God TV Responds to Critics: ‘We’re Not Trying to Convert Jews; We Just Want Them to Accept Jesus as the Messiah’

Regulatory body in charge of broadcasting in Israel is currently investigating whether God TV, which launched its new Israeli channel two weeks ago, is in violation of its terms of license, which forbid proselytizing

Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
GOD TV's CEO Ward Simpson during a broadcast.
GOD TV's CEO Ward Simpson during a broadcast.Credit: Screen capture from Youtube
Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz

Fearful of losing its license to broadcast in Israel, an evangelical network insists that its missionary activities are not a violation of Israeli law.

In a video message posted over the weekend, God TV CEO Ward Simpson declared that the network has no intention of using its platform to convert Jews to Christianity, which could be considered a violation of its broadcasting license and of Israeli law.

He suggested, rather, that its goal was to persuade Jews in Israel to embrace Jesus as the messiah without renouncing their Judaism – that is to say, it hoped to turn them into Messianic Jews, also sometimes known as “Jews for Jesus.”

“Proselytizing in Israel is a very touchy subject,” said Simpson in a video posted on the God TV website on Friday. “You cannot try to convert Jews, you cannot try to make them become a Christian, which we aren’t anyway. ... Those things you can’t do and we won’t do. We just teach and preach and share Christian content, and let the Lord do the rest. Our Messianic Jewish brothers and sisters don’t convert. They continue to live the lives of Jews. They just believe Yeshua is the messiah, and they follow him.”

The Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council, the regulatory body that operates under the auspices of the Israeli Communications Ministry, is currently investigating whether God TV, which launched its new Israeli channel, Shelanu, two weeks ago, is in violation of the terms of its license. Its license stipulates that it cannot carry programs that wield “undue influence” on viewers. This would include proselytizing.

Ward Simpson, CEO of GOD TV, speaks about GOD TV launching in Israel

The council launched the investigation after it became aware of a video message posted by Simpson, in which he declared that the new channel aimed “to take the gospel of Jesus into the homes and lives and hearts of the Jewish people.”

The video message was taken down after the investigation was announced. Asher Biton, chairman of the council, told Haaretz that God TV had never shared its plans to use the cable channel for missionary activities. What the cable council had been told, he said, was that the channel would carry programming earmarked for pro-Israel, Christian audiences.

In the latest video message, Simpson said he regretted that “some of the language I used was offensive to some folks and maybe not in keeping with what we can and cannot say on the network.” He also apologized “for anything we might have said or done to create the appearance that we’re not going to follow the guidelines.”

He also promised “to follow all the rules and regulations that govern our TV license.”

At the same time, he refused to rule out missionizing. “The subject of preaching about Jesus is a touchy one, and we do understand that, and we have to be sensitive to it,” he said. “But that’s what we do, and that’s who we are. We’re Christians, and we’re called to go into the world and preach the gospel. That’s what we’re trained to do, and that’s what we’re doing.”

A group of evangelicals taking part in a "We Love Israel" march in Jerusalem, October 2019. (Illustrative)Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

God TV is a huge international Christian network that broadcasts in some 200 countries around the world. It signed a seven-year contract with Hot, the Israeli cable television provider, to host Shelanu. More than 700,000 Israeli households subscribe to Hot, which controls nearly 50 percent of the multichannel market in the country.

Shelanu is broadcast on Hot's Channel 182. The description provided to subscribers on television screens says it is a “faith-based channel geared toward pro-Israel Christians.” Some of its programs are translated or dubbed into Hebrew, while others are produced locally by the Israeli Messianic community

It is not the first Christian channel to broadcast in Israel. Other examples include Daystar and Middle East Television. Shelanu is the first, however, to broadcast in Hebrew and to openly flaunt its missionary activities.

In a letter sent several months ago to members of the Messianic community in Israel, God TV regional director Ron Cantor wrote: “This has never been done before. We have tried to fly below the radar, not because we are ashamed or seeking to hide anything, but because the Orthodox community will do anything to keep the message of Yeshua out of this country. Please pray.”

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

SUBSCRIBE
Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

נתניהו עם כיפה שחורה על הראש נשען בשתי ידיו על הכותל

Israel Is Heading for Its Most 'Jewish' Election Ever

An El Al jet sits on the tarmac at John C. Munro International Airport in Hamilton, Thursday, in 2003.

El Al to Stop Flying to Toronto, Warsaw and Brussels

FILE PHOTO: A Star of David hangs from a fence outside the dormant landmark Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood in 2021.

American Judaism Is in Decline. That's Great News for American Jews

Crowds at Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport, in April.

U.S. Official: West Bank Entry for Palestinian Americans Unrelated to Israeli Visa Waivers

Haaretz spoke with several people who said they had fled Ukraine, arrived in Israel,  and were asked to undergo DNA tests in order to establish paternity.

'My Jewish Grandmother Has a Number on Her Arm, Why Does Israel Greet Me This Way?'

People taking part in the annual "March of the Living" to commemorate the Holocaust, between the former death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland, four years ago.

It’s Not Just the Holocaust. Israel Is Failing to Teach the History of the Jews