While these groups vary slightly from each other in exact denomination and particular ideology, they share a common expectation: a return of Jesus sometime in the immediate future. This expectation has prompted the members who comprise these groups to abandon their homes, careers, and in some instances families, so that they might travel to Israel and await what they believe will be the Second Coming of Jesus.
Affiliation of these individuals with their respective groups has transformed what may have existed as a fairly isolated phenomena consisting of several individuals spread throughout the Jerusalem area into sizable, organized groups whose exact intentions and beliefs are not known by the general public. The following is an attempt to present information acquired through personal interaction with members of these groups over a three-month period. Also, an important aspect of the research I conducted of these groups was to provide a basic conjecture concerning their capability for causing harm to Israeli society and to recommend what action, if any, should be taken to prevent such harm. These conclusions and recommendations will be included in this paper.
House of Prayer
The first group, and affiliated members, to be dealt with, The House of Prayer, currently consists of approximately ten active members, each residing in the town of Bethany (Arabic: Azaria). The patriarch, a man approximately 55 years old, refers to himself as Brother David. Brother David arrived in Israel 20 years ago from the U.S where he claims to have been a preacher, and proprietor of a trailer park. Brother David does not utilize a last name, a common practice among ministry members, and has destroyed his passport. His residence within Israel is illegal and has resulted in his arrest on several occasions. The consequence of one such arrest was a two-month imprisonment in a Jerusalem jail. During his jailing Israeli police attempted and failed to ascertain Brother David’s identity and national origin. This failure resulted in an inability of the authorities to process him for deportation; Brother David was released.
Following this incident, attempts by authorities to deport Brother David were apparently abandoned and Brother David was allowed to continue building the membership of his ministry with little legal interference. He has, on three to four occasions been detained for questioning by Israeli police although, to my knowledge, he has never been formally charged with any offense.
During this interval of time Brother David made the acquaintance of Sharon (a.k.a.- Sister Sharon). Sharon, a woman approximately 50 years old, and mother of seven, is a native of Iowa who later moved to Grass Valley, California. Sharon, like Brother David attributes her decision to relocate to Israel and await the rapture and Second Coming of Christ to a call by G-d. During the imprisonment of Brother David Sharon assumed the bureaucratic duties of the ministry and has since remained the administrator of the ministry handling the money soliciting functions of the group as well as the details of the ministry’s charity functions. Brother David has preferred to concentrate on the social aspects of the ministry which include the leading of Wednesday night prayer meetings and conducting occasional tours of the Jerusalem area for the benefit of visiting Christians.
Brother David, with the aid of Sharon, relocated the ministry from a religious Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem to the Arab village of Azaria from which the ministry currently operates. The principal reason given for the move was an attack by Haredi youth on David and Sharon during which their residence was vandalized and partially set on fire; the occurrence of this incident has not been confirmed by additional sources. The move to Azaria allowed Brother David over time to acquire houses intended for housing of visiting Christians and ministry members; ten houses in the village are now rented or leased by the ministry.
While the ministry underwent changes in physical location its membership also underwent transformation. Perhaps the most profound alteration to the ministry membership was the addition of Brother Raymond, the son of Sharon.
Raymond is a tall, thin man roughly 36 years of age; tattoos displaying crucifixes as well as the word G-d written in Arabic decorate his arms. His eyes are the most striking component of his physical appearance as they display an intensity which defies exact description yet affect all who make his acquaintance. Raymond’s personality is similarly striking. He immediately greets a stranger with his witness and an offer to read his poetry. Notable elements of Raymond’s witness include his reference to his twelve-year imprisonment for petty theft, and subsequent release from prison and transformation into a born-again Christian. Raymond’s spiritual revival resulted in his travelling to Israel where he eventually joined his mother to await the rapture and Second Coming. Both Raymond and Sharon claim that he was not aware of his mother’s exact whereabouts and that their reunion was merely coincidental, or as they would prefer it be described – a miracle.
Raymond is highly educated in New and Old Testament scriptures, theories of government conspiracy, and he possesses a genuine talent in the delivery of this knowledge to others. Raymond apparently struggles (see poetry) at times to remain on his newly chosen path although I never personally witnessed any major transgressions. Raymond smokes and occasionally drinks but I have seen no evidence of alcoholism or substance abuse of any kind. He has in one instance been accused of domestic violence. I saw no physical evidence of abuse on his wife nor was I able to investigate the truth of the claim. It is my opinion that Raymond is capable of violence if provoked. Raymond does not appear to hold clear suicidal tendencies yet a severe disruption in his life could result in such inclinations. Also of interest concerning Raymond is a severe weight loss which I have observed over the period of time I was in contact with him.
With the issue of personality at hand I would to describe Brother David in more detail. David is approximately six feet tall with brown hair, a mouth of missing teeth, and a larger than average build; features which combine to produce a man of an imposing physical stature. In striking contrast to his physical appearance is his generally gentle demeanor. Well educated in scripture, New and Old, Brother David acts as the head of the ministry, although no such formal title actually exists. Brother David occasionally deviates from the soft manner in which he normally speaks during times when he feels the need to reprimand ministry members. On one occasion I was present when Brother David instructed a member to disconnect, in mid-conversation, a cellular telephone call which the member received during a prayer meeting.
While Brother David may be the official (or unofficial) director of the ministry his authority is not unchallenged. It came to my attention that a rift exists between him and Brother Raymond over the issue of what David believes was Raymond’s hurried decision to marry. Sharon also seems to question David’s authority although both she and Raymond do not openly disobey his wishes; one example of this is their secret ritual of smoking in Sharon’s apartment. A power struggle does seem to exist though it is a fairly quiet one.
In the event of David’s passing Sharon would be the most likely candidate to assume control of the loosely structured ministry. This may soon be a possibility considering the fact that Brother David refuses to accept medical treatment and at the time of my departure from Israel he was suffering from labored breathing and high fever. Brother David does not, to my knowledge harbor intentions to commit violent acts against himself or others but would violently resist deportation if it appeared an actual possibility, as would Sharon and Raymond.
Sharon’s personality, in comparison to the other members of the group, may be described as down to earth. It is not unusual to overhear Sharon settling minor disputes or attempting to abate the concerns or fears of David. It is also Sharon, as mentioned earlier, who controls the financial aspects of the organization. Sharon believes strongly in the impending rapture and Second Coming of Jesus and related government conspiracy theories, but presents herself in a far more rational manner than the others.
Sharon is an attractive woman and it is unknown whether she or David were ever romantically involved. At times it appears that Sharon humors rather than respects Brother David but I have not known the two to argue openly. It is my opinion that Sharon does not pose a threat to herself or the Israeli public but, as previously stated, would violently avoid arrest if she felt it would lead to deportation; a fact which she has personally attested to.
Continuing with the treatment of member personalities one is led to Karen, Brother Raymond’s wife. Karen is a 40-43 year old self-proclaimed former Las Vegas showgirl, drug abuser and prostitute. It is the author’s belief that her claims are strongly exaggerated as it is the custom of born-again Christians to stress the difficulties which they faced prior to their ‘salvation’ so as to emphasize their reformation. Karen claims to have attended ‘Christian Boot Camp’ for a period of years before venturing to Israel. She hails from a wealthy family yet rarely mentions this. Shortly after her induction into the ministry Karen married Raymond in a ceremony conducted by Sharon; the marriage holds no legal authority. This marriage remains a sensitive issue between Raymond and Brother David. Karen often appears distraught and ill tempered in Raymond’s presence. It is highly likely that Karen will undergo some form of severe emotional trauma within the coming years. She should be closely monitored.
Al, an athletically built man about 45-50 years of age, arrived in Israel from the U.S. approximately seven years ago, because of his strong personality he also deserves close attention. Al is a learned man who acts as a tour guide of Jerusalem and other Israeli sites but it is unknown whether or not Al is a registered tour guide. He claims to have spent time abroad in several other countries including Japan and he possesses a blatantly arrogant attitude. While he clearly believes himself to be quite knowledgeable, it is this author’s opinion that he is of quite average intelligence and attained no more than a high school education.
Al’s most particular mannerisms surface when he is confronted by a person or persons who do not share his opinions concerning Christianity. This is a rather common occurrence as Al thrives and delights in confrontation and considers his beliefs both unique and infallible. The author is at a loss to give a concise explanation of his ideals although it is known that Al does not accept Jesus as the Lord but solely as the messiah. Al claims others in the House of Prayer share this belief yet refrain from expressing it out of fear of being ostracized; this conjecture cannot be confirmed or denied.
Al’s attitude has proven potentially dangerous to other members of the ministry; a claim which is based on an account of verbal abuse reported to me by a ministry member. This person, Kathy Frank, a Messianic Jew, and mother of three young children, was harassed by Al. His behavior concerned Miss Frank to the point that she became concerned for her safety and physically compelled Al to vacate her house after he refused to comply with her verbal request. During the argument, Al made it clearly known to Kathy and her family that he does not view them as true Christians. The account was verified by Kathy’s eldest daughter, Rebekah.
It is reasonable to assume that Al will continue to live in the village of Bethany and remain an integral member of the ministry. As the power struggle within the group escalates and Brother David’s health continues to worsen, Al may begin to establish himself as the logical replacement of Brother David as the ministry head. It is unlikely that the core members will accept this willfully and a significant upheaval, consisting of the purging of members who hold views in opposition to those of Al, will take place within the group. Such a shift could result in the complete disintegration of the ministry.
As expressed in the preceding paragraphs, Al demonstrates potentially violent behavior. His abusive behavior currently remains at the verbal level but may intensify under any number of seemingly normal situations. He should be monitored regularly and if possible, it would be beneficial for the Israeli government to examine the legality of his role as a tour guide and his visa status.
Sharing a strong friendship with both Al and Brother Raymond is Rod Higdon, a 40-year-old former country singer. Rod initially emerges as a relatively reserved personable Christian man of high values. However, his passionate soliloquies, which discuss the coming rapture, destroy any notions one might harbor of Rod as a reserved young man. Rod speaks to those who will listen of the immediate need to accept Jesus or face a future in hell. He also fervently offers advice to any person who refuses to embrace his beliefs and therefore will not experience the rapture; “Do not allow the mark of the beast to be put upon you!” Rod warns. “Better to have your head cut off your body, than to serve Satan,” Rod has explained. Rod physically demonstrates his readiness for the future rapture by wearing a robe that he has fashioned specifically for the event.
Despite Rod’s attempts to present himself as a genuinely benevolent man, sources within the group offered contradictory evidence. The House of Prayer occasionally distributes used clothing to the local Arabs and volunteers its services to a village orphanage. According to the source, Rod has refused to work at the orphanage, choosing instead to pay other members of the ministry to fulfill his philanthropic duties. Rod justifies his refusal with the following statement; “My job here is to be in front of the cameras. That is the only work I will do.”
Also of extreme interest is Rod’s unique relationship with Coby (Jacob), an Israeli military intelligence officer stationed in the nearby settlement of Moly Ad Amine. Coby has been visiting the House of Prayer in an official manner since the arrest of the Denver 11, or the Concerned Christians, in early January. As part of his routine observance of the group, Coby conducts formal interviews with ministry members; all interviews have been held at the Jerusalem Hilton. While the majority of the ministry offers polite cooperation, Rod has become a paid informer of Coby’s. In return for weekly meetings with Coby at which Rod provides detailed information concerning the group’s activities, Rod receives monetary compensation. Rod also communicates with Coby by telephone. The exact amount of payment which Rod is given, is unknown; however it is this author’s belief that the pay is between 200-300 shekels per interview. Rod has also solicited and accepted help from Coby in renewing his visa.
Rod is a man of subtle contradictions; the polite born again contrasted by the fervent rapture awaiting fire and brimstone spouting man. The loyal, friendly ministry member, is challenged by his role as a paid informer of Israeli intelligence. Rod maintains close friendships with Al, Raymond, and Brother David; his role as provider of information does not appear to have affected these relationships. Al’s behavior has, to this author’s knowledge, been challenged only by one fringe member of the ministry. Rod will most likely continue to reside on the Mt. Of Olives for an extended period of time, although he may travel back to the U.S. if he is in need of money (Rod receives stipends from his father) or if such a return would benefit his music career. As of early June Rod was considering a marriage to a Florida Native. In closing this analysis of Rod, it should be stated that he does not appear a physical threat by himself, but seems capable of being influenced by group pressure.
The final members of the House of Prayer will be described as a social unit. Said group consists of a widowed mother, Kathy Frank and her three children; Rebekah, David, and Tamara; all natives of St. Petersburg, Florida. Kathy’s deceased husband was a messianic Jew and the family identifies as such, although neither Kathy nor her children may be considered Rabbinically Jewish.
Following the loss of her husband in 1997 to a rare form of brain cancer, Kathy Frank visited Israel with her eldest daughter Rebekah in what was essentially an exploratory voyage to determine the feasibility of moving her entire family to the State of Israel. Kathy and her husband had considered such a move for several years although they had never realistically explored it. Kathy and her daughter returned to Florida invigorated from their journey but Kathy had not yet come to a final decision regarding the relocation of her family. During the interval of time, between Kathy’s return to the U.S. and her ensuing decision to move her family to Israel, Ms. Frank viewed a network news broadcast, which highlighted Brother David and the House of Prayer. Kathy cites this broadcast as having provided her the knowledge to contact Brother David once she had returned to Israel with her family. Despite this fact, Sharon vehemently denies that any person has ever been guided to the House of Prayer by any power less than G-d.
The Frank family became formal members of the ministry in February 1999 yet have essentially remained personally estranged from the larger group. This may be attributed to both the Frank’s tight family structure as well as their personal identification as Jews. Members of the House of Prayer have often commented about the obvious contradictions of Kathy Frank’s wish to lead a double life as both a fundamentalist Christian and as a Jewish woman. Some members of the ministry fear that should Kathy’s family be presented the opportunity to make Aliya, the Franks would distance themselves from the ministry in an attempt to be seen by the Israeli government as suitable candidates for citizenship. Being known members of a Christian cult would most likely have an adverse affect on the Franks’ citizenship eligibility.
The fears of the ministry concerning Ms. Frank are not unfounded. On 4/13/99, Mrs. Frank consulted the Ministry of Interior in reference to her eligibility as a potential Israeli citizen. The immigration officer informed Ms. Frank that she and her children may apply for Aliya pending the presentation of a valid katuba, a Jewish marriage certificate. Since this initial consultation Ms. Frank has begun to seriously consider the option of Aliya and has discussed undergoing orthodox conversion if necessary. She has also made attempts to conceal her ties with the House of Prayer as she fears these ties may adversely affect her ability to make Aliya. However, these attempts may be considered wholly futile due to the frequent interviews Israeli intelligence officers have conducted with Kathy, her children, and other ministry members.
Kathy Frank, a petite woman, roughly 45 years old, has offered reluctant cooperation during such interviews. She has expressed concern for her family’s future well being as a result of meetings with intelligence officers and has described these interviewers as extremely hostile. Frank has considered ceasing cooperation with Israeli intelligence and has voiced this view during ministry meetings. This topic has proven a cause of disagreement with other members who have urged her uninterrupted cooperation with authorities and dismissed her claims of harassment as overreaction. Several ministry members have spoken directly to the author in regards to this issue and appear extremely displeased with her behavior during her interviews with Israeli officials.
Despite the adversities of attempting to raise a family in a foreign country and at times being regarded as an outsider in her community, Kathy has, to this author’s knowledge chosen to stay both affiliated with the ministry, and to remain in the country, more specifically in the town of Bethany. Ms. Frank has on several occasions spoken of her attraction to the Arab village regardless of its lack of aesthetic appeal, the mentally retarded neighbor who often allows himself into the Frank apartment, and the status of Bethany as Palestinian controlled area. Her decision to remain in the village is most likely due to her position as a single mother whose only social contacts are her children and the ministry. Kathy’s familiarity with the town may be another important factor in her need for stability which she does not currently wish to abandon. Should Kathy make contacts in a more favorable section of the country or make Aliya she would undoubtedly remove herself and family from the village of Bethany. Ms. Frank is a strong personality although she is quite naive. She has little knowledge of current political affairs and seems oblivious to seemingly simple precautions which one must take while abroad. One example is that Frank and her children purchased food from local Arab street vendors and only realized the connection between consumption of this food and stomach ailments after being advised of the potential health hazard associated in eating this type of food. Frank’s knowledge of religion pales in comparison to that of other ministry members and she is extremely susceptible to suggestion. A statement spoken by one member or other individual, no matter if factual or not, may easily be adopted by Frank as truth.
In spite of these flaws, Frank remains an effective head of her family, all of whom are home-schooled. The eldest, Rebekah Frank, a seventeen year old whose appearance belies her age, seems to bear a large portion of the responsibility for the household. Rebekah acts in many ways as the representative of the family, scheduling appointments, making telephone calls, and handling email. She is a reserved young woman and has a strong aura of innocence which may be attributed to her sheltered childhood and exclusion from both public and private school systems. Her quiet demeanor may also be connected with the recent loss of her father.
Rebekah abhors the frequent media attention which has been given to the family from the time of their arrival at Ben Gurion Airport. She avoids the press when possible and is paranoid of their intentions. She may be coaxed, at times, into appearing on film though immediately afterwards she regrets her decision. Her avoidance of the media is based both on distrust as well as a basic adolescent embarrassment of appearing on worldwide television broadcasts.
Rebekah has adjusted relatively well to her surroundings. She has become involved with a Christian youth group based out of King of Kings and has begun babysitting for an orthodox family in the settlement Mole Adamin; she has kept her babysitting secret from the ministry for fear of their disapproval. Because of her exposure to the Jewish settlement, Rebekah has shown increased interest in Israeli society and has begun to consider Israel as a permanent home. She has also spoken of the possibility of working on a kibbutz or joining the Israeli military.
Approximately three years younger than Rebekah is her brother David, a tall boy of dark complexion and awkward mannerisms. David, like Rebekah has assumed certain burdens as a result of the absence of a father figure. On David’s shoulders has been placed responsibility for the religious leadership of the family. Ms. Frank encourages David to spend solitary hours studying bible and she has often spoken of a vision which David “received” during the family’s first week in Israel. As David’s stay in Bethany continues he is likely to take on many of the beliefs shared by the other ministry members concerning the end of times and rapture.
It should be noted that throughout David Frank’s life he has lacked a stable environment, a situation which was exacerbated by the passing of his father and the recent displacement of his family. Lacking a strong male role model and normal contact with peers David may face a difficult adult life as a result. He is not entirely without friends though, David often plays with children of the Branch Davidians, a primarily black ministry located near his home. David, unlike his elder sister, does not attempt to identify with Judaism or Israeli society, preferring to cling more to his Christian fundamentalist identity. David’s future is unpredictable and it would be in both his and the Israeli government’s best interests to periodically monitor David’s progression from adolescence to adulthood in the coming years. It is possible that David could emerge in adult life as a leader of another Christian ministry based on his early experience with the House of Prayer.
The youngest of the three children is Tamara, aged nine. There is very little to say about Tamara other than she is extremely shy and refuses to appear on film. When visiting the Frank’s apartment Tamara is most often found hiding in the bedroom away from the cameras and journalists. Kathy occasionally encourages Tamara to present herself to interviewers, yet to the author’s knowledge Tamara has never agreed to do so.
Two informal members of the House of Prayer also need to be mentioned in order for this to be considered a thorough report. These persons, John Wilbert and Steve Moshne stayed in the town of Bethany for short periods of time before moving on to their respective locations. John and Steve’s extreme passion for scripture is the only basis for their association. John Wilbert is an approximately 55-year-old ex-carpenter and native of Florida. Wilbert is an extremely secretive and paranoid man with a criminal history, which includes a charge of assault on an officer. During his time as a member of the ministry Wilbert avoided all weekly meetings and never appeared on film or spoke with any media representatives. He often criticized Brother David’s open dealings with the media. John is extremely well versed in scripture and popular conspiracy theories and has published a small pamphlet which deals with Christian fundamentalism.
In April, Wilbert abruptly left the ministry citing the unlawful marriage of Brother Raymond and Karen as his main justification; Wilbert resided in an apartment owned by Raymond and considered himself to be living in a house of fornication. Wilbert then moved to the Tabasco youth hostel located in the Old City of Jerusalem. He remained in this area for several weeks; his whereabouts are currently unknown. Wilbert has exhibited extreme paranoia and hostility, and his exact location should be ascertained before the coming millenium. It is most likely that he could be found in the Galilee region or that he will reappear near Yaffa Gate, in Jerusalem.
The second short-term member of the ministry, Steve Moshne, is a unique case. Born in Ramallah, Moshne was reared as a devout Muslim. Moshne’s family moved to the United States during his adolescent years and Moshne began to question his Muslim faith. Moshne’s questioning eventually led him to the conclusion that his Muslim faith was false and that Christianity is the only true faith. Moshne embraced Christianity wholeheartedly, has participated, and intends to continue participating in mission activities whose general focus is on Palestinian Muslims; he is a fluent speaker of Arabic.
Steve speaks with a stutter at times and seems to have trouble communicating his ideas clearly. He struggles between his identity as a Palestinian Christian and as a fundamentalist American Christian. At the heart of this internal struggle is the benevolent view towards Jews held by the majority of ministry members and fundamentalists in general. Steve realizes the need to respect Judaism if he wishes to remain a member of the community but his impression of the Israeli as a conquering force over his Palestinian brethren creates extreme difficulties for him. Steve’s Arab identity denies him the luxury of viewing the Arab/Israeli situation neutrally as the other ministry members must.
Steve appears at times emotionally unbalanced and has admitted that he is willing to risk his life in his attempts to convert Palestinian Muslims. During this author’s last visit with Steve, he explained his intentions to relocate to a Palestinian Church outside of Ramallah. From this base, he intends to pursue his proselytizing goals. His whereabouts are currently unknown and his safety should be considered in extreme jeopardy if he is indeed attempting to convert Ramallan Palestinians.
Having closely examined all core and auxiliary members of the House of Prayer, a clearer picture emerges of the common traits which members share.
All members share a common belief of an imminent second coming of Christ, they share a strong knowledge of Bible when compared to general society, and they have an intense distrust of the U.S. Federal government, reinforced by frequent exposure to books and audio tapes which deal with government conspiracy theories. All members expect the occurrence of the rapture within their lifetimes, although some may not admit this. Currently, the House of Prayer is loosely structured and its membership and leadership may undergo radical changes in the coming years because of the instability of the member’s psychological makeup and internal and external social pressures.
House of David
The second Mount of Olives based religious order whose members the author scrutinizes are followers of the 7th Day Adventist Branch Davidian movement; members of this group are predominantly black. This group which will hereon be referred to as “the Davidians” has stationed itself in Israel to await the rapture and Second Coming of Christ, just as the House of Prayer. The Davidians, under the leadership of Brother Solomon, a.k.a. Winston Rose, are affiliates of the greater Davidian organization which spans the world and strictly follows organizational dogma. The Davidians are legalistic Christians, observing kashrut laws as well as fasts and other Jewish holidays, although many of the dates of these celebrations have been readjusted by Brother Solomon to correspond with what he believes are the correct lunar based dates. Approximately 10-14 Davidians, including Solomon’s wife and mother, reside in the town of Bethany; the author was unable to gain sufficient access to members other than Solomon. At the core of the Davidian’s organization is the leadership of Brother Solomon, a Jamaican native and well-educated former English teacher and. Solomon goes to great lengths to ensure that he is at all times properly groomed and he will not appear on camera in clothing other than a full suit. His tall stature, booming accented voice, and well trimmed full beard, all act to form the outward appearance of a calculated and authoritative leader. This outward appearance is matched closely with a superb intellect and astounding knowledge of scripture supplemented with a thorough understanding of complex Davidian texts. Solomon believes that he has been appointed by G-d to serve as the next and final prophet in a line of Davidian prophets. Based on his status as a prophet Solomon cites scripture which states that G-d does not withhold information from his prophets, specifically information concerning the end of times. Acting under this assumption Solomon has implemented a complex mathematical formula whose product produces several important dates. He claims to have received heavenly guidance in the determination of these dates, most importantly the date of the rapture, which he calculated to July 20, 2001. All Davidians outwardly accept this date as valid. In the case that the rapture does not occur on July 20, 2001 Brother Solomon has stated that he will then rework his formulas and arrive at a new date; According to Solomon, the failure of the rapture to take place could be due to G-d having chosen to allow mankind additional time to prepare for the end of time.
Members of Solomon’s ministry, formally “The House of David” are, for the exception of two transient members, black Americans. These congregants, like Solomon, pay great attention to their outward appearance and take pride in a certain level of self-denial and strict obedience to Biblically based laws. While race does not appear as an issue to Solomon, members identify strongly as a black group and have complained of racist treatment by their Palestinian neighbors. This author had the unfortunate opportunity to be present during such an incident. Following a special Friday evening Passover service, I accompanied Rebekah and David Frank and a Davidian youth to the Frank’s home, located at the bottom of the hill. While walking, our group was approached by two Palestinian plainclothes police officers. At the sight of the officers, the Davidian youth, age 14, began to walk quickly. One of the officers roughly seized the youth by the arm and pulled him near. The Palestinians, in broken English, accused the Davidian of committing an act of vandalism at a nearby school; two boys had been reported near the area. Despite the presence of David Frank who also fit this description the police focussed their attention solely on the black youth. Eventually the situation was resolved by the author and the boy was remanded to my custody. Following the incident I questioned the Davidian youth and he revealed the frequency with which such harassment has been levied upon the black ministry members. Similar incidents have not been reported by any of Brother David’s congregation.
The House of David has received a great deal of publicity recently, although much of it fails to recognize the actual beliefs of the Davidians, focusing instead on their connection with the Davidians of Waco, Texas. The Mt. Of Olives Davidians are unique in their own right, as they are the only ministry in the vicinity which has specified a date on which the rapture will occur. Though Brother Solomon may be capable of coping with an error in his calculations of this date, it is likely that such an error could adversely affect his leadership status and general stability of the ministry. The group should obviously be monitored with increasing intensity as July 20, 2001 approaches; if Waco serves as any indication of their possible behavior in times of stress, human lives may be at stake. One additional note concerning the House of David, members vary radically from those of the House of Prayer in one major area. Davidians do not place great emphasis on conspiracy theories and rarely talk, if at all, about threats posed by the U.S. government. Unlike House of Prayer members, Davidians are not exposed to outside propaganda; instead they are inundated with various booklets published by Solomon and 7th Day Adventist Prayer books. In this way the House of David is much more insular than the House of Prayer. Also, membership does not fluctuate often, primarily as a result of the presence of Solomon’s immediate family as ministry members. However Brother Solomon expects a surge in membership during the coming months due to the proximity of the millenium.
Shared Characteristics of Both Ministries
The examination of both ministries reveals that while the two groups vary in certain aspects, their core beliefs are nearly identical. In addition to the common factors listed in the preceding analyses all members of both ministries hold the following as truths:
- The end times as prophesized in Daniel, Ezekial, and the Book, of Revelations are near.
- Jesus will gather the faithful in the “rapture of the true Church”.
- The ingathering of the exiles (Jews to their homeland) is a certain sign of this.
The reign of the anti-Christ and the false prophet are about to start. Additionally, members of both ministries as well as many fundamentalist Christians believe:
- The Pope is the anti-Christ or the false prophet.
- The Temple must be rebuilt; in order to do so the Mosque must be removed (either by Divine intervention or by man) from the Temple Mount.
- It is the duty of every true Christian to “witness” against the false prophet, and the anti-Christ and to ready himself for the rapture of the true church which will occur simultaneously around the world and on the Mt. of Olives.
Furthermore, ministry members and many Christian fundamentalists give credence to the following government conspiracy theories:
- The U.S. is slowly establishing a New World Order, the culmination of which will put the U.S. under United Nations Control.
- The U.S. government created the AIDS virus as a biological weapon.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency, under the guise of preparing for the Year 2000 computer bug, is building concentration camps for the internment of Christian Americans.
- The Oklahoma Federal building was not bombed by Timothy McVeigh. The building was destroyed by government officials in an effort to destroy documents which were threatening to the President.
- Foreign soldiers have begun to be stationed in the U.S. Finally, the fundamentalist Christian community, which is inclusive of both ministry memberships, believes that alien sightings do take place. However, the visitors are not aliens but agents of the devil.
A set of common beliefs such as the above creates a strong bond between the majority of Christian groups which have chosen to establish themselves in Israel and elsewhere. Though various ministries in Israel may differ in their ideologies concerning scriptural interpretation and the exact dates of the rapture and Second Coming, they remain a united force in the encouragement of the establishment of Christian based ministries in the Jerusalem area.
Contrary to the impression relayed by many media sources, these groups are not anticipating the end of times to occur on January 1, 2000. Contrarily, the House of David, the one group which has allocated a specific date, expects the destruction of the world to take place in the year 2001. A seven-year period of calamity, specified in the book of Revelations, must begin before the rapture and Second Coming are permitted to transpire. The House of David believes that the world has already entered this stage (which will conclude Jan, 2001) while the House of Prayer does not feel it has yet experienced the beginning of the seven years. Rather, they feel the millenium may serve as a point of reference from which the world will embark on the period of destruction and horror which these groups await.
I came to meet, and later gain a modest understanding of the before mentioned groups as a result of a fact finding mission conducted by Israel Resource Agency. The Agency’s goals were twofold, provide suitable advance information to an Israeli film producer who had contracted with Israel Resource, and to acquire intelligence concerning the activities of individuals and groups whose activities could prove harmful to the State of Israel; this information would ultimately be shared with the proper authorities. I was assigned to conduct the relevant research. Before the fieldwork began, it was anticipated by all involved that the ministries which the Agency had chosen to focus on would openly proclaim intentions to commit violent acts, or engage in mass suicide. Such documented plans would provide both the necessary footage for an undoubtedly interesting documentary as well as the evidence required to deport the members of these and other Christian “cults” who have the propensity for damaging Israeli society.
While groups such as the Concerned Christians, do exist I was not able to study them as a result of time constraints. The following descriptions offer a brief glimpse into several cults which have created an underlying fear in the Jerusalem area and abroad. As one reads these descriptions the similarities between these groups and those previously described should be noted as they are indicative of the potential harm the House of Prayer and the House of David are capable of. The following shall also serve as a conclusion to this paper Christian Identity is the name of a religious movement uniting many of the white supremacist groups in the United States. Identity’s teachers promote racism and sometimes violence. Their roots are deeply embedded in movements such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazis. They consider themselves the true Israel and view the Jews as half Devils and archenemies. They believe all but the white race are inferior creations. Identity’s religious and political views are often informed by conspiracy theories. According to this group, at the head of the world conspiracy that will lead to a final battle is ZOG: Zionist Occupation Government. Zionist Occupation Government is a term used to describe a clandestine group a Jewish leaders, extremely similar to those describe in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, whom some fundamentalist groups believe will attempt to assume control of the world.
A secretive Japanese group said by former members to spread neo Nazi, anti Semitic dogma, it has established itself as a charitable organization in England. A group leaflet states that as the year 2000 approaches, mankind might be annihilated by the baptism of fire. Similar language was used in Aum Shinrikyo materials; Aum Shinrikyo was the cult famous for the deadly sarin gas attack in Tokyo. A spokesman for Sukyo Mahikiri has denied the cult is linked to Aum Shinrikyo or that it is anti Semitic.
The House of Yahweh
A former kibbutz worker named Jacob, now Israel, Hawkins started the House of Yahweh, a group that prophesizes the end of the world will arrive very soon if the laws set down in the Bible are not universally obeyed, and the temple in Jerusalem not rebuilt to lie side by side with the Dome of the Rock Mosque. Hawkins has about 3,000 followers who believe he will announce the Second Coming of Jesus before being murdered by Satan.
This group, whose members were ordered deported from Israel, was begun by Monte Kim Miller, who used to run an anti cult network in Denver. Persons who know the cult say Miller believes he is the last prophet on Earth before Armageddon. Miller, who reportedly believed he talked to G-d each morning before he went to work, was said to claim that American was Satan and the government evil. Miller has predicted he will die on the streets of Jerusalem in December 1999 but will rise from the dead three days later.
Order of the Solar Temple
Since 1994, more than 74 members of the order have committed suicide in Canada, Switzerland, and France, leaving behind rumors of gunrunning in Australia and money laundering in Canada and Europe. The Order was founded in 1977 by Luc Jouret, then thirty, a Belgian born in Zaire who believed he was a third reincarnation of Jesus Christ and that his daughter Emmanuelle, whom he said was immaculately conceived, was the cosmic child. Although he killed himself, the order still exists. The cult teaches that life is an illusion and after death followers will be reborn on a planet revolving around the dog star Sirius.
Church of the Final Testament
Started in the early 1990’s by a former Russian police sergeant named Sergei Torop who was dismissed from the force after he had a series of religious visions, the group holds particular fascination for former Communist Party members. Torop, who took the name Vissarion, rejects prohibitions on suicide. He tells his followers he is Jesus Christ, and attempts to physically portray him with flowing dark hair and a wispy beard. Currently building a city of the Sun on Siberia’s Mount Sukhaya, the Vissarionites are estimated to be the largest cult like group in Russia with thousands of followers. Russian politicians have recently warned that the Church members may commit mass suicide as the millenium approaches.
In the Cookson Hills of eastern Oklahoma lies the fortress town of Elhohim City, where about 100 heavily armed inhabitants work, pray and conduct paramilitary drills. A former Mennonite preacher named Robert Miller, 73, who envisions a white Christian nation in North America, runs Elohim City in anticipation of an Asian and invasion of the United States, an attack he considers inevitable. Miller, inspired by fundamentalist Christians, K. K. K. style racism and astrology, believes that Christ has been revealing himself for the last two millennia. He also preaches that a series of disasters is about to strike, probably soon after the year two thousand, during which time the unworthy and wicked will be cleansed from the earth. Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh phoned friends of his in Elohim City before the before the blast.
A 1997 Associated Press poll reported that nearly 25% of American adult Christians, more than 26 million people, believe that Jesus Christ will return to Earth in their lifetimes. His return, they believe, will set into motion the horrific events laid out in the biblical books of Revelations and Daniel. Events include the scorching of men by fire, a period of complete darkness, and the turning of the seas to blood.
Glossary of Terms:
Fundamentalist Christian: In most cases a born-again Christian. These persons usually do not affiliate with any specific Church. Their view of the Bible is literal.
Rapture: The time, according to the Book of Revelations, when the true Church will be physically taken from the Earth and left to dwell with Jesus Christ. The rapture is intended to serve as a reward for faithful Christians, as it will physically remove them from the conflict which will be take place on Earth proceeding their rapture.
Christians vary in belief on the permanence of the rapture, some maintain that it is eternal while others claim their bodies will return to Earth, although spiritually altered, following the period of conflict.
Armageddon: The final battle between G-d and Satan as detailed in the book of Revelations.
The Second Coming: The return of Jesus Christ as the political messiah, rather than as the suffering servant. Christian ideology cites the book of Isaiah as well as Revelations in reference to this prophecy.
The True Church: According to fundamentalist Christians, genuine born again believers in Christ. Catholics are not considered members of the True Church.
Mount of Olives: The geographic location in the State of Israel located outside of Jerusalem. In the New Testament, the location to which Jesus will return.