SA Anglican Church Joins BDS Against Israel

Strange how the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Africa- described at times as “genocide”- elicits no such  Southern African Anglican Church angst!

By David E. Kaplan

The highest and most prominent decision-making body of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) voted this past September to join and support the international BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israel.

Representing the Anglican Christian communities in southern African countries including South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and Angola, the church passed the resolution in Johannesburg during its Provincial Synod, which takes place every three years.

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Partnering with BDS. Delegates from the Southern African Anglican Church which met in Johannesburg for the Provincial Synod, supported the BDS movement in its resolve against Israel.

The wording in the motion passed included “the situation in the Holy Land demands the attention of the Christian Church precisely because that is the place where Jesus Christ was born, nurtured, crucified and raised.”

Really?

The Holy Land where Jesus was “born, nurtured, crucified and raised” lies located mostly in the Muslim  Middle East – the precise region where the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Rev. Justin Welby expressed in 2018, “Christians Face Imminent Extinction” and not by the hands of Israelis.

Writing at the time in the Telegraph, the Pope revealed that “Christians face daily the threat of violence, murder, intimidation, prejudice and poverty. …..Many have left. Hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes. Many have been killed, enslaved and persecuted or forcibly converted. Even those who remain ask the question, ‘Why stay?’”

He concluded with “Across the region, Christian communities that were the foundation of the universal Church now face the threat of imminent extinction.”

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Winds Of Change. A gust of wind blows Pope Francis’ cape as he delivers his speech fearing Christians will disappear from the Middle East. (Photo: AFP)

Why did the SA Anglican Church focus its “demands” on Israel?

The bias and antisemitism was all too evident with the Anglican church outlining “the differences between the Biblical Israel and the modern State of Israel,” and warning its members “not to conflate the two entities, as well as the ideology of Zionism and Judaism.”

It also described the situation in Israel and Palestine as “… worse than apartheid.”

This proved music to the ears of Hamas – which strives for the destruction of the State of Israel and directs rockets at Israel’s civilian population whenever it sees fit – whose spokesman  Basem Naim responded with glee to the Anglican decision as it “encourages us to continue our struggle against the occupation.”

Excepting, Gaza is not occupied other than “occupied” by Hamas who have turned the lives of its residents there into a living nightmare.

Ask the former Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Rami Hamdallah, who narrowly survived a suspected Hamas assassination attempt in 2018 while visiting the Gaza Strip from the West Bank. He hurriedly retreated from the “occupation”, never returned and then resigned as Prime Minister in January 2019.

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Copts Struggling To Cope. The Copts of Egypt are one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East.

Report Of ‘Revelations’

As much as Palestinians attempt to hide the reality of persecution of Christians – or blame Israel –  it’s difficult to refute the truth and the math.

A sure barometer of dwindling Christians in the region is ‘revealed’ in the very birthplace of Jesus – Bethlehem. Once a predominantly Christian city where Christians formed an 86% majority, today that figure stands at fewer than 10% and dropping.

The situation is even worse in Gaza, where among the thousands of Christians who used to live there, only a few hundred remain under the constant threat of persecution, with serious limitations on Christian ceremonies and holidays, and effectively without human rights.

While the future of Christians living under the  PA and in fact the entire Middle East is uncertain – even the Pope fears “Christians will disappear from the Middle East lamenting “a Middle East without Christians would not be the Middle East” – the situation is different in Israel which not only allows but protects the safe life for all religious minorities.

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Stop The Slaughter. Appeals in Egypt.

Nightmare In Nigeria

What’s more, as the Southern Africa  Anglican Church set its sights northerly at the Holy Land, they could have looked far less north to see what was happening to their fellow Christians in Nigeria.

 Note the following outcries in quotes:

  • It’s tough to tell Nigerian Christians this isn’t a religious conflict since what they see are Fulani fighters clad entirely in black, chanting ‘Allahu Akbar!’ and screaming ‘Death to Christians”,” reported Sister Monica Chikwe to John. L. Allen Jr., Crux, August 4, 2019.
  • Hundreds of indigenous Numan Christians in Adamawa state were attacked and killed by jihadist Fulani herdsmen. When they tried to defend themselves, the Buhari government sent in the Airforce to bomb hundreds of them and protect the Fulani aggressors. Is this fair?!” asks Femi Fani-Kayode, former Minister of Aviation in the Daily Post (Nigeria), December 6, 2017.
  • Buhari is openly pursuing an anti-Christian agenda that has resulted in countless murders of Christians all over the nation and destruction of vulnerable Christian communities,” said Bosun Emmanuel, the secretary of the National Christian Elders Forum, 2018.

Between 2011 and 2015, the jihadi group Boko Haram committed ISIS-type of atrocities even before ISIS came into being, terrorized and slaughtered thousands of Christians, mostly those living in the Muslim-majority north. When in 2015, Nigeria’s Muslims finally got what they wanted – a Muslim president in the person of Muhammadu Buhari, taking over from Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, the violence did not subside but got worse. Muslim Fulani herdsmen – the ethnic tribe from which Buhari hails  – joined and even surpassed Boko Haram in their slaughter of Christians.

Reports reveal that between June 2017 and June 2018 alone, Muslim Fulani slaughtered approximately 9,000 Christians and destroyed at least a thousand churches. (It took three times longer for the Fulani to kill a fraction [1,484] of Christians under Jonathan’s presidency.) In just the first six months of this year, 52 lethal terror attacks targeting Christian villages occurred. “Nearly every single day, I wake up with text messages from partners in Nigeria, such as this morning: ‘Herdsmen stab 49-year-old farmer to death in Ogan,” human rights lawyer Ann Buwalda said in July.

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Christians, Cries, Coffins. Christian mourners carry coffins following an attack earlier in Nigeria in 2018 Thousands of men, women and children have been killed in Nigeria in what the country’s Christian community are condemning as “ethnic cleansing”.(Image: GETTY)

License To Kill

In short, it appears that its hunting season in Nigeria with Christians as the prey.  And by all accounts, it appears the hunters have a “license”!

Continuing, says former Minister of Aviation Femi Fani-Kayode, “The Muslim president Buhari has only awarded the murderers with impunity rather than justice and has staffed his government with Islamic officials, while doing essentially nothing to give the nation’s Christians, who make up half the population, due representation.”

While Christians were once the majority of Nigeria’s population, “the ongoing genocide against them” has caused their population to drop  to a level that Christianity in Nigeria is, according to the National Christian Elders Forum, “on the brink of extinction”.

How come the pious delegates in Johannesburg for the Anglican Church’s Provincial Synod in September spewed their wrath at Israel but failed to show concern closer to home for their fellow Christians in Nigeria?

Then again look what transpired in South Africa during September, the same month the Anglican Synod met and deliberated.  In a spate of xenophobic attacks, mobs attacked foreign-owned businesses in cities across the country. Although no Nigerians were killed in the violence, Nigerian-owned shops and businesses were targeted resulting in Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari travelling to South Africa, to resolve the issue of the welfare of his citizens. Nigeria repatriated around 600 of its citizens living in South Africa.

Of all the issues on the Anglican Churches agenda, the only one that it made “demands” of and will be well remembered as it made international news was its resolution in support of BDS to boycott Israel.

Bravo Bishops!

 

 

From Bishops To Pawns

BDS South Africa earlier this year reported on American and African Christian leaders, having issued a joint statement comparing the situation of Palestinians under Israeli occupation to that of black South Africans under Apartheid and urged “Economic Pressure”.

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Doing BDS bidding, South African Christian leaders issue statement urging “economic pressure” against Israel.

The statement follows a “Pilgrimage Group Visit” to Israel-Palestine by a delegation of American and African church leaders, the latter of whom include the General-Secretary of the South African Council of Churches Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa Bishop Zipho Siwa, Founder of Grace Bible Church Bishop Mosa Sono, Bishop of the Central and Southern Africa District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Bishop George Crenshaw, President of the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa Pastor M.G. Mahlobo,  Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cape Town Most Reverend Archbishop Stephen Brislin, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Natal Right Reverend Dino Gabriel, Acting Presiding Bishop of the Ethiopian Episcopal Church Bishop Zandile Myeni, and the Executive Director of Ecumenical Service for Socio-Economic Transformation Dr Nomasonto Magwaza. Below is a response from a fellow Christian, neither a Bishop nor a pawn.

 

Response To Christian Leaders Urging “Economic Pressure” On Israel

 By Bafana Modise

As a Christian who has traveled to Israel and analyzed the conflict from both sides of the coin, it is truly upsetting that the very leaders who have taught the Bible to millions, as the report suggested, have allowed themselves to be used as pawns to advance a political narrative that is totally contradictory to the very Bible they claim to preach truthfully.

These are the leaders who have taught many to believe in scripture and prophecy. Lest we forget that the Christian faith was born from the land of Israel, and not Palestine. There’s no confusion between the biblical Israel and the current, as the article suggests. Moses, David, Solomon, Yeshua (Jesus), etc. lived and experienced favour from God on the same land.

Biblically and archeologically, we know for a fact, that the Jewish people are indigenous to the land of Israel, as they remain the only nation to have built a kingdom there, and they have returned more than three times to the same land. “and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” – Isaiah 11:12.

Now I wonder if those leaders actually believe and understand what they are currently teaching every Sunday?

The view that Palestine is indigenous to the Arab community suggests that the Bible we read is null and void, or rather it’s a book of fairytale stories, but yet again, the same teachers of the same Bible are the ones advocating for the isolation of Israel. Believers all over the world have been waiting for a time such as this, where all the exiles will return to the land of Israel, as inscribed in the Book of Joel, Zachariah and many others. We were taught in Bible studies, and most probably by the very same churches, that the Lord will restore Zion again in generations to come.

Some preachers today, in their pulpits, have turned around and twisted the scriptures for political points and relevance in the secular world. Christians should remain bold in their faith and never compromise the Gospel, irrespective of the political climate. I urge South Africans to ask the BDS movement these questions:

  • When exactly did this 100-year-old war actually become Apartheid?
  • Was it when the newly founded Jewish state was attacked by the whole Arab world in ’48, or rather in ’67, when the Arab world was certain that victory and annihilation of the Jews was on its way. I hope now you understand why some still have their house keys?!
  • Why are Palestinians in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and others still discriminated against in those countries?
  • Why can’t these countries take responsibility for their failure to destroy the Jewish state and absorb the Palestinians living in their countries for 70 years? The Arab world is equally responsible for Palestinian refugees, which they created by launching war on Israel in the first place.

 Approximately 850 000 Jewish refugees from the  Middle East were absorbed in the new state after they were expelled from Arab countries, many fleeing horrendous persecution – notably in Iraq.

  • Where were the Palestinians when the conference sat in Sudan in 1967 – known as the 3 No’s Conference of Khartoum – resolving that there shall be: No Peace (!), No Recognition (!) and No Negotiation (!), with the State of Israel?

The Palestinians have received millions in aid from the international community, but to this day, there is still no development in Gaza and the West Bank. Unfortunately, the enemies of Palestine are their very own leaders, whom are more interested in settling political scores and demonizing Israel, rather than improving the livelihoods of their people.

My heartfelt opinion on this conflict is that all believers, such as myself, should advocate for peace between the two parties, and if it need be, intervene with messages of unity and love.

To deny and twist Christian beliefs and prophecy in the pursuit of political greener pastures is just as the same as Peter, who loved and stood with Jesus in private and then denied any knowledge of him in Public.

Those listed Christian leaders in the article should rather ask how the Christian churches in the Middle East are thriving? Hopefully their eyes will be opened.

“Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called Sons of God” – Matthew 5:9

 

 

image004 (8).pngBafana Modise (26) is  Radio Personality, Public Speaker, Leadership Coach, Christian Activist and Voice-Over Artist who serves as Education Coordinator at South African Friends of Israel.

Where Is BDS When Christians And Yazidis Are Murdered?

It takes its cue from an indifferent world – A shameful Silence

 

By David E. Kaplan

 

Last year, writes Raymond Ibrahim, “Christians were persecuted more than ever before in the modern era — and 2019 is expected to be worse.”

Raised in the USA to Egyptian parents, Ibrahim today is a widely published author and Middle East and Islam specialist.

He was the first to expose in 2012, an Arabic-language Saudi fatwa that called for the destruction of any Christian church found on the Arabian Peninsula. Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, declared that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region.”

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“Destroy All Churches In Gulf,” Says Saudi Grand Mufti. Speaking to a delegation in Kuwait, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, stressed that since the tiny Gulf state was a part of the Arabian Peninsula, it was necessary to destroy all of the churches in the country.

Raymond Ibrahim is sounding ALARM BELLS about the plight of Christians in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Too few hear them ringing!

Writing this March in the Gatestone Institute, Ibrahim reveals that in 2018, 4,136 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons, according to Open Doors USA in its recently published World Watch List 2019 (WWL) of the top 50 nations where Christians are persecuted.

This translates on average, to 11 Christians killed every day for their faith.

Why the deafening silence?

Additionally, in 2018, “2,625 Christians were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned”, and “1,266 churches or Christian buildings were attacked.”

In 2018, 215 million Christians faced persecution and the prognosis according to Open Doors, is that this year – 2019 –   over 245 million will suffer – a 14% increase, that represents 30 million more people abused for their faith.

This means that “One in nine Christians experience high levels of persecution worldwide.”

Worse for Woman

Another frightening trend is the “shocking persecution against women.”

“In many places,” reveals the report, “they experience a ‘double persecution’ — one for being a Christian and one for being a woman! Even in the most restricted circumstances, gender-specific persecution is a key means of destroying the minority Christian community.”

Last year’s WWL provided more specific numbers:

At least six women every day are raped, sexually harassed or forced into marriage to a Muslim man under the threat of death for their Christian faith…”

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Worst Offenders

Among the worst persecutors are those that rule according to Sharia.

In Afghanistan (ranked #2), “Christianity is not permitted to exist” because it “is an Islamic state by constitution, which means government officials, ethnic group leaders, religious officials and citizens are hostile toward adherents of any other religion.”

Similarly, in Somalia, (ranked #3),

Al-Shabaab’s primary aim is to rid Somalia of all Christianity. In 2014 when their leader Ahmed Godane died, they appointed a new leader.

Despite Pope Francis’ statement that Africa is a continent of hope and his call to engage in dialogue against the attacks that have recently occurred, there is not enough being done currently to protect Somali’s Christians. When they are not allowed to express their beliefs to the government without being killed or to celebrate holidays and customs publicly that are Christian, they are being stripped from their basic human rights from society.

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Take Note BDS SA. Nigeria accounted for more than half the worldwide killings of Christians in 2015. (Photograph: AFP/Getty Images)

Being forced to hide their beliefs from the country and having to live in fear is not an acceptable way to live. Pope Francis is correct in saying that meaningful dialogue is important to solving this problem, but in the meantime, these Christians are being killed regularly, and a change needs to be come soon.

In Iran (ranked #9), “society is governed by Islamic law, which means the rights and professional possibilities for Christians are heavily restricted.” While worship is permitted under the Islamic Republic’s constitution, conversion to Christianity can be a crime meriting a sentence of more than 10 years imprisonment.

“There are many reports,” said Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern, “that this has contributed to the government’s ever-increasing dependence on hardline Islamic ayatollahs, who naturally see Christianity as a threat to their power. For this reason, it’s not surprising that we’re seeing an increase in Christian persecution.”

It has become increasingly common for authorities to arrest worshippers, raid house churches, and confiscate Bibles.

Under Pakistan‘s notorious blasphemy laws, Christians live in daily fear they will be accused of blasphemy — which can carry a penalty of death.

Only recently, Pakistan’s supreme court struck down the death sentence for blasphemy handed down to a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, in a long-delayed, landmark decision that freed her after nine years on death row and ignited countrywide protests from Islamist groups.

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What’s Changed Since The Roman Circuses? Protestors in Pakistan screaming support for death penalty for Christian woman.

Christian farm labourer Bibi, a 47-year-old mother of five, was sentenced to hang for blasphemy in 2010. She had angered fellow Muslim farm workers by taking a sip of water from a cup she had fetched for them on a hot day. When they demanded she convert to Islam, she refused, prompting a mob to later allege that she had insulted the prophet Mohammed.

In Libya (#4), Yemen (#8), Syria (#11), and Iraq (#13) war has given rise to Islamic militancy and general lawlessness, both of which prey on Christian minorities.

While in Egypt, President el-Sisi has publicly expressed his commitment to protecting Christians, his government’s actions and extremist groups’ continued Christian persecution attacks on individuals and churches, have left Christians feeling insecure and extremely cautious.

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Is The World Illeterate. ISIS Killing Christians in Egypt Read more at https://www.themonastery.org/blog/2017/03/our-favorite-prey-isis-killing-christians-in-egypt/#xz2dsE8wa4LMr6oS.99

Some recent examples:

In December 2017, a gunman opened fire in Cairo at a church and a nearby shop owned by Christians. Eleven people died as a result of the attack.

In July 2018, a mob attacked Christians in a village in Minya, when Muslim residents were angered by a Facebook post they believed to be blasphemous.

Many Christian girls and women have become the victims of sexual harassment, abduction and rape. In just one month (April 2018), at least seven cases of abduction were documented.

In early November 2018, Islamic State militants attacked a bus carrying Coptic Christians from a monastery in Minya, killing eight and injuring more than 13 people.

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Beach Barbarism. In 2015, 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians – constructive workers that had been kidnapped – were beheaded by ISIS on the beaches of Sirte, in Libya,

According to Open Doors, 128 Christians were killed in Egypt for their faith and more than 200 were driven out of their homes in 2017. It attributed the rise in persecution to “the overspill of Islamic terrorists driven out of Iraq and Syria”.

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Beware Of Reporting The Truth. In 2015, ISIS burned twenty media activists to death in Iraq’s northwestern city of Mosul. The victims were executed on charges of leaking security information to “hostile parties”. “The horrific execution was conducted in front of dozens of people in al-Houd, including some family members of the victims.

Home to the largest Christian community in the Middle East, Christians in Egypt are facing unprecedented levels of persecution, with attacks on churches and the kidnapping of girls by Islamist extremists, intent on forcing them to marry Muslims.

“Michael Jones” – not his real name – a Cairo-based businessman and evangelical Christian, told The Guardian there was a gulf between statements from the national leadership regarding the Christian community and actions at a local level.

“You hear President el-Sisi speaking about Christians with a lot of respect and sympathy. Just a few days ago, he made a beautiful, emotional speech when inaugurating our new cathedral. It looked like an amazing affirmation that the state is supporting the church and the Christian community, and doing everything it can to guarantee our welfare,” said ‘Jones’.

“Then you have the local authorities in villages and towns – police, judges, business owners – and it’s evident that many of them are infected with a rejection of Christianity. You see this in daily practices.”

BDS – are you hearing the cries and calls for salvation or are you callously ignoring?

The Yazidis – “We harmed nobody”

This ancient faith that has survived for centuries by living apart in a tight-knit community is facing extinction. There are less than a million Yazidis worldwide, and most are in the Iraqi heartland.

Facing extinction – they see their fate inextricably linked to the wider world.

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Horrors The World Ignores. Yazidis fleeing their towns for Mount Sinjar as Islamic State forces advanced on them. “They raped me every day, twice or more,” recounts Bafrin from the village of Kocho. “I was just a child; I can never forget it.” Over 400 men, the entire male population of Kocho, were rounded up, shot or beheaded. Old women were killed and dumped in mass graves, younger ones sold in markets as sex slaves, boys turned into child soldiers. (Photograph: Rodi Said/Reuters)

The Yazidi narrative reveals surviving 74 genocides throughout their tormented history, but the worst, Yazidis today will say, is ISIS “that is trying to eradicate our faith and culture.” Acknowledged by the United Nations as genocide, the ISIS campaign may have dealt “the most brutal blow.”

On 3 August 2014, ISIS attacked the Yazidi community in Sinjar, northern Iraq. Thousands were imprisoned or killed, and close to 100,000 people fled to Mount Sinjar. The UN referred to the attack as “a genocide”.

Women have paid the highest price when ISIS attacked. Close to 7,000 women have been sold as sex slaves. They have been brutalised by ISIS fighters, many of them repeatedly victims of sexual assaults. They were forced to convert to Islam, and many were forcibly married off to ISIS fighters. Women who tried to escape were often punished with gang rape.

Thousands of women and children, down to the age of nine, were repeatedly sold in slave markets in Syrian cities where ISIS had a strong presence. Boys from the age of seven years and upwards were separated from their mothers and put in camps where they were brainwashed and trained to become child soldiers.

In an appeal to the world, a priest, Sheikh Ismael Bahri, catches sight of a rare group of foreign journalists and wails:

All humane countries of the world must see our situation. We’ve not harmed anyone. All we want is help and protection.”

While the Yazidis’ plight has moved some countries such as Australia, Canada and Germany that offered refuge to a limited number of victims, notably the women brutally enslaved by ISIS, most the world remains silent.

“We feel threatened here, we don’t have a future here,” cried out Tuli Bahri Evo, whose family crossed the border from Syria where the Yazidis’ presence is also dwindling.

Alarmed by a potential exodus which could endanger the very survival of this tiny community, Yazidi leaders are begging the world to help them stay in Iraq.

“We need our own Yazidi force so we can protect ourselves,” the Yazidis’ religious leader, Baba Sheikh says. “The world is only talking about Yazidis but doing nothing.”

Wake up world – the Yazidis are an “Endangered Species”!

 

Asia Bibi: protests erupt in Pakistan after blasphemy conviction overturned – video

 

Feature picture: Yazidi Kurdish women chant slogans during a protest against the Islamic State group’s invasion of Sinjar city, in Dohuk, Iraq, August 3, 2015. (AP/Seivan M. Salem)

 

Breaking The Veil Of Silence

Recollections, Revelations and Remorse from the Descendants of the Perpetrators of the Holocaust

The United Nations designated January 27 – the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau – as a day for member states to honor the Jewish victims of the Holocaust and millions of other victims of Nazism.

With the alarming rise today in Holocaust denial and antisemitism – even in the very lands where the Holocaust happened – LOTL explores the hatred of the Shoah (Holocaust) by interviewing Pastor Jobst Bittner, who heads the movement of the descendants of Nazi perpetrators to openly confront the hatred of the past that it will foster  a genuine healing, and hopefully – “Never Again”.

 

By Rolene  Marks and Lindy Hoffman

Author’s note:

This was a profoundly emotional and moving experience. It takes an enormous amount of courage to delve into the past, especially that of your family and navigate a painful past. To explore this can also bring about great healing.  After Apartheid in South Africa came to an end in 1994, there were many attempts through the ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ to try bring healing and understanding between victims and perpetrators but too few sat down with each other on a one-to-one basis and shared the experience of the other. Perhaps March of Life sets an example that the traumas of the past, when spoken about and addressed openly, fosters great healing.

Jobst Bittner greets you with a warm smile and twinkling blue eyes. He immediately puts you at ease when he shakes your hand and his presence is reassuring. Bittner, apart from being a Pastor, is the Founder and President of March of Life – a movement of the descendants of the German Wehrmacht, the SS and the police forces of the Third Reich, and who organise memorial and reconciliation marches at sites across Europe where atrocities were committed.

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Tübingen Today. A colourful façade hides a dark past.

How did it all begin?

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Turbulence in Tübingen. A march by of the Sturmabteilung (SA) in Tübingen.

Sounds of Silence

The German city of Tübingen was a hotbed of training for the Nazi party. A university town, many of the intellectual elite of the Nazi party would gather in Tubingen where they later created an institute known as the Institute for Racial Hygiene. This “institute” would in time decide who was an “Aryan” and who was an “untermensch” (subhuman); who was a “superior” and who was an “inferior”; and was responsible for the ‘selection process’, which saw millions of Jews and other “undesirables” sent to their deaths.

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Enveloping Evil. With uniform and swastika flags, the square in front of the New Aula in Langemarckplatz in Tübingen was renamed in May 1938 to be followed in November with the burning of the Tübingen Synagogue during Kristallnacht.

The March of Life was born is 2007 when Pastor Jobst Bittner and his wife Charlotte decided that something had to be done about the history of the city. Growing up in the post-war generation, Bittner and his wife realised that their parents and grandparents never spoke about the war or their experiences.  The past was related by sticking to just the historical facts; never a mention of the experiences of those persecuted by the Nazi regime.

My parents”, says Bittner, “never spoke of the deaths of six million Jews and this was the same for all of Germany. People pushed aside or repressed their guilt or played it down.”

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Pastor Jobst Bittner and wife, Charlotte

Up Close And Personal

“But once we realised we needed to take responsibility, at least in our own city, we had to engage with our own family histories – to make it personal.  We started training members of our church to take a careful look at their own family history which in Germany is simple because Germans are so thorough and everything was recorded. So we started training our members to ask their families “What happened?” and “What did you do?” I found a term for it – ‘Breaking the Veil of Silence’. It is now a recognized term in Germany because the two decades after the war are known as the decades of silence,” says Bittner. “Most families don’t talk about what really happened, preferring instead to say that “nobody was involved”.  But this was not the case. The perpetrators of the Nazi genocide against the Jews were still able to resume normal lives and careers after the war. Many returned to their careers, resumed positions as judges, in government, in the civil service and academia – they simply returned to their normal lives and professions in society.”

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From Erudition To Evil. A town that housed the famous University of Tübingen associated with eleven Nobel laureates notably in the fields of medicine and chemistry, also housed the infamous Institute for Racial Hygiene responsible for the ‘selection process’, which saw millions of Jews and other “undesirables” sent to their deaths.

The members of Bittner’s church started to research their family backgrounds and each one of them discovered terrible details about the involvement of their own families. One member discovered that his father had been in the Wehrmacht in Poland and active in genocide there. Others were involved in the Ukraine, and in general, it was expressed that “Nazis were somebody else”. The Bittners believe that in some way, every single German was involved. Nobody could say: “I was not involved.”

Someone learned that their grandfather had been a guard at Dachau – but the family made the excuse that he was “just a book keeper” or “just sitting around”. On closer investigation, it was discovered that the system at Dachau ensured that all duties rotated and everyone had the chance to do each “duty”.

Face to Face

Pastor Bittner feels an incredible sense of duty and responsibility to face the pain of the past so that the trauma that affects both descendants and victims of the perpetrators can be healed.

“Traditionally, Germans have played down the magnitude of of the atrocities. We teach them to speak the truth and own up to the past. Yes, my father was involved in the genocide. My parents remained silent and were just as guilty. The vast majority remained silent. It takes something to say my parents were silent as our Jewish neighbours were taken away, dispossessed, sent to concentration camps and killed. They were as much an accessory to the Holocaust as pulling the trigger on a gun. And so a movement was birthed. I wrote a book on the veil of silence. The same silence we saw from perpetrators, we saw from the descendants of the victims. The tragedy is passed down through the generations. The silence of the fathers became the silence of the sons,” says Bittner. “We can understand the silence of the generations of victims; the pain would be too much and the silence was passed down as pain. We realized that as long as the pain was still there through the generations, we have a responsibility to the victims to do something about it. In our experience, when we speak to survivors, we needed to find ways to ask the forgiveness our fathers and grandfathers would not ask. Only then can we start to heal the pain.”

As one could well understand, the eventual meetings between survivors and descendants were extremely emotional. Both parties were extremely touched and opened up their hearts to each other. This created the space for healing.

During the war, “Tübingen had been surrounded by concentration camps,” says Bittner.  “Not large but terrifying; and towards the end of the war they were razed to the ground and the surviving prisoners forced on death marches. Over 250 000 people perished in plain sight on the streets of Germany. They were either shot or died from sheer exhaustion. Nobody could say, “I didn’t know”. So what we started to do was to trace the route of one of those death marches from Tubingen to Dachau. This is why we called it ‘March of Life’ – to reaffirm life that the death marches could become a march to sanctify life.”

 

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Breaking The Silence. A public ‘March of Life’ event in Tübingen in 2016, confronts people with their country’s dark past.

March of Life is connected to the annual educational programme called March of the Living “which invited me to address 25 000 participants in Budapest. While March of the Living is connected to the survivors, what we say is that we are so closely connected to them because we are the descendants of the perpetrators. “

Before participating in their first march, “we had not met with any survivors and during that march, we received a call from a survivor who asked to walk with us. Rose was a survivor of six concentration camps and liberated from Dachau at the age of sixteen. We considered it an honour, and then Rose asked to bring thirteen more survivors. For some it was their first trip to Germany and many were fearful to hear German, the language of the persecutor. We were at a loss what to do. We knelt and we washed the feet of survivors and at first they did not know how to react but after a while were so deeply moved at the healing taking place at the moment. We started to embrace each other. We thought this is what we can do to bring healing.”

A Movement Is Born

This was one of the most pivotal moments of Bittner’s life and from these deep, emotional roots, a movement was born. Healing for descendants who carry guilt and shame as their heritage is just as important as that of the survivors. As we lose more and more survivors, so the responsibility to teach the next generations becomes ours. While there are many who say we must move on, the importance of memory and bearing witness is so important, especially as antisemitism rises around the world.

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March of Life advocates that we cannot be silent in the face of antisemitism and hatred. Delving into the past is painful. But the results are evident. The media started to pick up on this extraordinary story in The Jerusalem Post, and The New York Times and the message started to spread.  It grew organically, gaining momentum.

“We were invited to Poland and the Ukraine. By telling our story it encouraged others to do the same. In Poland and Lithuania where they had previously denied involvement, they began to talk. Our message as Germans was if we could face this, so can you. Now we educate – we are in a university town. So historians are considering how the culture of commemorating is done. Memorial events or historic remembering of facts is important but antisemitism is exploding. It has become disproportionate in the last five years. History can only come alive if we make it personal. If not us, then who? In the recent issue of Der Spiegel, we were the main cover story with personal stories but there is so much more to do with people still reluctant to talk about it,” laments Bittner.

Many people are resistant to the descendants telling their personal stories, feeling it dishonours the memory of their parents. Nevertheless, the descendants took a conscious decision to press on and the grandparents started to talk. “They found it easier to talk to their grandchildren than their children,” says Bittner.

Silence Is Not Golden

One could call March of Life a truly pioneering movement. While the government of Germany feels that working through the past is a high priority and share a sense of responsibility for the state of Israel, many ministers resist revealing their family history. March of Life has exhibited true courage to go where many dread – the past; and work closely with Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial museum and education centre. And this has found a welcome response from Germany’s Jewish community, and in 2017, the Jewish Community of Halle in Germany, awarded the March of Life with the Emil L. Fackenheim Prize for Tolerance.

Marches take place all over the world from Germany to Switzerland, Poland, South America and Jerusalem.

The impact is massive, reaching to millions of people.

Pastor Bittner says that despite the fact that they march proudly with Israeli flags and in cities like Paris where security is vital, they have faced no aggression, something “ We don’t take it for granted.” In Austria, they marched at the Mauthausen Death camp and taught seminars. “People revealed symbolic Nazi paraphernalia that had been in their family’s possession for years and some were shocked to discover what they meant. We even had reformed neo-Nazis in our congregation. Bittner believes that “antisemitism will cease to exist once it leaves the church.”  They are also present in schools teaching about the Holocaust. “I take some experts from Israel to schools and we are invited on a regular basis and we take survivors. Hearing from a survivor has a profound impact. We have seen this with Muslim students who have never been exposed to this. One story from a survivor is more important than fifty lessons.”

March of Life is a living memorial to history and a testament to the power of dialogue, no matter how painful it is. Silence and indifference propagate hatred. After the Holocaust, Jews took the vow “NEVER AGAIN”. Never again would we allow hatred to rise to the levels that it results in genocide. Never Again would we be silent. Never Again would we allow the wholesale slaughter of our people.

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Illuminating Darkness. At Israel’s March of Life office in Caesarea are (left to right), Pastor Jobst Bittner, the article’s co-writers Rolene Marks & Lindy Hoffman, the director of March of Life in Israel, Yigal Even-Ziv and clinical psychologist, Carolin Hohnecke, who is a 3rd generation descendent of a perpetrator.

Our gratitude to Pastor Bittner and March of Life – they have given wings to our vow and a tailwind to our voices.

They have broken the Veil of Silence.

 

 

Christian Perspective from the Heights of Mount Meron

By Margy Pezdirtz

Israel welcomed an estimated 150,000 Christians for the festive 2018 Christmas season, according to the Tourism Ministry, with many joining the celebrations in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth, and visiting the very locations where the Christmas story unfolded.

More than half the tourists – some 56% – who visited Israel in 2018 were Christian. By denomination these Christians were 41% Catholic, 27% Protestant, and 28% Orthodox.

One such recent visitor was award-winning author and novelist and third generation Oklahoman, Margy Pezdirtz, a leader in the Christian Zionist movement.

Below is her report from her recent visit to a Christian town, Gush Halav, on Mount Meron in northern Israel.

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Thriving Christian Life In Israel. A view of Gush Halav (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

A Village Called ‘Jish’

In nearly every country in the Middle East, Christians are persecuted, frequently killed at the hands of their Muslim neighbors. The only country in which this does not happen is  Israel, where Christians are welcome and free to worship. A classic example of this freedom of worship is the lovely village of Gush Halav, ‘Jish’ for short, sitting atop a steep hill in the foothills of Har Meron (Mountain of Meron), thirteen kilometres north of Safed, in Israel’s Upper Galilee. This small village of 3,078 citizens – according to the last census – proudly worships as Maronite Christians, a branch of the Catholic Church.

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Modern church, Gush Halav (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

The village is a center for the Aramaic revival, an initiative by local Maronites. In Israel, we can speak of ‘revival”, elsewhere in the Middle East, only of Christian ‘suppression’.

We visited Jish just prior to Palm Sunday, the Christian feast falling on the Sunday before Easter commemorating Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We found teenagers happily preparing for the upcoming Easter parade, which they will lead with a full corps of drums escorting a large cross carried by leaders of the village. Almost every citizen will joyfully line the streets to pay silent tribute to their Savior as the cross weaves its way upward to the top of the hill where it will rest for the holiday. Looking down on this parade from the rooftop of St. George’s Church, will be the three permanent crosses that bear witness to the faith of the village. All of these crosses are lighted every night – not just Easter – to testify to all around that this is a Christian community.

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Old church, Gush Halav (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

There is frequently confusion as to where these Christians came from. Are they Arabs? Christian Arabs? No, not really. They are quick to make it clear that they are Aramean Maronites, not Arabs. According to Wikipedia, Arameans are a Semitic people who originated in what is a combination of the western, southern and central parts of Syria generations ago.

As to where the Christian portion came to fit, generations ago a priest by the name of Maroun felt drawn to isolate himself in the mountains of Syria to meditate and draw closer to God, the Father, through his Savior, Jesus Christ. In doing so, others were attracted to his dedication to God and began following him. Thus the name “Maronite” was attached to his followers who, today, remain dedicated in their worship of the Heavenly Father through the auspices of the Catholic Church. All Maronites are Catholics.

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Following tradition: Schoolgirls study Aramaic in the Arab village of Jish, northern Israel (credit – AP)

Originally, the Maronites spoke and prayed in Aramaic; however, over the years, the language was lost other than for prayer which only the very elderly could speak or understand. In recent years that has changed. Now students are offered the ability to learn the Aramaic language in public school through to the 8th grade, which is encouraged by the Israeli government.

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Passion: Atif Zarka, 64, a volunteer Aramaic teacher’s assistant, plays the violin to forth grade students studying Aramaic in Jish (credit – AP)

While the United Nations lambasts Israel with resolutions accusing it of false human rights abuses and unfair treatment of her minorities, a hilltop in northern Israel tells another story – a beacon of truth. Here at ‘Jish’, a religion other than Judaism and a language other than Hebrew is encouraged and promoted by the Israeli government. The village youth are proud Israeli citizens. While Christians are not obligated to join the IDF, many chose to do so as volunteers upon graduating from high school. And, those who prefer not to serve in the military are quick to volunteer for Sherut Leumi an alternative national service where participants engage in programmes such as working in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, health clinics and disadvantaged communities. These are young Christians giving back to a society that has given to them – a phenomenon unheard of elsewhere in the Middle East other than in Israel.

Life is good in Gush Halav. Those interviewed expressed: “we have everything we want or need” and “are happy to live where we live and to be Israelis”.

Life is good indeed, in Gush Halav, Israel.

 

About the author

Margy Pezdirtz.jpgMargy Pezdirtz has been a leader in the Christian Zionist movement for over twenty-five years. Born a third generation Oklahoman, the granddaughter of pioneers who were the first to break the sod on their homestead in Grant County, she learned early on the significance of establishing a foundation toward building a future. Coming from a family of farmers she was taught self-reliance and the value of standing strong during the wildest of storms and hard times. She believes the lessons learned from her farm family taught her the values and determination that is necessary to establish her support for Israel. An award-winning author and novelist, Mrs. Pezdirtz is an avid student of the Bible.

 

 

 

Open Letter to British Quakers

By Stephen Schulman

I entered your site of the British Quakers, the Society of Friends and was impressed by your clearly stated aims of “justice, equality and peace” and your exhortation for “spiritual exploration“. These concepts are most noble and laudatory and should be adopted by us all, no matter what our denominations.

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Selective Morality. Quakers at their annual general meeting, penalise Israel in 2018 but turn a blind eye to gross injustice all around the world.

Whilst perusing the site, I also read of your call to divest from all companies “that profit from the occupation of Palestine”, in other words, knowingly or not, to be part of and encourage others to join the BDS movement that openly seeks to vilify, demonize and delegitimize the State of Israel. You also place the State of Israel on a time continuum that links it with Apartheid South Africa and as far back as the slave trade.

Now, as a citizen of Israel, not being a member of your Society of Friends and consequently not being endowed with your heightened morality and your vaunted keen sense of “justice, equality and peace” that proudly flutters on your banner, I wish to, if I may, speak plainly to point out some pertinent facts and ask you some relevant questions to which I would greatly appreciate answers.

Firstly, your equation of the actions of the Israeli government and its citizens with those of Apartheid South Africa and the slave trade is inaccurate, misleading, inept, repugnant and odious.  As a citizen of the only democratic state in the Middle East and while having my own criticism of certain of my government’s policies, I find it simplistic in the extreme that you think by your call to divestment, that this will end a conflict in this region, particularly where you indulge in double standards by focusing on and judging Israel while blithely ignoring its mortal enemies.

If you recall, following the victory in the Six Day War in 1967 when its enemies persevered to wipe the Jewish state off the face of the map and Israel responded by offering to return the territories conquered in return for a peace treaty, the Arab reply was unambiguous:

No recognition and no negotiations and no peace“.

Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2008 with the hope that its newly gained autonomy would lead it to develop its economy, improve the life of its inhabitants and lead a peaceful coexistence.

Unfortunately, the opposite occurred!

All the agricultural infrastructure that would have been of benefit to its inhabitants was rapidly dismantled and the extremist Islamist party, Hamas – an internationally recognized terror organization – with its clear ant-Semitic, terrorist and genocidal agenda – was voted in. The results are plain to see. The billions of dollars donated by the EU, Britain included, intended for schools, hospitals, housing and infrastructure, have been spent on armaments and the digging of tunnels into Israel. Thousands of rockets with the ultimate aim of killing and maiming Israeli civilians have rained down on my country. Democracy has been extinguished with critics hunted and brutally silenced and religious minorities persecuted.

In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority encourages terrorism by paying a generous monthly salary to terrorists in Israeli prisons. This ‘Pay for Slay’ policy that entails huge sums of money and is funded by the EU and your government that annually pour billions into the bottomless hole of the Palestinian Authority’s coffers – an administration notorious for its corruption and silencing of critics.

In the light of these facts, your simplistic panacea of simply blaming Israel for the ills in the region by its “military occupation” is patently untenable. Will Israel’s complete withdrawal from the West Bank put an end to Arab terrorism and engender its neighbours’ desire to recognize its existence and live in peaceful coexistence?  Will Hamas and Hezbollah lay aside their weapons and beat their swords into plowshares? Will the Palestinian Authority cease all its anti-Semitic   indoctrination?

Why have you not in the name of justice, equality and peace, condemned all the terrorist attacks in my country?

I can only surmise that the silence of your on-line site serves as testimony to the double set of British Quakers’ values.

Turkey in the 1970’s – in clear violation of international law – invaded Cyprus dispossessing and expelling many Greek Cypriots from their homes and permanently dividing the island into two with a wall of barbed wire.

Has this unjust military occupation perhaps escaped your notice?

Under Erdogan, Turkey has one of the worst human rights records, jailing putative opponents, discriminating against Christians and persecuting their missionaries, conducting a massive purge of the military and civil service that would have done Stalin proud and waging a merciless war against the Kurds. Lest we forget, Turkey has vociferously denied its role in the ‘Armenian Genocide’ and has helped prop up the despicable regime of Basher Assad in Syria.

Have you called for divestment from Turkey and those that trade with it?

In Syria, the vicious regime of Basher Assad, using all means possible including devastating cities and using poison gas, has slaughtered over half-a-million of its citizens and forced millions more to flee for their lives.  The death toll rises daily.

In the name of peace and justice, why have you been silent?

Why haven’t you called for divestment from Syria and all the countries that support and trade with that murderous regime?

With its rich experience in Afghanistan and Chechnya, Assad’s henchman Russia, has increased its military presence in Syria aiding and abetting that murderous regime and playing an active part in the bombing of innocent civilians.

Have you called for divestment in companies dealing with Russia?

Iran, which openly declares its policy to obliterate the State of Israel, trains, supplies arms and funds its proxies towards that aim – Hamas and Hezbollah.  It promotes Holocaust denial and unashamedly hosts an annual cartoon competition mocking the tragedy. On the home front it suppresses human rights, indiscriminately jailing and torturing all those who have dared to raise their voices. Amongst its other doings, it has viciously persecuted the Bahá’í faith.

Whilst clandestinely pursuing its nuclear programme, the Revolutionary Guard continues to spread terror beyond its borders including actively aiding the regime of Assad.

Has your organization called to divest from firms dealing with this international pariah?

China invaded and annexed Tibet, imposing its own bogus Llama and flooding it with Chinese settlers. It is presently “re-educating” over a million Muslims and is viciously persecuting the Falun Gong sect, incarcerating, torturing and murdering its members who have proved a source for organ harvesting. The country has a huge penal gulag that arbitrarily imprisons after fixed trials. Its actions fly in the face of all that is ethical.

Have you ever protested? Have you called for divestment? Have you raised your voices at all?

The term “Apartheid” has been so widely bandied about by all and sundry that it has lost its original meaning which was a state legislated and executed policy of discrimination against a group of its citizens, denying them basic rights and services, barring them from residence in certain areas and practicing certain professions. Palestinians in Lebanon are barred from 36 legal or syndicated professions, prohibited from acquiring or inheriting property and restricted to refugee camps. Recently, a three-year-old Palestinian child died when a Lebanese hospital refused to receive him.

Is this not Apartheid? Does this not recall the notorious Nuremberg Laws of Nazi Germany? Society of Friends, where is your concern for the Palestinians’ welfare? Where are your protests? Where is your action?

The plight of your fellow Christians in Muslim lands is a dire one with many living in fear of their lives and forced to convert to Islam. There is Christian genocide in Nigeria with Boko Haram and other related groups burning churches, slaughtering believers and kidnapping young girls who are then forcibly converted and married off. Copts in Egypt fare badly with churches bombed, congregants discriminated against and murdered whilst many local authorities turn a blind eye. Since the US led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Christians have been abducted, enslaved, raped and slaughtered, sometimes by crucifixion.

The city of Bethlehem once had a thriving Christian population and a Christian mayor. Since the Israeli withdrawal in 2001, the former Christian majority has shrunk to a minority as many have left. It is pretty simple to draw the conclusion!

Quakers of England, your official site that voices your policies and activities is conspicuously devoid of any mention of your fellow Christian’s persecution.

Where is your compassion?  Where is your charityWhere is your love? Where is your morality? Where is your conscience?

Sudan engages in systematic persecution of Christians while Pakistan is notorious for its virulence. Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five has been incarcerated for ten years under appalling conditions after having been falsely accused of blasphemy. During this period, this brave lady has faithfully and tenaciously adhered to her faith and despite all dire threats and coercions, refused to convert to Islam. Due to her religious persuasion, her word carries no weight against that of her Moslem accusers. She has now been acquitted but the mobs are howling for her death. It is no secret what fate awaits her and her family on her release from prison!

Great Britain charitably extended its hand to Muslim Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani activist and youngest Nobel Prize Lauriette after she was shot and gravely wounded by the Taliban in retaliation for her campaigning for female education. While Malala was medically treated and granted asylum to live in the UK, it was not so charitable in the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy by a Pakistani court and sentenced to death by hanging in 2010 but recently acquitted on appeal “due to lack of evidence.” Bibi is prevented from leaving Pakistan until the verdict is again reviewed – a process that can take years.

While having granted asylum to Muslim Malala, Great Britain shamefully denied asylum to the equally courageous and deserving Christian Asia on the grounds that it “will upset community relations.”.” Simply put, your once proud country has committed a disgraceful act of political expediency.

Have British Quakers campaigned for this heroic soul or publicly decried this outrage against all common decency?

In your own backyard, Jeremy Corbyn has elevated his anti-Semitism to main stream politics and made it socially acceptable.  Roger Waters is virulently anti-Semitic and continues on his unabated tirades. Acts against Jewish communities and citizens is on the rise.

Where are your voices for social equality and justice?

I perceive only a mute silence.

Quakers of Britain – Society of friends, I accuse you of moral turpitude and of a double set of values. Jumping on the present ‘politically correct’ bandwagon, you seek only to single out and unfairly judge Israel and yet remain silent, willfully ignoring rampant global injustices.

Your site provides ample proof!

Not one voice of protest, not a bleat, not a squeak, not even a faint whimper!  Your moral myopia and blinkered ethics speak volumes. Nevertheless, to salve your consciences, you choose to solely focus on the State of Israel, the sole country in the Middle East that practices democracy and enshrines freedom of religion.

You are well aware of this truth. The British Quakers have had a proud history of helping their fellow men – the involvement with saving children from the Nazis in the Kindertransport is a shining example.

However, this was in the past.

Today, I see you mouthing empty platitudes and detect the rank stench of hypocrisy.  Your site carries your aims of “spiritual exploration”. I suggest that you carry out a thorough spiritual housecleaning and sweep the stables clean.

Society of Friends, I have levelled serious accusations against you. If I have erred in some, I shall willingly stand to be corrected. I look forward to receiving replies to my questions but if none are forthcoming, I shall understand you have no answers.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Schulman

Ramat Hasharon, Israel

 

 

image001 (4).pngStephen Schulman, is a graduate of the South African Jewish socialist Youth Movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. Stephen, who has a Master’s Degree in Education, was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance.

 

Understanding Evangelism Towards Israel

By Bev Goldman

Evangelical Christians make up the biggest pro-Israel bloc in the US; and support for Israel is stronger among American evangelicals than it is even among American Jews.

Nevertheless, maמy Jews, following millennia of persecution, inevitably view the present through the lens of the traumatic past.

Evangelism refers to “the preaching of the Gospel. It comes from the same Greek word for gospel (euangelion) and means, literally, ‘gospeling’ or spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”  It is also referred to as “a spiritual journey of formation and transformation”; “telling the good news, being the good news, and doing the good news”; and “sharing Christian hope and hospitality.”

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Christians United for Israel supporters march in Jerusalem in 2008

Today the global evangelical population numbers somewhere around 300 million people scattered across every continent. While many live in developing countries, the United States remains the movement’s traditional centre where it is particularly strong and powerful and has been responsible over the years for policy changes and new directions implemented and taken by the various governments.  Numerous polls conducted, including one by the very influential Pew Research Centre, confirm that 82% of white evangelicals, as opposed to the less than half as many Jewish or Catholic Americans holding the same view, think God gave Israel to the Jewish people. Evangelical Christians make up the biggest pro-Israel bloc in the US; and support for Israel is stronger among American evangelicals than it is even among American Jews.

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Thousands of Evangelical Christians are participating in an annual pilgrimage to support Israel during a parade for the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem in 2006 (photo credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Professor David Gushee, lecturer in Christian ethics at Atlanta’s Mercer University, has commented frequently on how remarkably pro-Israel evangelicals have been, both theologically and in terms of the modern State of Israel.  He has also pointed out the commitment to Israel among evangelicals, which he said is evident in the growing number of evangelical leaders who lead trips to Israel, as well as by the attention being given to Jewish history in evangelical circles.

Solid Support

Pastor John Hagee, founder and national chairman of Christians United for Israel, heads the massive Cornerstone Church in San Antonio and founded Christians United for Israel a decade ago. It steadily became one of the strongest pro-Israel evangelical groups in the country, and the most recent census showed that it had more than three million members and 14 regional directors to help steer its operations across the USA.

Much of the basis of the evangelical perspective is theological, rooted in the belief that “God makes good on His promises … It looks back to the idea that God has made certain commitments to His people — to the people through whom the gospel originally came — and He’s not abandoning them, ultimately. And so there’s a hope that drives this belief that Israel deserves to be supported.”

A Pew study carried out in 2013 found that 29% of Christians, 46% of white evangelicals, and 19% of black Protestants thought that America was not supportive enough of Israel; while 41% of Christians, 31% of white evangelicals, and 48% of black Protestants felt the level of support was just right.  Two years later, in 2015, another Pew poll was carried out with quite different results.  They showed that while 6 percent of white American evangelicals thought the US was too supportive of Israel, 55 percent decried what they called the inadequate level of support given to Israel by their country as against the 36 percent who felt it was sufficient.  At the same time, more than 80 percent of evangelical pastors overwhelmingly agree that Christians should support Israel.

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We love Israel (Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

“Jesus Was Jewish”

The World Council of Independent Christian Churches, one of the larger evangelical movements in the USA, with 15 direct and 8 indirect ministries situated around the world, has produced a series of television programs called Focus on Israel, dedicated to “educating Christians about their Biblical responsibility to the Jewish people.” Laurie Cardoza-Moore, a deacon in the WCICC, emphasises how important a special bond with Jews is for theological and even scriptural reasons. “God had a plan for mankind, and Israel was to be that example of how to live,” she says. “And that’s why the Torah was given to them. And unfortunately, Christianity has moved away from that Hebraic understanding, that Hebraic teaching …The Jewish people are our brethren in the faith. And Jesus, of course, was Jewish.”

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Special Mission. America’s most prominent evangelical leaders (representing 150 million people worldwide) met Israel’s top leaders in Jerusalem in February 2018. The special mission was organised by Dr. Mike Evans founder of the friends of Zion Heritage seen here (left) with Prime Minister Netanyahu

Ron Csillag, writing on the Canadian Jewish News (CJN) website, asked in his article if evangelical support for Israel had a dark side.  He wrote, “Christians who love Israel: is it good for the Jews? While many Jews whole-heartedly embrace Christian Zionism – after all, Israel needs friends – others suspect that behind it lurks a theology that loves Jews but hates Judaism.  Millions of evangelical Christians – often referred to as “born again” and who believe the Bible is inerrant – have reasons for supporting Israel, whether because it’s biblically mandated or because they, like Israel’s current leadership, are conservative and feel a political kinship. Or, because they see it as a way of atoning for past mistreatment of Jews. Perhaps it’s for all of those reasons.”

While Christian Zionism, he added, has helped to shape the strong support for Israel emanating from the USA, he ascribed to other Christian Zionists what might be called a darker agenda: their belief that universal redemption and the return of the Christian messiah can happen only when all the Jews have been gathered in their homeland, “where they will finally give up their obsolete and erroneous beliefs and accept Jesus Christ as their saviour.”

This apart, there is a whole host of reasons, far too many to detail here, for why Christians support Israel. Politics is one of them. Evangelicals “tend to be conservative politically,” says Rabbi Michael Skobac, director of education and counselling for Jews for Judaism Canada, observed. “They see Israel as [being] at the front lines of fighting terrorism.”  For other Christians, support for Israel “is an expression of remorse for past anti-Semitism and what they see as the failure of churches to stand up for Jews during the Holocaust.”  And for almost 73% of world evangelical leaders, the real basis for most Christian Zionism, put simply, is the belief in the truth of God’s eternal covenant with the nation of Israel.

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Christian demonstrators, members of “Christians United for Israel” organization, carry flags during a march to show solidarity with Israel, in Jerusalem April 7, 2008. Credit: Eliana Aponte/Reuters.

The Grand Plan?

But not all evangelicals do, in fact, support Israel. Robert Nicholson, himself a staunch Christian but with strong ties to various Jewish communities, writes, “A growing minority inside the evangelical world views the Jewish state as at best tolerable and at worst positively immoral, a country that, instead of being supported on biblical grounds, should be opposed on those same grounds.”

Discussing the many different evangelical ‘sects’ and their pro- or anti-Israel stances, Nicholson notes that evangelicals believe God chose the biblical people of Israel “as His vehicle for world redemption, an earthly agent through whom He would accomplish his grand plan for history. Why did God choose Israel? Not because of any innate virtue or genius they may have possessed, but because He had made a covenant with their patriarch, Abraham, based on the latter’s demonstrated faith and devotion.”

Most evangelicals, he continued, “also believe that the ingathering of the Jews is the first stage in the second coming: the moment when Jesus will return to earth not as a humble servant but as a conquering king to establish his righteous rule in Jerusalem and restore the nation of Israel to its favoured place for a millennium.”

The growth and spread of evangelism, even considering their donation of millions of much-appreciated dollars to worthy causes in Israel, has given rise to numerous questions about its authenticity vis-à-vis the Jewish people.  Questions asked include, “Can evangelicals be trusted? Are they not on a mission to convert Jews to Christianity?  Is their professed love for and dedication to Israel not merely a cover for their ultimate goal, that of turning Jews into disciples of Jesus Christ?”

The suspicion about evangelical motives for loving Israel has many of its roots in the fact that people bearing the name of Christ had spent centuries demonizing the Jewish people and shedding Jewish blood.  Memories of the Crusades, the Inquisition, the innumerable pogroms and persecutions have not dimmed in the Jewish world; and thousands still view the present through the lens of the traumatic past.  Jewish concerns also focus on evangelical proselytizing or adherence to the belief that the Christian faith should replace Judaism; and there are those who see evangelicals as fundamentalist and right-wing.  According to Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz, founder of the group Jews for Judaism, the ‘hidden agenda’ of the Christian Zionists is proselytising. In one of his articles, he wrote, “There is irrefutable evidence that many evangelicals who support Israel have implemented and new ‘soft-sell’ approach to proselytising Jews for conversion.”

Yet Rabbi Pini Dunner, senior rabbi at Yeshiva High School for Boys in Beverly Hills, California, sees it differently. Accompanying a delegation of 30 young pastors to Israel on their first visit, he said, “The overwhelming miracle of Christian-Jewish brotherhood in the wake of the creation of the state of Israel is something that is under-recognized and under-appreciated, particularly of evangelicals, whose love for Israel is breath-taking and illuminating.”

So, there we have it – a conundrum, a dilemma on whose horns sit the various Jewish groups, those in and outside of Israel, the orthodox and the secular, the young and the older, who see the evangelicals from different perspectives. Their remarkable generosity to Israel is well documented, and those I am privileged to know personally here in South Africa are wonderful and genuine people who love Israel unconditionally. Perhaps that’s the attitude everyone should adopt – after all, Israel needs all the friends she can get, and who else gives so much with no expectation of reward?

 

Bev Goldman
Bev Goldman

BEV GOLDMAN

Bev worked for many years in education and journalism, and she holds a master’s degree in Feminist Literature. Prior to joining the SA Zionist Federation where she dealt with media and education for 12 years, she was the editor of the ‘Who’s Who’ of Southern Africa; a member of WordWize which taught English language skills to Russian and Polish immigrants in South Africa; an occasional lecturer in English at RAU (now the University of Johannesburg); and Director of Educational Programmes at Allenby In-Home Studies.  Currently she runs the Media Team Israel for the SA Zionist Federation; she sits on the Board of Governors of the Rabbi Cyril Harris Community Centre (RCHCC); she is the National Vice-President of the Union of Jewish Women South Africa; she is an executive member of the International Council of Jewish Women (ICJW); and she edits and proofs Masters and PhD dissertations.

 

 

Feature picture credit: Moti Milrod