(This article was originally published by The Jerusalem Post on the 29th of November 2022.)
If she is truly bothered by Chaim Malespin’s claim that she is a “believer” and wishes to dispel doubt in the community, she could simply say “I do not believe in Jesus.”
This op-ed is in response to a Facebook post, Lihi Lapid published on Friday that was covered extensively by The Jerusalem Post in which the prime minister’s wife announced that she had sued Tovia Singer.
On Friday, hours before sundown and the beginning of Shabbat, Lihi Lapid outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s wife, published a lengthy attack on me on Facebook and Instagram. Her attack was republished in full by Arutz Sheva, and echoed in news reports in The Jerusalem Post and Maariv Channel 14 news, and several news portals. None of the media outlets that published her attack – whether directly (like Arutz Sheva) or indirectly as news reports of Ms. Lapid’s comments – contacted me to check the facts.
Lihi Lapid’s attack on me was both harsh and personal. She described her foes as the “machine” and “them,” naming only one individual, who she described as “a rabbi named Tovia Singer,” “the man who spread lies” and as the man she sued.
Most importantly, Ms. Lapid’s attack on me was comprised entirely of falsehoods. Other than correctly identifying me as a rabbi named Tovia Singer, she lied in every single reference to me, including her claims that she sued me.
LIHI LAPID AND ACCUSATIONS OF BEING A BELIEVER IN JESUS
The background for Ms. Lapid’s attack was a claim made in November 2021 by Chaim Malespin during a live-streamed talk to an Arizona church audience. Malespin is a prominent figure in the Israel-based missionary community aimed at proselytizing Jews to Christianity, and he claimed that Lihi Lapid is a “confirmed believer” in Jesus.
When video of Malespin’s claim went viral nearly a year later, he was interviewed by The Jewish Chronicle in October 2022, to whom he said “I said something about the honorable wife of the honorable Prime Minister Yair Lapid. After that I realized the information I had was not correct. I was wrong, I did not mean to say something that was not true, and I apologize. I did not ask either Yair or his wife Lihi and I apologize for the mistake.”
Hours after The Jewish Chronicle article was published, I addressed Malespin’s claims for the first time on my show. I showed video of Malespin’s initial claim and of his subsequent denial, and I discussed the issues, including the implications if Lihi Lapid is a “Messianic” believer, as Malespin claimed and then denied. I also noted that Lihi Lapid’s younger sister is a “Messianic,” but noted that it didn’t mean that Lihi Lapid herself was one. I did not, however, say which time Malespin was lying – the first time or the second – because I do not know.
Ms. Lapid’s response to The Jewish Chronicle was through a spokesperson who 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.” As I noted in my report, Lihi Lapid’s response did not confirm or deny whether she is a “believer” as Chaim Malespin had claimed and then denied. “Messianic” Christians like Chaim Malespin frequently deny being Christian. They call themselves “Messianic Jews” or just plain “Jews.” They may also identify themselves as “believers.”
If they are Jewish (and some Messianics are actually Jewish by descent), they deny having converted to another religion, and claim that their beliefs are “fulfilled” or “completed” Jewish beliefs. In his interview with The Jewish Chronicle, for instance, Malespin said, “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.” Lihi Lapid’s response, in other words, shed no light on whether she is a “Messianic.”
Several weeks after my report, Yesh Atid’s lawyer, representing Lihi Lapid, wrote to threaten me with a defamation lawsuit, demanding that I apologize, retract my accurate reporting with an “admission” that I had lied, and pay her 100,000 shekels.
Then, on Friday, Lihi Lapid singled me out for attack in an article that combined a personal attack on me with a long claim that Lihi Lapid is Jewish.
In her article, Lihi Lapid claimed that I had denied she was Jewish (I didn’t) and that she had sued me (she has not – at the time of writing this article – Editor). She wrote that I was part of a larger conspiracy connected to an alleged hack into her website before the elections (I wasn’t and have no idea whether there was such a conspiracy), and perhaps to the distribution of allegedly faked photos of her and her husband (I have no knowledge about and certainly no connection to any such alleged acts).
Lihi Lapid claimed that my activities were planned by unnamed “them” (my activities weren’t planned by any “them”), that I distributed “horror videos” against her (I didn’t), and that I “opened” a hallucinatory series of interviews about her “support for Christianity” (I broadcast footage that was compiled, published and distributed by The Jewish Chronicle and is genuine – it showed the recording of Chaim Malespin claiming in a speech in a Phoenix church that Lihi Lapid was a “confirmed believer in Jesus” and the recording of Malespin later claiming in his interview with The Jewish Chronicle that his initial claim was based on information he received that “was not correct.” The Jewish Chronicle film was neither hallucinatory nor comprised of interviews by me, filmed by me, produced my me, or taken in my presence.)
Lihi Lapid wrote that I lied about her (I didn’t), that I “understood my mistake” (I wasn’t mistaken in my earlier reporting, so cannot have understood myself to be mistaken), that I apologized to her (she has never spoken to me and I certainly did not apologize to her), and that I would apologize to her in the future (I did not agree to apologize and will not apologize for telling the truth).
The rest of Lihi Lapid’s article was devoted to a defense of her Jewishness, which, of course, was never at issue. Interestingly, while she attacked me for allegedly organizing the “hallucinatory” set of videos on what she called (presumably ironically) her “support for Christianity,” as well as for allegedly being part of a political conspiracy to say that she was “not Jewish, that she had converted to Christianity,” she did not deny that she believes in Jesus. In other words, like her earlier response to The Jewish Chronicle, her article defaming me shed no light on whether she is a “Messianic.”
Ms. Lapid’s article said nothing about Chaim Malespin either – the person who had actually claimed she is a “believer” in Jesus and who should therefore be the target of her ire. Malespin’s claim appeared on the internet for eleven and a half months before he disavowed it to a reporter two days before Israel’s elections. Malespin’s disavowal failed to explain how he received the “incorrect” information, or how, according to his original video, he had “confirmed” that Lihi Lapid is a “believer.”
But I have seen no stories and heard no reports of Lihi Lapid saying anything unflattering about Malespin to the media, let alone threatening to sue him. Likewise, I was not the only person to report Malespin’s claims that Lihi Lapid is a “believer”; for instance, my report was recorded just hours after a story in The Jewish Chronicle (which I also used as a source). But I have seen no stories and heard no reports of Lihi Lapid threatening to sue any of the others who reported the story.
It’s not easy to be targeted for attack by the wife of the prime minister. She has more money at her disposal than do I. More lawyers. More media connections. More journalists willing to publish her false claims about me.
Perhaps Lihi Lapid thought this would intimidate me. If she thought so, she was right. I am certainly fearful of the vast resources she can bring to bear to silence and besmirch me, and I am all too aware of the limited resources I have to defend myself. I view the prospect of going to court as, at best, mildly more pleasant than a root canal. I know that lawsuits are costly even where you prevail.
Yet, despite my fear of Lihi Lapid’s power and resources, I cannot allow her to silence me or to let her lies about me to go unanswered – my credibility on these issues is my life work. I have no choice but to continue to tell the truth.
As for Lihi Lapid herself, I have some free and friendly advice. If she is truly bothered by Chaim Malespin’s claim that she is a “believer” and wishes to dispel doubt in the community, she could simply say “I do not believe in Jesus,” or any similar words in a formulation that Messianics would avoid. If Ms. Lapid were to say those words, I would believe her, and I’m sure others would as well.
Tovia Singer is a world-renowned expert on missionaries, the writer is founder and director of Outreach Judaism, a Jewish counter-missionary organization, and an author, lecturer, and broadcaster.