Category Archives: Middle East

A Christian Responds to the UNESCO Resolution on the Temple Mount

I asked my friend Dr. Randall Price to comment on the recent resolution by UNESCO which attempts to make a case for the Temple Mount having never been in Jewish hands.  Of course, nothing could be further from the truth, and this is why we have prepared a petition which I hope you will sign and pass along to others.  Please read Randall’s article as it provides some excellent basic information to counter resolution by UNESCO.

– Dr. Mitch Glaser


A Christian Responds to the UNESCO Resolution on the Temple Mount

Randall Price, Ph.D.

On October 12, a resolution was passed by the executive board of the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO), which comprises representatives from 58 states. While not explicitly denying Jewish or Christian claims to the Temple Mount, the wording of the document used exclusively the Muslim term for the site while criticizing Israel of violations and affirming its Palestinian accusers. However, the resolution did state the importance of Jerusalem’s Old City for the three monotheistic religions. Nevertheless, the perception was that UNESCO had sought to change history by denying the claims of other religions to the Temple Mount and a firestorm of protests ensued, resulting in another vote being cast on the resolution on October 26. This vote, however, was the same as the former vote, referring to the Temple Mount compound solely by its Muslim names, “Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif,” and defined it only as “a Muslim holy site of worship.” But there was one glaring omission from the previous document. It removed the statement mentioning the importance of Jerusalem for any religion but Islam!

For the Jewish People, the Temple Mount is the most sacred site in both ancient and modern times. The First Temple housing the Ark of the Covenant, was built by King Solomon and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. A Second Temple was rebuilt by Zerubbabel after the return from exile in Babylon and enlarged and refurbished by Herod the Great. It was subsequently destroyed by the Roman Tenth Legion in A.D. 70. However, the site has remained the focal point of Jewish daily prayers ever since, with a hope of its rebuilding uniting the Jewish People in every age.

For Muslims, the site is known as Al-Haram al-Sharif (“the Noble Sanctuary”), or more recently as simply Al-Aqsa (“the Far Mosque”). It is recognized as the place where the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven, though not, as popularly thought, the place where, according to Islamic tradition, Ibrahim intended to offer his son Ishmael. That place is agreed by Muslims as being in Mecca (Saudi Arabia).

Christendom has also universally recognized the site as essential to its faith.  Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein reminded Cardinal Parolin of this saying, the resolutions are “an assault on history and is deeply offensive to both Christianity and Judaism.”[1] In the New Testament, Christ was found in the Temple from His dedication as an infant to His final week teaching in its courts. Like every male Jew, He would have made several annual pilgrimages to the Temple, one of which is recorded for His 12th year. The adjacent Mt. of Olives was the place both of Christ’s arrest and ascension. In the Byzantine period, a church was erected on the Temple Mount, and later the Crusaders turned the Muslim Dome of the Rock into a church known as Templum Domini (“the Temple of the Lord”).

Since at the center of UNESCO are the words “Education” and “Science,” it would be fitting to bring some education on the history of the Temple Mount and from the science of the archaeology that evidences that history.

First, it should be understood that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have all historically recognized the site as that of the Jewish Temple(s). Judaism’s history is well-known, and archaeological excavations since 1967 from below the Temple Mount to a Sifting Project of remains from the Temple Mount have revealed countless evidence of the Jewish claim. Among these are inscriptions, such as the Soreg Inscription, that warned (in Greek) Gentiles lest they pass beyond the separation fence between the Court of the Gentiles (outside the Temple) and the Court of the Women (inside the Temple) and bring ritual defilement to the site and death to themselves. The best-preserved copy of this inscription, found just outside the Lion (St. Stephen’s) Gate in the 1800’s, is housed today in the Istanbul Museum in Turkey, an Islamic country. The museum description on the artifact states it came from “the Jerusalem Temple.” Josephus Favius, the first-century Jewish historian for the Romans, gave an account of these warning inscriptions as he did for another stone found in excavations at the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount. This stone, pushed down from the pinnacle of the wall when the Romans destroyed the Temple, bears an inscription that says “To the Place of Trumpeting.” This connects with Josephus statement of the practice of the Temple priests in blowing a trumpet from this high point to signal the beginning and ending of the Shabbat. And the discoveries continue. In recent weeks, the revelation of a First Temple period (7th century BC) Hebrew papyrus mentioning “Jerusalem” and an assemblage of floor tiles and Hebrew inscriptions from the Second Temple, further affirm that the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount is undeniable. The same may be said for Christianity since the New Testament unambiguously records a Jewish Temple and its history is tied into that of the late Second Temple period from which these evidences have come.

In Islam, according to unbiased researchers, the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik originally had the Dome of the Rock built as a shrine for the Jews. Its octagonal structure in Byzantine Christian style was built in AD 691 by an architect named Yazid Ibn Salam, who was either Jewish or used Jewish assistants. They constructed the building around the Foundation Stone in the same manner as the Jewish Temple(s). In this early period, the Dome of the Rock also served as the site of Islamic worship services influenced by the Temple ceremonies such as ritual cleansing, offering incense, anointing the Foundation Stone with oil and enclosing it with curtains (as was done for the Holy of Holies).

As modern testimony to this lost history among Muslims, archaeologists recently discovered a 10th century Arabic inscription located above a mihrab-prayer niche inside an active mosque in the village of Nuba, located seven miles north-west of Hebron.[2] It confirms that the original name of the Dome of the Rock (Qubbat al-Sakhrah), was Beit al Maqdis (Arabic بيت المقدس ) = Hebrew Beit Hamikdash (the [Jewish] Temple, during the early Muslim era.[3] Research of the inscription’s provenance reveals that the Jewish tradition concerning the sanctity of the Temple Mount influenced Muslim perceptions leading them to adopt and re-label Jerusalem as a city holy to Muslims. Asaf Avraham and Peretz Reuven who conducted the research found numerous 8th century Arabic documents and inscriptions, some from the founding of the Islamic faith, naming the Dome of the rock “Solomon’s Temple” Islamic coins of that period coming from the Temple Mount and other parts of Jerusalem contain the image of the Jewish Temple’s seven-branched Menorah. There seems to have been no dispute within Islam about these facts until after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and the 1967 Six day War in which the area of East Jerusalem (containing the Temple Mount) returned to Israeli control. As an example we can read the statement of the Supreme Muslim Council in their publication of a Guide to the Al-Haram al-Sharif: “This site is one of the oldest in the world. Its sanctity dates from the earliest times. Its identity with the Temple of Solomon is beyond dispute.” This statement in the Guide remained the same from the 1930’s-1950’s. Today, however, the same Islamic Authority has its official position that there was never a Jewish Jerusalem and that the Temple(s) never existed.

So why would UNESCO cast their vote to sever millennia-old Jewish and Christian ties to the Temple Mount and declare it to be exclusively an Islamic site? This is the era of narratives, on display in this election year where fact-checking can be as tiresome as it is unwanted by the masses. In the Middle East, it has never been about personal conviction of right or wrong (what facts say), but about how one is affected by what others perceive as right or wrong (what facts do). Therefore, it can be understood that this decision had nothing to do with the facts of history or the rights of religions, but with the political bias based on propaganda and pressure from the Palestinian Authority and the Muslim world. However, for those who are still concerned with the facts, the facts are that the Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years and the Temple Mount the site of its Jewish Temple(s). No resolution passed by UNESCO or any other men can counter that decreed by the Almighty, as recorded in Psalm 132:13: “For the LORD has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place: ‘This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.”’


[1] “Pope Francis: God Promised the Holy Land to the Jews” (October 27, 2016). Accessed at: http://www.breakingisraelnews.com/77605/pope-francis-god-promised-holy-land-jews/?utm_source=Breaking+Israel+News&utm_campaign=2751e5b2fd-BIN_evening_10_16&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b6d3627f72-2751e5b2fd-86892777&mc_cid=2751e5b2fd&mc_eid=a0a5ab280a

[2] “Muslim 9th C inscription names Jerusalem as Solomon’s Temple site,” DEBKAfile October 28, 2016.

[3] David Israel, “Ancient Muslim Inscription Confirms Dome of the Rock’s Jewish Temple Origin

(October 28th, 2016) accessed at: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/ancient-muslim-inscription-confirms-dome-of-the-rocks-jewish-temple-origin/2016/10/28/

 

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A Cease-Fire in Israel

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. May peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces.” For the sake of my brothers and my friends, I will now say, “May peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good. (Psalm 122:6-9)

The Hebrew word Shalom, which is commonly translated “peace,” is used about 250 times in the Old Testament. The King James Bible translates Shalom as peace almost two hundred times, and the remaining usages are translated in different ways. Any good Bible dictionary will provide quite a bit of information on the use of Shalom in the Bible; it is a significant term for those who love the Word of God.

I find the basic meaning of Shalom to be fascinating. The term speaks of completion, wholeness, unity and of restored relationships. The word actually presumes that something was previously fractured, divided and broken – and then, for one reason or another, put back together. This gives me a better understanding of Shalom – the repairing or fusing together of that which was broken apart.

Aside from the above Psalm, one of the classic uses of Shalom in the Hebrew Scriptures is found in the Aaronic benediction (Num. 6:24- 26) where God commanded Moses to pronounce a blessing on Aaron and his sons – the final blessing invoking Shalom.

The Lord bless you, and keep you; The Lord make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.

I must admit, though, that my favorite use of the Hebrew word Shalom in the Old Testament is found in Isaiah chapter 9:6-7, where the promised Messiah and Son of David is given a litany of prophetic names: wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting father and the Prince of Peace (Shalom). Additionally, the prophet adds the following statement, which clearly identifies this individual as the Messianic son of David:

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.

I love this passage because it speaks of the very nature of our Messiah – that He is the Prince of Peace. This promise, encapsulated in a name, also reminds me that God’s ultimate goal for our very fractured, broken, divided and sinful world is Shalom.

We are a microcosmic example of God’s ultimate goal for the world. The Shalom He creates in our hearts gives us hope for the greater Peace to come.

I still remember waking up the morning after I received Jesus as my Messiah. Like many people, I thought that the day I accepted Jesus that there would be trumpets and the sun would burst through the clouds (I was in North California!) And I also imagined that from that moment on, I would have complete rest and peace in my heart; that I would no longer be tempted by sin and my new life would be glorious! But that was not quite the case.

I quickly realized that though I had been forgiven and saved from sin, that perfect peace would elude me all the days of my life – until the Lord returns and establishes His kingdom. Yet I did sense a tremendous difference in my soul. I knew that God loved me and my sins were forgiven through the death and resurrection of my Jewish Messiah – the Prince of Peace. I was filled with joy and strength to live righteously as never before.

I know that using words like peace, joy, love and others of this nature might seem trite and pedantic. It is hard to describe what happens when we receive the Lord. But Jesus saved me completely and transformed my life, and I am still at a loss for words to adequately describe what He has done for me.

I know that Shalom I have in my soul today is just a taste of the true Shalom that our loving God has prepared for this fractured world. I know this ultimate Shalom is coming, but today we can experience His Shalom to a limited degree today by receiving Jesus as our Messiah and Lord. This partial Shalom we experience when we accept Yeshua points us to something greater.

I am sure you have heard it said that there will be No Peace in the Middle East – or anywhere else on earth – until Jesus, the Prince of Peace returns to rule on his rightful throne. I believe this with all my heart, and I know it is true because in part this is what happened in my life. I am only one person among billions and one Jewish person among almost 14,000,000 – so I am well aware of my own personal insignificance. But this only makes what Jesus did for me so much more magnificent and beautiful.

Although I am small and insignificant and certainly unworthy of His mercy in every aspect of my life, the Prince of Peace came to this broken world and died for me (and for you, too!) Today He sits at the right hand of the Father, waiting for just the right moment to return, visibly and physically and in all His heavenly glory, to reclaim His sin-cursed creation.

The Current Israel/Gaza Cease-Fire

The current cease-fire between Israel and Gaza will of course be imperfect. It may or may not last. And peace will never bring back the lives that were lost, nor undo the damage that was done to families, properties, businesses and to individual relationships between Jews and Palestinians (see stats from the war). It is certainly going to be a long road to what will hopefully be a more lasting peace, and the cease-fire is perhaps just the beginning.

We do need to be realistic about the prospects for an enduring peace. And we do need to do what the Psalmist declared, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

May I offer two suggestions about how to do this?

First of all, let’s try not to be cynical about these first baby steps towards a cessation of hostilities. We all understand that there are deeper underlying issues that might never be solved in our lifetime or anyone else’s lifetime – but we must still pray for peace. Every Palestinian mother and every Jewish mother wants the same thing for their children: a good life, family, education, prosperity and so much more. Try not to let the insidious agendas of Hamas and other radical, militant jihadists discourage you from praying for peace – and, where possible, to work towards it.

Secondly, pray that both Israelis and Palestinians and even the most radical members of Hamas might find spiritual peace by receiving Jesus as their Messiah. It is only when we accept the Prince of Peace as Lord of our lives that we understand that true and lasting Shalom is possible.

This is a peace that begins one person at a time, and it not political, but rather spiritual. We need to pray for and support the efforts of those sharing the good news of Jesus the Messiah in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, and throughout the war-torn trouble spots in the Middle East – especially at this time in history.

It is only when we know the peace of the Messiah in our hearts that we have faith to believe that greater peace is possible. We understand that lasting peace will never come through the hand of man, and we can learn to live with this. But knowing that one day we will live in a world absolutely filled with Shalom might encourage us to try and make the peace man provides last just a little longer.

Shalom, as elusive as it seems right now, is our divine destiny.

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Another Look at Zionism

It is not often I offer an article from a newspaper as a blog. But, I want as many people as possible to read this piece by Michael Oren that recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

The piece is a passionate, reasonable and well-articulated appeal to those who might find themselves swayed by the current war with Hamas to either question or even denounce the fundamental validity of the Zionist movement.

I usually try to “stick” with the more biblical aspects of the issue but this time, I simply had to send this out. I was personally moved by Oren’s recounting of the rationale for Zionism and his basic theory that the best argument for Zionism is that it has worked! And he does an excellent job of explaining why.

Today many will say they support Israel but try as much as possible to separate support for the modern state of Israel with the term and “philosophy” of Zionism. Even some Christians and Messianic Jews who believe Israel has a divine right to the Land sometimes want to distance themselves today from the term Zionism. Over the years the term Zionism has been battered about and linked with racism in United Nations statements , which was later revoked by UMN resolution 46/86 in 1991. It has become a synonym for Middle East imperialism, racial intolerance and hatred for all Palestinians. Oren will convince you to reconsider if for some reason you are beginning to believe these things.

Unfortunately the problem has deepened, especially in parts of Europe and the Middle East as the line between anti-Zionism and anti anti-Semitism has been blurred leading to anti Jewish violence. Dr. Michael Brown develops this abhorrent shift from politics to racism in an excellent opinion piece written a few days ago. I suggest you read this as well.

So, for once I am not going to develop a line of theological argumentation that establishes the fundamental and biblical “right to the Land of Israel”, though I believe this is part of the overall story of Scripture. I understand that godly believers interpret the Bible differently and choose to respect and love one another and we do need to constantly learn how to disagree without becoming disagreeable. Though this is easier for us to say living safely in the US than for those of our brethren suffering in the midst of the conflict in Israel and other parts of the Middle East – like Mosul!

As you will read in Oren’s article there are some very sound “non-biblical reasons” for people, especially Christians in the West (allow me to be self centered for a moment!) to wince when confronted with the array of Zionist negativity so passionately argued today. I believe Oren provides provides critical information to help us stay balanced in the midst of the current anti Zionist onslaught that is beginning to seriously impact the viewpoint and actions of followers of Jesus.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/in-defense-of-zionism-1406918952?KEYWORDS=zionism

Pass the article along as well and remember that when you pray for the peace of Jerusalem we are praying for all the inhabitants of the Holy Land. (Psalm 122:6)

See: United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379, adopted on November 10, 1975 by a vote of 72 to 35.
And: http://www.wnd.com/2014/07/the-fine-line-between-anti-zionism-and-anti-semitism/

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The Ground War Has Begun

The ground war in Israel is raging! We were of course hoping and praying that it would not happen, but Israel had little choice but to “move in” to Gaza and destroy the maze of Hamas tunnels and remaining rocket launch sites. Already thirteen Israeli soldier has been killed, and more will likely follow – the longer the war continues.

There are many news sites that you can utilize to get information, and one that I personally appreciate is JPost, the online version of the Jerusalem Post.

Another little-known source for news on Israel is www.dailyalert.org. This is a site that gathers information from many news sources.

We have also asked our Chosen People Ministries staff to keep us informed of all that is happening in Israel from an insider’s perspective and to make sure we have current prayer requests so that we can uphold the Chosen People Ministries team and various ministries in Israel during this difficult time. We will provide regular updates to keep you posted and praying! Just click here to see the latest news.

You can also listen to the recording of the teleconference we held this week with our leaders in Israel. I am sure you will learn a lot and be better able to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for the work of Chosen People Ministries during this time – especially among some of the elderly Holocaust survivors who live in Sderot and other towns in the South that have been under incredible duress.

Click here to listen to the recording of the teleconference.

Please feel free to tweet the link so that others can learn more about what is happening in Israel today, and listen to our recent teleconference with our Chosen People Ministries staff on the ground in Israel.

Thanks for praying for the peace of Jerusalem.

Mitch

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A Response to the Murder of Three Israeli Teenagers

It is hard to think about the usual matters of ministry after hearing about the three Israelis Yeshiva students who were mercilessly slain by terrorists. It is a reminder of how sinful and cruel our world can be and how our Jewish people continue to be subjected to such fierce hatred. These terrible circumstances also remind us that the is little time left for our work of preaching the Gospel.

I received the following note from one of our dear friends and supporters which also reminds me of just how much some Christians are moved by Gods love for the Jewish people.

This brother and friend writes,

Bro. Mitch,

When we learned of the news about the three kidnapped boys, we were deeply moved as we had been following this story daily in the online Israeli newspapers. I am privileged to teach an adult SS class each week and they enjoy being kept up to date on news from Israel. I use Powerpoint to show map locations, headlines, and had shown pictures of the boys with their names. I know people were praying for them.

What an opportunity to support Israel wholeheartedly when the circumstances are so clear. So I can only shake my head and realize that we are seeing prophecy unfold in my lifetime. Soon, Israel will be hated by every nation.

Thanks for your tireless efforts to reach God’s Chosen People with the Gospel about their Messiah.
——————

I am grateful for those who stand with the Jewish people and rejoice with the victories of the Jewish people and who and mourn for our people during the very dark times as we have experienced this week.

Please remember to pray for the families of those who lost their sons and for the people of Israel that they might be encouraged and kept safe during these trying times. As we know, Israel will not simply accept these murders and so times will certainly get tougher and more tense over the next few weeks…so pray fervently.

I prayed this prayer;

Father in heaven, we live in disturbing times. The innocent have been murdered and we have again come face-to-face with the cruelty of mankind. Our world needs redemption through your promised Messiah more than ever. Our hearts grieve for parents and siblings who lost their sons and brothers and for the whole household of Israel. We pray for the perpetrators as you told us to pray for our enemies. We pray that your justice will prevail and that those who killed these three teenagers will be brought to trial and punished for their crimes. Most of all Lord, we pray for peace in the Middle East. Please give wisdom to Israel’s leaders and to our own elected officials as battle against terrorism in Israel, Syria, Iraq and throughout the world. Thank you that we know through the promises of Scripture that your holy purposes will ultimately prevail and that true justice will fill the earth when your Son returns and rules on his rightful throne. Until then, Lord, please be merciful to us and we beg you – help us to find a way to stop terrorism and this continued slaughter of our innocents.

AMEN

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The PCUSA’s Divestment Dilemma

The Presbyterian Church USA recently approved an initiative to divest stock holdings in companies allegedly profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.[1]

This decision, as well as others that were made at the 221st General Assembly held last week in Detroit,[2] demands a response from followers of Jesus and especially from Messianic Jews like myself – Jewish people who believe Jesus is the Jewish Messiah for all.

However, one needs to look at the divestment vote of the PCUSA holistically. When this is viewed as one decision among many, it is easier to see what is at the heart of this vote.

Reasons for the PCUSA’s Divestment

Let’s start with some good points. The 310 delegates who voted in favor (303 voted against) of the PCUSA divesting their stock holdings in three companies – Hewlett-Packard, Motorola Solutions and Caterpillar – probably did so with noble intentions.

Most of the delegates probably believed this symbolic gesture; removing about 21 million dollars in invested funds might cause Israel to reconsider its approach to the current conflict.

The PCUSA delegates who voted for the divestment measures believed their vote is an expression of Christian ethics, affirming the dignity of all humanity created in the image of God, and that true Christians are called to support the oppressed and withstand the oppressors. The assumption of course is that Israelis are genuinely oppressing Palestinians – an assumption that may be heartfelt, but naïve.

I would also assume that those who voted for divestment did so out of a sincere heart of love and compassion for Palestinians whom they believe are victims of Israeli aggression. The PCUSA also affirmed Israel’s right to exist. However, this is especially challenging today because of the decision by the Palestinian Authority to unite with Hamas, who persistently deny Israeli’s right to exist. Unfortunately, the PCUSA statement ignored the linkage between the Palestinian Authority and this known terrorist group.

I speak in many PCUSA churches, and believe that there are many sincere and devoted believers among the 1.8 million members of this great historic church body. However, I question whether or not the pro-Israel PCUSA voice is being heard, as so many have simply given up and left the denomination.

Flaws in the Rationale for Divestment

Let me suggest a few reasons why the PCUSA’s decision to divest is faulty.

First of all, the delegates have chosen to believe the Palestinian narrative of the conflict and therefore – despite the PCUSA’s claim that they have not sided with either Israel or the Palestinians – they have. The PCUSA has decided to accept the charges against Israel by the Palestinian side and have acted upon them. This includes measures taken by Israel in Gaza and hotbed areas of the West Bank to prevent further acts of terrorism. The profound role of terrorism has not even been addressed in the PCUSA decision to divest.

The PCUSA has also “paraded” a few left-wing Israeli peace activists to demonstrate that there are Jewish Israelis who agree with their position. According to the Times article,

Of more influence was the presence at the church’s convention all week of Jewish activists, many of them young, in black T-shirts with the slogan “Another Jew Supporting Divestment.” Many of them were with Jewish Voice for Peace, a small but growing organization that promotes divestment and works with Palestinian and Christian groups on the left.[3]

This effort to show Jewish support is a tactic practiced by the Palestinian media machine and has now been evidently adopted the PCUSA as well. Israel is a free country and dissent may freely be expressed there, as in the United States. The PCUSA should have asked an Israeli government official to speak, or at least had had someone representing the mainstream views of average Israelis. The event must be seen as heavily orchestrated towards persuading delegates to pass the divestment measures.

I just returned from Israel, where Palestinian spokespersons for Hamas and other similar groups reported that the three Israeli boys who have recently disappeared were not kidnapped, but are merely missing – though the evidence is virtually decisive that they were kidnapped and may have already been killed. The Palestinian media machine claims that the Israelis are using this as an excuse to “crack down on” the Palestinians.

Most PCUSA delegates have been influenced by a booklet produced by the anti-Israel lobby of the PCUSA entitled “Zionism Unsettled,” which perpetuates the most radical political viewpoints of the Palestinian media machine.[4] This document has been disavowed by many within the PCUSA as much too one-sided, yet it has been the major influence and provided the essential political perspective for the divestment decision.

Ultimately, one of the main reasons the vote passed at this General Assembly, despite failing to be approved in the past, is because many of those who supported Israel have already left the denomination because of a variety of issues.

The PCUSA’s General Departure from Scripture

Other issues were also affirmed at this General Assembly, besides divestment from the three companies. For example, the New York Times reported the following:

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted at its General Assembly on Thursday to change its constitution’s definition of marriage from “a man and a woman” to “two people,” and to allow its ministers to perform same-sex marriages where it is legal.

The vote giving discretion to ministers to marry gay couples takes effect on Sunday, at the close of the General Assembly.[5]

This issue has been more schismatic for the average PCUSA congregation than the divestment issue, but together these decisions speak to a trend. Viewing these decisions by the PCUSA General Assembly as aspects of one agenda will sober evangelicals who may have unwittingly embraced the divestment decision without understanding the underlying values moving the PCUSA leadership in this direction.

The PCUSA seems to be leaving its biblical moorings. Instead of allowing Holy Scripture to judge the trends and philosophies of our day, the opposite is happening – today’s trends and values are beginning to determine the ethical, moral and political decisions of the church.

Dangerous Results of the PCUSA’s Decision

As a Messianic Jew, I am also very concerned with the decisions of the PCUSA. I am very disturbed with the lack of understanding or commitment to the literal promises of God in the Old Testament to the Jewish people. In fact, a literal interpretation of the Old Testament would have caused the PCUSA to make a different decision on the issue of gay marriage as well.

Disregarding a more literal view of the Old Testament can easily lead God’s people along the path of moral relativity and spiritual decline, as when we spiritualize God’s commandments, we become rudderless boats navigating the turbulent rivers of discipleship in today’s world.

I grieve over the increment general turn of the PCUSA from a heartfelt concern for the spiritual welfare of the Jewish people to the current loss of evangelistic zeal for Jewish people. In fact, in the first half of the 20th century, the Presbyterians – which then included a number of more conservative groups that have since split from the larger body – were active in Jewish missions and believed that reaching Jewish people for Jesus was important. The Home Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church at the time supported dozens of workers among the Jewish people and Neighborhood Houses that were funded as Centers for Jewish outreach.

The PCUSA of today do not seem to care how these politically-driven decisions might impact the eternal fate of Jewish people. But perhaps the leaders of the PCUSA have stopped caring about this a long time ago?

The PCUSA must understand that even if a few liberal Rabbis or Jewish community leaders support their decision, the vast majority of Jewish people – my people – will view their divestment decision as one of a long list of Christian acts against the Jewish people. It makes me heartsick to see this happen again, as it will decrease the willingness of Jewish people to listen to the Gospel. Why should my people be interested in a faith that has made a politically-driven decision against the Jewish homeland?

I will have a lot of explaining to do. Dear PCUSA leaders, you could have handled this better!


Notes:

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/21/us/presbyterians-debating-israeli-occupation-vote-to-divest-holdings.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

[2] http://www.religionnews.com/2014/06/20/prebyteriansdivestment/

[3] IBID

[4] http://store.pcusa.org/2646614001

[5] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/20/us/presbyterians-vote-to-change-definition-of-marriage-to-two-people.html?action=click&contentCollection=U.S.&module=RelatedCoverage&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article

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Should Christian Schools Allow Jesus to Teach? After all – He is an Israeli

December 26, 2013

 

On December 4, 2013, the American Studies Association, a small but well-regarded and influential force on many university campuses voted to boycott Israeli universities. [1] The Washington Post described their actions as follows,

THE AMERICAN STUDIES Association, a group of about 5,000 scholars devoted to the interdisciplinary study of U.S. culture and history, has called for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions…as a way to protest Israeli “state policies that violate human rights” of Palestinians, including academic freedom for scholars and students. The resolution drew support of two-thirds of the 1,252 association members who voted. The boycott is largely symbolic; it’s also terribly misguided.[2]

The measure, recommended by the Association’s Board of Directors, approved the action and the full group of scholars voted to affirm the Board’s decision.

Their decision has now been condemned by a number of schools and both Brandeis and The University of Pennsylvania have dropped their membership in the association.

According to a report in Tablet magazine,

Harvard and Yale, along with a host of other universities, public officials, and journalistic outlets, have condemned and rejected the American Studies Association’s academic boycott of Israel.[3]

 

Further, the report claims,

In total, 26 schools have thus far rejected the ASA boycott in the days following its passage.[4]

This latest measure against Israel may be viewed as “flowing in the same stream” as the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Movement which responded to the Israel/Palestinian crisis by advocating an array of economic and political actions designed to arouse the sympathies of the global community for the Palestinian cause by tarring Israel with the same brush as the now defunct Apartheid regime of South Africa.[5]

This is just another effort among many by those who are anti-Israel and pro- Palestinian, but it comes this time from a group that does not usually take a position on political and social issues in other countries.

Former Harvard president Lawrence Summers said on the Charlie Rose show,

My hope would be that responsible university leaders will become very reluctant to see their universities’ funds used to finance faculty membership and faculty travel to an association that is showing itself not to be a scholarly association but really more of a political tool. [6]

As a Messianic Jew and an Evangelical, I am deeply concerned as well about the actions of the ASA.

The boycott is politically driven and naïve as the abuses of human rights and restriction of academic freedom in other countries are far more heinous.  In fact, Israel’s state of academic freedom was noted as “great” by the ASA’s.[7]

As the Washington Post writes,

Have the scholars overlooked the cries for help from Cuban dissidents bravely standing up to the Castro brothers, demanding freedoms — and suffering beatings and arrest almost every week? Do they condone the decision of a judge in Saudi Arabia who has just sentenced a political activist to 300 lashes and four years in prison for calling for a constitutional monarchy?[8]

Perhaps the following statement from the ASA resolution will make it clear that they are playing partisan politics and not seeking the academic good of the institutions they serve.

It is resolved that the American Studies Association (ASA) endorses and will honor the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.  It is also resolved that the ASA supports the protected rights of students and scholars everywhere to engage in research and public speaking about Israel-Palestine and in support of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.[9]

This is intensified in the following statements, which the ASA wrote to the leaders of their member academic institutions regarding the resolution:

The resolution understands the boycott as limited to a refusal on the part of the ASA in its official capacities to enter into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, or with scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions (such as deans, rectors, presidents and others), or on behalf of the Israeli government, until Israel ceases to violate human rights and international law.

The proposed resolution expressly DOES NOT endorse a boycott of Israeli scholars engaged in individual-level contacts and ordinary forms of academic exchange, including presentations at conferences, public lectures at campuses, and collaboration on research and publication. U.S. scholars are not discouraged under the terms of the boycott from traveling to Israel for academic purposes, provided they are not engaged in a formal partnership with or sponsorship by Israeli academic institutions. The academic boycott of Israeli institutions is not designed to curtail dialogue. Rather, it emerges from the recognition that these forms of ordinary academic exchange are often impossible for Palestinian academics due to Israeli policies.[10]

After reading the above, it is evident that the ASA has taken it upon itself to act as both judge and jury. They have overstepped their mandate and used their academic organization as a political weapon rather than as an instrument designed for the greater pursuit of knowledge and understanding.

This is further revealed in a quick review of their statement of purpose found in the by laws of the ASA.

ARTICLE I: Name and Object

Sec. 1. The name of this society shall be the American Studies Association

Sec. 2. The object of the association shall be the promotion of the study of American culture through the encouragement of research, teaching, publication, the strengthening of relations among persons and institutions in this country and abroad devoted to such studies, and the broadening of knowledge among the general public about American culture in all its diversity and complexity.[11]

Again, the ASA has stepped beyond their stated mission to advance American Studies.  Perhaps the question to ask of the ASA is why?  To what end?  And whose agenda is really driving the actions of the ASA?

It is my hope that our Evangelical Christian community will take a public stand against these measures by the ASA. Evangelical Christian schools have participated in conferences and programs organized by the ASA and should follow suit with those secular academic institutions by protesting this resolution and taking a stand for academic freedom, authentic justice, and fair play.

I like the statement by the editorial board of the Washington Post and I believe this is the type of attitude we should foster, especially as Jesus’ peacemakers:

The American Studies Association would have more impact by finding a way to engage deeply with Israelis and Palestinians, perhaps with scholarly conferences and exchanges, rather than by punishing Israel with a boycott.[12]

I am hoping that our Evangelical Christian schools will follow suit and join with the growing number of US schools that believe the ASA has crossed a line and that it’s actions will lead to an increase in conflict rather than peace.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9


[4] IBID

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Filed under American Studies Association, Birthright Israel, Boycotts against Israel, Christ at the CheckPoint, Christian School, Christian University, Israel, Judaism, Messianic Jewish, Middle East