When Christians Repent
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When Christians Repent

When Christians Repent

Christians supporting the Jewish state? It hardly seems like news anymore.

by

The underground bomb shelter in the hotel at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel hardly seems like a place where history might be made.

Located on the second floor beneath street level, it is a large rectangular room in which the air conditioning does not work and the interior design appears to have been copied from the Soviet Union’s pre-Brezhnev era: drab, dull and dreary. Appearances aside, though, the confined space served as the improbable venue recently for a remarkable scene, as dozens of Christian leaders from 40 countries on five continents gathered together to discuss... Jews.

The occasion was the fourth bi-annual leadership forum of Christians for Israel, a non-denominational Christian organization that was established in Holland in the 1970s by Karl van Oordt and which has grown to boast hundreds of thousands of members around the world.

The group lobbies European parliamentarians in Brussels on Israel’s behalf, supports soup kitchens in places such as Beit Shemesh, assists Diaspora Jews to make aliya and even partnered with the Jerusalem Foundation to restore the Montefiore Windmill in Jerusalem’s Mishkenot Sha’ananim neighborhood.

Their goals are sincere and unequivocal: “Christians should repent of the treatment of the Jewish people by the Church over the centuries, fight anti- Semitism in all its forms and guises, pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and comfort the Jewish people.”

No missionizing, no proselytizing, no hidden agendas.

It says a lot about the way in which relations between Christians and Jews have evolved in recent years that we have come to take such things almost for granted.

Christians supporting the Jewish state? It hardly seems like news anymore.

But let’s put things in perspective. Several centuries ago, a similar gathering of worldwide Christian leaders would surely have devoted its energies to finding new ways to harm the people of Israel.

Nowadays, they come together to help.

But what really set this event apart, and underlined the sea-change taking place, was the keynote speaker for the evening: the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel, Rabbi Yona Metzger.

In a rousing and emotional address, Rabbi Metzger surveyed relations between the two faiths, neither shying away from the darkness of the past nor ignoring the challenges we collectively face. He described how Adolf Hitler and the Nazis had not invented the idea of a Jewish ghetto, but rather had adopted the practice from the medieval model created by Christians.

At one point, as he related a story about Holocaust survivors, the rabbi choked up, prompting many in the audience to shed tears of their own.

Rabbi Metzger added, “If you know of someone who wants to come here to try and convert Jews, tell them not to do it.”

Rabbi Metzger also vigorously defended Israel and condemned the culture of hate of our foes, messages which resonated with the audience and met with their accord.

“I want to give you our thanks for your support and to say that you are truly the sons of Abraham and our brothers,” he told them. Before concluding, the rabbi added an important final point, telling the audience: “If you know of someone who wants to come here to try and convert Jews, tell them not to do it,” pointing out that such proselytization efforts damage relations between Jews and Christians.

As I watched the chief rabbi address the Christian leaders, I could not help but think how extraordinary this scene was. Just 20 or 30 years ago it would have been unthinkable for such a thing to occur.

Moreover, the rabbi’s remarks were like those between friends, without a hint of antagonism or enmity.

Afterwards, Andrew Tucker, the Christian group’s executive director, presented Rabbi Metzger with framed copies of a document in English and Hebrew entitled, “A Call to Repentance, A Word of Hope.” As Tucker began to read the text aloud, he too grew emotional and had to pause to compose himself before continuing.

“We acknowledge with deep shame,” he said, “that the Church for centuries has rejected, persecuted and murdered the Jewish people in the name of Christ. We repent of the supersessionist theologies of the Church which have claimed all of God’s blessings for themselves, and have denied any continuing place for the nation of Israel in God’s plan of redemption for the world. We cut the root and stole the fruit.”

We can neither forgive nor forget what was done to our people over the past 2,000 years in the name of Christianity.

Tucker, along with the group’s international chairman, Harald Eckert, and its president, Rev. Willem Glashouwer, all reaffirmed their commitment to remorse for the past and resolve for the future.

Now I know that there are many Jews who are still skeptical about Christians and their intentions. And we certainly must be vigilant against those who seek to convert Jews, an act which cannot and must not be tolerated. But we must also learn to differentiate between them and those who truly wish to forge bonds of amity and goodwill. Not all Christians are out to get us, and to suggest otherwise is simply fatuous and misleading.

To be sure, we can neither forgive nor forget what was done to our people over the past 2,000 years in the name of Christianity, the persecution, pogroms, massacres and forced conversions, expulsions and blood libels. But when Christians nowadays take responsibility for the actions of their forefathers, seek atonement and extend a hand of friendship, it behooves us to respond in kind.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post.

Published: April 1, 2013


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Visitor Comments: 27

(15) Lenny Bruce, October 19, 2013 6:02 PM

Repent? Hardly.

I doubt anyone here watches as much Christian TV as I do. Christian support for Israel has ZERO to do with repentance, and EVERYTHING to do with the wacky Revelation End Times script. For premillennial dispensationalists, Israel is a very important stage-setter for Jesus' return. Don't ask how many Jews die in their end times script, 'cause that don't matter as long as Jesus returns! All the support you cite is sadly about the Apocalyptic fervor in America (40% think Jesus will return before 2050).

(14) Anonymous, April 9, 2013 8:06 AM

We Love Israel

We are many out here who love the Jewish people. My son and I have been supporting" aliya "with no agenda and ulterior motive.We use a siddur for prayer keep all the Jewish festivals follow a Jewish calendar. We do not keep any christian feasts.sometimes when we have privilege we attend synagogue.We do not know what to call ourselves by religion.The first time I attended synagogue standing outside to pray a Jewish woman came and threw water on me.
This did not stop me from praying to Hashem.
This continues to happen in different ways,but who cares.
As for my dear people forget all the hatred, your mandate is to be the Light to the Nations so please fulfill this obligation so that we can have peace on the earth.We want to know more about your G-D .

Anonymous, July 23, 2013 4:28 PM

Christians who love Israel and Jews should be welcomed

It is sad to see that some of my fellow Jews are suspicious of all Christians. Let's remember, these Christians are not the people who persecuted us. Maybe their ancestors did, but the sins of the fathers should not be applied to their children. Judge each person individually. We have so many vicious enemies in the world, it is especially foolish as well as immoral to reject anyone's friendship.

(13) Anonymous, April 8, 2013 8:57 PM

When Christians repent

The particular group of Christians in this article is sincere I think, as a former Christian I know that most are ignorant and oblivious of their own history, in terms of how the Jews were made to suffer by Christianity and it's theology for centuries.
If they do know, most of them find ways of being in denial, unfortunately. I wish more Christians were aware and were prepared to repent. It is ironic that the author is more willing to forgive and trust the Christians than I am prepared to, but it was also good to hear that at least true reconciliation is beginning some parts of inter-faith relations. I also think the real threat nowadays is not from the Christians but from "Islamic" extremism and the Atheist population.

(12) Anonymous, April 6, 2013 5:34 PM

A load of lies.

I grew up in a mixed Jewish-Christian neighborhood. My "kind' Christian neighbors and teachers taught me the meaning of Christianity very well.

I spent my childhood being called a Christ-killer, Kike and other names of great affection.

I spent my childhood not crying but fighting back, both with words and fists.

I realize that there is no Christian I have ever met that I would willingly be friends with. In their hearts there is the old hatred. And it will come out.

Never trust the ones who wish to kill you.

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