As a Jew, I have a deep affection for Christianity. I don’t believe that Jesus was the son of God, I do not believe he was born of immaculate conception, nor do I in anyway believe he was resurrected or that he had what one might call Divine prophetic powers. Although I of course respect those who do hold these beliefs dear.
I do believe Jesus was a very interesting guy, and that he and the direct followers of his teachings were more than likely very good Jews; if not indistinguishable in their approach from the Rambam, and most Modern Orthodox Jews today.
Moreover, I believe that the history of Jesus’ supporters, the followers of Christianity in its infant years, and the preachers of Jesus’ teachings, even up until the adoption of the faith by the Roman Empire is in the most part inseparable from the history of the many Jews from the same period.
This was of course before European Christianity chose the path of anti-Semitism, first under the Roman Catholic Empire, the Early Crusaders, the Middle Ages, the Reformation and writings of Martin Luther, the pogroms and ultimately the Holocaust.
Yet, while coupled with a shared early history, and a fairly aligned set of values, I have always been deeply troubled that – except for the majority of Evangelical churches who consider the Jewish people to be a continued expression of God’s Will (for various reasons which I won’t get into here) – so much of the modern Christian world has not only sided with the Palestinians, but provided a platform for some of the most vitriolic anti-Israel and anti-Jewish rhetoric. I understand that for those who adhere to ‘Replacement Theology’, Israel is a massive challenge to your faith. If you believe that the covenant between God and the Jews no longer stands then, the revival of Jewish sovereignty in the Holy Land after two millennia must be a real pain in the ‘you know whats’… and I kind of feel sorry for these hate filled groups and individuals. I mean, if the only way you are able to have faith is by denigrating and demonizing the beliefs of others, you can’t be drawing much enjoyment from your own religion.
But that aside, there are so many Christians around the world who have no issue with the Jewish people or faith, yet express support for the Palestinians because they consider that to be the will of the local Christian community – their brothers and sisters in the Holy Land. By this logic, Jesus would have been Palestinian, when of course he was not, he would have been Israeli. By this logic, Mary and Joseph would have been hindered by the security barrier on their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem, when of course they could have considered it a life saving measure. Because by this logic, Jesus was an Arab and so therefore Christians in Israel are Arabs.
Well, if one could have ever subscribed to such a logic, then they need only hear from Lt. (res) Shadi Halul who spoke to my colleague and me on our weekly news round up on TLV1.FM, Politely Rough. He paints a very different picture.
“I am not Arab, I was never Arab, our people were never Arabs, but we were Arabized by force and made to speak Arabic after the Islamic conquest of the Middle East in the 7th Century,” he told us.
Moreover, he talks of ongoing massacres of Christians throughout the Arab world to this day, and chastises Western society for its silence on the matter. He also had harsh words for those Christians who criticize Israel, which he labels as the region’s “only just country”.
“We are the Christians where the first Christian community was established, from Judaism and the Jewish people” he told us, “And we are the continuation… despite the massacres, despite all the killings… we are the indigenous people of the Holy Land, and the idea of saying this land is Palestinian is a big lie.”
Strong words indeed.
So it occurs to me – will the Christian world hear this cry? Will they pay heed to the call for help from the most indigenous Christians of the Holy Land? Or will they instead maintain the narrative of those who would rather excuse the persecution of Christians by Muslims, and instead use their despair as yet another tool to attack Israel.
What Shadi highlighted was the fact that this conflict is far from black and white. The idea that this is Arab versus Jew is as flawed as it is simplistic. There are many facets to the society of the Land of the Bible – and those who criticise from near and far would do well to take a better look.
For the full interview click here.