A stranger visiting the Tzemach David synagogue and study hall in Jerusalem would never imagine that the innocent-looking facility was actually a training center for Christian missionaries in how to conduct themselves as religious Jews.
A wide-ranging probe by Yad L’Achim revealed that Tzemach David is the tip of the iceberg in the missionaries’ efforts to earn the trust of the Israeli public through deceit and manipulations.
Tzemach David is housed in a building called the Bram Center, after Abram (Bram) Poljak, a pioneering missionary in Israel.
The “Beis Medrash” (study hall) is run by an organization called FFOZ (First Fruits of Zion) that was established in the United States in 1992 with the central aim of presenting Christianity as Judaism and conducting intensive activities to gets Jews to convert.
In its publication, the organization speaks of its mission to “restore the original faith and kingdom message of the Jewish J.”
It goes on to describe what it describes as its four key missions: “Restoring the Jewishness of J, restoring his message about the kingdom, restoring the authority of the Torah, and restoring the people of Israel. ‘FFOZ Friends’ are at the forefront of this restoration, providing the support and advancing the cause to teach the truth and raise disciples for the Jewish J.”
According to internal documents obtained by Yad L’Achim, the missionaries established Tzemach David because would-be missionaries were having difficulty gaining admission to traditional yeshivas.
“The Bram Center provides … a place for Israelis to learn about the connection with Messianic Judaism.”
Half a year ago, the missionaries ratcheted up their activities, starting a “Torah Club” that claims to offer in-depth study of the Bible and Judaism to enable “Messianic Jews” to lead full “Jewish-Torah lives.”
The two main activists are Ami (Tim) Buckles and Boaz Michael.
Buckles, who dresses like an American haredi Jew from the United States, lives near the Givat Mordechai neighborhood in Jerusalem.
According to information obtained by Yad L’Achim, he first appeared as a missionary nine years ago in the United States in Jewish communities in the state of Washington, but local rabbis discovered his true identity and banished him. He went on to establish a missionary congregation in Seattle by the name of Tzemach David.
Yad L’Achim tracked him down in Jerusalem, where he gives a range of classes for FFOZ. Buckles works in the organization’s offices, as an author of missionary books that appear to have Jewish content and as a lecturer in Judaism.
In the organization’s official literature, he is described as the author of the children’s book Avram and the Idol Shop. “Together with his wife, Anna, and a team of young Jewish families, Tim has worked as an outreach director creating opportunities for interested Messianic Jews and Jewish Christians to reconnect with Torah and mitzvot.”
Boaz Michael, chairman and founder of FFOZ, lives in the Arnona neighborhood of Jerusalem and walks around with a large knitted kippah.
A Yad L’Achim official said in a statement Wednesday: “We decided to immediately publicize the identity of these missionaries and the details we have on them, so that the public can take precautions.”
“The Tzemach David facility that trains them looks like a synagogue in every way. Instead of crosses, it has an aron kodesh, sifrei Torah and sifrei kodesh [holy books]. The literature they put out appears to be Torani but is spiked with Christian teachings. The missionaries themselves conduct what would appear to be Jewish lives and wear haredi garb – kippahs, beards and so on.”
The official added: “Based on past experience, we suspect that once their identities are revealed, Buckles, Boaz and other missionaries connected to FFOZ will try to change their addresses. We ask people to keep an eye open and notify our emergency hotline in the event they come into contact with the missionaries.”
Yad L’Achim adds that this latest revelation is just one in a string that will be publicized in the near future to protect the public.
Meanwhile, Yad L’Achim continues its battle against dozens of missionary organization acting in a variety of ways to influence Jews and get them to convert. “We are dealing with many families that have come under the influence of missionaries,” a senior official said.