Jerusalem Post, Week ending 13 Febr. 1988
Court to rule on Jews who believe in Jesus
Citations from university professors, quotations from religious tracts and the findings of a public opinion poll were all part of the proceedings last week as the High Court of Justice began to tackle the question of whether a Jew who believes in Jesus is still a Jew.
According to a Dahaf poll, 78 percent of a random survey of 1,189 Jewish Israelis said that children of a Jewish mother who believe in Jesus, but do not formally convert and who claim to be Zionists, should be accepted as olim [Jewish immigrants].
The findings were presented by attorney Yosef Ben-Menashe in the case of Jerry and Shirley Beresford, originally from Zimbabwe. They are petitioning the High Court in an effort to have the Interior Ministry recognize them as Jews, in order to have the status of olim.
But if those polled seemed to be tolerant of “messianic Jews,” Yehoshua Kahana, head of the Interior Ministrx’s population registry, told the Jerusalem Post that he regarded them as more dangerous than the Reform converts whose registration as Jews the ministry has been fighting.
“Those people (the Reform converts) at least want to be Jews, while these people (the messianic Jews) are Christians pretending to be Jews,” Kahana said.
The Law of Return declares that “every Jew has the right to come to the country as an oleh.” In 1962, the Supreme Court ruled that the Law of Return did not apply to a person who, although a Jew, had subsequently converted to Christianity.
The question before the court was whether the Beresfords? belief in Jesus meant that they had become Christians, even though there was no formal conversion.
Jerry Beresford, bearded and wearing a knitted kippa, sat quietly as attorney Uzi Fogelman, of the State Attornex’s Office, argued that the Rama Harsharon messianic Jewish community to which the couple belongs had missionary intentions and that a Jewish fraternal organization in Zimbabwe had expelled them.
The couple have apparently denied that they believe in the Trinity but, Fogelman argued, citing another messianic Jewish pamphlet, they did accept the divinity of Jesus. Fogelman also cited the view of two Hebrew University scholars, Professor Zvi Werblovsky and David Flusser, who both seem to be of the opinion that messianic Jews are in fact Christians.
The trial is due to continue in the near future, but in the interim, the two sides may accept a compromise which might avoid setting a politically volatile precedent. Under such a compromise, the government would give the Beresfords the rights of olim without reference to the question of their Jewishness.+
New Developments (Jewish Chronicle, UK, 5 January 1990):
The Israeli Supreme Court ruled that Messianic Jews ? also known as Jews for Jesus ? are not Jews and do not qualify as citizens under the Law of Return. South African immigrants Gary and Shirley Beresfod applied for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return. But a 3-judge panel ruled that they were not entitled to it even though both had Jewish parents. The judges said their belief in Jesus made them Christians.