Two years ago in Royal David’s city, a German theologian mocked Jews as “dummkopfs” for believing in Judaism’s central ideas. His talk delighted his audience, which curiously included a number of Messianic Jews who sat quietly and patiently, drinking in his words. Yet when a Jewish victim of terror asked for a few minutes of conference time, it was a different story entirely. Once again in Bethlehem, there was no room at the inn.
Kay Wilson came to Bethlehem with honest intentions. She had witnessed the murder of her friend Kristine Luken before her eyes, at the hands of Palestinian terrorists, at the end of 2010. Determining to tell her story to inform and inspire others to do good, Kay took her message to the faith community of her dear friend Kristine, who was a committed Christian of good repute amongst Jews in the UK. Where better to speak than the 2012 Christ at the Checkpoint (CATC), which presented itself as a Christian dialogue between Jews and Arabs about suffering?
There was always a sense that the dice were loaded in Bethlehem – owing to the PFLP-supporting mayor Victor Batarseh who was a welcome guest of CATC, and problematic anti-Jewish views expressed by several conference speakers and organisers.
Still, Kay took them at their word, and was rebuffed by Richard Harvey, as Israel Today reports. Harvey had passed on Kay’s request to the CATC conference organisers. When CATC said no, Harvey told Kay that it was simply “not what the Lord wants” for her to speak.
Of course, none of the Messianic speakers at CATC2012 included victims like Kay and other Israelis in their public narratives about reconciliation; they were forgotten about in the hubbub.
So CATC has no time for Israeli victims, but the wider CATC goals are of dubious benefit even to Palestinians. It is worth noting that one day after CATC 2012, the pro-Israel Palestinian baptist church of Naim Khoury was declared illegitimate by the PA. Just as Kay Wilson was ignored by the CATC Messianics, so too was Khoury ignored by the Palestinian CATC organisers. There is a certain type of Israeli and Palestinian that is allowed to talk about reconciliation, you see.
There was scarcely a mention either of the thousands of Christians who have fled Bethlehem since the PA took control in the 1990s, or the perspectives of Palestinian Christians who aren’t protected by a public profile – many of whom feel very scared about the future of Bethlehem in a society with Islamist leanings, religious incitement and unchecked extremist groups. These Palestinian Christians are seemingly less worthy of Israeli Messianic attention than the smiling, relaxed evangelicals at Bethlehem Bible College.
Yet the trust between the Palestinian organisers and Israeli guests of CATC has been strengthened by the personal friendships that the Israeli leaders have with Musalaha leader Salim Munayer.
Despite mutterings of dissent from within the King of Kings Congregation in Jerusalem, Oded Shoshani will deliver a key speech at CATC 2014, in the presence of his mentor Munayer.
At CATC 2012, Munayer agreed to a manifesto calling for non-violent resistance against Israel. (According to a CATC organiser, Messianics were invited to edit and contribute to this manifesto; something that the Messianics say they were unaware of. )
Munayer heads up the Musalaha reconciliation network. In his “reconciliation” work, Munayer calls for Christian reconciliation with Hamas and Hezbollah, without calling on them to abandon their genocidal antisemitism and terror quest. Munayer though is not so charitable about Christian reconcilation with Jews – he complains that the Holocaust has guilt-tripped Western Christians on being too kind and friendly with Jews.
More worrying still, Munayer saw no moral difference between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s call to wipe Israel off the map (thus destroying the Jewish state and killing over 1/3 of the world’s Jews), and Israel’s war on Hezbollah, which is a fascist, terrorist outfit that murders children.
This kind of dangerous moral relativism is interpreted as fair-mindedness and balance, by those who see the best in Salim and his projects.
Amazingly, Salim’s Musalaha network rarely meets a word of public criticism amongst Israeli Messianic Jews – even from those who have deep concerns about it, and have withdrawn from it.
Friendship with Salim comes at a price, and Israelis know it. It is not just the close friends within Salim’s Israeli circle who feel obliged to tow the line on Salim’s approach to reconciliation. Messianic Jews who want to criticise Musalaha are made to feel like they are being divisive, and no-one wants to be the first to rock the boat.
Meanwhile, Richard Harvey has prepared a talk for CATC posted briefly online, calling for Messianic Jews to agree upon a theology of reconciliation – when Messianic Jews have not even agreed upon a definition of a Messianic Jew! Harvey also posted a quote online comparing Hebron to Auschwitz. At CATC 2012, he publicly compared Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s stand against the Nazis, to Palestinians opposing Israeli checkpoints.
Messianic participation in CATC 2014 is being packaged by vocal Israeli leaders as a positive development, however.
The net result is that Israeli Messianic Jews cannot put out a strong, cohesive and clear statement about Christ at the Checkpoint, in the way that Diaspora Messianic Jews can.
These are worrying developments, with profound implications for congregations where Messianic children are joining the IDF, whilst their pastors go to a conference where forms of resistance against the IDF are encouraged. (A speaker at the last conference, Ben White, sees both violent and non-violent resistance against Israel as commendable).
Kay Wilson’s voice – and those of other murdered Israelis and Palestinians also brushed aside – will again be ignored by CATC 2014, lost in the lofty theological papers that Juster, Shoshani and Thomas are putting the finishing touches to, as we speak.
Quite frankly, this is now a mess. The responsible Messianic Jewish leaders in Israel urgently need to make their stand.