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January 15, 1988 - Image 119

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-01-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I SCOOPS I

YOU'RE COVERED

With Our New T-Shirt!

El Al's Skies Friendly
To Messianic Jews

MARILYN S. LIEBERSTEIN

p

hiladelphia — "Come
Celebrate Israel's
40th Birthday," an-
nounces the colorful travel
brochure bearing the distinc-
tive El Al logo with its Israeli
flag. "Shavuot '88 Israel,
History in the Making."
And, in smaller print: "A
14-day Messianic Jewish tour
featuring a three-day Shavuot
conference of Messianic Jews
in Jerusalem. Be a part of the
largest gathering of Jewish
Believers in Jerusalem since
the Book of Acts."
On the face of it, El Al
Israel Airlines, the national
carrier of the Jewish state, ap-
pears to be lending its name
and legitimacy to a tour spon-
sored by a group of Jews for
Jesus.
"It's a glossy brochure," said
David Gotlib, executive direc-
tor of the Jewish Resource
Center of Overbrook Park,
Pa., a counter-missionary
agency. "It makes it all look
very official. My major con-
cern is that El Al is in-
advertently lending its name
to these groups, whose
ultimate aim is the destruc-
tion of our Jewish heritage
and Jewish people."
In response, representatives
of El Al emphasized that the
airline is a commercial, not a
religious entity, and that it
cannot and will not
discriminate against any
religious group that wants to
visit Israel.
"El Al is a commercial
airline owned by the govern-
ment of Israel," said Aviva
Lavi, El Al's public relations
director in New York. "We're
in business to make money. If
a group coming in wants to
fly El Al — whatever their
religious beliefs — we take
them."
Lavi explained that the El
Al brochure started as a tour
shell folder — a basic El Al
brochure that each touring
group can use to advertise its
own specific itinerary. El Al
distributes tour shells to
every travel group the airline
carries.
Michal Guttmann, the El
Al regional manager in
Washington who's accepted
the business of the messianic
group sponsoring the Shavuot
tour, said the group approach-
ed the airline.
"They wanted to go to
Israel, and they asked us to

Marilyn S. Lieberstein is on the
staff of the Philadelphia Jewish
Exponent.

give them the tour shells in
order to promote their tour,"
she explained. "What can I
tell them? As a company, we
cannot discriminate against
anybody. We must not
discriminate — unless it's a
security risk.
"Basically," she continued,
"we in the Jewish communi-
ty have to relate to [the mes-
sianics] like to a Moslem
group or a Catholic group or
a Buddhist group or I don't
know what. We may have pro-
blems with this kind of cult,
but that doesn't mean we can
discriminate."
But doesn't El Al appear to
be lending its name and
legitimacy to messianic
missionaries?
"I never thought about it,"
Guttman said. "But if you're
talking about the public rela-
tions aspect of it,
discriminating against a
group because of religious
belief is also a public rela-
tions problem."
Joseph Shoval, director of
the Mid-Atlantic States Israel
Government Tourist Office,
acknowledged the sensitivity
surrounding the issue of, as
he put, "Jews who are Chris-
tians or Christians who are
Jews."
He said that although "peo-
ple might think (the mes-
sianic tour brochure) has the
blessing of the Israeli govern-
ment, the Israeli government
is not supportive of messianic
Jews. We are not and we won't
be.'
The real point, he said, is
that Israel is doing its utmost
to guarantee free access to
holy places for the different
denominations.
If El Al denied its tour
shells to the messianics,
Shoval added, "it's not that
they won't come to Israel.
They will come to Israel
anyway. They might fly Pan
Am or TWA. We will not be off
the hook by pretending they
don't exist. It's a kind of
Catch 22."
Gotlib of the resource
center, who pointed out the
brochure, reported that it is
being circulated around the
country by various messianic
groups: Messianic Visions in
Bethesda, Md., the Messianic
Jewish Movement Interna-
tional in Kensington, Md.,
and Petach Tikvah in
Rochester, N.Y.
"It's necessary for all of us
— including El Al — to make
a distinction between sincere
and honest Christians and
those people whose only in-
terst is a delegitimization of
Judaism."

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