The support of the Christian community for Israel has proven to be enduring and relevant. Christian support has shaped the pro-Israel policies of governments around the world; Christian support has lobbied for fair treatment of Israel at international forums; and Christian support has tangibly contributed to various areas of Israeli life in the form of volunteer assistance, charity, and prayer for Israel. Israel remains thankful and indebted to the pro-Israel Christian community for all its continued support; indeed, many of Israel’s advancements would not have been possible without the kind, generous and steadfast love of the Christian community towards Israel and the Jewish people. Continued Christian love and support are essential for the continued thriving existence of the State of Israel.
Recently, reports have emerged of Jewish harassment against Christian’s in Israel–both Israeli Christians and visiting Christian tourists and pilgrims–which include spitting, verbal abuse, vandalism on Christian holy sites and even some isolated incidents of physical violence. It should be noted that this harassment is not the norm, and it has been instigated and perpetrated by a tiny section of people who feel emboldened by the current political climate in Israel to pursue a hateful ideology. These harassments can potentially damage the relationship between Christian’s and Jews, and the Understanding Israel Foundation absolutely and unequivocally condemns these incidents. There is no place in Israel for hate or discrimination. The reports of harassment have left some pro-Israel Christian’s uncertain about the nature of the Christian-Jewish relationship, worried for their co-religionists in Israel, and most impactfully, unclear about whether they should continue to support Israel.
Israel remains the only democracy in the Middle East, and its democratic institutions are among the strongest in the world. While the current Israeli government has taken particular actions which may undermine and impede the democratic strength of Israel, many Israelis have stood up and loudly protested these attempts, and, indeed, have succeeded in stopping the government’s attempts to weaken Israel’s Supreme Court. To explain, Israel operates under a unicameral system of government, meaning, there is only one parliamentary house: the Knesset. There is no upper house to vet legislation. As such, the Israeli Supreme Court steps in to monitor laws passed and to ensure that these laws do not trample on minority rights, including, of course, the rights of Israeli Christians. The protest movement in Israel, therefore, is the voice of the people standing up for Israeli minorities, who would be impacted should the court be weakened and not allowed to continue to monitor laws being passed in the Knesset. Every Israeli Jew who takes to the street to protest the government is, in effect, standing up and declaring to the Christian world: we want to protect your rights, we support you, and we love and acknowledge you. For every incident of Christian harassment, we urge you to look at the bigger picture and see that the majority of Israeli Jews do not share this ideology of hate. Judaism itself does not teach hatred toward any other religion or any other people. Indeed, Judaism is compelled to love the other, to love the stranger; and this ethos is widespread among Jews, religious and secular alike. While there is a minority who have managed to forget this commandment, and have adopted an ideology of hate, we wish to remind the pro-Israel Christian community that the ideology which has inspired the attacks on Christian’s is an outlier in Jewish society, and one which we hope will die out. The Prime Minister, the leader of the opposition, the President, the Chief Rabbi’s and all other leaders in Israel have widely condemned the harassment of Christian’s, and perpetrators are dealt with according to the full extent of the law. Hate crimes are a serious offence in Israel, and though harassment may exist, Israeli authorities work swiftly and efficiently to deal with any offences against the Christian community.
While we acknowledge the harassment, we must also keep in mind the positive aspects of Christian life in Israel. In 2018, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu extolled the Christian community in Israel and pointed out that the only place in the Middle East and North Africa which was seeing an increase in the Christian population is in Israel, with the community growing by 2% in 2021. Israeli Christians account for some 1.9% of the Israeli population and they remain the most upwardly mobile group in Israel in terms of education and wealth. Christian rights to freedom of religion–both in practice and expression–are guaranteed by Israel’s Declaration of Independence and its Basic Laws, which together act as a quasi-constitution of Israeli governance. Israeli minorities are an important and relevant component of Israeli society; they contribute to the state in every arena, and they help shape Israeli culture in meaningful ways. Israel’s current ambassador to Azerbaijan, George Deek, is the first Israeli Christian to serve in a diplomatic post.
For Christian tourists visiting Israel, the report of a small throng of nationalist Jews harassing Christian pilgrims when they visited the Western Wall earlier this year remains a concerning episode in the overall narrative of general Christian harassment in Israel. Once again, it must be asserted that this incident is an anomaly, and Christian tourists generally are not on the receiving end of any harassment in Israel. Christian tourists are warmly welcomed everywhere in Israel, and we believe that this will continue in the future.
At this juncture, we must address the anti-Israel elements who recognize that the isolated harassment is an opportunity to erode Jewish-Christian relations and attempt to disrupt Christian support for Israel. Doctored videos and false reports are being released which have no basis in reality. Videos superimposing images of the protest movement in Israel with subtitles saying that Israelis are demonstrating against Christian’s are entirely untrue. The protest movement in Israel is not marching against Christian’s; it is marching for continued Israeli democracy and the protection of minority rights. False reports have been circulated which are claiming Israeli authorities are removing crosses from churches, attempting to ban mention of Jesus and/or attempting to legislate against Christianity in Israel. None of these are true; indeed, if any of these were true, it would mean that Israel has effectively ceased to exist as a democratic state. While there has been a consistent attempt to legislate against proselytizing in Israel, this law has never had wide support in the government, and it has never even managed to make it to a first reading. The Shas party, which has proposed this law each year for the past several years, is a small religious party, which currently only holds eleven seats in the 120-wide Knesset. It should also be noted that Shas’ proposed law is not directed at Christian’s; the law they propose will stop all proselytization, including of Jews proselytizing to other Jews, and with other religions as well. This is not an anti-Christian law, although the non-Israeli news outlets may have erroneously described it as such.
We urge the pro-Israel Christian community in Trinidad & Tobago and abroad, to continue to keep Israel in mind in their prayers and thoughts, and to also educate themselves about the goings-on in Israel. Understanding Israel will continue to keep you informed of the situation, and we appeal to you to not readjust your support for Israel in light of the harassment. We are certain that the ideology of hate will be defeated, and that Israeli democracy will prevail to ensure the safety of all Christian’s –Israeli and tourists alike. Continued interfaith and intercultural communication is important to bring the Christian and Jewish communities together. Our shared Judeo-Christian heritage and values unite us, and we must not forget this.
Israel needs your support. The Bible does not say to bless Israel when all is well with Israel, or when Israel is strong; there is no caveat to blessing Israel and the Jewish people. It is a command with no if’s, and’s or but’s behind it. And, perhaps, Israel and the minority of those people in Israel who adhere to ideologies of hate are more in need of our prayer in this moment than at any other time since the formation of the State.
Continue to pray and continue to advocate for Israel.