Tag Archives: Palestine

Church of Scotland – Israel (update)

The Inheritance of Abraham? A report on the ‘promised land’

9 May 2013

The Church of Scotland and representatives of the Jewish Community in Scotland and the United Kingdom, held useful discussions facilitated by the Council of Christians and Jews this afternoon, Thursday 8 May. We agreed that the drafting of the report published by the Church and Society Council for discussion at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has given cause for concern and misunderstanding of its position and requires a new introduction to set the context for the report and give clarity about some of the language used.

In particular the Church of Scotland needs to be explicit about some things that are implicit policies of the Church:

  • There is no change in the Church of Scotland’s long held position of the right of Israel to exist.
  • The Church condemns all violence and acts of terrorism, where ever they happen in the world.
  • The concern of the Church about the injustices faced by the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories remain firm, but that concern should not be misunderstood as questioning the right of the State of Israel to exist.
  • That the Church condemns all things that create a culture of anti Semitism.

There is an equal sense of concern amongst both communities for justice and peace for all the people of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Sitting round the table and listening to each other more deeply has created a real opportunity for both communities to better understand each other and that this report now becomes a catalyst for continued and growing conversation.

The two communities have agreed to work together both here and in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories to continue what was a very positive dialogue.

Church and Society Council, Church of Scotland
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities
Board of Deputies of British Jews
Movement for Reform Judaism
Rabbis for Human Rights

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The Promised Land? Church of Scotland Report to the General Assembly, May 2013

Construction site at a Jewish settlement
  • The Israeli government has criticised the Church of Scotland over a report which questions the divine right of Jews to the land of Israel.

The report will be debated and voted on at the church’s general assembly later this month.

Israel’s ambassador to the UK said it was “truly hurtful” and could “mark a significant step backwards for the forces of tolerance and peace”.

The church said it was not denying Israel’s right to exist.

The 10-page discussion paper, entitled The Inheritance of Abraham? A report on the Promised Land, was compiled by the Kirk’s church and society council.

It stated there has been a widespread assumption by many Christians, as well as many Jewish people, that the Bible “supports an essentially Jewish state of Israel”.

Would the Jewish people today have a fairer claim to the land if they dealt justly with the Palestinians?”

 

But its authors said an “increasing number of difficulties and current Israeli policies regarding the Palestinians” had led to this viewpoint being questioned.

They wrote: “Possession of any land is clearly conditional. The question that arises is this: Would the Jewish people today have a fairer claim to the land if they dealt justly with the Palestinians?”

Biblical promises about the land of Israel were never intended to be taken literally, or as applying to a defined geographical territory, the report argued.

Instead, it said: “They are a way of speaking about how to live under God so that justice and peace reign, the weak and poor are protected, the stranger is included, and all have a share in the community and a contribution to make to it.

“The ‘promised land’ in the Bible is not a place, so much as a metaphor of how things ought to be among the people of God. This ‘promised land’ can be found – or built – anywhere.

“The desire of many in the state of Israel to acquire the land of Palestine for the Jewish people is wrong. The fact that the land is currently being taken by settlement expansion, the separation barrier, house clearance, theft and force makes it doubly wrong to seek biblical sanction for this.”

The report said that the enormity of the Holocaust “has often reinforced the belief that Israel is entitled to the land unconditionally.”

“There is guilt among Western Christianity about centuries of anti-Semitism that led to discrimination against the Jews, culminating in the total evil of the Holocaust,” it suggested.

Political boycotts

“There is also a belief among some Jewish people that they have a right to the land of Israel as compensation for the suffering of the Holocaust.”

While stopping short of calling for economic and political boycotts and sanctions against the state of Israel, as church leaders from South Africa did last year, the report said the issue “raises particular questions for the Church of Scotland as we seek to respond to the question: “What does the Lord require of you…?”

The paper will be voted on by delegates at the church’s general assembly in Edinburgh, which is due to begin on 18 May.

The Israeli ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub, said: “This report not only plays into extremist political positions, but negates and belittles the deeply held Jewish attachment to the land of Israel in a way which is truly hurtful.

“If a document of this nature is adopted by the Church of Scotland it would mark a significant step backwards for the forces of tolerance and peace in our region.”

Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, described the report as an “outrage to everything that interfaith dialogue stands for” and called on the Church of Scotland to withdraw it ahead of the general assembly.

If the church cannot build bridges, can it at least refrain from burning them?”

Ephraim BorowskiScottish Council of Jewish Communities

 

He added: “It reads like an Inquisition-era polemic against Jews and Judaism. It is biased, weak on sources, and contradictory. The picture it paints of both Judaism and Israel is barely even a caricature. The arrogance of telling the Jewish people how to interpret Jewish texts and Jewish theology is breathtaking.

“If the church cannot build bridges, can it at least refrain from burning them?”

Abraham H Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League in New York, described the paper as “stunningly offensive”.

He said: “The paper’s blatant one-sided perspective falsely conflates the political state of Israel and the religious significance of the Land of Israel for both Jews and Christians. The selective citation of Biblical scripture in order to question Israel’s legitimacy is an affront to Jews around the world and to the State of Israel.”

And an editorial, the Jerusalem Post newspaper said the report would “shame the Church of Scotland”.

It claimed: “The church owes the Jewish people an apology for this incendiary text that is more fitting to the 13th Century than to this one”.

A spokesman for the Church of Scotland said it “has never and is not now denying Israel’s right to exist; on the contrary, it is questioning the policies that continue to keep peace a dream in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

He added: “This report is against the injustices levelled against the Palestinian people and how land is shared. It is also a reflection of the use or misuse of scripture to claim divine right to land by any group.

“The Church of Scotland is called to speak out against injustice. Whether people are being exploited by pay-day loan companies or through low wages and poor conditions, or because of benefit changes and actions of the powerful across the world, the Church of Scotland seeks to support just and peaceful solutions.

“With this in mind, the Church of Scotland will continue to work for freedom and justice for all who live in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

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Goodbyes – some thoughts for Ascension Day

It’s often very difficult to say ‘goodbye’ – especially if it’s a member of the family or a close friend who is going away for a while.  Railway stations, airports, bus stations and ferry terminals can be pretty awful places at times.

There are many ‘goodbyes’ in the Bible…..

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  • We’re going to start with that grand old man Moses who led the children of Israel out of captivity in Egypt through the wilderness toward the promised land.

Moses at the end of so many years of service to Israel, is not allowed by God to enter the promised land.  He looks back at what they have done together, then he looks forward, and bids them farewell.

He says goodbye to his people – ‘Happy art thou, O Israel’ he cries, ‘A people saved by the Lord.’

He knows that God has protected them in the past, and has no fears for their future – for he knows they are in God’s safe keeping.

  • Then there is Jacob, a very elderly man.  What a long and exciting life he has led; what a man he has been.

Then had come the loss of his son Joseph, whom he had believed had been killed.  But years later, Joseph, now a great man in Egypt, was reunited with his family.

In his old age, Jacob moved with his entire household down to that strange land to settle there.  He lived in Egypt, but his heart was still in his homeland of Palestine.

Even as he lay dying and said his goodbyes, he begged that his body should be taken back and buried in the land he loved..

  • Then there is the parting between Jonathan and David. 

Jonathan was a prince, the son of King Saul, and David was a shepherd boy, and they became very close friends.  But David was perceived as being a rival to Saul, so the King forced them apart.  They met secretly to say goodbye, embraced and wept.

 

Then Jonathan said these last beautiful words:

    ‘Go in peace…the Lord shall be between thee and me…forever’

They had to part, but in their love of God, they would always be one.

  • There is the parting between St Paul and the elders of Ephesus 

The old Apostle, having done his work in these parts, is on the way back to Jerusalem.

He knows that he is running into danger, and, therefore, says goodbye to his friends.  Even grown men at such times can break down in tears, so Paul asks them to stop as they are making things harder for him.

How these Christians really did care for one another.

  • And lastly we come to the story of Christ saying goodbye to his friends at the time of his Ascension

It should have been a terrible occasion.  Here was Jesus whom his disciples had known so wonderfully, and who had changed their lives forever, now going away from them.

Here was the one who had brought God into their lives in a real and living way, now saying his goodbyes.  What a blow that should have been.

But when they parted, the disciples went back to Jerusalem, ‘filled with great joy’ as we heard.  ‘Filled with great joy’ Why?  Because they had his promise that although it was goodbye and an end of meeting together in the old way with him before their eyes, it was the beginning of his being with them in a new way.

He would be with them, in spirit, always.  And not just with them, but with us too.

  • In our lifetime, there are many goodbyes and some of them can be hard, even painful.

Imprinted in my mind most vividly is my beloved wife asleep on her death-bed – just a matter of hours before she died.  I bent over her, kissed her on her forehead and said “Thank you; I’ll see you again soon enough somewhere, some time. You’ll be safe”

We never have to say goodbye to Jesus, he is with us forever.

Remember what he said ‘ I am with you always, even to the close of the age’ And he is, as king of kings & lord of lords – and in that we can all rejoice.

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Finding Christ Today

Let us find Jesus crucified not on the cross of yesterdays old wood but in Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Palestine, Ethiopia, Mali, etc.

Let us find Jesus not in a Garden long lost, but sweating blood in the furnace of clerical child abuse and church homophobia.

Let us find Jesus not broken in bread and wine but torn apart as he sifts with the poor for food through the garbage on India’s rubbish heaps.

Let us find Jesus tortured not in some kangaroo court of old but in Guantanamo Bay and America’s Death Rows.

Let us find Jesus raised not in an Easter Garden but in what we do to help challenge and change corruption and to heal the casualties of this long struggle against evil.

(the Open Episcopal Church)

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