(/sites/default/files/uploads/2013/12/Amish-in-Israel.jpg)It often seems as if the whole world is conspiring against the Jewish state, and with good reason. At the United Nations General Assembly, and UN associated agencies, Israel is either excluded or condemned more often than any other member state, including the most notorious dictatorships which trample on human rights, religious freedom, and democratic norms. On campuses in the European Union countries, the US, and elsewhere, BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaigns are waged against the Jewish state. Anti-Semitism in Europe is reaching new heights, and in the Muslim world, blind, violent hatred of Jews and Israel are on perpetual display.
But just when Jews in Israel and around the world begin to express their despair at how often evil is rewarded and good is punished, decent people of goodwill who can distinguish the difference arrive on the scene. In late November, 2013, a delegation of 31 Anabaptist and Amish Christians, dressed in their traditional attire, arrived in Israel to express their devotion to the Jewish state and to apologize to the Jewish people for Christianity’s persecution of Jews and for not having spoken up during the Holocaust. They arrived in Jerusalem from Idaho, Montana and Ohio, and met with Israeli Knesset members, rabbis, and Holocaust survivors.
Bishop Ben Girod of Idaho, founder of the Anabaptist Connections, who led the “repentance mission” of 45 Amish from the US and Switzerland in late 2010, was back again. On his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, he stated that the group carried in their heart the desire to reconnect anew with the Jewish nation. The group consisted of Amish, Mennonite, and Hutterite sects from across North America.
Bishop Girod declared “We have discovered that in order for us to come to our destiny with the Lord, we need to bless our Jewish brothers. We have, in our history, a somewhat anti-Semitic attitude, and we have come here in the past to repent for that. Now we want to develop relationships with you. We want to draw close to you because we want the blessing of Abraham on our people.”
Girod began a whole new stream among the Amish and, unlike many in the sect who have traditionally considered the mention of “Israel” in the Bible as referring to the Church and to Christians, he acknowledges it as a reference to Jews. “To our shame,” Girod confessed, “we were silent during the Holocaust and we did not stand with the Jewish people in their hour of need.” Girod indicated that their first undertaking in Israel is to apologize to the Holocaust survivors, and to tell them how sorry they are…
Norway, the land which spawned the term “Quisling” during WWII, one that is synonymous with a traitor, is today one of the most hostile European states towards Israel. In October, 2009, Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said at an Israeli cabinet meeting that, “Norway was too hostile towards Israel to have monitors in Hebron.” Lieberman told the cabinet that of all his meetings at the UN General Assembly, the one with the Norwegians was the most difficult. “The Norwegians,” he said, “take a very hostile line against us.”
Then, in early December, 2013, a group of 40 Norwegian Christian leaders and clerks arrived in Israel ostensibly to apologize on Norway’s behalf for their role during the Holocaust, the 1993 Oslo Accords, as well as more recent events. In a special Knesset ceremony, the Norwegians delivered a speech expressing support for Israel and reservations about the Oslo Accords, which they claim ripped apart the land of Israel. The head of the delegation, Pastor Terje Ligerod, said, “We believe we are called as a nation to be an ally and to support Israel, and we as leaders want to work for change in our country and for repentance among the Christians in our country, we want to support Israel.” They also declared that Israel belongs to the Jews, and intimated that they may form a new Christian political party that would pledge its support for Israel.
Representing 21 different Norwegian organizations, including Christian TV and newspapers, church groups, and representing all regions including the two major ethnic groups (Norwegians and Lapps or Sami), they presented their declaration which stated, in part, “Forgive us Israel as a Nation for the Oslo Agreement, dividing up Eretz, Israel. For the money from Norway that is ending up supporting terrorist organizations. For not moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s eternal undivided capital, Jerusalem. For not standing up to defend Israel in a world with increasing hostility. For the anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist attitude from politicians and the media in Norway.”
Another section of the declaration read: “Forgive us Israel, as a Church, for not standing up more clearly to stop Norwegian anti-Israel political attitude. For the fact that great parts of the Church has rejected Israel’s role in God’s plan. For the lukewarmness towards the persecution that you have suffered. For the indifference towards you as God’s chosen people. And, for allowing replacement theology to spread in the churches.”
This was followed by: “Forgive us Israel, as a Nation, for the strong forces, and the loud voices that demands a boycott of Israel on all levels. For our constitution that hindered Jews to enter the Kingdom of Norway up to 1851. For sending Jews out of Norway into Nazi death camps during WWII, and for not allowing Jews into Norway after WWII. For neglecting to give Israel credit/honor for its contribution towards the benefit of humanity. Without Israel’s efforts, our hospitals would not function as they do today; neither would our computers or cellphones. As a nation, we have made alliances with forces that want to destroy the nation of Israel. We want, as spiritual leaders in Norway, to break these alliances.”
Although advancing Israel’s position among Europeans seems like a losing proposition, it would be a mistake for friends of Israel to give up on Europe. There are elements in European societies, particularly those made up of fair-minded people, and those with biblical roots who, with some cultivation, might rally on behalf of the Jewish State. If elements of the Mennonite Church and some Norwegian Christians can change direction and express support for Israel, so could others across Europe and the US. Dr. Zvi Shtauber, a retired Brigadier General in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) put it this way, “Israel is a small country and we don’t have many resources. Yet we must invest heavily in expanding the dialogue with Europe. We must spend more time on contacts with various groups including opinion leaders and students. We must consider Europe almost in the same category as the US.”
Stand With Us (SWU), a Los Angeles based non-profit organization engaged in Israel education, reported on November 29, 2013 that a French Court imposed a $1,300 fine on members of an anti-Israel group who called on a supermarket to boycott Israeli products.” SWU/UK subsequently arranged a conference in central London, at which 120 pro-Israel Christian, Muslim and Jewish students attended. Among the speakers were Israel’s ambassador to the UK Daniel Taub and British MP Louise Mensch. The daylong conference focused on effective advocacy for Israel, and the building of coalitions to get the message across.
In their eagerness to promote the Palestinians as the “victims du jour,” the BBC and other European and American media outlets have maligned Israel unfairly and in the process laid the groundwork for renewed anti-Semitism. This has helped to obscure the vast reservoir of Christian goodwill and support towards the Jewish State. The case of the Amish and Norwegian delegations visit to Israel suggest that hope is still a reality.
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