When Jerusalem-born Daniel Cohen was 15-years-old, he wanted to become a professional drummer. So when a friend told him about free drum lessons at The Jamm he went straight to the Russian Compound to check it out.
'At first, the people at The Jamm were really nice to me. They even started to teach me how to play the drums,' says Cohen.
After two months of hanging out at the coffee bar/youth center, one of Cohen's newfound friends gave him a copy of the New Testament in Hebrew and began to initiate discussions on the subject of Christ. An additional two months passed before Cohen was invited to participate in a youth trip to the Sea of Galilee, where he could join other Jamm youth in a mikveh ceremony.
'He asked me if I knew what Baptism is,' recalls Cohen, who is now 17. 'He said it wasn't a Christian thing, but a Jewish thing for Jews who knew the 'right way.''
'I was shocked,' he continues. 'I was born a Jew and I want to be a Jew and I am not interested in converting away from Judaism. It is horrible when you think you have friends and then you find out that they are actually your enemies.'
Cohen isn't alone. The Jamm (Jerusalem Artists, Musicians and Media) Center has been trapping Jewish teens in its messianic web since it was established in 1998. With open mike nights on Wednesdays and Punk concerts on Thursdays, including free coffee, chai tea and snacks, the non-smoking, alcohol-free Jamm provides a clean and tempting atmosphere for Jerusalem youth.The lack of response by public officals is shocking.
Article 368 of the Israeli Penal Code awards a maximum six-month incarceration for attempting to convert minors under the age of 18. Article 174(A) prohibits the offering and receiving of material benefits as an inducement to conversion of anyone, including those above and below the age of 18. Anyone who gives material benefits in exchange for a commitment to change one's religion can be sentenced up to 5 years in prison and fined a maximum of NIS 50,000.Perhaps some publicity will help.