“After 2005, the number of Israeli killed by suicide bombings dropped by something like 99%, it’s as simple as that. The wall is only 3% of the fence, the fence is part of the Israeli security system, and there’s nothing you can do about it” - Oded Shoshani in Q&A at Christ at the Checkpoint, when asked if he thought the Wall was fair, March 13th 2014
There were fears in Oded Shoshani’s Messianic congregation or kehilah - King of Kings Jerusalem – that their pastor did not know what he was getting himself into, by accepting an invitation to Christ at the Checkpoint.
Congregants had a right to be concerned – at the last conference, Shoshani’s co-pastor Wayne Hilsden had chosen to give a relatively esoteric, theological defence of God’s covenant of Israel. Hilsden had said nothing of the Jewish state’s security concerns whilst other participants tried to actively delegitimise Israel.
Others did no better – Messianic theologian Richard Harvey implied a one-state solution was acceptable, comparing Palestinian opposition to Israeli checkpoints to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s anti-Nazi stance.
For good measure, CATC 2012 claimed Messianic Jewish leaders who attended had approved an anti-Israel theological “manifesto” that CATC organisers wrote, forcing Hilsden and others to offer a swift denial on Hilsden’s blog.
In the light of all this, RPP has warned that Christ at the Checkpoint is more a political conference dressed in theological terms, than a theological conference. This was essentially confirmed by CATC’s guest theologian Gary Burge, who stated yesterday:
“My deepest fear in this conversation is frankly not about theology, not ultimately. It is about religious heritage as privilege.”
Oded Shoshani realised the issue at hand, and delivered an excellent talk to CATC. He made statements of love and unity to Palestinian believers, but did not feel he had to drop his convictions about the necessity of a Jewish state protecting itself, in order to do so.
Shoshani spoke of true Biblical justice, and why the security barrier exists:
“What if 1947 UN plan was accepted, what if there was no war in 1948 or 1967, and what if there were no suicide bombers killing civilians in 2000-5? My understanding of Biblical justice is that it’s comprehensive, it’s not one-sided. Hundreds of other suicide bombers were caught before they exploded, saving many lives. These bombs injured 8000 Israelis, and this is why the fence was built. Hundreds of other suicide bombers were caught before they exploded, saving many lives.”
When challenged on this, Shoshani had a ready answer:
“After 2005, the number of Israeli killed by suicide bombings dropped by something like 99%, it’s as simple as that. The wall is only 3% of the fence, the fence is part of the Israeli security system, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Shoshani highlighted his understanding of God’s promises to Israel in Ezekiel 36 of a restored national Jewish homeland, and added:
“The fact I’m standing here before you is a fulfilment of those promises. God is bringing Jews back into the land not because of their deeds or because they are deserving, but because He is faithful to Old and New Testament promises.”
He spoke clearly about Arab and Jewish believers, and the need for unity:
Now we have more than 100 Messianic congregations, 10,000 Messianic Jews – even we don’t know the number! I invite you to visit the Messianic body in Israel. Come see what we believe and what God is doing. I truly believe the Messianic Jewish believers in the land of Israel and the Palestinian believers need each other. We do need each other. We need practical love, surpassing differences and theology.
After Shoshani spoke, the room fell silent. So powerful were Shoshani’s words, that a CATC organiser had to distance himself from them and highlight conference disagreement with Shoshani, rushing to assure listeners:
“You will hear things you don’t agree with, and that is fine.”
(CATC saw no problem, by contrast, with Dan Juster saying he understands why Palestinians has negative theology towards evil-doing Jews who think they’re the Chosen People).
Slightly unsure of what to say, CATC’s social media spokesperson Porter Speakman initially praised Shoshani’s talk – clarifying that Shoshani did a “great job” in presenting his “perspective.” When RPP inquired from Speakman as to what he thought of the content of Shoshani’s talk, Speakman maintained radio silence.
It was not just Speakman who was lost for words to speak; conference congregants reported that an awkward silence descended upon the room following Shoshani’s address. Little wonder – for in 20 minutes, the whole house of cards came tumbling down as Shoshani boldly exposed CATC’s one-sided narrative of “justice.”
If all Messianic Jewish speakers at Christ at the Checkpoint had shown the heroic bravery of Oded Shoshani, to enter the Lion’s Den and effectively shut the mouths of those telling lies about Israel being an “apartheid” state, then we would never have had such a problem with Messianic Jews speaking at CATC in the first place – even if we still would urge Messianic Jewish speakers to publicly comment on CATC’s terror links.
In an ideal world of course, the Messianic Jews would be able to hold CATC to account for statements which appear to support terror against Israeli civilians, meetings with terror leaders, and other things they have said which lead credence to anti-Jewish feelings.
But given that Shoshani had made up his mind and decided to go to CATC, and given the context of what was happening at Bethlehem (including a riot outside the Intercontinental Hotel!), he did an excellent job, giving a shining talk that will live long in the memories of Israeli Messianic Jews, Palestinian Christians and gathered international theologians.
Oded Shoshani, we salute you!