Israel Chief Rabbinate Rejects Christian Zionists



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Further signs of tension between Christian Zionists and Israel’s religious establishment:

The Chief Rabbinate upheld a ban Thursday on Jewish participation in a Christian women’s conference in Jerusalem next week that was organized by the Knesset’s Christian Allies Caucus, due to concern that some of the organizations involved are active in missionary work, Rabbinate officials said.

…The decision by a committee of rabbis, which represents a heavy blow to the three-year-old parliamentary lobby, which works with Christian supporters of Israel, follows a long campaign by Jerusalem city councilwoman Mina Fenton (National Religious Party).

Fenton is a prominent anti-missionary activist who has long tried to have the Christian Allies Caucus dismantled.

Fenton’s complaint concerns two of the best-known Christian Zionist outfits in Israel:

[She] insists that she has both direct and indirect evidence of missionary activity by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and Bridges for Peace…

[Christian Embassy Spokesman David] Parsons said that the Christian Embassy is now consulting with lawyers and Jewish religious officials on how best to combat what could become a serious setback to growing cooperation between the Evangelical Christian world and the Jewish state.

I’m rather sceptical of Fenton’s claims. While conservative Christian Zionists mostly believe that unconverted Jews will go to hell along with everyone else (although they tend not to put it so bluntly), many also take the view that Jesus will be returning soon anyway, and that many of the Jews will be converted then by supernatural means. In fact, the Christian Allies Caucus is very keen to stress that missionizing is not acceptable – so much so, in fact, that one Christian Zionist speaker backed out of the conference, complaining that Israel was developing an attitude of “We’ll take your aid, your support and your tourist dollars, but we won’t take your Jesus,” and that it had started to “replicate their Islamic neighbors”.

However, one can also see why the rabbinate might be suspicious of the conference’s content:

A special Rabbinate committee, headed by Rabbi Simcha Kook of Rechovot, ruled on Thursday that concentration on “Judeo-Christian values” and the study of “the Jewish foundations of Christianity” are forbidden. The rabbis ruled that these efforts are actually part of a long-running campaign to bring Israeli-Jews to believe in Jesus

Promotional literature for the Woman to Woman conference, to take place in Jerusalem from May 16-19, describes it as “Jewish and Christian women together, studying the Word  [italics added] and working together to build bonds of friendship and bring comfort to the people of Israel.” Each Conference day will begin with “praise and worship… in preparation for an exciting series of visits and speakers, focusing on the roles, experiences, and opportunities for Women in Israel.”

Also on the committee was Beersheba Chief Rabbi Yehuda Deri:

“…They want to help and support us, but they have the same goals as the Messianics. They make tremendous efforts and support us all over, and are even more right-wing than we are in some ways, and they help us with Bush, etc. – this is all true, but in the end, they have one goal, and that is Jesus. We are not on the level of early great Rabbis who were able to take the good and spit out the bad…”

Deri, it should be recalled, took part in anti-Messianic protests in Beersheba in 2005, during which Messianic Jews were assaulted.

The conference itself seems to have been a bit thin:

…The conference, which is expected to be attended by a few hundred Christian women, aims to improve the status of women worldwide on the basis of Judeo-Christian values, and to serve as a bridge between Jewish and Christian supporters of Israel.

An outline of the programme can be seen here. As expected, it seems to have concentrated on problems of women’s rights in the Islamic world, but without offering any kind of feminist critique. The only man slated to speak at the conference was Benny Elon, who is the Christian Allies Caucus chair. Elon was Ariel Sharon’s notorious far-right minister of tourism, and he favours the “transfer” (a euphemism for ethnic cleansing) of Palestinians from the West Bank.