The Hebrew-speaking “Shelanu” channel, which began airing at the end of April on GOD TV as part of a seven-year deal, will stop broadcasting this week, according to an announcement by Asher Biton, chairman of Israel’s Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council.
Shelanu, part of one of the largest Christian broadcasting networks in the world, with presence in at least 200 countries, said it was “disappointed” by the council’s “unprofessional decision” and plans to reapply for a license.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported it is “very rare” for the council to remove a channel, noting that Christian channels Daystar and Middle East Television are already on air. This is the first time a Christian channel broadcast in Israel is being shut down.
Ron Cantor, Shelanu’s spokesman in Israel, said the existing license “stated unequivocally” that it would broadcast its content in Hebrew to the Israeli public. He said the station’s management hopes the council will approve the request “and thus avoid a severe diplomatic incident with hundreds of millions of pro-Israel evangelical Christians worldwide.”
Proselytizing is not against Israeli law, as long as it is not directed at minors and does not involve economic coercion.
GOD TV announced in April it “made history” as the first “Messianic television channel … broadcasting the Gospel across Israel in the Hebrew language,” adding, “We want every person in Israel to know, not a foreign Messiah, but a Jewish one! His name is Yeshua and He has not forgotten His people.”
At the beginning of May, Israeli Communications Minister David Ansalem threatened to remove Shelanu “immediately,” calling it an “oversight” issue. Days later, Ward Simpson, president and CEO of GOD TV, announced they were working to resolve the issue.
“We, at GOD TV, choose to bless Israel,” Simpson said in a video statement.
The controversy could become part of a larger diplomatic problem as evangelical Christians are some of the most vocal supporters of Israel against anti-Semitism, BDS, and other anti-Israel sentiments around the world.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.