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Men in black

"Men in black" Continued...

Issue: "Shattered dreams," April 5, 2008

Baruch Maov, the pastor of Grace and Truth Christian Congregation, says Christian misperceptions have other consequences as well: "I think that the unwillingness of most Christian friends of Israel to take up any stand that could be interpreted as criticizing Israel has weakened our ability to address our nation with the gospel because it has equated an interest in the Jewish people with a specific political platform."

The latest confrontation in Arad is only one chapter in the ongoing struggle between Christians and the ultra-Orthodox in the region (see "Igniting intolerance," Oct. 22, 2005), and it could prove costly.

Eddie Beckford faces a fine of 35,000 shekels-or more than $10,000-if he goes beyond the walls of the Messianic facility that is hosting him in Beersheva. Lura Beckford signed as the responsible party for her husband but didn't realize it involved a 24-hour watch until she returned to Arad for clothes and was arrested. Their demand, she says, is the equivalent of house arrest even though no charges were brought against her.

As the Beckfords' lawyer, an Israeli Christian Arab, is working on an appeal, the couple-both in their 60s-spend their days inside the complex and sleep in the storage room at night. Eddie Beckford's hearing is scheduled for May 20-a long wait for the active leaders of the King's Men Chess Club, a Bible shop, and a clothing distribution center.

They are eager to return to Arad and have hopes of building a community center that could house a Christian school, a women's shelter, rooms for tourists, and a shop to sell handcrafts made by believers who have lost their jobs because of their faith. Their desire is to contribute to their town in a way that inspires local leaders to depend on and defend their presence in Arad. In the meantime, they pray for patience.

"The total unfairness of it all is difficult to deal with, but we remind ourselves of Joseph and his unfair imprisonment and how the Lord used it to deliver His people."

Purim attack

In the latest tragedy to strike the Messianic community in Israel, the 15-year-old son of a prominent pastor in Ariel narrowly escaped death when a bomb exploded in his home on March 20. The bomb was disguised as a Purim package wrapped in cellophane and covered with chocolate.

When Ami Ortiz opened the package, the bomb exploded and shrapnel peppered the home. Both of the boy's lungs were punctured by hot, metal shards, and his limbs were covered with gashes and burns. Both arms are broken and one eye is injured from the shard. He is currently listed in stable condition, but doctors say he faces a long recovery.

The blast thoroughly damaged the home's living room, kitchen, and windows, and local believers already are at work on repairs.

Investigators are looking into two primary suspects: Arab terrorists and Jewish extremists. The local ultra-Orthodox have a history of harassing the Ortiz family, but the city's Muslims have also been angered because of the family's work among the Arab population. David Ortiz, the boy's father, has led a number of Muslims to Christ, and Hamas issued a fatwa against Ortiz several years ago.

Family friend Hannah Weiss shared her perspective on the attempted murder: "There is a lot of talk about extreme Orthodox groups which live in the area and do not disguise their hostility against believers. But no matter how violent, I have never heard of any Jew packing metal shards and bolts into a bomb-much less us[ing] it on fellow Israelis."

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