Evangelical Lutheran Church Sides with BDS Narrative, Calls to Cease U.S. Aid to Israel
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem—
May those who love you be at peace!
“May there be shalom within your walls—
quietness within your palaces.”
For the sake of my brothers and friends,
I now say: “Shalom be within you.”
For the sake of the House of Adonai our God,
I will seek your good.
– Psalm 122: 6-9
With the US State department accusing the Palestinian Authority of anti-Semitism and German universities declaring the BDS movement anti-Semitic, on the opposite end of the spectrum is the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s embracing of the BDS movement’s narrative and subsequent recent call to stop American funds going to Israel.
When the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) voted at their triennial assembly at the beginning of August, they approved a resolution calling on the American government to stop sending financial aid to Israel. Their reason: Israel is refusing to stop building in Judea and Samaria which in their minds means Israel is hindering the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with a divided Jerusalem as a shared capital between two States – one Jewish and one Palestinian.
In addition, from their New Orleans location, the 7th largest religious body in America also demanded that any companies that profit from Israel’s “occupation” be defunded. While making their demands, the ELCA added that the President of the United States must recognize the “State of Palestine” and not prevent the application of the State of Palestine for full membership in the United Nations.
In coordination with the United Nations Security Council, the ELCA seeks to pressure an agreement between Israel and her closest hostile neighbor. Singing the mantra of the BDS movement, the resolutions were spearheaded by a group within the church called Isaiah 58, who cited Israel’s alleged non-compliance of internationally recognized human rights standards, supposed illegal settlement expansion and the “occupation” of Palestinian territory.
The ELCA Aid vote which passed 751-162 strongly encouraged church members to call on their U.S. Representatives, Senators and the Administration to force Israel to comply with the Palestinian demands if Israel wants to continue receiving U.S. financial and military aid.
The Divestment vote which passed 821-92; mentioned the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by name and the ELCA called instead for an increase in positive investment in Palestine. They have also established a screening process to ensure the church is not profiting from any alleged human rights abuses.
On a positive note and clear loss for the BDS movement, California joins South Carolina, Illinois, Tennessee, New York, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Florida in introducing an anti-BDS law.
As reported by Kehila News Israel (KNI) in May 2016, the claims of the BDS movement are fabricated and exaggerated and in direct opposition to peace. The United Methodist Church rejected 4 BDS resolutions and other churches would do well to follow their lead and not to forget God’s eternal promise to Abraham about Israel:
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. – Genesis 12:1-3
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IDF Responds to Rocket Fired from Gaza Strip at Sderot
Both IDF armored corps and the Israel Air Force responded to a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel on Sunday afternoon.
A rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip at Sderot, a southern city in Israel most targeted by rocket fire. The rocket landed in a residential area and near to a college, with no injuries or damages reported.
IDF Spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner confirmed the attack, stating “The rocket hit the town of Sderot where some 19,000 people live. Thankfully, despite the attacker’s intentions, the rocket failed to wound anybody. In response, the IDF responded and attacked two Hamas positions.”
The IDF reported that it hit two Hamas infrastructures, the Palestinians reporting two injuries from airstrikes.
The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) took responsibility for the rocket attack, claiming it has a right to “practice all forms of resistance in response to the crimes and hubris of the occupation.”
Israel holds Hamas, the ruling party of the Gaza Strip, responsible for all attacks on the State of Israel. The rocket fired today was the 16th rocket fired into Israel in 2016.
This article originally appeared on Behold Israel, August 21, 2016, and reposted with permission.
Amir is the founder of Behold Israel and lives in northern Israel. He has been invited to churches, prophecy seminars and conferences around the world, to teach on current events in Israel in light of Bible prophecy. Since 2004, Amir has been consultant to various law enforcement agencies and seminars on homeland-security issues.
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Israel, Turkey to Normalize Ties
A rapprochement agreement with Israel has been submitted to the Turkish parliament for approval, the last hurdle to full normalization between the two countries that could end a six-year diplomatic crisis since the killings of nine Turkish civilians on a flotilla destined for Gaza in May 2010.
According to the agreement, Israel will pay $20 million in compensation to families of those killed in the Mavi Marmara incident six years ago and allow Turkey to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza. In exchange, Turkey will drop legal claims against IDF soldiers involved in the Mavi Marmara. Turkey will also be obligated to prevent Hamas from preparing attacks against Israel – including fund-raising – from Turkish soil.
The accord was delayed because of the attempted coup in Turkey last month but is expected to pass the legislature this week.
Meanwhile, an intelligence document leaked in Germany this week accuses Turkey of financing terrorist groups, including Hamas, in the Middle East. German broadcaster ARD said the report portrays Turkey as becoming “the central hub for Islamist groups in the Middle East.”
“The numerous affirmations of solidarity and support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, for Hamas and for armed Islamist opposition groups in Syria by the ruling AKP party and Erdogan underscore their ideological affinity to their Muslim brothers,” ARD quoted the German Interior Ministry report as saying.
Gallia Lindenstrauss, a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, said the German report would likely have no impact on the accord because the connection between Hamas and Turkey is “old news.” She said Israel is ambivalent to Hamas-Turkish relations: on one hand, Jerusalem is unhappy with it, but on the other, it sees the practical benefits.
For example, Lindenstrauss noted Turkish involvement in the 2011 deal with Hamas that freed kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who was in Hamas hands for five years.
A government source said that Turkey’s relationship with Hamas was taken into consideration by Israel, noting that the parts of the reconciliation agreement dealing with Turkey’s relationship with Hamas have remained confidential. Under the agreement, Hamas’s diplomatic representation could remain in the country.
After the accord is ratified, the normalization process will begin and both countries are expected to appoint new ambassadors to Ankara and Tel Aviv.
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Israeli Man Donates New Bike to Palestinian Girl
After hearing about an 8-year-old Palestinian girl whose bicycle was confiscated and damaged by Israeli border guards, an Israeli man decided to donate the girl a brand new set of wheels.
Sami Jolles said Anwar Burqan’s experience reminded him of his father’s encounter in Europe in the 1920s when some people threw his bicycle into a river because he was Jewish.
Jolles, a diamond merchant who splits his time between Israel and the United States, said this was his way of closing that circle.
“I think that my father would be proud of me,” he said
Peace activists Lonny Baskin, Phil Saunders and Ziad Sabateen delivered the bicycle to Burqan’s home in Hebron on Wednesday afternoon, Baskin said.
“She’s a shy little girl, but she was so appreciative, her eyes were shining,” Baskin said.
A few weeks ago, two border guards were caught on film taking Burqan’s bicycle and putting it into nearby bushes. The family said that the bicycle was badly damaged and could no longer be used.
The guards, however, say they were protecting Burqan from entering the Jewish section of Hebron which Palestinians are banned from entering.
The officers told investigators that they confiscated Burqan’s bicycle because they don’t speak Arabic they were concerned the girl was going to enter the Jewish neighborhood.
On the video, the girl appears to be afraid as the officers approached her, jumps off her bike and flees in tears. The video then shows an officer dumping the bike in some nearby bushes.
The officers later allowed a family member to retrieve the bike. They will not face prosecution according to the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department.
“The main lesson to learn from this is that judging an incident purely based on a video without even the least bit of interest in the officers’ version is a vicious and ugly thing,” the border guards’ attorneys said.
The Burqan family has recently fallen on hard times. Burqan’s father, Amer, had one leg amputated and lost use of his second after a work accident. He is unable to work and the family is trying to raise money for a wheelchair for Amer.
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A Lonely Jewish Island in the Middle of Africa
That was how award-winning Tel Aviv photographer Lior Sperandeo described his impression of the Falash Mura community in Ethiopia. At the end of May, the Hebrew Love Israel magazine published Sperandeo’s photo documentary on this unique group caught in a decades-long dilemma. A week later, the American Jewish magazine Forward covered it as well.
Sperandeo’s documentary series, “People Of”, focuses on giving a voice to forgotten people groups around the world. The Falash Mura, Ethiopian Jews whose families converted to Christianity, but still regarded themselves as Jews, have long been trying to make aliyah (immigrate to Israel). Their request met with such a contradictory response from the Israeli government that some applicants were accepted in the 1990s, while others (even from the same family) were rejected and left behind in transit camps. A few hundred more were accepted every few years, until 2013, when the Jewish Agency announced that they had relocated the last of Ethiopia’s Jews. The Israeli government then shut down all its supporting services and advised the remaining Falash Mura to join the Ethiopian Christians… who routinely persecute them for being Jews.
This heartbreaking situation, which has affected some 9000 Falash Mura for as long as 12 years, was finally resolved last November in a Knesset cabinet vote to bring them to Israel – only to be frozen three months later for lack of funding. The idea of accepting this group as Jewish was also hotly contested by some rabbis. The resulting outcry by Ethiopian Israelis on behalf of their abandoned countrymen, whom they staunchly identify as fellow-Jews, even reached the international media.
As the controversy raged on in his home country, Lior Sperandeo traveled to Ethiopia in April to explore this community as part of his “People Of” collection. The result was a moving video portrayal of the Falash Mura (click on the video above to watch), whose Jewish identity is self-evident to any observer. But even Lior admitted, “Until I set foot in the Gondar Synagogue, I didn’t realize how real this issue was.”
From long experience, Lior knew the need to build trust with those he eventually captures on film. “The key is starting from a point of commonality. In this case, unlike many others, the fact that I am an Israeli Jew certainly helped.” So Lior started showing up every morning at the synagogue, “a large tin shack painted blue and white” on the outskirts of Gondar, with a kippa (Jewish skull cap) perched “uncomfortably” on his head, and a camera. After a few days, the worshipers stopped noticing the white-skinned Jew and he was able to document them at will, “like a fly on the wall”.
Sperandeo started to really feel a part of what was happening around him and joined the normal routine of the place. He communicates in words and pictures the regular synagogue attendance by both men and women; the men wearing tefillin (phylacteries) and tallit (prayer shawl), and the women dressed in extra-bright whites. The great contrast between the simple synagogue building and the festively dressed worshipers is part of the “unique essence” of the life which he witnessed.
Lior was there for Passover as well, capturing the traditional preparations in real time: for example, a smiling gentleman throwing ingredients into the air as he makes matza. Besides making 8000 matzas, the community also makes new kippas and tallits every year for the holiday, along with other preparations the photo-journalist found “mesmerizing”.
Not least impressive was the fact that the Falash-Mura celebration is logged as the world’s largest Seder, with no less than 3000 community members crammed together in the dark. The ceremony was conducted by Israeli Rabbi Menachem Waldman, a representative of the Chief Rabbi’s Committee on Ethiopian Jewry who speaks Amharic.
Sperandeo was deeply moved by the singing of the Exodus story from the Hagaddah. “The ancient songs I’d known since childhood received a new meaning to me.” But the irony was unmistakable. “While all the Jews of the world are celebrating the holiday of freedom and redemption – here is a Jewish community anxiously waiting for their Red Sea to part for them, letting them cross over to the Promised Land.”
Regarding the doubts expressed in the Promised Land about the Jewishness of this community, Lior flatly remarked, “After my visit I can testify that this is an absurd claim. In Gondar, I found one of the most vibrant and dedicated Jewish communities that I have ever experienced.”
A chilling moment was when the community members all sang Israel’s national anthem, Ha-Tikvah, and prayed together for the well-being of the IDF soldiers. In spite of the suffering caused by Israel’s repeated reversals concerning their fate, Lior says he observed no anger or bitterness from this community.
He wondered out loud: “What is the real reason Israel won’t let them in? Would a Jewish community in any other continent be treated this way? I was embarrassed.
“It is easy to avoid these questions when we don’t have to look our brothers and sisters in the eyes. This is why I created this short film. My hope is that soon the Falash-Mura, [translated as] the people with no land, will shed this name; because they do have a land – the Jewish Land of Israel.”