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November 7, 2013 11:15 am

A Tale of Two Christians in the Holy Land

avatar by David Shayne

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A view of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Photo: Berthold Werner.

In early April of 2013, I visited the town of Eilat in southern Israel. I stayed at a field school belonging to the Society for the Protection of Nature. It was located across from the Coral Shore Nature Reserve, one of many national parks and reserves the Israeli government maintains for the enjoyment of all its citizens and visitors. The state of Israel devotes approximately 16 percent of its territory to public recreation and natural protection, one of the highest percentages in the world.

At the guest house, I encountered an American who introduced himself as “George” from Virginia.  As we tried to access the free wifi near the office, George said he was in Israel as part of a mission group that was observing what he claimed were rampant Israeli human rights abuses in the West Bank.  He later identified himself as an Elder of the Presbyterian Church (USA). He was intimately involved in the effort to get the church to divest from American companies that, as he put it, supply materials the IDF uses to perpetrate human rights abuses against the Palestinian people.

I asked George to explain what he meant by human rights abuses. He responded by claiming that the Israeli occupation itself was illegal and had lasted for 45 years, implying that the occupation itself was a human rights abuse per se. I pointed out that not only was the occupation not illegal per se, but it had in fact been sanctioned by the UN Security Council (Resolution 242, which called on Israel to withdraw from the territory in exchange for a peace treaty, which has yet to be signed).

George responded that he was relying on the more recent International Court of Justice (ICJ) opinion, but he later retracted that statement, acknowledging that the ICJ majority opinion did not say the occupation was illegal, but addressed the security barrier issue.

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When I pressed George further to be specific as to what human rights abuses he observed, the only example he cited were the checkpoints. We entered into a lengthy conversation about the checkpoints. We both agreed that they do indeed constitute a severe inconvenience for the West Bank Palestinians who still travel via them (I learned from a local tourist guide in Jerusalem that in fact many avoid the checkpoints by taking Israeli public transportation). We also agreed that the security barrier and the checkpoints were both in response to the horrific wave of Palestinian-perpetuated terrorist attacks that murdered more than 1,00 Israeli civilians between 1999 and 2003.

At no time during our conversation did George claim to have witnessed any actual physical abuse or other form of inappropriate humiliation meted out by IDF soldiers.  It appeared he considered the lengthy wait and crowding to constitute the “human rights” abuses of which he complained.

I pointed out to George that on my way to Israel, which included a stay in Memphis and a layover in Amsterdam, I and my family were subjected to numerous lengthy waits, interrogations, and invasive personal searches by TSA and the Dutch authorities. But I do not blame the USA and Dutch governments for the extremely unpleasant and inconvenient predicament we travelers find ourselves in. The blame lies with Al Qaeda and other terrorists who have murdered thousands of people in the last few decades, and created this burden. So it is with Israeli checkpoints (which are now far fewer in number than they were a few a years ago, as the result of the reduction in terrorist attacks).  In my view, the fault lies with the Palestinian murderers who made these security measures necessary.

I then asked George  why, of all of the conflicts and occupations taking place anywhere in the world (e.g. The Chinese occupation of Tibet), did he feel this conflict required such intense scrutiny on his part? He responded by saying something to the effect that he had been asked by local Christians and also he felt called upon G-d to do so.

Finally, I asked him if he had given consideration to affect the Church’s singling Israel out for special condemnation would have on Jewish-Christian relations. He answered, somewhat derisively, that there are some Jewish organizations such as “Rabbis for Peace” (sic) that supported his viewpoint, implying that many or most Jews would not have a problem with his proposed resolution.

I informed him that such groups constitute a small minority of American Jews, and many if not most of us would be deeply offended and angered if any mainstream Christian church would single Israel out unfairly.

The day after this conversation took place, I met a young African man who worked at the guest house.  He identified himself as a Christian Eritrean refugee named Hagos. He told me his story: Like thousands of other Eritreans, he fled his country because of the general political oppression and human rights abuses carried out by the current Eritrean regime. He chose to enter  Israel illegally, even though there were any number of other countries, such as Egypt, that were closer and easier to get to, because he had heard that African Christians were poorly treated in predominantly Muslim countries.

Israel, on the other hand, had a reputation of treating them well, and, indeed, he lavished effusive praise on the treatment he had relieved in Israel. He went so far as to say, while he would prefer some day to be repatriated to Eritrea, if that it is not option, he would like to make Israel his permanent home. He informed me that there is a growing community of African Christians in Eilat, and they have a nascent church.

Later that morning, I saw George that was still was still at the guest house, so I arranged for George to meet with and speak to Hagos. The last I saw of them, they were talking. I have no idea what came of it.

I have no idea to what extent, if any, I influenced George’s thinking. Perhaps he took what I said to heart, perhaps he pretended to listen and ignored me, perhaps my criticisms just caused him to dig in to his views more stubbornly.

But, if George was indeed as fair-minded and sympathetic an individual as he presented himself, I believe he must have been influenced by Hagos’ moving story.

David Shayne is a native of Chicago.  He graduated from Tel Aviv University, served in the IDF, and obtained a JD from University of Oregon. He is a public sector attorney who lives in Seattle and continues to write and teach on topics relating to the Middle East.

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  • bob davison

    Yes, it is tragic that so many going by the name Christian are so utterly ignorant of the clear words of the Hebrew prophets concerning Israel. Haven’t they read Dt. 30, Ez. 36 & 37, or Isaiah 2, 35, 40, 49, 62…Jer. 23, 31, 33, or Micah 4? The snake at the tree in Eden, is still deceiving people, blinding them to the truth! Pharaoh, Balak, Haman, Antiochus, Hitler and the modern day jihadis, PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah have sought to destroy the Jewish people. But, they will not. The bible says that God is restoring Israel to its rightful place as head of the nations. Christians it is time to wake up!…to pray for the shalom of Jerusalem. Wake up Muslims, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is serious about Zech. 8, 12 % 14. Wake up Israel, look up Jewish people…God wants Zech 8:23 for you and that includes Jer 31:31-37. There is an epic paradox here. The Jewish people rightly expect “the prophet like Moses, a son of David, their Meshiach, a ruler from the house of bread Micah 5;2. Christians attribute all these to a Jewish man that lived in Israel 2000 years ago…yet many seem to reject his own people, those who wrote the book they hold dear, the flock that he wants to gather to himself Mt. 23:37. This Jewish man Yeshua, has been one of the most influential men in all human history. His is a message of torah faithfulness Mt. 5:17-19 love, good works and righteous judgment.

  • John

    Fact; “Without the sheding of blood, there will be no remission.”

  • I believe George should re think his stances because the God he serves is known to be the the God of Israel….may be he is praying to allah…..

    • VILIAME.NO ! he does not serve the ‘ONE G-D OF ISRAEL AND ALL THINGS’.

      Pres Bush serves a mangod jesux what is a violation to
      the ‘ONE G-D’, a violation of ‘HIS’ commandments,
      diametrically opposite of TORAH AND JUDAISM.

      JEWS have NOTHING in common with that and it.

      WHO DO YOU SERVE? a man made philosophy from poets who never met jesux writing 4 different ‘bibles’ whose nams are not even on it,such as king jimmy who you killed for in the name of jeusx.king jimmy never wrote a word nor did mathew john paul or ringo…….

      Why arent you praying to the ‘ONE G-D’ who perhaps jesux once prayed to before he went off the proper path
      of TORAH…
      ‘ONE’ , WAS, IS AND WILL BE,,,’ONE’ .
      not poetically turned into 3 to compensate for the failures of xtianity and jesux.

      You believe in mythical history.
      CHECK IT OUT! THE HORRORS OF YOUR CHURCH AND XTIANINITY UP TO THIS VERY DAY THAT YOU PERPETUATE TO JEWS. YES UP TO THIS VERY DAY.

      HERE,,,TAKE YOUR ‘YELLOW STAR PATCH’ THAT YOUR FIRST CHURCH MADE US JEWS WEAR BECAUSE YOU WERE LOSING CONGREGANTS TO JUDAISM AND THUS LOSING MONEY.
      Your church is all about money.
      Vatican one of t he richest corporations in the world.
      New York church the richest property owner more then Donald Trump while they preach poverty to you…..

      john hagee and the likes….deception to Jews at his core….EVERYTHING YOU XTIANS DO MUST REVOLVE AROUND JEWS….because you xtians cant stand on your own credibility…..because you dont have any credibilty except being lied to and you must believe your church lies otherwise you would have to admit….YOU BELIEVED AND HAD NOTHING TO BEGIN WITH OTHER THEN MURDER AND TORTURE… FACE IT DAM IT,,,FACE YOUR PAST AND PRESENT.

      LEAVE JEWS ALONE TEAR DOWN YOUR ARCH OR TITUS IN ROME CE;LEBRATING THE JEWS DEATH AND ENSLAVEMENT AND DESTRUCTION OF OUR HOLY TEMPLE. TEAR DOWN ONE OF THE CRUELEST WARRIORS TO JUDAISM, EMPEROR TITUS.

      LEAVE US JEWS ALONE, YTEAR DOWN YOUR MISSIONARY CHURCHS DRESSED LIKE JEWISH HOUSE OF PRAYERS BEINGBUILT EVERYWHERE. STOP IT ! LEAVE US JEWS ALONE!
      YOU XTIANS BRING MORE SPIRITUAL DAMAGE TO THE WORLD THEN ANY OTHER COMPARISON.

  • WHY ARE READERS HESITANT TO COMMENT ON SUCH A CATCHY TITLE?

    WHY are readers afarid to comment ion the evils of xtianity?
    WHY are xtians afraid to rectify 2000 years of death destruction?
    WHY are xtians continuing as I posted below, to violate the 2nd commandment as given through MOSES not translated by king james hired poets having ”others” to pray to
    WHY arent xtians praying to the SAME ‘ONE’ THAT JESUS PRAYED TO?

    THIS ARTICLE DESERVES A LOT OF COMMENTS.
    There are hidden messages here that the write as a ”good’ xtian doesnt realize about himself because he as a xtian stopped at a certain level of understanding….

    BLINDNESS, THE WORLD IS A ZOMBIE DESTINED TO REPEAT THE ATROCITIES IF THEY REFUSE TO ”SEE”.

    WE DONT REPAIR THE WORLD…
    WE REPAIR OURSELVES

  • IF THE XTIANS WERE SO RIGHTOUS WHY
    is the vatican only ”’ALLOWING” ISRAEL to enter into the vatican archives to digitally scan the hebrew sacred manuscripts stolen fromo JEWS FROM THE HOLY TEMPLE AND THE HOLOCAUST.

    Why isnt the xtians the pope and vatican RETURNING
    THEM,THE ARTIFACS, THE MANUSCRIPTS TO ISRAEL..?

    WHY ARE YOU WRITING THIS..FOR A THANK YOU?
    THE STATITICIANS ESTIMATE THERE WOULD BE OVER A BILLION JEWS EQUAL TO ARABS IF NOT FOR THE XTIAN KILLINGS.
    Now as I said above, you dont kill us with the sword but you take our souls away through conversions.

  • YOU ARE SO RARE OF A PERSON DAVID SHAYNE.

    My question to you is if you read former USA PRES BUSH COMMENTS THAT ALL XTIANS AND MESSIANIC ‘jews’ SHOULD WELCOME JEWS INTO ISRAEL INORDER TO BRING JEUSX A SECOND TIME..I forget if it was a second time or a third time.

    As I understand it, that is the xtian doctrine.
    As I personally see it, many xtians open missionary centers disguised as a synagogue and right next to very orthodx TORAH SYUNAGOGUES while dressing as Rabbis deceiving JEWS inorder to deceive t he Jew or better said brainwash the Jew in a very war time pofessional manner into accepting jeusx.

    I’d love to hear your response
    about xtianiaty as a religion that doesnt stand on its own merits, if any, that would attract followers.

    In my simple mind,I SEE IT AS 2000 YEARS OF FAILURES, that the xtians,all brands of xtians, should cease and desist from missionizing JEWS AND CONSIDER LEAVING THAT BELIEF BECAUSE OF ITS CONSTANT FAILURES AND WARS..CONVERTING OR BEING Noahides,,,,,

    NEVER IN ALL OF HISTORY,other then emotions,hopes and dreamsby xtians,was anything ever constructive in the name of jeusx.MOST WARS WERE BECAUSE OF XTIANS OR CAUSED BY OR STARTED BY XTIANS IN THE NAME OF JEUSX BRING SALVATION TO THE WORLD …DEATH FACTUALLY,,,IN THE NAME OF JEUSX…
    BE SAVED YOU SCOUNDRAL,YOU KIKE JEW BOY AND BOW TO JEUSX OR DIE…!
    THESE ARE FACTS. NOT EMOTION I OFFER..ONLY FACTS…

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