Christians encourage Israeli Ambassador
Following an antagonistic reception at an English university, Israel's Deputy Ambassador to the UK received a huge encouragement from British Christians at Purim.
by Stephen Jaffe
It’s the kind of reception normally reserved for a US presidential candidate at a campaign rally. In the course of a five minute address I received four standing ovations. Flags, banners and cheers. It was one of those moments that you have to pinch yourself to check it's for real. And it was Purim...
UK Deputy Ambassador
On a motzei Shabbat [Saturday night - Ed.] - when the Jewish community was listening to the Megillah [the Scroll of Esther] - I found myself in a huge Church in central London addressing a crowd of close to one thousand Christian supporters of Israel. It would be nice to think it was my oratorical skills which were bringing the crowd to its feet. But what was really going on was a fired-up audience, determined to demonstrate the strength, depth and warmth of Christian support for Israel in this country.
Yes, you read right, Christian support for Israel.
This was the seventh year of an annual weekend conference for Christians organised by a couple from Derbyshire, pastors Roy and Brenda Taylor. The event featured Christian worship, music and dance, study and fellowship – and it brings in an audience of close to a thousand each year. They wanted me to take the following message back to the Jewish community: the "Israel always wrong brigade" in the churches may make a lot of headlines in terms of one-sided resolutions condemning Israel, and calls to boycott Israeli goods, but at the grassroots there is a very different story.
In those parts of the church which are actually growing, for example, the African churches and the Chinese (both well represented in the audience), there exists huge support for the return of the Jewish people to a portion of their Biblical homeland [cf Gen 12:3 - Ed.], after a two thousand year exile. If these Christians do not hold by “Israel always right”, in terms of the country's conduct, neither have they lost sight of the huge miracle of the re-birth of a Jewish state, and the significance this has for their own faith.
They are not fiery advocates of an impending Armageddon. They see standing with Israel as a key to strengthening and blessing the Churches in this country.
I followed onto the podium Israel's deputy ambassador, Alon Roth-Snir. Earlier in the week Alon had been confronted at a UK university by a gang of about 40 or so protesters chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” (meaning the obliteration of Israel). The demonstrators thought they had secured a “great victory for Palestine” by preventing Alon from speaking on the campus, as a result of their loud and threatening actions. Even more deafening is the silence from the academic, political and Church elites to this brazen denial of freedom of speech.
"Even more deafening is the silence from the academic, political and Church elites.."
But here at the church in central London Alon heard much greater noise being generated in love - and not hate- in support of him as a speaker rather than shouting him down. It was an emotional moment for the both of us.
Over the past year as consultant to the Board of Deputies on engagement with Israel (part funded by the Jewish Leadership Council), I have worked closely with organisations such as Christian Friends of Israel and the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem . Their work for Israel in prayer, fundraising, pilgrimages, education and practical support, is rarely reported in the national or church media. We in the Jewish community are often left feeling that the Church is coldly indifferent to the challenges Israel faces from the likes of Hamas, Hezbolla, and Iran - or even downright hostile.
But some statistics of events and rallies across the country suggest the Churches do not speak with one voice on these matters. In Cardiff, over 600 attended a tribute evening for Israel put on by Christian group, Bridges for Peace; last year approximately 400 Christians honoured the Jewish state at an evening of celebration in Glasgow, and later this month, approximately one thousand Christians will fill the Ulster Hall in Belfast – as they did last year - to acknowledge Israel as “a light to the nations”.
"last year approximately 400 Christians honoured the Jewish state at an evening of celebration in Glasgow"
I left the church that night while a massive conga danced round the Church to “Hinei Matov”. In the battle for Israel’s legitimacy being fought in this country, we have dedicated and enthusiastic allies.
I heard the Megilla late this Purim
, but in excellent spirit.
CT Ed. footnotes:
In 2011 a group of Christian leaders was invited to the Israeli Embassy in London to meet and speak with an Israeli government minister and the Deputy Ambassador. In a conversation with Alon Roth-Snir he spoke fondly of a holiday he and his family had spent in the Scottish Highlands.
In the following video Brenda Taylor who with her husband organised the London meeting speaks of the biblical mandate for the Jewish people.
grew up in Belfast, represents the Belfast Jewish community on the Board of Deputies and co-chairs the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel. He lives in London and works as a consultant to the Board of Deputies to support grassroots Israel advocacy in the UK.