Dozens of Israeli mail carriers in the city of Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv, have refused to deliver Christian New Testament Bibles to residences, arguing that delivering the Bibles is forbidden according to their halacha laws, or the collective body of Jewish laws.
The employees of Israel's Postal Company were asked to hand out thousands of copies of the New Testament, translated into Hebrew, on Monday. Those opposed to the distribution told Israel's YNet News that handing out the New Testament may even be considered illegal.
"We always distribute business flyers and we have no problem with that, whether we agree with them or not," one postal employee told Ynet News.
"But this time it's different. This is missionary material, and from our understanding there's a law against that. It's not a religious issue," the employee added.
According to the U.S. State Department's Religious Freedom Report, proselytizing in Israel is legal, although "the government has taken a number of steps that discouraged proselytizing and encouraged the popular perception that it is illegal."
It is, however, illegal to proselytize to minors or to bribe people with material items in exchange for conversion.
Mail carriers protesting the distribution have sought the help of Zevulun Orlev, an Israeli politician and a member of the Habayit Hayehudi political party. Orlev took their grievances to Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon, who asked the Postal Service to halt the deliveries of the religious material until the situation was resolved.
According to the Arutz Sheva 7 News, Orlev informed the postmen that the distribution would be halted until the legal matter was resolved.
However, on Monday the Israel Postal Company released a contradictory statement, printed in YNet News, which reads: "The Israel Postal Company is a governmental company operating in accordance to the Postal Law, which obligates us to distribute any mail it receives. The Israel Postal Company has no right or ability to choose what it can or cannot distribute. Therefore, the mail will be distributed according to the law."
In a statement, also published by YNet News, Orlev said "It's unacceptable that the Israel Postal Company should participate in distributing missionary materials to the Jewish residents of Israel. We must clarify to the missionaries that the law forbids it."
According to The Jerusalem Post, Orlev vows to present the Knesset, Israel's legislature, with a proposal for a bill next week which would inflict strict penalties on those attempting to distribute conversion materials in Israel.
It is unclear among Israeli media whether, if by Wednesday March 7, the postal workers have chosen to deliver the materials or whether they have continued to protest.