hebrew-language channel connected to global media network GOD TV, had received a license to broadcast in the country despite allegedly seek to proselytise.

While proselytising - seeking to convert someone from one religion to another - is legal under Israeli law, encouraging the conversion of anyone under 18 can earn a prison sentence. Proselytising using coercion or economic incentives is also criminalised.

The channel admitted that its intended purpose it to "take the gospel of Jesus into the homes and lives and hearts of the Jewish people", Haaretz reported. This is despite its license in Israel prohibiting GOD TV broadcasting content that wields "undue influence" on viewers.

"We won't allow any missionary channel to operate in the State of Israel - not at any time and not under any circumstances," Communications Minister David Amsalem said on Tuesday.

Ron Kantor, regional director for GOD TV, said the network had been approached by Israeli television company HOT to launch the channel, hitting back at claims the company had not been honest in its intentions.

"That began a year-long process of finding funding, agreeing on and signing contracts and yes, getting approval from the regulatory body to broadcast as Messianic Jewish Israelis in Hebrew," Kantor told Haaretz.

Messianic Judaism is a movement that combines Christianity with elements of Judaism, maintaining the central belief that Jesus is both the son of God and the Jewish Messiah.

"We were told many times that laws have changed and there was no issue with our programming. Certainly if we were doing something sneaky, we would not have announced it to the world."

Kantor added that he doubts communications ministry officials had watched the new Hebrew-language channel, which describes itself as a "faith-based channel geared towards pro-Israel Christians" rather than a missionary channel.

Some evangelical and conservative Christians see the gathering of Jews in Israel as the fulfilment of biblical prophecy in combination with the encouragement of their mass conversion to Christianity.

While Shelanu TV is not the first Christian channel to broadcast in Israel, it is the first to do so in Hebrew and to openly talk of missionary aims.

More than 700,000 households subscribe to HOT, the cable provider which hosts Shelanu TV

The GOD TV network was launched in the United Kingdom more than two decades ago and has since grown to broadcast content in 200 countries. Much of its programming reportedly targets younger audiences.


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