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ICEJ Response to 'Open Letter' to American Christian Zionists

 ICEJ Response to an 'Open Letter to America’s Christian Zionists’ published by Fuller Seminary’s ‘Just Peacemaking Initiative’ & The New Evangelical Partnership for Common Good

 View Detailed ICEJ Letter & Statement of Response »

 

Left-leaning evangelical scholars have demonized fellow Christians for supporting Israel, in the name of ‘social justice,’ while espousing poor theology and a general disregard for the history and larger context of the Arab-Israeli conflict – according to the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

On September 19, Fuller Theological Seminary’s ‘Just Peacemaking Initiative’ published ‘An Open Letter to America’s Christian Zionists’ by Dr. David P. Gushee of Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology and Fuller’s Dr. Glen H. Stassen. It has subsequently been promoted by the New Evangelical Partnership for Common Good on whose board both professors serve.

“In this document the authors claim, amongst other things, that Christian Zionists are not only sinful but produce sin and will be the cause of any upcoming war against Israel including a nuclear attack by Iran,” said ICEJ Interim Executive Director, Dr. Jürgen Bühler at the launch of the ICEJ’s detailed 4,000 word theological response.

The ICEJ’s USA Director, Susan Michael, who co-authored the ICEJ response emphasized that the initial 'Open Letter' was seriously flawed on multiple counts.

“Not only does it demonstrate a flawed understanding of biblical justice, but a degree of theological inconsistency and historical ignorance that are deeply troubling in professors of such high standing in such respected evangelical institutions.  Their one-sided approach of blaming Israel and her supporters while ignoring the transgressions of the other side will never lead to peace and only feeds injustice and hatred of Israel.”

"Our response is written from the vantage point of being located ‘on the ground’ in Jerusalem from where we have been engaged in the issues raised in this ‘Open Letter’, as well as with the various people groups involved in those issues for over three decades,” added Dr. Bühler.

“Our support for Israel does not mean that we think Israel is perfect, or that we blindly support all of her policies.  But if we want to help bring true justice to the Palestinian people then we need to be honest and admit that their problem is not Israel but their own corrupt leaders who seek the goal of eradicating Israel.”

View the detailed ICEJ Response to the ‘Open Letter’ at: www.icejusa.org/openletter »

ICEJ statement on Israel’s current corona vaccine policy

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is being approached by Christians from many quarters worldwide for our views on Israel’s rapid mass vaccination program for the coronavirus, especially due to its use of the new mRNA messenger vaccines. Some have urgent concerns that the Israeli people may have seriously endangered themselves unknowingly, while others are even more alarmed by speculative theories that they are walking into a devilish trap with ‘Last Days’ implications.

Israel’s response to an unprecedented crisis
It is important to first note that Israel, like many other countries around the world, has faced an unprecedented health challenge with a lethal virus which has killed more than 2.6 million people worldwide. This includes close to 6,000 Israeli deaths over the past twelve months, which is six times more casualties than occurred during five years of brutal terrorism in the second Palestinian intifada. In addition, the corona lockdowns have caused severe damage to the Israeli economy, with the tourist industry in particular coming to a complete standstill for an entire year. Consequently, Israeli leaders across all party lines agreed that a swift national response was needed.

Because of the quick and decisive actions of the government from early on, Israel has proven to be a model nation for many other countries worldwide to follow, starting with timely usage of lockdowns and travel bans to safeguard its population from the virus. Israel also has been successfully developing new medical treatments to fight coronavirus, with research that has shown promising results. Thus, the death rate for corona patients in Israel remains one of the lowest in the world (below 1%), even though the infection rate has been among the highest. Overall, the Netanyahu government’s prompt and effective response to the virus has been largely recognised by rival political parties, the majority of Israeli society, and even many world leaders.

Israel’s decision to use mRNA vaccines
The decision by Israeli leaders to adopt the novel mRNA vaccines as a pathway out of the virus lockdowns was clearly driven by the unprecedented health crisis, aided by the Jewish tradition of preserving life and by the general attitude among Israelis of welcoming scientific and bio-medical advances. The 25-year record of promising research on mRNA vaccines by the international medical community, and early discussions between the government and Pfizer Pharmaceuticals helped Israeli leaders and medical professionals to make this prompt decision. Pfizer had put its new corona vaccines through a stringent testing phase on humans for short-term side effects, while the normally prolonged period of testing for long-term impacts had not yet been undertaken. But US authorities approved it for “emergency use”, and with the death rate climbing the Israeli government opted to take a calculated risk and use the mRNA vaccine on its population.

Today, Israel has become the most widely vaccinated nation in the world, with almost 90% of the adult population either vaccinated or immune due to recovery from COVID-19. The data so far indicates the vaccine is 97% successful in immunising against coronavirus, and the death rates among the most vulnerable elderly population have been radically reduced. By late May, Israel aspires to reach ‘herd immunity’ and return to fairly normal life, although some travel restrictions likely will remain in place to lessen potential exposure to new mutations of the virus. Israel also is on the way to issuing ‘green passports’ for those inoculated or recovered, which will mean those without the passport may have some temporary limits on their choices for social engagement.

Most Israelis have been cooperative with the government’s ambitious vaccination program, and the respected medical community here has been largely supportive of it as well.

Sorting truth from rumours
Meanwhile, there have been some alarming reports and theories circulating worldwide about Israel’s vaccination program which require additional clarification.

1) Israel’s current vaccination policy set by the government is nothing new, as a similar ruling was passed in Israel in 1952 when everyone was forced to be vaccinated against typhoid fever and failure to do so even incurred a monetary fine.

2) There are claims that the morbidity rates in Israel for those dying from the vaccinations far exceeds the rates among those dying from COVID-19. These assertions are unfounded, as data from all the Israeli health management organisations indicate. They also show that fewer vaccinated people are dying and the symptoms among those who still get the virus are weaker than among those who are not vaccinated.

3) Israel is not moving to become a segregated nation dividing its population into vaccinated and unvaccinated. Everyone in Israel is still free to refuse being vaccinated, although it may mean some temporary limitations on the choices they can make for movement and social engagement.

4) Some are associating the new ‘green passport’ with the ‘mark of the Beast’ spoken of in the Book of Revelation, and even suggest that Israel through the vaccine is welcoming the rule of the Antichrist over them. This is pure speculation at best. Vaccination passports (e.g., “the yellow passport” for international travel) have been in existence for decades, and travel to many countries in Africa is only possible with updated vaccines against yellow fever and other diseases. Also, the relevant passages in Revelation 13 underscore a blasphemous and anti-Christian agenda that will make ‘war with the saints’. In contrast, it is clear that Israel’s vaccination policy contains no religious or spiritual agendas except that of saving lives.

Remaining Concerns
Of course, there are still legitimate concerns, questions and reservations as to the long-term side effects of the mRNA vaccines, and people rightly should have the choice to refrain from being vaccinated. We welcome that Israel is maintaining this freedom. However, our lack of knowledge on the long-term effects of these vaccines does not justify launching critical campaigns against Israel or accusing Israeli leaders of having sinister motives towards their own people. Rather, we should pray for them as they are dealing with an unprecedented health crisis and need our prayers more than ever.

Also, we do recognise that the worldwide scale and impact of this health crisis has opened the gates for concerted global initiatives that have no small potential to undermine democratic processes and could potentially be misused for future anti-Christian and discriminatory agendas. Still, Christians should not be living in fear of the coronavirus, and neither should we be living in fear of the corona vaccines. Rather, we need to have a healthy fear of God alone, who ultimately has rule over our lives and destiny (Isaiah 8:12-13).

Finally, we should not allow this crisis to divide us. I am aware that the above assessment will not be shared by everyone, and some might come to different conclusions. However, we should never allow the Body of Christ to be divided nor our love for God’s people to be determined by our limited understanding of a new type of vaccine. Paul instructed the Church in Rome not to allow the body of believers to be divided over the consumption of food dedicated to idols, while also encouraging those in the Church not to judge one another, since “if we live, we live for the Lord and if we die, we die to the Lord” (Romans 14:8). He also reminds the Roman believers that “the Kingdom of God is not eating or drinking, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

Whether or not to take any vaccine is an individual decision which should be done with proper medical advice from physicians you trust and be based on informed consent and one’s own conscience. We should all respect how others arrive at their own decisions, while also making sure we are all dealing with accurate, reliable information in our own discourse with others.

Again, please pray for Israel’s leaders in this difficult season, and also pray for us as we carry out our calling to stand steadfastly with Israel in times of crisis. Prayer can heal and protect. We have experienced this in our Home for Holocaust survivors in Haifa, which has been largely untouched by the coronavirus. People working in the health sector in Israel are calling this a ‘miracle’ for any assisted-living facility. Also, pray for us as we continue to serve all the people of Israel in the midst of these current challenges.

FOR MORE INFORMATION on this subject, please watch the ICEJ webinar ‘Israel and the Corona Vaccines’ from Thursday, 11 March 2021, moderated by ICEJ Spokesman, David Parsons, and featuring Dr Zeev Feldman of Sheba Medical Center, Adv Calev Myers of ARISE, and local pastor, Israel Pochtar.


 

ICEJ sponsors Aliyah flight for 226 Jewish immigrants from FSU

A group of 226 Jewish immigrants from across the former Soviet Union landed at the re-opened Ben-Gurion Airport on Monday evening on a ‘rescue flight’ arranged by The Jewish Agency for Israel and sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

Many of these new arrivals had been planning to make Aliyah several months ago, but were delayed by a third major lockdown in Israel amid a mass vaccination campaign. Some had already sold their homes and quit their jobs and were left in limbo as Ben-Gurion was completely shut down for the first time ever in January. But the skies are now opening back up, and these immigrants are part of the daily quota of passengers who can enter Israel at this time.

Many of these immigrants also needed lengthy connecting flights, traversing up to eight time zones from across the former Soviet republics, before boarding the final four-hour flight to Tel Aviv this afternoon. They will be required to undergo quarantine and other measures due to corona health regulations in Israel.

Even with most international travel still disrupted due to COVID-19, Israel and the Jewish Agency have been working to arrange emergency flights for Jewish immigrants from various regions around the world, which also are bringing back Israeli citizens from abroad.

The Christian Embassy has now supported Aliyah flights for over 780 Jewish olim since the start of 2021, including some 500 Ethiopian immigrants as part of “Operation Rock of Israel.”

Although global air travel has been severely curtailed over the past year, there are still thousands of Jews making the move to Israel. Interest in Aliyah is actually on the rise, as many Jewish families worldwide now view Israel as safer health-wise and better positioned for economic recovery than other countries. Israeli and Jewish Agency officials anticipate up to 250,000 new Jewish immigrants to arrive over the next three to five years.

“It is exciting to be part of another large flight of Jewish families making the move to Israel,” said ICEJ President Dr. Jürgen Bühler. “Supporting Aliyah is one of the core missions of the Christian Embassy, and this season of the corona pandemic has actually been one of the most critical phases of our four decades of involvement in bringing Jewish people back to their homeland. Indeed, corona has given added meaning to Israel’s calling as a ‘safe haven’ for the Jewish people.”

Since its founding in September 1980, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem has now assisted over 160,000 Jews in making Aliyah to Israel from some 36 countries worldwide.

Photos Courtesy of JAFI

For more information, contact:

David Parsons
Vice President & Senior International Spokesman
International Christian Embassy Jerusalem

ICEJ Statement on ICC war crimes probe against Israel

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem pledged on Wednesday to actively oppose the International Criminal Court’s selective decision to unlawfully expand its jurisdiction so a war crimes probe could be launched against Israel, the world’s only Jewish state, a biased move which has opened up the Court to justifiable accusations of antisemitism.

The Christian Embassy noted the obvious absurdity of this ruling: Israel is not a member of the ICC and has serious, proactive judicial mechanisms in place to investigate and try any such crimes, while the Palestinians do not qualify as a sovereign state under the Rome Statute governing the Court. Therefore, the Court has no legal standing or authority to investigate and charge Israel with war crimes in the ‘occupied territories’.

“It seems the Court has caved to an overzealous special prosecutor by distorting international law to empower her quest to indict Israelis on invalid and unsustainable charges”, said ICEJ President Dr. Jürgen Bühler. “The ICC is giving daily passes to brutal regimes like Iran and Syria which are committing horrific atrocities against their own people, and instead wants to prosecute Jews for building balconies on their homes in eastern Jerusalem as if they were Nazi war criminals. The ICEJ will work through our vast global network of national branches and activists, as well as with other respected organisations, to urge that all ICC member states reject and rescind this outrageous decision.”

For more information, contact:

David Parsons
Vice President & Senior International Spokesman
International Christian Embassy Jerusalem

ICEJ sponsors Aliyah flights for 1,000 Olim since February

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is funding an Aliyah flight for 57 Russian-speaking Jews scheduled to arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport on Tuesday morning, which brings to 1,000 the total number of new Jewish immigrants the ICEJ has sponsored on flights to Israel arranged by The Jewish Agency for Israel since February, despite the Coronavirus outbreak.

These newest arrivals also needed a total of nine connecting flights, crossing some eight time zones all across the former Soviet Union, before flying in to Tel Aviv early this morning.

As global air travel has ground to a halt over recent months, many in Israel were expecting a pause in Jewish immigration due to the COVID-19 threat. But surprisingly the door of Aliyah has remained open, as interest in moving to Israel is on the rise. Many Jewish families worldwide even have decided to move up plans to immigrate to a country they view as safer and better positioned for economic recovery.

In response, Israeli and Jewish Agency officials have managed to arrange ‘evacuation flights’ over the past three months which are bringing the new immigrants home to Israel, in line with its history as a nation always open to Jewish immigration.

The Christian Embassy has supported these extraordinary efforts during the Corona crisis by funding Aliyah flights for 234 Ethiopian Jews and 766 Jews from across the former Soviet Union since February 20. This has required a total of 85 flights in all, including connecting flights for Russian-speaking olim coming from all across the vast regions of the FSU.

In addition, the ICEJ has covered many of the extra costs for making Aliyah over recent months, including two-week stays in Corona-mandated quarantine for 292 of the new immigrants once they have reached Israel.

Even with most regular international flights still suspended at this time, Israel and the Jewish Agency have been working to partner in emergency flights from nations around the world, which are bringing back stranded Israeli citizens as well as Jews from abroad who are approved for immigration to Israel.

Many of these recent Jewish arrivals are coming from regions of the former Soviet Union, where the local economies are struggling and the Corona threat is still peaking. Even travel within these countries is difficult and in some areas not even allowed. Yet Jewish families are making incredible efforts to board the flights for Israel. In several recent instances, pregnant mothers nearing term were determined to reach Israel in time to give birth in the Jewish homeland. And Israeli and Jewish Agency officials are exploring all avenues to safely funnel these people through airports even when most people are not allowed to fly.

“The Corona pandemic has brought much suffering and negative headlines all over the world, but one of the positive stories coming out of this crisis is the surprising surge in Aliyah, as many Jewish families are seeking a way to reach Israel as soon as possible”, said ICEJ President Dr. Jürgen Bühler. “We are both honored and elated to play a key role in this unique chapter in the modern-day return to Israel, as even a global pandemic could not stop Jewish people from finding their way home to Israel.”

Since its founding in September 1980, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem has now assisted over 157,000 Jews in making Aliyah to Israel from dozens of countries worldwide.

Photos Courtesy of JAFI/ICEJ

Join us in helping the Jewish people come home to Israel!

ICEJ Helps With Unexpected Surge in Aliyah

Christian Embassy Supporting The Jewish Agency and Keren HaYesod with Unexpected Surge in Aliyah

ICEJ-funded flights this week will bring total to over 760 Jewish immigrants assisted since February

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is currently supporting The Jewish Agency for Israel and Keren HaYesod with bringing an unexpected wave in Aliyah even amid the Coronavirus crisis, as the ICEJ has already sponsored flights for 601 Jewish immigrants since February, and will bring another 160 Jews to Israel this week.

The newest arrivals include a group of 41 Jews from the former Soviet Union flying on Tuesday (19 May) from Moscow, with an additional 119 Jews scheduled to land at Ben-Gurion Airport on ICEJ-sponsored flights by week’s end.

This will raise the total to 761 Jewish immigrants the ICEJ has brought on flights to Israel since Corona travel bans were first imposed worldwide in February. For many of these recent arrivals, the ICEJ also is covering part of the added costs of their post-flight quarantine, which are the responsibility of The Jewish Agency.

As global travel has ground to a halt over recent months, many in Israel were expecting a pause in Jewish immigration due to the COVID-19 threat. But the nation is currently experiencing a surprising uptick in Aliyah, as many Jewish families worldwide are moving up plans to immigrate to a country they view as safer and better positioned for economic recovery. This is in line with Israel's history as a state always open to Jewish immigration.

The present influx of Jewish immigrants is expected from around the world, including Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union, among other regions. With most regular international flights still suspended at this time, Israeli and Jewish Agency officials have been working to arrange emergency charter flights which are bringing back stranded Israeli citizens as well as Jews from abroad who are approved for immigration to Israel.

Many of these recent Jewish arrivals are coming from regions of the former Soviet Union, where the local economies are struggling and the Corona threat is just peaking. Even travel within these countries is difficult and in some areas not even allowed. Yet we are hearing stories of Jewish families making incredible efforts to board flights for Israel. In several recent instances, pregnant mothers nearing term were determined to reach Israel in time to give birth in the Jewish homeland. And Israeli and Jewish Agency officials are exploring all avenues to safely funnel these people through airports even when most people are not allowed to fly.

On Tuesday, a flight will arrive from the former Soviet Union with 41 Jewish immigrants sponsored by the ICEJ. One Jewish couple on board has sped up their move here to be with their daughter, an Israeli mother of two who has been diagnosed with advanced brain cancer and will undergo emergency surgery in coming days.

At the request of the Jewish Agency, the ICEJ is currently raising funds from its global constituency to cover the flight costs for another 150 Jews from the former Soviet Union they hope to bring to Israel by early June.

“Despite all the bad news we hear about the Corona crisis, one of the positive stories is the surprising number of Jews looking for a way to come to Israel as soon as they can”, said ICEJ President Dr. Jürgen Bühler. “We are privileged to play a key part in this unique wave of Aliyah, when a pandemic brought the world to a standstill but it could not stop the Jews from coming home to Israel.” 

Join us in helping the Jewish people come home to Israel!

ICEJ Assisting Israel Amid Corona Crisis

ICEJ Assisting Israel With Elderly, Aliyah Flights Amid Virus Threat

Christians Caring for Holocaust Survivors, Sponsoring Arrival of New Immigrants

Amid Israel’s urgent efforts to combat the Coronavirus threat, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is helping to feed and care for many elderly Israelis confined to the homes, including hundreds of Holocaust survivors, while also sponsoring Aliyah flights from Russia and Ethiopia due to arrive within the next 48 hours.

“While the government’s measures to fight the Coronavirus is impacting the whole country, I am glad we are still able to help Israel pull through this crisis in a number of ways,” said ICEJ President Dr. Jürgen Bühler. “This includes packing and delivering food boxes to senior citizens, caring for Holocaust survivors, and bringing Jews home from Russia and Ethiopia at this very moment.”

On Sunday evening, a group of 26 Russian Jewish immigrants sponsored by the ICEJ will arrive on a flight from St. Petersburg and immediately go into a two-week self-quarantine due to the COVID-19 threat. This flight marks the 30th anniversary of the ICEJ’s sponsorship of Jewish families making Aliyah from the former Soviet Union.

The ICEJ also is sponsoring the flights of 72 Ethiopian Jews scheduled to land early on Tuesday morning from Addis Ababa. They will be taken to the Beit Alfa absorption center and enter quarantine for 14 days as well. In addition, the ICEJ will be funding Passover gift baskets with food, games, learning materials and other items for these and other recently arrived Ethiopian Jewish families as part of their integration process during the upcoming holiday season.

Meantime, the ICEJ has seven Christian staff and volunteers in Haifa who have been helping to pack and deliver food boxes to hundreds of senior citizens in the city, including many Holocaust survivors who are confined to their homes as a health precaution. The ICEJ team also was specially tasked with providing food and daily care, including medical checks, for the 70 residents at its Haifa Home for Holocaust survivors, who must stay in their rooms as well. These efforts, done in partnership with the Israeli charity Yad Ezer L’Haver, drew mention and praise from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at one of his daily press briefings on the Coronavirus last week.

In addition, ICEJ staff in Jerusalem packed and delivered food boxes this past week to a number of elderly and disabled Israelis who are regularly cared for by its team of skilled nurses.

This coming week, the Christian Embassy also will have staff working with the charities Latet and Ezrat Avot to pack and deliver food boxes to the front doors of hundreds of Israeli senior citizens who must remain in their homes to avoid the virus.

“We are working within the rules set by the Health Ministry to help Israelis as much as we can in this troubling time confronting the whole world,” said Dr. Bühler. “We know it is in difficult moments like these when our efforts to bless and comfort Israel count the most.”

In the midst of the crisis of the Coronavirus, the ICEJ is taking action by continuing to help the Jewish people make Aliyah, bringing food packages to the doors of Holocaust Survivors, and more!

Join us in blessing the Jewish people today!! 

Behind the 'Christ at the Checkpoint' Conference


Just when the annual “Israel Apartheid Week” campaign will be hitting college campuses across North America this week, Palestinian Christians will be hosting a five-day conference in Bethlehem which is expected to convey many of the same messages and aims of seeking to delegitimize Israel. What makes this “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference unusual is that it is largely an initiative of Christians from the Evangelical movement, whose ranks traditionally have held favorable views on Israel.

This briefing paper provides background information for the media on the “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference [March 5-9, 2012], its objectives, sponsors, and the speakers involved.

Download this article in pdf format »

The annual “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference was first launched in 2010 at the initiative of the Bethlehem Bible College, an Evangelical institution established by local Palestinian Christian clerics and educators. Many of the core sponsors and speakers at that initial “Checkpoint” gathering were previously involved in events held under the auspices of the Sabeel Center, directed by local Anglican canon, Rev. Naim Ateek. Yet it appears that these Evangelicals have made a conscious effort in recent years to distance themselves from their past associations with Sabeel and to offer a forum more appealing to a wider Evangelical audience. Indeed, Dr. Ateek was a speaker at the inaugural 2010 Checkpoint gathering but has not been invited back since.

Christian Zionism & Social Justice

Rev. Malcolm Hedding examines the issues behind the 'Christ at the Checkpoint' Conference and why certain sections of the Evangelical church are claiming the moral high ground in advocating for “social justice.” Read more »

 Critics of Sabeel say it has espoused a radical brand of Palestinian Liberation Theology that would seek to justify violence by the “oppressed” Palestinians against the “oppressor” Israel on biblical grounds. In one sample of his radical rhetoric, Ateek once told followers in an Easter message: “In this season of Lent, it seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him. It only takes people of insight to see the hundreds of thousands of crosses throughout the land, Palestinian men, women, and children being crucified. Palestine has become one huge golgotha. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily. Palestine has become the place of the skull.” (1)

Over the years, a number of Sabeel speakers have also denied the reliability and authority of Scripture or offered radical interpretations of biblical passages related to Israel. For instance, the late Prof. Michael Prior denounced the Bible as “a dangerous book” which legitimizes and mandates genocide. Prior also described the authors of the biblical narratives as “very narrow minded, xenophobic, perhaps militaristic… pin-headed bigots,” and ridiculed Joshua as the “patron saint of ethnic cleansers.” (2)

These are all positions that would make most Evangelicals quite uncomfortable and even the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rev. Rowan Williams, turned down an invitation to speak at a Sabeel conference in Jerusalem in 2004 because he did not want to be  identified with “the wrong voices” – as his spokesman put it at the time. (3)

Thus the annual “Christ at the Checkpoint” conferences should be seen as a bid by local Palestinian clerics and their allies abroad to move away from Sabeel and offer a message more appealing to Evangelicals. This has included an effort to invite new voices into the conference more supportive of Israel. This year’s roster of speakers, for example, includes Rev. Wayne Hilsden of the King of Kings Community fellowship in Jerusalem and two local Messianic Jewish leaders.

Still, these voices will likely be drowned out by the overwhelming chorus of Israel critics at the conference, and the thrust of Christ at the Checkpoint 2012 will remain largely a one-sided message based on a deeply flawed historical narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and highly suspect theology.

Nonetheless, the conference has begun to achieve its aim of drawing more speakers and attendees from the Evangelical movement, though from its more liberal wing, such as Tony Campolo and Lynne Hybels. These Evangelical newcomers have begun expressing sympathies for Palestinian suffering as part of their wider advocacy for the cause of “social justice.” But they are largely novices regarding the history and complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and thus their views are often misinformed and easily misguided by anti-Israel propaganda.

A number of these new Checkpoint participants from the “Religious Left” signed the letter to US President George W. Bush in July 2007 seeking to distance themselves from the Evangelical mainstream’s more skeptical view of Palestinian intentions in the Middle East peace process. (4)

Meanwhile, the more veteran Evangelical critics of Israel involved in the Checkpoint conference consist mainly of native Palestinian Christian clergy with nationalistic motivations, along with a small group of Christian scholars from the West who have made a career out of maligning Israel and its Christian Zionist admirers.

Most of the local Palestinian Christian participants can claim genuine Evangelical credentials and some have personal family stories of loss and dispossession which they have utilized to elicit sympathy from Evangelicals abroad. The “Local Committee” for the Checkpoint conference is listed as Munther Isaac, Bishara Awad, Salim Munayer, Hanna Katanacho, Jack Sarah, Sami Awad and Alex Awad.

The veteran Evangelical scholars from abroad will include Stephen Sizer and Colin Chapman from the UK, and Gary Burge from Wheaton College, near Chicago. They were also previously involved with Sabeel events in years past and were among its most strident critics of Israel and of Christian Zionism. Sizer, for instance, has defended the provocative Gaza flotilla in May 2010, welcomed the caustic comments against Jews by veteran AP White House correspondent Helen Thomas which led to her dismissal, and has even been willing to appear at conferences alongside radical Islamist elements from Iran and Hizbullah who called for Israel’s elimination and denied the Holocaust. (5)

Based on past Checkpoint conferences, the listed speakers, and the topics to be addressed, the gathering can be expected to promote a series of disturbing positions, including:

Cloaked versions of Replacement theology: For many Evangelicals, the main concern with the Checkpoint conference lays in the theology espoused by various invited speakers which serves to undergird their one-sided and critical approach to Israel. Not wanting to be identified with Replacement theology and its abysmal fruits down through Church history, many now expound Fulfillment theology or other beliefs which deny Israel its rightful place in the land today. They maintain that with the death and resurrection of Christ, all the Old Testament promises to Israel were fulfilled. Yet this teaching winds up in the same place as Replacement theology by insisting that Israel has already served its purpose and the Church has now superseded the Jewish people as God’s redemptive agent in the world. This teaching does not give room for a unique and enduring national calling upon the Jewish people and rejects any notion that the modern-day restoration of Israel is the consequence of God keeping His eternal covenant with them. Rather they denounce Zionism as “man-made.” In doing so, they also abrasively assail Christian Zionist supporters of Israel without just cause. (6)

The Israel=Apartheid analogy: Many Checkpoint speakers have wrongly smeared Israel with the apartheid label and called for dismantling the Jewish state. For instance, conference speaker Ben White has authored a book entitled, “Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide”. The fact that the conference is timed to coincide with Israel Apartheid Week only serves to reinforce this distorted message. The conference has also set aside special sessions to reflect on the Kairos Palestine document, co-written by conference organizer Yohanna Katanacho, which peddles the apartheid analogy as well as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions strategy. (7)  It is worth noting that some leading proponents of this BDS movement are now admitting its real aim is the elimination of Israel, not peace with the Palestinians.

The ‘Palestinian Jesus’: Many Palestinian political and religious leaders, including the late Yasser Arafat, have falsely portrayed Jesus as a Palestinian revolutionary fighting Roman oppression, and described Palestinians today as the Body of Christ suffering under Israeli oppression. Even the very name of the conference, “Christ at the Checkpoint,” plays into this distorted narrative of a Palestinian Jesus. A number of conference speakers have endorsed this twisting of the true Jewish identity of the historic figure of Jesus. For instance, co-sponsor Sami Awad once wrote that an Israeli incursion into Bethlehem during the second intifada was akin to the Roman massacre of infants in the same city as described in the Christmas story. He wrote of “passing by big Israeli army tanks and army personnel carriers each pointing their guns at us. Israeli army troops were being brought from all corners into Bethlehem like Herod's soldiers… We pray that the reign of Herod will come to an end and that the message of the Prince of Peace will again be a light from Bethlehem to all corners of the world.” (8)

One-sided Palestinian narrative: Conference speakers have repeatedly denounced Israeli “injustices” against the Palestinians while ignoring or falsifying the true course of events which led to Palestinian loss and displacement. That is, there is little or no acknowledgement that the Jewish people came to resettle their ancient homeland in peace and it was Arab leaders who ignited a war against the fledgling state of Israel in 1948. Further, there is no acknowledgement that Palestinian leaders have repeatedly rejected peace offers made by Israel and escalated the conflict instead, leading to more losses for their people. Conference speakers have consistently downplayed Palestinian terrorism and other security threats to Israel, while also ignoring radical Islam as a primary source of Palestinian Christian grievances. The conference’s use of the Israeli security “Wall” and IDF checkpoints as symbols of their suffering is indicative of this dishonest historical narrative. No calls for reconciliation and ‘social justice’ – as demanded by numerous Checkpoint speakers – can be built upon such untruths.

Beyond Anti-Israelism: Finally, certain speakers invited to the Checkpoint conference have taken stands that go beyond mere criticism of Israel and into outright anti-Semitism. Scholars have characterized the “new anti-Semitism” as obsessive efforts to highlight and condemn alleged injustices committed by the Jewish state while ignoring gross atrocities being committed elsewhere. In this regard, it should be noted that the Christ at the Checkpoint conference is being convened to focus on perceived Israeli injustices at a time when Arab regimes in the region have been openly slaughtering their own people.

In anticipation of the Checkpoint conference, Dr. Jürgen Bühler, Executive Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, noted on Sunday: “While we do recognize and respect the organizers of the conference as our brothers in Christ, we do have strong disagreements concerning their theological approach, as it can easily lend itself to anti-Semitism and anti-Israel propaganda, as some of the Checkpoint speakers have proven in the past. Yet at the same time, we have to confess that too many Christian friends of Israel have neglected our Arab brothers in the Holy Land and beyond. We surely need to increase our efforts to prove that being pro-Israel does not mean being anti-Arab. Jesus loves both people groups and we do well to do the same.”



Footnotes:
1. An Easter Message from Sabel (Sabeel Article Archive)  
2. Paul Wilkinson, “Report of The 5th International Sabeel Conference, April 14-18, 2004
3. http://www.episcopalarchives.org/cgi-bin/ENS/ENSpress_release.pl?pr_number=042804-3
4. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/29/us/evangelical_letter.html
5. See: http://seismicshock.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/antisemitism-and-christ-at-the-checkpoint-2012.pdf
6. See: http://us.icej.org/news/commentary/israel-and-fulfillment-theology
7. http://www.kairospalestine.ps/; See also http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Article.aspx?id=164070
8. http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=9598

ICEJ Welcomes Trump’s Efforts for Peace, Warns Against Dividing Land

In response to US President Donald Trump’s unveiling of his long-awaited peace plan on Tuesday (28/01/2020), the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem commended President Trump for his efforts over recent years to forge a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, while also cautioning the Israeli people against permanently dividing the Land promised to them.

“President Trump has been a great friend of Israel and already has dramatically changed the dynamic of the failing Middle East peace process with his landmark decisions on Jerusalem and the Golan,” said ICEJ President Dr. Jürgen Bühler. “His plan is now trying to find a way forward to a brighter future for both peoples in this disputed land.”

The ICEJ applauded the Trump plan for finally reversing the trend of recent decades whereby the international community slowly eroded away at Israel’s rights and positions without requiring any Palestinian concessions, an unhelpful approach which eventually led to the extremely imbalanced UN Security Council resolution 2334.

Dr. Bühler added that “while Trump’s proposal is better by far than past peace plans and contains many elements which will benefit both Israel and the Palestinians, it is still a plan to permanently divide the land that God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants.”

He also voiced concern that the plan holds out the possibility of statehood to a corrupt Palestinian leadership which remains firmly entrenched in its rejection of Israel and continues to squander the hopes and future of the Palestinian people.

“The release of Trump’s peace initiative now means the Israeli people are facing even more momentous decisions in their upcoming third election, and out of respect for Israeli democracy we urge all Christians to pray that they will unite around a wise course for their nation,” said Dr. Bühler.

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem was established in September 1980, at a time when the last thirteen national embassies left Jerusalem under threat of an Arab oil embargo. In response, over 1,000 Christians from 32 nations gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles decided to open the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem as an act of solidarity with the deep Jewish attachment to the city and the Land of Israel. Today, the ICEJ is considered the world’s largest pro-Israel Christian ministry, with branch offices in over 90 nations and a reach into more than 170 nations worldwide. 

For more information, contact:

David Parsons
Vice President & Senior International Spokesman
International Christian Embassy Jerusalem

Auschwitz Survivor Urges German Students to Reject Antisemitism

Schools packed to hear ‘courageous’ Eva Erben on ICEJ-Germany speaking tour

With the world marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz this week, an 89 year-old survivor of the Nazi death camp, Eva Erben of Ashkelon, is touring public schools in Germany and telling enraptured students her life story of suffering and endurance on the perilous journey from Terezin to Auschwitz-Birkenau, Gross Rosen and finally the Death March.

In what has become an annual tradition around the January 27th Holocaust remembrance observances, the German branch of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is hosting a Holocaust survivor from Israel on a speaking tour in German schools and churches. But Eva Erben’s current visit has taken on added significance as Germany wrestles with its rising antisemitism in the wake of the shocking terror attack at the Halle synagogue on Yom Kippur last October.

While Eva managed to survive the Shoah, she lost her parents and all of her extended family after the Wehrmacht occupied her native Czech Republic. For forty years, she did not talk about her ordeal and refused to speak in German. Now an aging matriarch with nine grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren, she is determined to tell her story to one-and-all, driven by an urgency to combat both Holocaust denial and the resurgence of antisemitism.

Eva with her parents - (Photo Credit: Courntesy of Eva Erben)

At a school near Stuttgart this week, hundreds of students were hanging on her every word as an emotional Eva showed them faded photos of her relatives and said: “I want to make you understand that these pictures of my family before the war are pictures of a normal, happy Jewish family. This story is not just about me, but more about my generation and the generation of my parents. Why did they have to murder us, the Jewish people?”

“And now look at the world today,” she added. “Has anything changed? The Jewish people and the State of Israel is again singled out. Antisemitism is growing, like a virus spreading rapidly.”

“But you are our future,” she tells the schoolchildren. “Some of you will become politicians or leaders in other areas. You can do something about antisemitism. Hatred gives only tears. Hatred is destructive and destroys humanity.”

“Why did I come to Germany to share with you? You are not responsible for the Shoah, not for what your grandparents did. However, you are our future. You need to know what has happened, and that this can happen again, unless we tell the story and learn from it. I hope that you will make the right choice,” she concluded.

There is never time to tell her whole story, but Eva told the German schoolchildren mostly about the last months of the war. She and her mother were evacuated with other Jews from the Gross Rosen concentration camp and sent on one of the infamous death marches by foot in dead of winter. Many were starving and sick, and many died along the way. This included Eva’s mother, who died in her arms.

“Eva, you need to continue,” she told her. She had always tried to give her daughter hope that life would return to normal for them one day. But now Eva was left to give one last hug and kiss to her mother, and continue on with a broken heart and very little hope or strength.

One night, Eva slipped away from the march and fell asleep in a barn tucked near a cow under some hay, seeking warmth due to the bitter cold and her thin clothing. The next day a boy woke her up and warned her that German soldiers were still around. She followed a train track and ran into a soldier who had deserted his unit and just wanted to go home. He gave her some bread and milk, but her stomach could not handle it and she almost died. Eva was down to only 25 kilos.

Later, she came across a German guard who pointed his gun at her ready to pull the trigger. But another guard quickly came and said, “Don’t waste your bullet, she will die on her own.” Shortly after, she passed out and the next thing she remembers is waking up in a barn, where a local Czech lady took her in and cared of her until the German army had withdrawn.

Eva Erben has compiled her entire life story in a book entitled “I Am Forgotten” (“Man hat mich vergessen” in German), which the ICEJ-Germany branch is supplying to every student who comes to hear her talk. They all wait in line for Eva to sign their copies, which she eagerly does, adding a trademark “Shalom” above her signature. Everyone lets Eva know they are glad she came.

Eva Erben signing copies of her book for each of the students. (Photo Credit: ICEJ)

“Thank you, Mrs Erben, for sharing your story,” one student remarked. “You are a courageous lady.”

“It touched me deeply what you have been through and your strength to live and help build up Israel,” said another. “Your story is a story of hope.”

“We have heard and read a lot about this war,” added a third student. “You share your story in such a way that I can picture it. I will never forget this and hope it will never, ever happen again.”

“Eva has a burning message on her heart as antisemitism is on the increase again,” noted ICEJ staff member Jannie Tolhoek, who is accompanying Eva on her speaking tour. “While she is sharing her story at the different schools, you can sense their rapt silence. No one wants to miss a single word. We believe it will make a difference in Germany’s future.”


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