The largely secular and affluent Israeli city of Ra’anana abruptly canceled a Jehovah’s Witnesses event scheduled for Saturday, claiming it was concerned that the Christian group’s event would “hurt the feelings of the public.”
Does Israel Really Have Religious Freedom? Increasingly, Observers Doubt It Does
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The largely secular and affluent Israeli city of Ra’anana abruptly canceled a Jehovah’s Witnesses event scheduled for Saturday, claiming it was concerned that the Christian group’s event would “hurt the feelings of the public,” Ha’aretz reported.
The event was cancelled by the city after the city council’s four Orthodox council people threatened to resign from the governing coalition if the event was allowed to happen, and after the Chabad-linked haredi anti-missionary organization Yad L’Achim demanded it be cancelled.
The Lod District Court rejected a petition by Watchtower for Israel asking for an emergency order to allow the event to be held.
On its Facebook page the city wrote that, when it realized Jehovah’s Witnesses “was planning on holding a lecture in Ra’anana, out of a desire to respect the feelings of the residents of the city – and out of serious and real concern that harsh actions could deteriorate into disturbance of the peace to the extent of fear for the safety of residents – the municipality held talks jointly with Israel Police and the group to dissuade them from holding the event in Ra’anana by consensus. Unfortunately, these efforts were fruitless, so the municipality was forced to inform the group that the event was canceled.” The city went on to deny that Yad L’Achim’s demands of the Orthodox politicians’ threats played any role in the decision.
Still, actions like this taken by Israeli cities and reaffirmed by lower courts call into question Israel’s claim of allowing religious freedom and its claim that it is a true Western-style democracy – especially when those increasingly dubious claims are compared to the increasingly poor treatment given religious minorities in the country, and the frequent harassment and coercion faced by non-Orthodox Jewish Israelis, who are compelled by law to make their most personal life decisions subject to approval or denial by Israel’s haredi-controlled chief rabbinate.