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Minister Azulai has been keen to demonstrate tolerance and support of religious communities other than Orthodox Jews after an episode several weeks ago in which he dismissed Reform and Conservative Jews as not authentically Jewish. Feeling his backpedaling on that statement has been insufficient, Azulai has sought out ways to display openness and acceptance of others, and, upon hearing that Evangelicals are habitually making inquiries after Jesus, decided to pitch in to help them.
Protestant movements, as a rule, are not officially recognized communities in Israel, with the notable exception being the Anglican Church. That recognition mainly takes the form of authority over marriage, divorce, and assorted other functions affecting each respective denomination. Nevertheless, Israel welcomes Christian tourists, and does not bar members of non-recognized denominations from living or working there. Azulai's aides identified Evangelical Christians, who enjoy political influence in large stretches of the US, as a key demographic with which to develop rapport, in part to offset the growing alienation of non-Orthodox American Jews. Helping in the search efforts for Jesus, they reasoned, would cement Azulai's, and therefore his Shas Party's, reputation for ecumenicism where they had previously been known as inward and intolerant.
Ministry officials explained that the resources a government could bring to bear in the search efforts could prove effective where private efforts have failed. "This Jesus character has been sighted all over the place, but apparently many of the places with which he is most closely associated are here in Israel, so we stand a good chance of locating him," said ministry spokesman Enli Mussag. "We will of course take into account eyewitness reports that he has appeared elsewhere in the world, such as on pieces of toast in Arkansas, but the most reliable accounts place him in these parts."
Mussag said the search party would first concentrate on surveillance of the most likely sites, and would set up cameras and other sensors in the several dozen locations where Jesus is reported to frequent. With those sites covered technologically, the team would then concentrate on other locations where reports place him. "Fortunately, those places are concentrated in two principal areas: Jerusalem and the Galilee. We should be able to make a thorough search of all the sites by the end of the summer."
Ministry officials have not said what they intend to do if they find Jesus. "We're not going to say we've found him, and certainly not by ourselves," said Minister Azulai magnanimously. "Evangelicals have been asking people whether they have found Jesus for many years already, and it is only thanks to their efforts that the search can be conducted with this level of detail. No, if this operation results in someone finding Jesus, we will step back and allow our Evangelical friends to claim the achievement as their own."