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Word from Jerusalem

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Latest Edition: March/April - Israel, an Ongoing Miracle!

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Word From Jerusalem Nov/Dec 2019

Jan/Feb 2020 - Prepare the Way: New Year

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It's a new year, so it's time to check out our new magazine! As you flip through the beginning pages, you will find an intriguing teaching from ICEJ's President Dr Jürgen Bühler about the prophet Balaam and how God views Israel. As you continue through the magazine, you will discover an analysis written by ICEJ's VP & Senior Spokesman David Parsons with keen insights on the political efforts to topple Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Also, inside this edition you will discover many exciting new beginnings that have happened within the ICEJ, Israel, and the nations! You do not want to miss reading about ICEJ's newest Vice President, the impact on Israeli communities through social businesses, trauma treatment for children in the south, ICEJ events in Germany, a regional conference in Europe, and so much more!

We pray that as you read this magazine, the Lord will speak to you in a very special way! Happy New year from the ICEJ! 

Israel and Christians

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The following is taken from an interview of David Parsons, ICEJ Media Director, by Manfred Gerstenfeld for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs examing the complex cultural, theological and political relationship between the State of Israel and the worldwide Christian community. Scroll down to read more...

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Islam dominates the Middle East, subjecting minorities, women and children to widespread oppression. Christians and Jews are especially targeted, reduced to a state of subservience or dhimmitude... Learn more »

 


Summary of the Interview

 

  • The Holocaust initiated a major change in thinking about the Jewish people in numerous Christian circles. To many it was clear that centuries of Christian anti-Semitic teachings had paved the way for the mass murders by the Nazis and their supporters. These crimes alone, however, could not have shifted the theological thinking of many Christians to such a large extent. Many would still have seen the Shoah as yet another example that Jews are forever cursed.

  • It was the theological shock of the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 that challenged the fundamental church teachings and doctrine concerning the Jewish people. For centuries, the Christian mainstream thought that the Jews, who were blamed for killing Christ, were cursed to endless wanderings. This is the key distinguishing factor between Christian friends and foes of Israel: whether or not one believes the Jews still have an abiding covenantal relationship with God.

  • Within the pro-Israeli Protestant camp there are two major theological schools. The first is covenantal Christian theology, which is based on the belief that God eternally keeps his covenantal promises. The second is dispensationalism, which says that Israel was temporarily replaced by the church but-at the end of days-Israel will once again be God's main redemptive agent in the world.

  • Replacement theology, also called supersessionism, is the main theology of Israel's Christian foes. It is based on the idea that God's unique relationship with the church is the replacement or the completion of the promises made to the Jewish people, and thus Israel's "election" no longer stands. Palestinian liberation theology uses Jesus as a historic role model, identifying with him as the "first Palestinian revolutionary." Thus, it justifies Palestinian violence against Israelis as acceptable acts of the oppressed against the oppressor.


Full Transcript of the Interview

"The Holocaust brought about a major change in thinking about the Jewish people in many Christian circles. It was a major moral shock for them that, in the heart of Christian Europe, a genocide had taken place that aimed to annihilate the Jews. To many, it was clear that centuries of Christian anti-Semitic teachings had paved the way for the mass murders by the Nazis and their supporters.

"These crimes alone, however, could not have shifted the theological thinking of many Christians to such a large extent. Many would still have said: ‘The Shoah is yet one more example that the Jews are forever cursed.'"

David R. Parsons is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, senior producer of the weekly radio program Front Page Jerusalem, and contributing editor of the Jerusalem Post Christian Edition. From 1991 to 1995 he served as general counsel for CIPAC, a Christian pro-Israeli lobby registered with Congress to advocate for strong U.S.-Israel relations.

A Theological Shock

Parsons observes: "It was the theological shock of the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 that challenged fundamental church teachings and doctrine concerning the Jewish people. For centuries the Christian mainstream thought that the Jews, who were blamed for killing Christ, were cursed to endless wanderings. The concept was that they had been dispersed around the world, never to return to the Land of Israel or play an important role in God's redemptive plan for humanity. In short, with the birth of the church, the Jews had served their purpose once and for all.

"Then after World War II, rather suddenly Jewish sovereignty was restored in the Land of Israel. This development did not square with mainstream Christian doctrines. Thereupon several Christian churches, of which the large Catholic Church is a good example, gradually steered their institutions toward new attitudes concerning the Jewish people.

"However, there also remain Christians who have refused to change their doctrines to fit this new reality of a restored Israel. They would rather try to retool the facts to fit their classic theology of a rejected Israel. This is perhaps a little-known, but large motivating factor, for many pro-Palestinian Christians in the Western world. By attempting to reverse history they want to do away with Jewish sovereignty in the Land.

"In addition they would like to whittle Israel back to a bi-national state, Jews and Arabs, and three religions: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. This is an important source of the Christian involvement in the divestment campaigns, apartheid branding of Israel, and other anti-Israeli efforts. Although this activism has an underlying theological basis, it is also part of the wider ‘culture wars' between the Left and Right."

Christian Zionists

When asked to first analyze the various currents among Christian friends of Israel, Parsons replies that some of these supported the Zionist movement since its inception. "Theodore Herzl coined the term ‘Christian Zionists' at the first Zionist Congress in Basel in 1898, in reference to such Christian figures as the Rev. William Hechler, the chaplain at the British embassy in Vienna, and the Swiss Protestant Jean Henri Dunant, who shared the first Nobel Peace Prize.

"Christian Zionism even predates the advent of political Zionism by decades if not centuries, as leading Christian ministers and politicians advocated the return of the Jews to their ancient homeland from the time of the Protestant Reformation. Its triumph was the Balfour Declaration, as six of the nine members of the British cabinet of David Lloyd George were professing Christian Zionists. The theological basis was their belief that the time had come for the Jews to return to their homeland. They also believed that Great Britain, with its worldwide empire, was uniquely positioned to help with the worldwide ingathering of the Jewish Diaspora. It was not only a matter of belief; great-power calculations also played a part in their attitudes.

"The roots of Christian Zionism start, however, with the Reformation. The Bible was put in the vernacular so that people could read it for themselves. They saw that God still loved the Jews. What they were reading did not accord with the teachings of the established churches, particularly Catholic doctrines.

"Today there are more Christian Zionists than ever. Many millions, all over the world, have a compelling love for Israel and the Jewish people. Eight thousand Christians came from nearly a hundred countries to participate in the recent celebration of the biblical Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. Among them were 1,500 Brazilians, but also people from Papua New Guinea and Fiji. None canceled despite the economic crisis, even if they were not well to do. Several hotels in Jerusalem have told us that they regularly refuse requests from other people to take over room reservations made by our Feast pilgrims for the Sukkot holiday, saying that ‘whatever happens here, we know the Christians will come.'"

Misrepresentations

"It is sometimes difficult to be a Christian Zionist, as even some Jewish and Israeli leaders claim we are no different from Christians in the past. There are many misrepresentations about us. One is that the Christian Zionist movement is a recent outgrowth of the Christian Right and has a variety of sinister motives. We even have fellow evangelical Christians who call us idolaters for worshipping secular Israel instead of Christ."

Parsons prefers to use the term "biblical Zionism" rather than "Christian Zionism," since it allows more room for Jewish and Christian agreement. He explains: "I am a Christian adherent to biblical Zionism, which can also have Jewish adherents. As a believer in the Bible and the God of the Bible, I believe that the Jewish people and the Land of Israel were both chosen for the purpose of world redemption. The modern restoration of the Jews to their ancient homeland is evidence of God being faithful to his covenantal promise to the patriarch Abraham to deliver the Land of Canaan as an everlasting possession to his descendants.

"All human beings are equal, but the Jews have a unique role in the world that we must respect. The worship of God, His word, His commandments, His covenants, and for us Christians, God's Messiah, were all delivered to us through the Jewish people. It is a biblical paradox that there is universality with God in that He loves all humanity, and at the same time also a particularity, or divine election. It is even the teaching of the New Testament that through the return of the Jewish exiles, God is still working out his plan of redemption for the whole world.

"As adherents of biblical Zionism, we support political Zionism, as the Jewish people need a homeland and safe haven, but we add the element of divine purpose. This sets us entirely apart from the anti-Israeli camp that believes the election of the Jewish people no longer stands. In their theology the Jews are now fair game for criticism and worse. This is the key distinguishing factor between Christian friends and foes of Israel-whether or not you believe the Jews still have an enduring covenantal relationship with God.

"Elements of covenantal theology can already be found in the writings of the early Church Fathers, including Irinaeus and Augustine. The reformer John Calvin was, however, the first to organize God's salvation concepts under this system of theology."

Perhaps 600 Million Protestant Evangelicals

Asked how many Christian Zionists there are, Parsons replies: "The Christian world comprises, to begin with, perhaps up to one billion Catholics. There are over 200 million Eastern Orthodox Christians and 200 million mainline Protestant parishioners.

"The Protestant evangelicals number perhaps as many as 600 million today-these are people who claim to have had a ‘born again' experience and who view the Bible as the inspired Word of God. The evangelical stream is the fastest-growing religious movement in the world. The Chinese government recently admitted that there as many as 120 million evangelical Christians in their country, more than the number of Communist Party members.

"These evangelicals generally tend to have a favorable view of Israel, and many are interested in exploring the Jewish roots of our faith. Time magazine recently called this effort to study our Hebraic roots one of the top ten trends in the world today. In a recent poll some 80 percent of U.S. Christians felt a moral obligation to stand with Israel. There are some anti-Israeli pockets among evangelicals but these remain small.

"Another great motivating factor is that we want to take responsibility for the bitter legacy of Christian anti-Semitism. Outside the United States much of our support base comes from Europe. We have strong branches in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and the Scandinavian countries.

"These Christians are familiar with the history of the Crusades, the medieval expulsions of the Jews, the Inquisition, and the Holocaust. In the history of the evangelical Christian movement there are no instances of ‘convert or die' scenarios. Among those who now support Israel are people who have come out of churches that played major roles in Christian anti-Semitism. For them, supporting Israel is not a matter of guilt, but rather of taking responsibility for a bitter legacy and trying to remove the stain from the church's name.

"Within the pro-Israeli Protestant camp there are two major theological schools. The first is covenantal Christian theology, which, as noted, is based on the belief that God eternally keeps his covenantal promises made through Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus. We believe the Hebrew prophets were servants of the covenants and tell us something about how God will keep his covenantal promises. The foundation of our pro-Israeli stance, however, is the Abrahamic covenant. The people in the Christian Embassy belong to this theological school."

Dispensationalism

"The other pro-Israeli Christian theology is dispensationalism. It is of more recent origin and focuses on prophetic passages in which Israel plays an important ‘end-time' role. Its origins can be traced to John Nelson Darby who was a preacher in the Plymouth Brethren Movement, which dates from the early 1800s. His ideas were later adopted by Cyrus Scofield in the United States, who published a popular reference Bible around 1900.

"Dispensationalism says that Israel was temporarily replaced by the church but-at the end of days-Israel will once again be the main redemptive agent for God in the world for a short season. This happens when the true church is ‘raptured' or caught up into heaven at the start of the seven-year Tribulation. Then, during this time of great turmoil on earth, two-thirds of the Jews in the Land of Israel will die and the other one-third, through their conversion, will bring back Christ.

"I believe this is based on erroneous interpretations of prophetic portions of the Bible, which contain passages that can be privately interpreted in many different ways. Still, it is a harmless belief system that Jews should not be too worried about. Even with these interpretations, most adherents of dispensationalism have a deep, abiding love for Israel. And it is not they who would be forcing Israel into some last, grand, convert-or-die scenario, since they would already be in heaven."

Israel's Foes

Replacement theology, also called supersessionism, is the main theology of Israel's Christian foes. The terminology dates back to the seventeenth century but reflects an older view that was already espoused by some early church followers. It is based on the idea that God's unique relationship with the church is the replacement or the completion of the promises made to the Jewish people.

"Some of those who believe in replacement theology are uncomfortable with the terminology and instead speak of ‘fulfillment theology.' It means that God has fulfilled everything He had promised to the Jews, and the new covenant substitutes the Mosaic one. Under this covenant the church replaces Israel as God's main redemptive agent in the world.

"Various strands have been identified within replacement theology. One is ‘punitive supersessionism,' which simply says the Jews are cursed to endure endless wanderings because they killed Christ. Another variant is ‘economic supersessionism,' which has nothing to do with money but means that in God's economy the church has essentially replaced Israel in His plan on a practical level.

"Yet another trend is ‘structural supersessionism.' This marginalizes the Old Testament as no longer being normative for Christian thought. It can be considered a modern-day revival of Marcionism. Marcion was a second- century heretic who maintained that Christians should not care about the Hebrew Bible, but focus only on the New Testament.

"Marcion thought that if one accepted both testaments, one was serving a schizophrenic God. He saw the God of the Old Testament as one of vengeance and war, while the God of the New Testament revealed himself through Jesus as one of mercy and love."

Parsons adds that many in the Christian world fail to understand the biblical paradoxes concerning, on the one hand, God's universal love for all mankind and, on the other, His sovereign election, both of Jews and Christians. Many Christians have had difficulty with the similar biblical paradox of "free will" versus "predestination." But he notes that in Romans 11, the Apostle Paul says, "Behold the goodness and severity of God." Parsons observes that this passage embodies these two paradoxical traits within God's character and that the "trick" for those of faith is learning to live between them, even if many Christians do not succeed at this.

"The basic problem with replacement theology is that it denies God's immutable nature. Replacement theology charges that God is untrustworthy and can change His mind. If God indeed had changed His mind, the Jewish people would have been wiped out long ago, according to Malachi, Chapter 3. If the covenant with the Jewish people has been nullified, Christians must ask themselves what value the new covenant has for us. Our view is that one can add a covenant, but that does not necessarily nullify an existing one.

"Christian Zionists get demonized together with the Jews by some of the mainstream churches, which believe in replacement theology. We consider it an honor to stand with the Jews."

Liberation Theology

Parsons remarks: "Liberation theology is one more Christian theology that is hostile to Israel. It overstresses and overidentifies with the historic figure of Jesus-as opposed to the glorified Jesus post-resurrection-in order to address modern social grievances. It sees the historic Jesus as the earliest role model of a revolutionary fighting against oppression. In his case it was Roman oppression; now it is used to justify struggles against today's purported oppressors-the Israelis, for example.

"Liberation theology started in Latin America where certain Catholic priests were trying to address legitimate local social problems. Its discourse has Marxist overtones. This caused the Vatican to come out against certain aspects of liberation theology.

"This theology also has several prominent versions. ‘Black liberation theology' got much public attention during Barack Obama's campaign for the presidency. Jeremiah Wright, the pastor of his church-Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago-is an adherent of it. The father of black liberation theology is the Rev. James Hal Cone, whom Wright considers his spiritual leader. Wright also hosted at his church a key proponent of Palestinian liberation theology, Rev. Naim Ateek of the Sabeel Center in Jerusalem.

"Liberation theology will use the teachings of Jesus to justify violence whenever someone undertakes it against a real or purported oppressor. In the case of blacks, that means the fight against slavery and segregation. When a liberation theologian speaks of ‘justice,' it is a very loaded term. It basically means ‘I want all my grievances resolved, and even then I am not satisfied because I am always the oppressed while the other is always the oppressor.' Ironically, this is much in line with what many Muslims think."

Palestinian Liberation Theology

"‘Palestinian liberation theology' bases itself on the suffering of the Palestinians under Israel. Adherents use Jesus as a historic role model, considering him the ‘first Palestinian revolutionary.' Thus they try to justify Palestinians blowing themselves up to kill the ‘oppressors.'

"No Christian theology can, however, preach violence, because Jesus in essence taught pacifism. He maintained that if one lives by the sword, one should be prepared to die by it. Jesus basically said ‘I didn't come to overthrow the Romans; my kingdom is not of this world.' Liberation theology sees a black-and-white world where the oppressed can get away with anything."

Parsons remarks, "I have seen so-called study missions from the World Council of Churches coming to Israel and using liberation-theology arguments to support the Palestinians. The international headquarters of the YMCA in Geneva sent a study mission at the height of the Second Intifada, which did the same. When reporters objected that they were somewhat biased, their spokeswoman's answer was: ‘Jesus taught us to root for the underdog.' This is a huge distortion of the message of the New Testament.

"Palestinian Christians are a small and dwindling, but highly symbolic community in the Palestinian territories. Some Christian clerics exploit that symbolic value to support Palestinian nationalism by distorting and denying the Jewishness of Jesus. By creating a Palestinian Jesus, they undermine the Hebraic roots of the Christian faith in order to serve the Palestinian narrative."

Edward Said and the Palestinian Jesus

"Prof. Edward Said, who taught Middle Eastern studies at Columbia University, often described Palestinian suffering under the Jews as ‘this endless Calvary, this constant crucifixion.' He thus deliberately drew upon classic Christian anti-Semitic motifs. Said's analogy was that Jesus suffered under the Romans and now the Palestinians were suffering under the Jews.

"Justus Weiner of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs has exposed Said's biographical fallacy.[1] The Arab scholar falsely claimed that he had to leave Jerusalem because his family was expelled by Israel. In reality, he grew up in Cairo and was only an occasional visitor in Jerusalem.

"The Christian Embassy was located for some time in the house on Chile Square from which Said also falsely claimed to have been expelled. Once he hosted a BBC documentary and declared, ‘This is my beautiful old house from which I was kicked out. Now there is a rabid Christian Zionist organization there, headed by a South African.'

"Many enemies of Israel equate it with the Nazis. Said added that Israelis also are the successors of the Romans by oppressing Palestinians. The body of the Palestinians is now portrayed as the body of Christ, which is again being crucified in the same land. Thus traditional Christian anti-Semitic themes are used in the service of Palestinian nationalism. In this way Jesus has retroactively been made a Palestinian. Some scholars have noted that this cutting off of Christianity from its Jewish roots creates dangerous possibilities for infiltration by Islam, which has a tendency to backfill history.

"The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, based in Jerusalem and run by Palestinian Christians, held a conference in April 2005 specifically to attack Christian Zionism. After Said had passed away, their new main patron was South African Anglican bishop Desmond Tutu. He could not make the conference and so they approached the new Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, but he declined. One of his spokesmen said he did not want to be identified with the ‘wrong voices.' Instead he sent them a pastoral letter setting forth his view of Israel still having some sort of enduring covenantal relationship with God as a ‘light to the nations'; a paradigm nation for knowing the blessing and the correction of God. It was an interesting attempt at defining Israel's enduring election by a liberal Protestant theologian, who has been critical of Israel as well."

The Catholic Church

"The Catholic Church at Vatican II repudiated replacement theology, which had been its official teaching for many centuries. Later, Pope John Paul II tried to further reconcile the breach between Jews and Catholics, visiting synagogues and making a pilgrimage to Israel, including a visit to the Western Wall and Yad VaShem.

"Under Pope John Paul II, Catholicism also defined anti-Semitism as a sin. He even went one step further and equated anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, thereby also rendering the former a sin by extension. If a Catholic says ‘I'm not an anti-Semite, just an anti-Zionist,' one can reply to him that ‘You are a sinner according to the definitions of your own church.'

"Pope John Paul II also called the Jews ‘our elder brothers.' However, I haven't seen the Catholic Church clearly spell out their view on the nature of the enduring covenantal relationship between God and Israel. Although the church, to some extent, now recognizes some sort of covenantal relationship, its theology on this point remains vague. I think this reticence has to do with the church's ‘high view' of itself as the sole agent for salvation in the world."

Parsons cautions that the theological battles over Israel among the churches will have to be fought out within the Christian world. When the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) recently rescinded its divestment resolution, it was former CIA director James Woolsey, a practicing Presbyterian himself, who was brought in by Jewish groups and effectively opposed it. "Jews can challenge Christian adversaries on the facts, on history, and so on. But Israel and world Jewry would be well advised to stay out of the theological debates among Christians, since some will not take Jews seriously because they do not accept the New Testament as scripture."

Notes

[1] Justus Reid Weiner, "‘My Beautiful Old House' and Other Fabrications by Edward Said," Commentary, September 1999.

David R. Parsons currently serves as media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, senior producer of the weekly radio program Front Page Jerusalem, and contributing editor to the Jerusalem Post Christian Edition. In these roles he writes and speaks on an array of historical, strategic, political, and biblical subjects relating to Israel and the Middle East. Parsons holds BA (history, 1981) and JD (1986) degrees from Wake Forest University. From 1991 to 1995 he served as general counsel for CIPAC, a Christian pro-Israeli lobby registered with Congress to advocate on behalf of strong U.S.-Israeli relations.

 

©2010 International Christian Embassy Jerusalem

Christian Friends Of Yad Vashem

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Christian Friends of Yad Vashem (CFYV) was founded in October 2006 in partnership with the ICEJ in order to educate Christians about the universal lessons of the Holocaust. We enroll Christians from various countries as members. We arrange an annual Christian Leadership Seminar at Yad Vashem for pastors and other Christian leaders. 

This year’s Christian Leadership Seminar will be the first one held under the new Director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, Ms. Sari Granitza. She has been working in the International Relations Division at Yad Vashem since 2003 and took over the reins of the Christian Desk from Dr. Susanna Kokkonen in mid-2018. Having lost family members in the Holocaust, Ms. Granitza takes her job very seriously. As an ambassador for Yad Vashem to the Christian world, she will continue to promote Holocaust education as an important means for ensuring that the atrocities of the Shoah never happen again.

CFYV promotes the wide-ranging activities of Yad Vashem:

  • Brings the universal lessons of the Holocaust to churches and Christian communities;
  • Builds bridges between Christians and Jews;
  • Teaches the history of Christian Antisemitism;
  • Educates about the legacy of Righteous among the Nations.

Learn more about how you can be a part of this historic partnership »

Contact Christian Friends of Yad Vashem »

Click here to read more about the new director of the Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, Sari Granitza.

ICEJ Media

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Reaching out in many languages through video, radio, print and email, the ICEJ educates Christians all over the world about Israel's unique calling, political situation and social challenges.

From our Jerusalem headquarters a team of journalists, academics and theologians produce a constant stream of statements, articles and papers tackling these complex issues from a mature biblical standpoint.

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Do you want to stay connected with what God is doing here in Jerusalem and Israel? Sign up today to receive the latest articles, videos, biblical teachings and more!

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Theology

Christian Zionism 101

Christian Zionism 101

The ICEJ’s articles and monographs define and clarify the beliefs of Christian supporters of Israel and place their “love for Israel” within its proper biblical context.

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Key lessons from the Word that we can apply to our lives today.

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ICEJ Feast peaks with Jerusalem March on ‘Schalit Day’

The annual Christian celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles, sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, came to a rousing conclusion on Tuesday with the colorful Jerusalem March through the streets of the capital and a Grand Finale’ service featuring Israel’s deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon.

“As a Jew and a representative of the Government of Israel, I welcome you here – Christians from all walks of life – to celebrate your faith, to praise God, and to bless Israel,” Minister Ayalon said in a powerful send-off address last night.

“There is a great awakening here in Israel and around the world of the need for the 'coming together' of Jews and Christians to keep God’s commandments,” added Ayalon. “God is sending you home as watchmen of Israel, so that His purpose will be fulfilled.”

Earlier in the day, the week-long Feast gathering peaked as more than 6,000 Christians from over 80 nations paraded in traditional costumes through the center of Jerusalem. Seated on the official viewing stand outside the King David hotel, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat was among the tens of thousands of Israelis lining the streets to greet the Feast pilgrims and witness the incredible display of solidarity, which came on the day that Israel welcomed home IDF soldier Gilad Schalit after five years of numbing captivity in Gaza.

A number of Feast pilgrims were holding signs which said, “Welcome home Gilad” and “Israel is not alone.” Others handed out small national flags, candy and other gifts to smiling children.

“We are so grateful about Gilad Schalit’s release! It’s been a prayer that has been going on for a long time and we are so thankful. That’s fabulous news during this great week,” assured Shay Kasper of Los Angeles, California.

“All the Jerusalem marches have been wonderful. We see more and more love going from both sides, from the Christians and the Israelis together,” added Kasper, who has attended every Feast since 1981.

“We had fun as a group, showing our support for Israel and basking in the atmosphere coming from the Israelis watching the parade,” said Sybille Hochuli from Switzerland. “The march is the highlight of the Feast, because we get a chance to see the ordinary people who live in this city.”

“It is good for our Feast pilgrims from around the world to be here to express our solidarity on such a momentous day, as they will also see and experience first-hand what Israel is going through as Gilad Schalit returns home,” said ICEJ Executive Director Dr. Juergen Buehler. “We share the relief and joy of the Schalit family and all Israel that Gilad has come back alive. We also share the pain of so many that the price for his return has meant having to set ruthless murderers free. Our pilgrims will no doubt return to their own nations with a deeper appreciation of Israel’s unique challenges and an even stronger commitment to standing with the Jewish state and people.”

Mayor Barkat relished his role as parade marshal, diving into the waves of Christian pilgrims on several occasions to shake hands and embrace his city’s visitors from around the globe. When the lead banner of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem passed by, he jumped to his feet again and marched alongside it to the roaring approval of Christians and Israelis alike.

On Monday evening, the ICEJ hosted its annual Israeli Guest Night at the Feast, with a record 2,000 Israelis in attendance.

“Anyone who doubts that Israel has incalculable Christian support in at least 70 countries should have heard the cheers and loud, long blowing of shofars each time MK David Rotem, chairman of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, mentioned Jerusalem as ‘the undivided city of David, the undivided capital of the State of Israel,’” wrote Jerusalem Post social columnist Greer Fay Cashman in her report on the event.

Rotem said that all over the world there were people trying to take part of Jerusalem away from Israel, “but your presence here is because you know that the covenant between God and Abraham is real and no one can work against this covenant.”

The Christian Embassy’s Feast celebration has once again maintained its status as the largest annual solidarity mission to Israel, and the nation’s largest tourist event this year.
 

Israel's Friends in the Nations

The video featured here is a recording of ICEJ's USA Director, Susan Michael, speaking on Israeli Night at the Feast of Tabernacles 2009.

Some 1,000 Israeli guests in the auditorium that night were hugely impacted by this message of hope and friendship at a time when many feel they are alone in the world.

The History of Christian Zionism

The Christian Zionist Movement has grown in numbers and in impact in recent years. Today, thousands of Christians from all over the world are, more than ever, ready to declare their love and support for the nation of Israel. Each year they come in their multitudes to Jerusalem to join the International Christian Celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. But the roots of this movement go back throughout Christian history.

In a sense, Christian Zionism goes right back to the 1st century period, as there have always been men and women who have believed and taught its tenets. Many examples of this from history could be quoted, but an article of this nature does not allow us to do it. As a definite theology, however, Christian Zionism had its beginnings among the pietistic Protestants of the 16th century and the 17th century Puritans of England. In 1587 a man named Francis Kett was burned alive for expressing his belief that the Bible prophesied a return of the Jews to their land. Moreover, in 1607, Thomas Brightman published a book in Basel called “Revelation of the Revelation”. In this book he wrote: “What, shall they return to Jerusalem again? There is nothing more certain; the prophets do everywhere confirm it.” Others of the same period frequently expressed a similar belief. For instance, Isaac de la Peyrere (1594-1676), who served as the French Ambassador to Denmark, wrote a book wherein he argued for a restoration of the Jews to Israel without conversion to Christianity.

By the time of the 18th century, the Christian Zionist Movement, known then as the Restoration Movement, included many theologians, writers and politicians. Noteworthy was Thomas Newton, the Bishop of Bristol. He believed Jews would be restored to their native city and country and at the same time he condemned anti-Jewish prejudice. The movement grew with the onset of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars.

In the 19th century the movement continued to gather momentum and one of the outstanding personalities in this regard was Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury. He noted in his diaries that the signs were right for the return of the Jews to Palestine. A certain Charles Henry Churchill, a British resident of Damascus, also became a zealous propagator of the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine. In 1841 he wrote a letter to the Jewish philanthropist Moses Montefiore in which he stated: “...I consider the object to be perfectly obtainable. But, two things are indispensably necessary. Firstly, that the Jews will themselves take up the matter unanimously. Secondly, that the European powers will aid them in their views...”

Another popular figure in the Restoration Movement was George Gawler (1796-1869). He wrote a book in 1845 and in it, concerning the Jewish people, he states that they were to replenish the deserted towns and fields of Palestine.

As the 19th century drew to a close, many prominent men were involved in Christian Zionism. Men like the British industrialist, Edward Cazalet (1827-1883), Lawrence Oliphant (1829-1888), a most active restorationist, and the American, William E. Blackstone. Blackstone was once dubbed the American Christian “Father of Zion¬ism”. The most interesting Christian Zionist of the period was, however, William H. Hechler (1845-1931). Hechler, Chaplain of the British Embassy in Vienna, worked very closely with Theodore Herzl, considered to be the founder and father of the Jewish State. In fact, Hechler dedicated 30 years of his life to the great task of realizing the Zionist goal; the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine. Unfortunately he died only seventeen years before this became a living reality. However, he was privileged to attend the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, in August 1897, at which the foundation stone of the restored Jewish State was laid.

The 20th century saw the Zionist dream come true as a direct fulfillment of God’s prophetic word. Sadly, some tragic events preceded this realization, the most terrible and evil of which was the Nazi Holocaust. Out of the ashes of six million Jews rose the restored Jewish State.

From the very beginning of the century, Christian Zionists were in the forefront of the struggle on behalf of the Jewish People. Their influence upon statesmen and men of power was great. It is no secret that this influence played a major role in producing the Balfour Declaration of 1917, in which His Majesty’s Government viewed “with favor the establishment of a Jewish national home” in Palestine.

Time will not permit us to talk of famous Christian Zionists such as Charles Orde Wingate, John Hayes Holmes, Professor Reinhold Niebuhr and Corrie Ten Boom who, at great personal risk during the Second World War, rescued Jews from the hands of Nazism. All these believed that scripture promised the restoration of the Jewish State in Palestine. Most of them died in hope but some, like Corrie Ten Boom, lived to see the impossible come true.

Christian Zionism has a long history. Today the movement has swelled to embrace thousands. All of them see their task as being far from over, since the same forces that sought the destruction of Israel in decades past are still at work today. The survival and preservation of Israel is dependent upon the same kind of help and support that made her existence a reality. Christian Zionists believe that in seeking her peace they are in the long run working for the world’s peace (Isaiah 2:1-4).


Rev. Malcolm Hedding is the former Executive Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

 

©2010 International Christian Embassy Jerusalem

In Bethlehem of Judea

Most Christians who have answered the call to live and serve in Israel sorely miss our families back home during the Christmas season. But we certainly don’t miss the commercialization of the holidays. There are no incessant jingles about Santa’s soon arrival and the airwaves don’t bombard us with great ideas for stocking stuffers. Today, Christians are less than two percent of the population in the Holy Land, and the Jews and Muslims have their own festivals. So it’s rather a quiet time; but that actually allows us to concentrate more on the “reason for the season” here in this special land where the Nativity story really happened.

Still, it has been interesting to observe over the years how Israelis and their Palestinian neighbors approach the historic figure of Jesus and his lowly birth long ago in Bethlehem. Most Jews here are indifferent to the season, although there are some, drawn by curiosity and love for music, who venture into the handful of public caroling services held on Christmas Eve. Yet for various reasons, as a whole they have trouble claiming Jesus as one of their own. This is slowly changing, however, as some have begun re-capturing his Jewishness. The late Prof. David Flusser of Hebrew University, the leading Orthodox scholar on the second Temple era, even embraced the historic Jesus as “my favorite rabbi.”

The Palestinians are a different story. Many are proud that he was born in their “country” and even Muslim crowds flock to Manger Square in December. But the Jesus they identify with has been deliberately stripped of his Jewish heritage. He is a “Palestinian Jesus” and he serves an important role in building support for their nationalist cause.

Even though the local Arab Christian community is small, it has a highly symbolic value, and certain Arab clergymen have exploited that symbolism to bolster the Palestinian narrative. They claim to be descended from the ‘first Christians,” even though nearly all the earliest believers were Jewish. True, these ancient faith communities have lived in the Holy Land for many generations and they’ve paid a steep price to maintain a Christian presence and witness here over the centuries. But it is a gross distortion of history and the biblical accounts to deny the Hebraic roots of Jesus and the early Church.

Nonetheless, even the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat embraced the historic Jesus, calling him the “first Palestinian revolutionary” who had come to fight Roman oppression. This same Jesus is a role model for fighting the oppressors of today “the Israelis.” Even his disciples get co-opted; Arafat once greeted Pope John Paul II as the “successor of Peter, the first Palestinian pope.”

Perhaps the most disgraceful aspect of this Palestinian Jesus is when its adherents both Muslims and Christians deliberately conjure up classic Christian anti-Semitic motifs by portraying the Palestinian people as the “Body of Christ” which is still being “crucified” by the Jews.

The Time and Season of Light

No, my friends, let there be no mistake! Jesus was a Jew and he cherished that heritage as well as his own people. My Bible says he was born “in Bethlehem in Judea.” (Matthew 2:1). It also says he was “the son of David, the son of Abraham.” (Matthew 1:1) We could fill volumes proving the case for a Jewish Jesus, and most of us know this well. But what would surprise many Christians is the way this Jewish identity is preserved when the historic Jesus is transformed into the risen and glorified Lord.

For instance, when the two disciples walked with the resurrected Jesus on the way to Emmaus, they finally recognized him in the way he broke bread. No doubt he had a special way within this ancient Jewish tradition of blessing bread and wine, and he followed it even after his death.

When he restored Peter on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, the risen Jesus tested him three times: “Peter, do you love me?” For such is the manner of the Jews, based on the story of Ruth, to test someone three times before allowing them to “convert” and follow.

Even at the end of Revelation, the glorified Jesus is still declaring: “I am the Root and Offspring of David.” (22:16)

Surely, he was born a Jew and a Jew he remains…

David Parsons
Media Director
International Christian Embassy Jerusalem
 

©2010 International Christian Embassy Jerusalem

In Defense of Christian Zionism

Pushing through the “doors” opened by the so-called divestment campaign and other such efforts, proponents of Replacement Theology are working feverishly to discredit their fellow believers in Christ who view Israel’s modern- day restoration as evidence of God’s faithfulness to the covenant He made with Abraham 4,000 years ago.

The Presbyterian Church-USA, for example, at the same General Assembly two years ago in which it voted to consider divesting from Israel, was also induced to pass a resolution committing the church to “actively oppose Christian Zionism,” citing works that branded such beliefs as “heretical.”

These are Christians who, without any biblical grounds, consider the Abrahamic Covenant abolished or reconstructed. They also generally tend to ignore the Islamic roots of the terrorism that has plagued Israel for nearly 60 years. Even when the late Yasser Arafat scoffed at the Oslo Accords in a Johannesburg mosque in 1994 - affirming that he was merely using Oslo as a means to destroy the Jewish state - these Christians had little to say.

Recent history has brought the real Palestinian agenda into the open, in that a terrorist government led by Hamas is the expression of the will of the people. This, after all, is the meaning of democracy - that the people are responsible for whom they put in office.

Sadly, these Christian adherents to Replacement Theology have few qualms about aligning with a radical Islamist agenda that espouses terrorism, and are calling upon the wider Christian Church to reject, ignore and even expel those Christians who hold a solid biblical view on Israel. Indeed, they want these Christians branded cultic and excommunicated!

To support their position they are making outlandish assertions about their brethren, claiming that we:

  • are constantly calling for conflict in the region as the means to achieve “Greater Israel”;
  • are dual-covenant, and therefore deny the essentials of our faith;
  • hate Arabs and desire the liquidation of the local Palestinian church;
  • are guilty of idolatry by worshiping state power in Israel and benefiting from its praise;
  • deceive Israel because our real agenda is an eschatological thirst for Armageddon;
  • constitute the greatest threat to world peace;
  • and that we are a new phenomenon without any tradition in the historical expression of Christianity.

EVERY ONE of the above charges is wrong! Christian Zionists are mainstream Evangelicals upholding all the vital and accepted tenets of biblical faith. We can easily trace our belief system to the early church and throughout church history. Our views are not strange, deviant or new. No, they were held by prominent Christians through the centuries, including the great Wesley brothers, the Anglican Evangelicals of the 19th century and many prominent Christian leaders of the 20th and 21st century.

As to the early church, even a casual reading of surviving documents from that period reveals that believers fully expected a restored Jewish state before the close of time. Nevertheless, the “new” proponents of Replacement Theology have decided to hatch a sinister plan that, as noted, would see the excommunication of their brethren. While determined to press on with the effort, one Replacement colleague said he suspects what holds back many denominations from using the word “heresy” and “unchurching” us is the simple fact that there are so many of us.

Of note is the fact that they never sit down with us and engage with us personally, as Scripture requires. Instead, because they have become so totally politicized, they exaggerate, misrepresent and flatly lie about Christian Zionist positions.

Their efforts have not gone un-noticed in the Palestinian camp. The Supreme [Islamic] Judicial Council, an official organ of the Palestinian Authority, recently published an article by council member Hamed al-Tamimi insisting that Christian Zionists have “adopted Satan as God” and that “this destructive movement, together with her Zionist Jewish ally, comprises the greatest danger to world truth, justice and peace.” Tamimi’s statement cited an Arab priest who maintained that Christian Zionists should be “expelled by the World Church.”

It really is a grim day when Christians end up supporting the agenda of militant Islam and people who, by public plebiscite, have voted for the destruction of Israel.

This all goes to remind us that nothing is new under the sun, and indeed it harks back to the same sinister plan “democratically” hatched in Germany in the 1930s. It was unpopular then to stand alongside the Jews, as it is now. The silence of the Church in the 1930s was largely driven by theological notions that God was totally finished with the Jews as a nation, and indeed that they, by virtue of being Christ-killers, were beyond redemption. Sixty years later the same misguided theological system has again taken root. Left unchecked, it may well bear the same evil fruit!


Rev. Malcolm Hedding is the former Executive Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

©2010 International Christian Embassy Jerusalem

The Divinity of Jesus

ICEJ Executive Director, Rev. Malcolm Hedding tackles one of the most crucial issues at the core of the Christian faith; Jesus' unique claim to be both man and God, validated throughout scripture starting from the opening pages of Genesis chapter 1.

The Divinity of Jesus Part I

The Divinity of Jesus Part II

©2010 International Christian Embassy Jerusalem