A new evangelical Christian television channel in Israel has been threatened with being shut down if it engages in any type of missionary activity, according to Israeli media reports.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that the international television network GOD TV’s new Hebrew-language channel Shelanu began airing last week on Israel’s HOT cable network after receiving a seven-year license from the Israeli Communications Ministry.
GOD TV CEO Ward Simpson announced the launch and declared that the network has been “given government permission to broadcast the Gospel of Jesus Christ” in Israel, something he said has never been done before.
Proselytizing to people younger than 18 without their parents' consent is against the law in Israel, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. And under the terms of the Shelanu license, the network is forbidden from engaging in missionary activities.
The Chairman of the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council, Asher Biton, told the newspaper that he was unaware when the license was granted to Shelanu that the new channel planned to engage in activities that are prohibited under the terms of the license.
Biton told the newspaper that he has ordered an investigation into the channel. Biton was quoted as saying that if it's determined that the license terms have been violated or there is any intention to violate them, Shelanu would be shut down.
“According to our regulations, it is fine to broadcast religious programming,” Biton was quoted as saying. “[B]ut it is forbidden to broadcast content that has the potential to influence viewers in an undue fashion, and most certainly young and impressionable viewers.”
Biton said he doesn't want to rush to judgment because shutting down television networks isn't something the council does often.
A HOT spokesperson told the newspaper that Shelanu is one of a number of religious channels that are broadcast in the country.
“It received a permit from the council and is broadcasting according to law,” the spokesperson declared, adding that “full information was provided to the council and the channel is operating in accordance with the permit it received.”
According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Communications Minister David Amsalem said he “will not allow any missionary channel to operate in Israel, at no time and under no circumstances.”
Amsalem also demanded that if an investigation finds the channel to be engaging in missionary activities that “it be removed immediately.”
The Christian Post reached out to GOD TV for comment on the reports. A response is pending.
According to a statement from GOD TV, Shelanu translates to the word “ours” in Hebrew. The channel aims to “present new and original programming from local congregations on the ground in Israel.”
“Additionally, international Messianic voices will share powerful real-life testimonies of Israelis who have come to know Yeshua as Messiah,” the statement reads. “The channel, which won’t carry fundraising, is being financed by Christians across the globe who want to empower Messianic congregations.”
The GOD TV statement also states that Shelanu wants “every person in Israel to know, not a foreign Messiah, but a Jewish one!”
“His name is Yeshua and He has not forgotten His people,” the statement adds.
Shelanu is operated in partnership with Tikkun International, an Israel-based network of Christian ministries.
“We want Jewish viewers to grasp the fact that Jesus is theirs,” a statement from Tikkun International on the new channel reads. “He is not a foreigner, intruder or imposter. He is their Jewish Messiah, born in Israel, raised as a Jew.”
According to the news outlets, other Christian channels such as Daystar and Middle East Television also broadcast in Israel but do not flaunt their missionary activities.