By Allison Kaplan Sommer, Jan.19, 2013 | 7:23 PM
Until Friday, Jeremy Gimpel was just a name on a list. To be precise, he was number 14 on the list of Knesset candidates for Habayit Hayehudi, the new incarnation of the National Religious Party headed by Israel’s new political rock star, Naftali Bennett.
But the spotlight began glaring on Gimpel over the weekend after video from a speech the Atlanta-born Gimpel made to the Fellowship Church in Winter Springs, Florida, was posted on Facebook by journalist Yehuda Nuriel. The video caught the eye of veteran commentator Amnon Abramovich, who broadcast the video on the widely-viewed Channel 2 newscast on Friday night. In his lecture, Gimpel said:
“Imagine if the Golden Dome – I’m being recorded so I can’t say ‘blown up’ – but let’s say the Dome was blown up, right? And we laid the cornerstone of the Temple in Jerusalem. Can you imagine? None of you would be here – all of you would be like, “I’m going to Israel, right?” No one would be here, it would be incredible!”
After the newscast the video of Gimpel’s words went viral on Israeli Facebook, stunned commenters called Gimpel “dangerous,” “psychotic” and “a religious fanatic.” Nuriel followed up with another video of a televised radio show in which Gimpel is quoted as saying the Dome of the Rock is so visually striking in Jerusalem in order to send the message that it “doesn’t really belong there.”
In the wake of the broadcast, Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua Party, called for Gimpel’s disqualification on grounds of incitement, Channel 2 reported on Saturday. MK Yoel Chason was set to petition the head of the Central Elections Committee on Saturday evening.
Appearing on Channel 2 news on Saturday evening, Bennett defended Gimpel, saying that his remarks had been taken out of context, and that Labor candidate Meirav Michaeli’s call to Israeli mothers not to send their sons to the IDF was worse than anything Gimpel had said.
In the full-length version of his Florida speech, found here, he presents arguments for supporting the political right wing in Israel with biblical verses and cheers on the evangelical offshoots who believe in “attaching themselves” to the Jews and emulating them by celebrating festivals like Passover and Sukkot.
If Jews and Christians could pull together, he promises, a ‘revolution’ could happen – positing Islam as the common enemy of this Judeo-Christian alliance.
“We (Jews) weren’t meant to be the target, we were meant to be the light….If we’re not the target, and we go off to Saudi Arabia – they should be the target! They need to learn about love! They need to learn about redemption! They need to learn about the God of Israel! What a partnership! Do you understand the revolution that could happen?”
The Israeli media – and perhaps, the Bayit HaYehudi party itself – failed to scrutinize Gimpel more closely because until recently, his election to Knesset in the no.14 position seemed so unlikely. But his activities and statements have been closely watched for years by anti-missionary organizations in Israel who keep a close eye on rabbis who they view as overly cozy with the Evangelical Christian community. They are very familiar with Gimpel, his website TheLandofIsrael.com and speaking tours in which he accepts donations from parts of the pro-Israel Judeophile evangelical Christian community in the United States.
Gimpel and his partner Ari Abramovitz have been repeatedly criticized by Jewish Israel, an organization and Internet site whose mission is to “take a critical look at Israel’s alliance with Fundamentalist Christian groups” and to ‘monitor aggressive missionary campaigns now targeting Jews for conversion in the Jewish state.” The group has long included Gimpel on its own list – a list of Israeli rabbis and political figures who benefit from financial support from Israeli-philes in the Evangelical Christian community, turning a blind eye to their efforts to not only bring Christians to Judaism but to bring Jews to Christianity.
This post from 2010 on the Jewish Israel website focuses on the relationship between Gimpel and Abramowitz and an organization called Texans for Israel, a tie so tight that a photograph of the two young Israeli rabbis appears front and center on their home page.
Texans for Israel describes itself as the “dream and vision of four young men from Amarillo, TX, spoken into their lives as young college students, cultivated through dynamic individuals and leaders that God placed into their lives along the journey, and borne fruit through personal relationships with their Jewish brothers in the Land, meeting practical needs.”
Those ‘practical needs,’ from the description of their recent history, appears to be the creation and backing of Gimpel and Abramowitz’s thriving media enterprise, led by a man named Mike Isley.
“In 2007 … Mike, just before leaving to visit Israel again, watched a television show called “Zola Levitt.” On that show he saw an interview with a young Jewish IDF soldier and an up-and-coming Rabbi named Jeremy Gimpel. While in Jerusalem, Mike connected with Jeremy. The two eventually visited with Mike’s ministry partner, Ari Abramowitz, at a hotel in Jerusalem. It was at this meeting that Jeremy and Ari shared their vision of becoming the first and only Jewish television show broadcast from the heart of Jerusalem, to become “A Light Unto the Nations.”
Upon Mike’s return home, he shared this new relationship and dream with Larry. Together, they decide to help Jeremy and Ari accomplish their dream. It is not long after these conversations and meetings that Jeremy and Ari invited Mike to come to Israel and live with them until their dream came true. “Tuesday Night Live – A Light Unto the Nations,” debuted in the Heart of Jerusalem on January 1, 2008. Mike and Larry, two non-Jews, began to realize how their vision from so many years ago was coming to life right before their eyes, significantly impacting Israel and their Jewish brothers and sisters.”
The fact alone that a bunch of evangelical Christians claim to have been behind the creation and are supporting Gimpel’s of their now-flourishing career might not have raised the eyebrows of the anti-missionary organization. The big problem the group has with Gimpel and Abramowitz being the Jewish face of Texans For Israel, is that the group’s founder and driving force, Mike Isley, has clear ties to Messianic Judaism.
An event in Texas at which Gimpel appeared, the Jewish Israel post recounted, “resembled a Baptist church revival with some token Jews in attendance. The crowd was overwhelmingly Christian, with missionary groups and personalities well represented. Jewish Israel is aware that the messianic Christian Crossover TV Productions filmed the event.”
“Mike Isley and his organization Texans for Israel were visibly present- right down to the fundraising envelopes. In addition to hosting Ari and Jeremy’s recent speaking appearances, Mike has been funding Tuesday Night Live in Jerusalem at Heichel Shlomo. Isley is affiliated with the messianic missionary organization First Fruits of Zion –where he serves as a leader in their Hayesod program. Recently Mike Isley hosted a Jewish Sermon on the Mount which promoted a new Hebrew-English Gospel Edition of a publication that has been successfully used by notorious missionaries as an evangelical tool to target Jews for conversion.”
The organization screen-captured the Texas for Israel prayer page in the spring of 2010, which included references to “the Jewish people’s acceptance of the Messiah Jesus will lead to life from the dead – world-wide revival of unprecedented magnitude” and “the spiritual return of the Jewish people to Messiah.”
Jews for Israel then “informed Jeremy Gimpel and Ari Abramowitz of the problematic content at a personal meeting in Mid-March 2010 and again in mid-June 2010 via email. We viewed the page in mid- August 2010 and the overtly offensive references had been removed.”
It’s a delicate and controversial tightrope act that Gimpel and his partner Rabbi Abramowitz perform. They are Orthodox rabbis who profit from teaching Torah to Christians in churches, and they work to bring Christians close to Judaism, while attempting to distance themselves from the fact that their friends and supporters in these ministries also are interested in bringing Jews to Jesus, or as they like to call him, Yeshua.
Another Jewish Israel post, this one from December 2011, zeroes in on El Shaddai Ministries, led by a man called Pastor Mark Biltz, part of a bizarre Christian offshoot called “Hebrew roots” Christianity which believes that Christians have to move closer to Old Testament Judaism to achieve redemption.
While the El Shaddai home page states “We do not want to convert Jews to Christianity or Christians to Judaism,” even a superficial look at the site points otherwise. When spelling out his philosophy, Bilitz says among other things, that “The time is coming when the Jewish people will recognize the role Yeshua played and they will then fulfill their mission in taking Torah to the nations. They will straighten out the Christian’s theology in what Yeshua was really saying.”
The post links to a video of a Torah lesson Gimpel delivered to an El Shaddai audience in which he concludes his teaching with an invitation: “I’m here tonight as a Jew from Israel to invite you to join us in biblical destiny, to join us in Jerusalem and to be part of spreading Torah to the nations.” Biltz then passes around the collection basket to the strains of a song praising Jesus, with Biltz instructing congregants to make out be made out to thelandofisrael.com.
Then, in the question and answer period, Gimpel again delivers a pro-Israel message cloaked in a theological argument. His point in a nutshell: God loves the nations that loves the Jews and Israel. When countries turn against Israel, God isn’t happy, and that means trouble.
Gimpel makes his point beginning with a cute “confession” that when he visits the United States, he loves to go to Wal-mart and marvel at “the abundance in America.”
He notes that more than any other country:
“America has been kindest to the Jewish people. America was the first country to recognize Israel when we declared independence . When I look at Wal-mart I see the fulfillment of God’s promise being fulfilled that America would be blessed as they bless Israel and the Jewish people. One for one.
Now … we hear about real estate crashing and the economy and unemployment in America and all this things. I only really start remember hearing about it once the turn shifted away from Israel. It was almost an immediate dialogue – you don’t have to be a scientist to figure it out. Every single nation ever that has turned their backs on the Jews is no longer. So America has a choice.”
He picks up his Bible and refers to ancient kingdoms who helped King David and King Solomon build up Jerusalem and were rewarded with prosperity. “When partnerships flourished, those nations flourished. that’s the sign, that’s the path that we should be following. If America turns on Israel, God help us.”
Photograph (modified) of Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock, by Berthold Werner, 10 November 2008. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jerusalem_Dome_of_the_rock_BW_3.JPG or http://bit.ly/HGOQdS