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June 2015


A Tale of Two Churches

By GARY ALLEY

Recently, two famous churches on two different continents were attacked within hours, or possibly even minutes, of each other.  One attack was against the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, a historic African American church.  On Wednesday evening, June 17th, Dylann Roof entered the church joining a Bible study for about an hour before opening fire around 9 p.m. killing nine people.  The group was studying the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:16-20).  Allegedly, Roof’s bloody assault on the African American church was to instigate a race war against black people.  Roof was captured shortly after and is awaiting trial.

Seven time zones ahead in Israel, around the same time, on June 18th, early Thursday morning, the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes (Tabgha) on the Sea of Galilee, was torched by arsonists.  No one was injured, but the well-known and prolific “Price Tag”[1] assailants left menacing Hebrew graffiti from Jewish liturgy sprayed on the church wall, proclaiming “false idols[2] will be eliminated”.  This was the 43rd arson attack by the Price Tag group against Christian or Muslim property in Israel over the last six years.[3]  Not one suspect has ever been prosecuted.

While the two attacks had starkly different results—the Emmanuel rampage claimed nine human souls and the Galilee church violence only damaged and defaced the church structure, both attacks were birthed by the same vicious spirit—hatred for others.  Just like the German Jewish poet, Heinrich Heine, surmised in 1823, “where they burn books, they will end in burning humans,” a burning church in Israel is an unwelcome reminder of the burning synagogues in Hitler’s Germany and the resulting Holocaust.  Today, ISIS is almost an obsene caricature of this hatred for humanity as they infamously destroy both culture and civilization, as well as delight in the torture and annihilation of others.

Another similarity between the two church attacks, was both occurred in democratic, Western societies which, theoretically, have laws in place to protect all of their citizens, minorities included.  Yet in both attacks, these two free societies, at times, can display a significant disparity between how minorities and the majority citizens are treated on a practical, daily basis.  Laws have no teeth unless they are enforced.  Justice has no meaning unless lawbreakers and instigators are punished.  Hate must be neutralized.

We all know that racism, prejudice, and religious intolerance cannot be completely eradicated by laws, force, or education.  Hate comes from a person’s heart and often lurks just below every society’s façade.  Hate is a hard habit to break.

How do we followers of Jesus respond to these attacks of hate?  Obviously, we are to love everyone, but how do we practically love “haters,” those who envision our destruction?  —not easily, and with much wisdom and caution.  “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (Mt 10:16).” 

We are part of God’s Kingdom—wherever we live, walk, work, and breathe, our very presence proclaims that God is alive and in control.  In the shadow of His expanding rule, the kingdoms of this world appear faint and fading.  Wherever there is darkness, we shine light.  Wherever there is death and destruction, we offer hope.  And wherever there is hate, we bring a subversive alternative.  As evil continues to mutate in different and perverse ways, we confront and challenge hate with redemptive and creative responses.  In God’s Kingdom the meek are not martyrs, and the weak are not doormats.  Rather, they are prophets of justice and a priesthood of forgiveness.   So too, let us find a way to balance our response to hate, today, with both those facets of love.


[1] "Right-wing Jewish extremists have in the past carried out numerous arson and graffiti attacks against Christian sites, as well as against Arab property in the West Bank and Jerusalem, under the “price tag” slogan. The term “price tag” is used by Jewish extremists to describe vandalism or attacks typically carried out against non-Jews or their property, ostensibly as retribution for Palestinian attacks or Israeli government actions deemed contrary to settler interests. Israeli officials have vowed to crack down on the phenomenon, though critics accuse security forces of dragging their feet on prosecuting Jewish suspects." Source, Times of Israel.  Last night (June 29th), the Max Rayne Hand-to-Hand school, a Hebrew and Arabic language school in southern Jerusalem where Danny and Eva Kopp's sons attend, was attacked for the the second time in eight months.  Spray-painted swastikas and anti-Arab graffiti was left on the school’s walls just in time for the last day of school.

[2] This phrase can be read as a euphemism for Christianity.  The whole liturgical phrase: “ha’elilim karot yikaretoon” האלילים כרות יכרתון comes from the Jewish prayer, Aleinu (עלינו לשבח), and is said three times a day and, notably, at Rosh haShanah.

[3] See Chairman Rev. Charles Kopp’s Evangelical Alliance of Israel’s letter below.

Charity Report: Your Gifts Helped these Individuals, Families, and Ministries during April and May 2015 

JCF contributed $655 to Etgar, an Israeli social work program that helps disadvantaged preschool children prepare for entering the first grade. This year the program is serving 50 families.

Yolanda is a Christian Arab mother with a newborn.  She recently had to leave her husband because of his drinking problems and physical abuse.  JCF gave $250 to cover some of her bills.

Sally, a Christian Arab from Jerusalem’s Old City, has a daughter that needs immediate dental work after she fell and damaged her teeth.  JCF contributed $250 towards her surgery.

Ranya is a 50 year old Israeli woman who has suffered from spinal muscular atrophy since childhood and is bound to a wheelchair. She can only move two fingers and cannot hold herself up any longer as her situation has been deteriorating.  JCF is helping her purchase a "corset" to help support her spinal cord ($525).

Eric and Evelyn immigrated to Israel from Russia this year. Eric has lymphoma cancer and other heart and blood conditions.  Eric’s health is deteriorating and he has already been hospitalized for several days. They are in the process of registering for health insurance and disability benefits. In the meantime, Evelyn has been going to the local kindergarten to ask for any leftover food at the end of each day. JCF is helping cover some basic needs until they are established in the Israeli healthcare system and can receive proper help ($532).                

Rick is a 50 year old Christian Palestinian of Jerusalem.  He is a former drug addict. In 1993 he received help through a center for recovering drug addicts in Israel and it changed his life. Since then he has been trying to help other drug addicts and has been able to send 45 addicts to the center. His desire is to establish a drug rehabilitation facility in the West Bank. He has been in the process of getting proper non-profit status set up but it is taking longer than expected. JCF is helping cover some of his expenses in order to finalize the status of his organization ($266).

Syrian-Iraqi Refugee Update

JCF continues to aid Syrian and Iraqi refugees who have fled from the continuing violence in their countries and are now living in Jordan.  Nearly 4 million refugees have fled Syria and an estimated 320,000 have died in the war.  Since the rise of ISIS, tens of thousands of Christians and other minorities have left their homes in Iraq as well.  Because of international fears of spreading Islamic insurgency, asylum for refugees has become choked by diplomatic and political concerns.  The United States has taken in only 1,000 refugees. 

JCF has begun helping refugees in Jerusalem who are with Shevet Achim, a Christian organization that helps children from the Middle East come to Israel for life-saving heart operations.  JCF is currently focusing on helping two Syrian Catholic children, who, along with their families, are refugees from Qaraqosh, an Assyrian city in northern Iraq that was overrun by ISIS last summer.  Qaraqosh had been the largest Christian enclave in Iraq (40,000 people) before its eradication by ISIS. 

AppleMarkThe first child is Maryam who is currently in Jerusalem with her mother recuperating from her heart surgery in March.  Her father, a barber, and family fled to and are currently living in another Assyrian city in Kurdistan.  JCF is covering Maryam’s medicine for this month ($2400).  Read her story, here.

 

 

The other child is Matti who is also in Jerusalem with his father awaiting his heart surgery.  His father ran a small transport company before fleeing ISIS.  Besides their trucks, all of their family’s savings were also stolen from the bank by ISIS.  They also fled into Kurdistan where more than 100,000 Christian refugees currently reside.  Read more of Matti’s story, here.

 

The ISIS Effect One Year Later

Monday marked one year since the Islamic State (ISIS)’s declaration of statehood in Syria and Iraq.  Despite the billions of US dollars that are being pumped in to counter ISIS, by most estimates, ISIS’s rule is currently not under imminent threat.  Part of the problem is, despite the many ISIS fighters that are killed every month, ISIS’s army is daily reinforced by young, willing Muslim volunteers from around the world. 

Furthermore, ISIS’s influence has expanded this year beyond Syria and Iraq into many other countries around the Middle East, Africa, and Europe where cells and “lone wolf” attacks are occurring.  Locally, ISIS is within miles of the Golan Heights that Israel has controlled since 1967.  Last week, a group that calls itself, ISIS Palestine, distributed a flyer in Jerusalem calling for Christian Arabs to leave Jerusalem—“So we tell our Christians and the nonbelievers: Go away now or you will be killed when the Eid [end of Ramadan] is near,” the message purportedly said. “And you will be slaughtered like the sheep. One month is enough for them to go away.” It should be noted that there is no official ISIS presence in Israel, but there are those here, like in many other countries in the West, who support the cause of ISIS.  Since the beginning of Ramadan, there has been an increase in attacks against Israelis.  Here, here, here.

ISIS has called for a war against the West and any others (including Muslims) who stand in their way or do not follow their religion.  In many ways, every Islamist attack occurring now ripples out from this “ISIS effect”—hate your neighbor.  The very recent headlines in Tunis, at the museum and the beach, the beheaded French boss, the Shia mosque in Kuwait, bode ill for the future.  Such hate ideology could breed and blossom in many countries of the world, both among Islamists as well as Islamophobes.  We know this type of anarchic, vengeful chaos would only make the architects of ISIS grin, as evidenced by their pleasure for filming and propagating the torture and death of their enemies by beheading, burning alive, drowning, or any other devil-inspired device.

Israel in the News

United States Negotiations over Iran’s Nuclear Production Nears Deadline.  Today is the first deadline for Iran to sign an agreement with the United States and its international partners over their nuclear capabilities.  Assuming the deal cannot be completed today, July 9th is the last deadline.  Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. recently published a book called Ally which details his tenure as ambassador from 2009-2013 and his unique perspective on the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran.  Oren, a historian, and currently a Knesset member, remarks about the current American negotiations with Iran, “The impetus may come from a good place, but the Israeli reading of it is that the outcome will not be good, and that is an understatement.”  More here.

Charles Kopp, JCF’s Chairman and the senior pastor of the Narkis St. Congregation, recently gave a press release in response to the attack upon the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes in the Galilee.  Read below:

“Thursday's (18/06/15) criminal arson attack against yet another Christian church in Israel is clearly a deplorable and cowardly act. It has already been swiftly and roundly condemned by a wide spectrum of political and religious leaders and we hope that their words will be followed by equally swift and concrete action.

We agree with and are fully confident that the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi David Lau, represents the vast majority of Jews in Israel when he says, “These actions carried out this morning by suspected extremist elements run contrary to Jewish values and human values”. We remain concerned, however, about our Christian minority communities and the tiny but malicious vandals who continue to attack our churches and holy sites, largely with impunity.

It is a fact that since December 2009, not a single perpetrator of the 43 arson attacks against churches, monasteries and mosques in the Holy Land has been prosecuted in court. This reality does not seem to match what we know to be the State of Israel’s capabilities in security matters. Compounding our frustration has been a near complete lack of communication on the part of government authorities to keep us informed of developments. A possible solution in this regard is the newly formed “Christian-Israel Government Forum” which has for the first time opened channels of communication with relevant branches of government.

We sincerely hope that this week's event was not indicative of a worsening trend and that the perpetrators are apprehended and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Relations between our ancient communities in the land are too important to be derailed by a fanatical fringe.”

Rev. Charles Kopp
Chairman, Evangelical Alliance Israel

Entering the Kingdom of Heaven

The Narkis Street Congregation in Jerusalem hosted a conference from May 29 to June 2 on the legacy of their former pastor Dr. Robert Lindsey.  To learn more about the conference and watch some of the videos, here.



Prayer Requests and Praise Reports

  • Syrian and Iraqi Refugees.
  • Christians throughout the Middle East and Africa who face increased persecution for their faith.

  • The American-led nuclear negotiations with Iran.

  • For protection worldwide against all hate attacks.

JCF has been giving toward Holocaust survivors living Jerusalem.  This is an update from the International Christian Embassy which we have been partnering with.

 
There are approximately twelve needy and very lonely Holocaust survivors in Jerusalem who have been receiving loving care and companionship from an aid organization with whom we partner.   These Survivors receive monthly checks to support them economically and receive regular volunteer visitors, which is also very important to them.  A very nice program was begun to link boys from a local institution for disadvantaged children and youth, to some of these Holocaust Survivors.  This has greatly benefited both the teenage boys and the elderly survivors.
 
Loneliness is a huge problem to people who have lost all their family and often their spouse.  Visiting some of these Jerusalem Survivors regularly ourselves, we know how important this program is which supplies both financial and emotional support.  
 
The donations of JCF have been used in part with help to maintain the ongoing expense of supporting these survivors in Jerusalem with monthly help in form of coupons for food items.  The other part has been used to cover maintenance problems in their homes. For example, when our staff visited a 90 year old Survivor, her small, modest apartment was quite dark owing to a broken slatted shutter which could not be raised and had been like this for more than a week.   Having received the gift from JCF, we were in a position to immediately arrange its replacement.  One of hermost  terrible memories is from her home town of Yasi in Romania where she suffered terribly from violence and terror.  She lost most of her family and witnessed people being pulled out of their homes and killed.  She finds it very difficult to talk about those memories. She is suffering from many health problems, does not have children, and lost her husband many years ago.  Visits from Christians like us mean the world to her.