Even with his bold and evangelistic approach here in Israel, Ron Cantor had yet to experience an attack as vicious as he did when a media outlet accused him of being anti-Semitic and even compared him to perpetrators of the Spanish Inquisition.
“It was kind of like getting hit by a two-by four-to be honest,” Cantor told Kehila News Israel (KNI). “I have no ill will against them, but I have to be honest this is one of the few times in 15 years that I encountered this level of rejection and rhetoric against me.”
Breaking Israel News (BIN), a Jewish-run Israel news site with an Orthodox leaning, published a scathing article in response to Cantor’s original piece in which he questioned the credibility of the self-appointed Sanhedrin in Israel and its courting of Christians for donations. While Cantor’s own article was opinionated, the response to it bordered on defamation and slander.
In it, Sanhedrin spokesmen Rabbi Hillel Weiss was quoted as saying that Cantor “is reenacting every anti-Semitic act ever perpetrated throughout history.”
“I know that everyone’s got their voice and they are free to respond, and I certainly expected them to disagree with me,” Cantor told KNI. “But I was a bit stunned by the over the top rhetoric. It seemed that it was an emotional response. Clearly I’m not anti-Semitic. I live in Israel, I sent my daughters to the army, I speak Hebrew. I love this country. I could live a very nice life in America.”
After making aliyah 15 years ago, Cantor, a ministry leader and writer, has chosen to live in Israel and has dedicated his life to see the salvation of the Jewish people.
In his original article, published on his website on Sept. 19 and picked up by Charismanews.com, Cantor addressed a worrying phenomenon that Christians are seeking friendships with the Jewish people possibly at the expense of both Messianic believers and of recognizing Yeshua.
“As a Jewish believer, I am deeply conflicted: On the one hand, I love that Christians are seeking friendship with Jews. On the other, I am deeply concerned that it is in an effort to affirm a Yeshua-less Judaism,” Cantor wrote in his article.
He called out the new Sanhedrin as a group that would shun Messianic Jews even while seeking partnerships with evangelical Christians.
“Not only would they not fellowship with me, they would most likely persecute me. While I love the fact that evangelicals are establishing relationships with Orthodox Jews, it seems that some of it is coming at the cost of compromising our most holy commission—to spread the message of Yeshua to all nations,” Cantor wrote.
Cantor himself subscribes to BIN and appreciates the organization’s zeal for God and its mission — to repair relations between the Jewish people and Christians. But he points out on his blog that, “Christians, while absolutely having a calling (Rom. 11:11) to reach out with love to the Jewish people, should never assume that Judaism without Yeshua is acceptable.”
When he saw the BIN email containing the article in his inbox, Cantor said he shivered. At first he was hurt, then he thought that such inflammatory rhetoric is possibly illegal. He contacted a lawyer who agreed, then contacted the author of the article.
“To my great delight the writer responded saying. ‘I understand how you feel, let’s have a conversation,’” Cantor recalled.
“I understand why what I wrote was offensive,” Cantor told KNI. “I sympathize with their feelings against me. I realize the church has persecuted the Jewish people for centuries so in their minds I am masquerading as a Jew who believes in Jesus with a hidden agenda.
“In their eyes Messianic Jews are coercing Jews to convert to a foreign religion when in fact all of the first followers of Jesus were Jews and it never entered their minds that they were changing their religions.”
In his own community of secular and Orthodox Israelis, Cantor’s beliefs are not an issue: “Three things impress the average Israeli: That I moved here, that I know the language and that my children served in the army.”
Cantor said he is up for strong debate, but the challenge for him will be to communicate in the most gracious and honest way possible. He encourages other believers in Israel to not back down from the challenge but at the same time to understand that there are people behind the criticism — and these people share a zeal for God despite their difference of opinion on who the Messiah is.
“The thing to take away from this is that while we can never compromise our commitment to the Great Commission, I would be lying if i didn’t say that we want to bring Israelis to faith in Messiah,” Cantor encouraged. “But when we speak about issues like the Sanhedrin or others, we need to remember that these are real people with real feelings in our country and some of them are actually willing to dialogue.”