Lihi Lapid has furiously denied claims that she's a secret messianic Jew after a internet rumours said she was secretly concealing her faith.
Last week, a video of a lecture given by preacher Chaim Malespin went viral with the messianic preacher saying: “We’re in a time with more congregations, more openness to the Gospel.
“Even the government, the Prime Minister’s wife, is a believer right now… Yair Lapid’s wife, Lihi, is a believer.
“Like what? This is, what? I mean a confirmed believer. This is crazy stuff going on right now in Israel. Hallelujah! Yeah, we’re living in exciting times.”
Sources close to Lihi Lapid, wife of Prime Minister Yair Lapid, strongly rejected the allegations.
A spokesperson for Yesh Atid called Malespin’s claim “nothing short of ridiculous,” while Mrs Lapid’s spokesperson said: “Somebody said something that is not true. This is the situation. It’s not true. It’s a lie. I don’t know why he said that. I don’t know what his interest is. I don’t know. But it’s a lie.”
Lihi Lapid, wife of Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, reacts after voting closes in Israel’s fourth national election in two years, Tel Aviv, March 2021 (Credit: JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)
Now Malespin has apologised. In a clip recorded exclusively for the JC, speaking in Hebrew, he said: “About six months ago, when I spoke at a conference abroad, to Christians, people of Zion, philanthropists for Israel, I said something about the honourable wife of the honourable Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
“After that I realised the information I had was not correct, I was wrong, I did not mean to say something that was not true, and I apologise. I did not ask either Yair or his wife Lihi and I apologise for the mistake.
“And also as an Israeli Zionist association, I ask all those watching me now not to use my mistake as a tool of political warfare.”
He spoke out after his initial video accusing Mrs Lapid of being a follower of Jesus went viral just days before the election, raising fears in the Lapid camp that it may skew the results in favour of Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud.
Last night, the original video had clocked up over 45,000 views since it was shared on Friday evening.
In a further development, on Saturday night, several Twitter accounts supportive of Likud shared a link to a page on Mrs Lapid’s website which appeared to be titled “Jesus is definitely on the other side”.
Though there was no content on the page, soon after it was shared the entire site went down, replaced by a notice which read “we will be back soon”.
Lihi Lapid’s spokesperson told the JC “Lihi Lapid's website was blocked after it had been hacked and used to spread fake news.“
Twitter users pointed out that a Google Search for “Lihi Lapid Jesus” still returned a link to the removed page as the first result.
Shannon Nuszen, director of Beyneynu, an organisation which counters covert Christian missionary activity, explained why video may have been shared so widely.
“Chaim Malespin is one of the most connected leaders in the messianic movement in Israel,” she told the JC.
“There are many decisions that a Prime Minister would make that would be of great concern if there is any connection to these groups.”
The original viral video was a clip from a one-and-a-half hour talk called “God’s Plan For Aliyah” which was originally live-streamed by the Beth Emanuel Messianic Jewish Congregation.
Beth Emanuel describes itself as “a place where Jews and non-Jews worship the Lord together in ways that honour our Jewish heritage as believers in Jesus (Yeshua) and seeks to restore the relationship between Israel and the Church.”
Elsewhere in the talk, Malespin said: “I believe that our job is to prepare the presence of the lord and it has to do with aliyah.” He ended with a prayer “in Yeshua’s name” (Jesus).
Malespin is the founder and leader of the Aliyah Return Centre, which is run by the Canadian-based Christian Zionist group Return Ministries.
In January 2021 the Jewish Agency for Israel severed ties with the Aliyah Return Centre, saying in a statement that they “erroneously took credit in their media posts for involvement in areas such as Aliyah, specifically with proselytising lone soldiers and new olim.”
The statement added: “our examination showed no evidence of any direct missionary activity. Yet the videos posted by Aliyah Return Center create a perception that is in direct opposition to the mission and values of The Jewish Agency for Israel and has unfairly entangled the organisation’s work and reputation.”
Chaim Malespin denied that he or his organisation are missionaries. “We are, number one, not missionaries,” he told the JC.
“I’m a Jewish Israeli, fought in two wars, probably more wars than you fought in my friend. I’ve been shot at by Hamas, by Hezbollah. And I will continue to defend Israel and help Israel and the lowest of society and I'm not a missionary.” He declined to discuss his own beliefs relating to Jesus.
Six years ago Yair Lapid opposed a proposed law which would have restricted missionary activity in Israel, despite the fact that his late father Tommy Lapid who led the secular-liberal Shinui party had supported the anti-missionary bill.