The head of the international Christian television network GOD TV confirmed that Israeli authorities are looking to “shut down” its new Hebrew-language Christian channel after concerns were raised about whether the channel will proselytize to Jews.
In a video to supporters posted over the weekend, GOD TV CEO Ward Simpson addressed the ongoing controversy surrounding Shelanu TV, which recently began airing on Israel’s HOT cable network.
“Since we have started to broadcast, it has created quite a stir in Israel,” he explained. “The governing authorities that manage these things have been receiving numerous complaints about our content and about different things with the channel, especially as it relates to the rules and regulations of what can and cannot be said on TV in Israel.”
“Let me just tell you what’s going on at the moment,” Simpson continued. “As far as we have been told, the [Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council] would like to shut down the channel. We have a great team of lawyers over there, probably the best in Israel. So they are working with the council now to try and figure out what to do.”
As previously reported, GOD TV was given a seven-year license from the Israeli Communications Ministry and began airing last month. It billed itself as one of the first Christian channels in Israel to broadcast in Hebrew.
But reports surfaced with questions about Shelanu TV’s intent to preach about Jesus Christ to Jews.
Evangelism and proselytizing in Israel is a “touchy subject,” Simpson admitted in his update video. In Israel, proselytizing to minors without their parents' consent is against the law. And under the terms of Shelanu TV’s license, the network is forbidden from engaging in missionary activities.
“Basically, our attorneys and our staff over there have all told me that we are in compliance and that we are following the rules and regulations, that we are legal and that there is no way that they can really pull us off the air because we haven’t done it,” he said.
“In case you don’t know, proselytizing in Israel is a very touchy subject. For example, you cannot try to convert Jews. You can’t try to make them become a Christian, for example, which we aren’t anyway. You can’t do that to children for sure under 18. You can’t offer a gift or a bribe or to pay somebody to come across to your beliefs. Those things you can’t do and we don’t do.”
Simpson assured that Shelanu TV will follow all of the guidelines and regulations that govern its license.
“We believe that the authorities, once they abide by the rules that they set for themselves and once they abide by the things they put in place, once this is all said and done, Shelanu TV will continue to broadcast in Israel,” he said.
“We have faith in the Israeli government and we have faith in their judicial system. We thank God that Israel is a nation that practices religion and freedom of worship. The fact that they gave us a license to broadcast Christian content in Hebrew is a testament to that truth. We thank God for them.”
The CEO assured that GOD TV knows that preaching Jesus in Israel is an emotional subject and the network is “sensitive” to that fact. However, he stressed that preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ is what all Christians are called to do.
“But that’s what we do,” he reiterated. “That’s who we are. We are Christians. We are called to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. That’s what we are trying to do and that’s what we are doing with your help and God’s grace.”
Simpson added that there are already some Jews who believe in Jesus as the Messiah.
“As far as our Messianic Jewish brothers and sisters go, they haven’t converted,” he explained. “They don’t convert. They continue to live their lives as Jews and they continue to practice Judaism for the most part. They just believe that Yeshua is the Messiah and they follow Him but they keep all of their traditions. They keep all of their practices.”
Simpson also apologized for some language in an earlier video promoting Shelanu TV that some in Israel found offensive. Media reports suggested that Simpson’s comments were indicative of Shelanu TV’s intent to take “Jesus into the homes and lives and hearts of the Jewish people.”
“I did apologize and I express regret for anything we might have said or done to create the appearance that we are not going to follow the guidelines," he said.
GOD TV is a supporter of the state of Israel and has been involved in providing aid to underprivileged kids and pregnant mothers there, he noted.
“If you remember some time ago, the ministry of tourism made GOD TV an honorary ambassador,” Simpson said.
According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Shelanu TV’s license stipulates that the channel can’t carry programs that have “undue influence” on viewers.
Council Chair Asher Biton told the newspaper that GOD TV originally informed the council that it would earmark its programing toward pro-Israel, Christian audiences.
Other Christian channels such as Daystar and Middle East Television are also given permission to broadcast in Israel.