For the first time ever, a Messianic Jew, David Friedman, is running for a seat in the Knesset in Israel’s early elections this month.
Though chances of victory are slim, it’s a chance to raise the profile of Israel’s Messianic population and pave the way for the future.In a historic first, a Messianic Jew, David Friedman, is running for a seat in the Knesset in Israel’s early elections this month.
Friedman, a UMJC Rabbi, professor at the Messianic Jewish Theological Institute and former dean of King of Kings College in Jerusalem, is making his first debut into Israel’s political arena along with a handful of other first timers in the newly minted Bible Bloc party. Though chances of winning a seat appear slim, Messianic Jewish representation on the ballot is a huge landmark in Israel where Messianic Jews are marginalized and rarely represented in national politics.
Who Is David Friedman?
Friedman, who lives in Jerusalem now, studied Arabic and Hebrew at the University of Minnesota and has a robust academic resume from authoring several books and many commentaries to holding various roles in Messianic Jewish learning institutions including teaching at First Fruits of Zion in the late 1990s. He served in the Israel Defense Forces in 1993, and that, he says, is where he met Avi Lipkin, the driving force behind the creation of the Bible Bloc party.
“We were the only two soldiers praying the Jewish early morning prayers. We got to know each other and found we have very similar political views, him a modern Orthodox Jew, myself a conservative Messianic Jew,” Friedman said in an Israel Today interview published online by Messianic Daily News.
When asked why he still practices Jewish custom while believing in Yeshua, Friedman said “I am still part of our people. Israel’s destiny is my destiny. Israel’s prayers are my prayers. If we want, as Jewish believers, to function as part of our people, then I find it fit to join in our public prayers.”
“I am not a professional politician, I simply came to the conclusion that it was time to stand up for what I believe.”
It’s what he believes that made Friedman a match for the Bible Bloc.
As an outsider in mainstream Israeli politics, the fit is natural. Officially recognized just two months before the early election on April 9, the Bible Bloc party is the only one of the record-setting forty-seven parties in the election that has a Messianic Jew, an Arab Christian, Conservative Jews and a Dutch Protestant married to a Messianic Jew on the ticket. The religious diversity in this party is no accident.
“We will advocate for every Israeli to have a chance to be heard, including Messianic Jews and Arabs,” Friedman said. “If our party is elected, we will work for the right of Messianic Jews to be recognized in Israel and to protect their civil rights like all good citizens.”
Besides pushing for recognition of Messianic Jewry and Christianity in Israeli politics, the Bible Bloc party also pushes for more leniency in immigration laws for Messianic and other Jews not recognized by the current Orthodox Authority.
Easing access to Aliyah for all Jews and non-Jewish partners stems from party leader Lipkin’s teachings that Israel will soon expect some 10 million new arrivals fleeing persecution in Western nations. Lipkin said establishing a party with Jewish and Christian interests has been a dream for some twenty years, according to the Kehila News.
Friedman said that if elected, they would be happy to join the Likud bloc led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, brushing off the corruption allegations against the current prime minister as “common practice all over the world and should not disqualify him from serving as prime minister.”
Other party points include not ceding any more land to Palestinians as part of a future peace agreement, opposition to abortion on demand, and standing fast against terror threats.
The Bible Bloc party is small, just five candidates, and it is up against forty-six other parties. They require a minimum of 145,000 votes to surpass the voter threshold and enter the Knesset, and in a press release asked their supporters for prayer admitting that “it’s a long shot.”
On average, only about half of the candidate lists make it past the election threshold, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Those odds are not stopping the Bible Bloc from campaigning. Like all the parties, the Bible Bloc was given a small budget and a one-minute slot on TV to get their message out.
The party will give an equal voice to Jews and Christians. The Jews will consist of those who are religious, traditional and secular. The Christians will be from all denominations, as well as Messianic believers,” says Lipkin in their Hebrew-language commercial. A transcript is available on Israel Today.
The Jerusalem Post also reported that the party will also seek the support of non-Jewish Russian immigrants from the former Soviet Union and their spouses and Christian Arabs.
Seeking representation not just for minorities in Israel, but especially Messianic Jews, has historically met strong resistance from the ruling religious establishment. Last year, before the party was even fully organized, a scathing opinion piece published in the Times of Israel called the Bible Bloc party fake-Jewish, fake-Christian, and racist.
Still, when asked if he had encountered any resistance to being the first openly Messianic candidate for the Knesset, Friedman said that so far they are “getting along very well and have not had any problems,” adding that “Messianic Jews are becoming more and more accepted in our society.”
What if They Win?
If the Bible Bloc does pass the vote threshold and is awarded the minimum four seats in the Knesset, Friedman said they would like to serve in the Ministry of Aliyah and Absorption to forward their immigration goals.
Lipkin told the Jerusalem Post that with the addition of the surprise early elections in April, which were supposed to have taken place in November, his expectations were low for this race.
“I’ll be honest,” he said. “We did this to prove a point that we could run, but we know it will be a challenge. We are going to meetings, kissing babies and shaking hands. We are doing our best, but we’re not expecting any miracles.”
Miracle or not, the legitimized presence of a Messianic Jew in mainstream Israeli politics raises the profile of Israel’s Messianic Jewish population and paves the way for future dialogue.