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Word from Jerusalem

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Latest Edition: July/August 2020 - 30 Years of Aliyah

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May/Jun 2020 - Helping Israel Through Corona Crisis

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God has moved in practical and powerful ways through the ICEJ to impact the nation of Israel by packing and delivering meals to Holocaust Survivors and others in quarantine, providing special holiday foods for families celebrating Passover in isolation, and bringing new immigrants to the land of Israel and helping them through the adjustment. We give glory to God as we have seen Him touch many segments of Israel's society with His encouragement and hope through your giving and our hands.

Both in Israel and in the nations, God continues to bless and impact the Jewish people in positive ways by letting them know they are not alone. Thank you for standing with Israel through this difficult season.

Mar/Apr 2020 - Israel: An Ongoing Miracle

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This issue focuses on the Holocaust because there were many events that occurred here in Jerusalem and around the world in honor of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. As you flip through the pages of this Word From Jerusalem, you will hear about how God brought 50 Heads of State, Royals, and National dignitaries to Jerusalem to attend the World Holocaust Forum, several stories from Holocaust Survivors, and an update from the Haifa Home for Holocaust Survivors.

You will also discover an article by ICEJ VP & Senior Spokesman David R. Parsons addressing Trump's peace plan, testimonies from ICEJ's Envision Pastor's & Leader's Conference, news about aliyah from the Soviet Union and Ethiopia, and more!

   
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! 

Christian Friends Of Yad Vashem

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Watch this broadcast of ICEJ's historic online event commemorating Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, in partnership with the Christian Desk at Yad Vashem.

Christian Friends of Yad Vashem (CFYV) was founded in October 2006 in partnership with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem in order to educate Christians about the universal lessons of the Holocaust. We mobilize Christians from various countries to become active in promoting Holocaust awareness and in fighting modern-day antisemitism. Among our many activities, we organize an annual Christian Leadership Seminar at Yad Vashem for pastors and other Christian leaders to learn about the Holocaust, meet survivors of the Shoah, and become ambassadors of our mission.

The new Director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem is 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 a representative 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.

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

Please support our vital work at Christian Friends of Yad Vashem.

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...

Islam Dominates the Middle East

Palestinian Christians

Under siege and without protection, the Christian population under Palestinian rule has dwindled with each passing year suffering from a consistent pattern of Islamic intimidation and aggression ...
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»

Sudanese father and child in Jerusalem's Old City (ICEJ)

Islamic Persecution of Christians

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

Word from Jerusalem 2010

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A war made in Iran

Most people wake up to coffee or their favorite morning news show. But four times in the last eight years now, Israelis have woken up to rocket wars.

Some border incident happens around daybreak and by noon there are hundreds of rockets flying in all directions. It can be quite dizzying!

But you do not just wake up to a rocket war. It takes a lot of time and money and manpower and material and expertise to build up such a large rocket arsenal as that now possessed by Hamas. This did not happen overnight! It had to be planned and implemented over a long period of time.

So there is an extensive background behind this latest rocket war between Hamas and Israel. And the explanation for the current hostilities does not begin with the three Jewish yeshiva students kidnapped and killed by a Hebron terror cell in June. That was certainly a spark, but the real cause can be traced all the way back to the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s.

The bloody conflict between Saddam's battalions and Khomeini's columns lasted eight long years and basically ended in a stalemate. But as with most wars, new tactics and weaponry were introduced and hard lessons were learned, to be studied and applied in the next war.

Two new wrinkles came out of that Iran-Iraq stand-off which are fueling today's hostilities in and around Gaza.

The March of Martyrs

First, Iran started sending indoctrinated soldiers on suicide missions for the sake of Allah. The 'soldiers' in this case were waves of young boys promised a harem of virgins in paradise for sweeping through Iraqi mine fields with their bare feet.

Iran swiftly exported this new/old tactic of martyrdom operations to Lebanon, as demonstrated by the driver who plowed his explosives-laden truck into the US Marine barracks in October 1983, killing 241 American servicemen. In doing so, Tehran passed the practice on to its Shi'ite proxy militia in Lebanon, Hizbullah, who would later school Hamas on its virtues when some 400 operatives of the Palestinian terror faction were temporarily deported to south Lebanon in December 1992.

The day the Oslo Accords were signed the following September, the deal required Israel - at the PLO's insistence - to take back in the Hamas deportees. Within a few short years, Oslo would begin collapsing under the carnage wrought by the march of Palestinian suicide bombers.

Israel finally found ways to confront this threat, but Hamas still employs the tactic in other ways. The population of Gaza today is either brainwashed into viewing death for an Islamic Palestine as life's highest aspiration, or they are held hostage by those who want to force such martyrdom upon them.

Truth be told, most Gazans do not want to serve as human shields to protect Hamas cadres and their military assets. But these poor folks are powerless to prevent it. And how, pray tell, is Israel supposed to distinguish between the willing and the coerced human shields from 5000 feet overhead?

Terror from the Sky

The second innovation of the Iran-Iraq war involved a new/old weapon of mass terror - the ballistic missile. This 'discovery' was not made in the Revolutionary Guards' R&D labs. Instead, it was learned the hard way when Saddam Hussein decided one day to start randomly lobbing his quiver of Russian-made Scud missiles at Iran's major cities.

Some initially scoffed at the idea of using a weapon designed to target an enemy's military bases on non-threatening civilians hundreds of miles from the battlefront. But the impact on the Iranian people was devastating, as the Scuds sowed panic and fear in Tehran and other population centers. The national morale sank and Iran was soon seeking a way out of the conflict.

After the war, the Ayatollahs decided they needed this terror weapon in their own arsenal - and in particular to deploy it in their religiously-driven campaign to eliminate Israel. So they started developing their Shihab series of medium-range ballistic missiles to threaten Israel from afar, plus an array of shorter-range rockets that were then delivered to Hizbullah in Lebanon to deploy along Israel’s northern front.

Iran’s thinking involved a move away from confronting Israel with conventional armed forces, since Israel had defeated all such Arab foes over its first three decades by always taking the fight to the enemy’s territory. Rather, Tehran sought to bypass the traditional order of battle against IDF forces and hit straight at Israel’s civilian heartland.

In this strategy’s first real test, Hizbullah used its lethal rocket armory with devastating effect in the Second Lebanon War of summer 2006. In that 34-day conflict, more than 4,000 rockets were fired into northern Israel, keeping over one million civilians huddled in bomb shelters for more than a month during the heat of summer.

Many of the rockets were Syrian-made Grads with extra-lethal fragmentation warheads – a poor man’s cluster bomb meant to rip through human flesh. The casualty count mounted to 165 Israelis dead, including over 40 civilians. The confrontation ended in a draw, but Hizbullah’s popularity soared in the Arab world for striking terror in Israel’s suddenly vulnerable homeland.

With its rocket caches somewhat depleted, Hizbullah has used effective weapons smuggling operations ever since to rebuild its arsenal now to over 150,000 rockets and missiles of various ranges – despite UN Security Council ban on this very activity. This represents a larger weapons stockpile than is possessed by most nations in the world.

Meantime, Hamas also became a major client of Iran in the late 1990s after its political bureau was evicted from Amman and found a new home in Damascus, another ally of Tehran. The Revolutionary Guards began funneling missiles and launchers into Gaza, and helped Hamas develop its own rocket manufacturing capabilities. In pursuing this partnership, Iran’s goal was to eventually threaten Israel’s entire civilian population with overlapping firepower from both the north and south using proxy militias entrenched among civilians living close to its borders.

Thus the home-made Kassams began flying across the Gaza border early in the second Palestinian intifada, and their rate increased four-fold following Israel’s Disengagement from Gaza in 2005.

Eager to increase its rocket range, Hamas has made or smuggled in longer-range munitions, such as the J80 and M305 missile series introduced in the recent fighting. The rocket barrages fired by Hamas into central Israel over recent days mark only the third time ever that greater Tel Aviv has come under serious military attack – the others being the 1991 Gulf War and a couple rudimentary Egyptian air sorties in 1948.

Fortunately, Israel was on to the Iranian plans long ago and began developing with American assistance a multi-layered anti-missile defense system which includes the Iron Dome, David’s Sling (nearing deployment), Arrow II and III, Patriot III, advanced radars and other components. For both sides it has been a race – of Iran’s blunt offensive punch against Israel’s defensive genius. And Israel is coming out just ahead of the game.

After stopping the march of suicide bombers in the West Bank, Israel is now hoping to defang the Hamas rocket threat in Gaza. But to effectively deal with this danger may require a risky and prolonged IDF ground incursion into Gaza to root out the rocket factories, and their storage and launch sites – all hidden in tunnels and bunkers, and under homes, mosques, schools and hospitals.

It used to take a lot of time and effort for Hamas to recruit a single suicide bomber, indoctrinate and train them, and then dispatch him (or her) on an unsavory mission. Families had to be paid, minds warped, cowards culled out.

Today, every rocket fired by Hamas is a cheap version of yesterday’s suicide bomber and it bears the indelible stamp ‘Made in Iran.’ And these missiles are launched from among Gazans who are being involuntarily recruited for martyrdom missions as human shields.

Let’s hope the whole world wakes up to this cruel reality.

The writer is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org

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亞伯拉罕之約

「耶和華對亞伯蘭說:你要離開本地、本族、父家,往我所要指示你的地去。我必叫你成為大國。我必賜福給你,叫你的名為大;你也要叫別人得福。為你祝福的,我必賜福與他;那咒詛你的,我必咒詛他。地上的萬族都要因你得福。」(創12:1-3)

亞伯拉罕之約是神所賜的應許,影響了人類歷史的進程。使徒保羅在加拉太書所寫的內容,很清楚地告訴我們,這個約不能廢掉(加3:17)。許多講員在一些講道形式中或為了符合潮流情境之下,試圖廢掉神預先所立的約,否認猶太人的國家命定是在他們列祖的迦南地實現,因為神為了恢復以色列的國家主權,而把在這塊土地上的其他民族挪走,冒犯了他們,認為神這麼做並不公義。但神看世人並不像我們所見的,事實上,祂對這塊土地上其他民族施行審判,與把祂的百姓帶回應許之地之間,成就了平衡的作為。

以色列人下到埃及四百年之後,神把祂的百姓帶回迦南地,當時居住在這塊土地的國民,罪惡已經滿盈到神施行審判的地步(申9:4-5)。神審判在地百姓和民族的這個觀念,今天仍然被許多神學家所拒絶。一位英國國教的教士麥可普萊爾(Michael Pryor)因為完全拒絶這個概念,而把約書亞稱為「種族淨化的推動聖徒」。這種說法忽略了一個事實,就是慈愛的父神並沒有改變,祂使以色列得著這塊土地,來審判原先居在那裡的百姓。

亞伯拉罕之約在聖經多處重申是一個永遠的約(創17:7-8;詩105:9-12)。多數的神學家同意,這個約是無條件的,如果代有條件,就是亞伯拉罕願意獻上他的兒子以撒為祭,他完全願意順服,因此神確認從今以後,祂會履行這個約;這也是大衛在詩篇中所認知的事實。請參考創世記22:15-18的經文:

「接著,耶和華的使者第二次從天上呼叫亞伯拉罕說:『耶和華說:你既行了這事,不留下你的兒子,就是你獨生的兒子,我便指著自己起誓說:論福,我必賜大福給你;論子孫,我必叫你的子孫多起來,如同天上的星,海邊的沙。你子孫必得著仇敵的城門,並且地上萬國都必因你的後裔得福,因為你聽從了我的話。』

所以這是爭論定歸的總結!亞伯拉罕之約是永恆不變的,即使新約的經文也確認了這一點(來6:13-20)。基督徒領袖為什麼這麼難了解這一點呢?尤其,尋求另外的說法來重建這個約,會結出腐敗的果子。這種態度導致對猶太人的驕傲與偏見,使教會沈淪走向反猶/反閃的道路,生出對猶太人集體屠殺、驅逐、迫害、種族隔離和希特勒大屠殺的行徑。這是不可否認的歷史悲劇!最糟糕的是,那些否認亞伯拉罕之約具有永恆本質的人,等於指控神是說謊者!

因為他們不能接受神在我們現今的世代,已經把以色列帶回到迦南地,他們精心自創理論,毀壞亞伯拉罕之約。因此,天主教和基督新教的資深主教或牧者一致宣告亞伯拉罕之約已經廢除,甚至福音派的新教徒(Evangelicals),也建構了一套精緻的神學理論,推翻這個永恆應許之約的效力。有些巴勒斯坦的基督徒聲稱,聖經已經「去錫安化」了(譯註:即沒有以色列復國這件事。)堅信亞伯拉罕之約效力的人,被批評在做破壞中東和平的工作,且被視為仇恨好戰份子,才會推動猶太人的錫安主義陰謀。

什麼是亞伯拉罕之約?

1. 是救贖歷史的分水嶺。亞伯拉罕之約制定了神決定拯救世人脫離罪惡的內容(加3:8)。

2. 有許多面向,如同鑽石一般:

a) 救恩守護者的應許

也就是說,神通過一個叫以色列的族群,使這個約祝福全世界人類。只要日月星晨仍然定時運轉,這個國家就永遠存在(創12:1-3;約4:22;羅3:1;9:1-5;耶31:35-37)。

b) 土地的應許

凡蹂躪毀壞這塊土地,並企圖把猶太人從應許之地趕散的人,將會遭到神的審判(創17:7;珥3:1-3)。這個應許,無論以色列的悖逆,已經實現,而且在未來人類歷史上也必定成就。

c) 孕育彌賽亞的應許

創世記22章說到「被綑綁的以撒」,基督徒視為耶穌受死的的預兆(來11:17-19)。亞伯拉罕之約一直應許以色列子孫繁茂,同時應許「那一個子孫」—耶穌的到來(創22:17-18)。相信兩種子孫中的任何一個,並不表示否認另一個。在加拉太書第3章中,保羅指出「那一個子孫」—耶穌時,並不否認那應許的「許多子孫」—以色列百姓。然而,操縱神話語者、反猶/反閃人士,以及取代神學的擁護者,只強調應許耶穌為後裔,而廢除以色列「許多子孫」的應許,這麼做實在沒有聖經的依據。

d) 祝福的應許(創12:1-3)

也就是說,神已應許祝福那些捍衛以色列生存權的人,因為他們了解以色列為了全人類救恩的緣故,所扮演的獨特角色。但這並不表示「盲目地支持以色列」,而是反對那些期盼以色列被殺害消滅,並且否定她擁有應許之地權利的人。在第一世紀耶穌降世以後,以色列代表世全人類的事奉的使命尚未完成。她會完成全世界有史以來最偉大的救恩之約,就是大衛之約(結37:24-28;啟22:12-17)。

e) 咒詛的應許(創12:1-3)

歷史上,凡抵擋神透過猶太人施行救恩的列國,都會遭受災難,我們應該記取前車之鑑,決心做對的事,因為抵擋神的救恩計畫,就是抵擋神自己(詩83)。以斯帖記很嚴肅地提醒我們,如果哈曼毀滅了猶太人,耶穌就不會來到世上。在摩西時代和歷史上其他反閃/反猶的世代也是如此,包括希特勒統治的第三帝國的惡徒與其後裔,即今日伊斯蘭教極端聖戰份子,我們所面臨的是一個粗暴而羞恥的世界(詩2)。

f) 救恩的應許(加3:8)

亞伯拉罕之約賜給以色列終極偉大的使命,就是通過她偉大的子孫耶穌基督,傳遞永恆的生命。我們實在欠了以色列感恩的債,神賜給我們的角色,是要對以色列感恩、為她禱告,並激動祂發憤轉向耶穌基督(羅11)。神愛世人,但祂的確使用以色列作為祂在列國工作的僕人。這個角色最終必須由她獨特地完成。

3. 現今通過猶太人回歸到迦南地,以及通過現今每個部落族群和國家,幾乎都已建立了永生的教會,可以證實這個約的效力(啟5:9-10)。猶太人回歸並非偶然,而是神獨特非凡可畏的作為。過去,猶太人回歸這塊列祖之地,引起周邊國家民族的忿怒,甚至有些教會也忿忿不平,然而聖經在在證實猶太人必然回歸(路21:24)。

耶利米書也證實猶太人會從「北方國家」回歸,甚至超過出埃及的光景(耶16:14-15)。我們已見證神這個奇妙偉大的作為,已有超過100萬的猶太人從前蘇聯回歸到錫安。

神會審判以色列並使她歸正,然而到時,列國的時候也將到達盡頭(耶30:11),以色列不再從神所賜給他們的地上拔出來(摩9:13-15),她必蒙救贖,列國萬邦必流歸耶路撒冷,認識她在歷史上的角色,並在以色列的神面前歡慶(賽2:1-4;亞14:16-19;啟21:22-27)。

最後,以色列會彰顯神透過她賜給這沈淪世人的一切真理和應許(賽62:11-12;羅11:25-26),成就這一切是因為四千年前,神應許與亞伯拉罕所立的約。我們所事奉的神,何等奇妙偉大!


Rev. Malcolm Hedding

ICEJ前主席