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Price tag attack on J'lem church provokes religious condemnation

By: Marc Gopin and Aziz Abu Sarah

Yesterday, Pastor Chuck Kopp of the Baptist Church in West Jerusalem woke up to find his church vandalized. The Jerusalem Post reported that police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld suspects that Jewish extremists are responsible for the act. According to the Post, Rosenfeld said, “Officers are investigating a strong possibility of a (Jewish) nationalist motive, but no one has been apprehended yet.”

Cars that were parked outside the church were also vandalized, and their tires slashed.  Graffiti left on the church walls included the famous term “price tag,” which has been used by settler extremists in attacks on mosques in the last few years. Other graffiti in Hebrew reads, “Death to Christianity,” “Jesus son of Mary, the whore.”

February 20: Anti-Christian graffiti found on walls of the Baptist Narkis Street Congregation in West Jerusalem, reading, "Jesus is the son of a whore" (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

The church actually shares a parking lot with a synagogue, and ironically, one of the cars that had its tires slashed and was spray painted with graffiti belongs to a congregant of the synagogue.

The Baptist Church includes a number of Messianic believers, and the leadership has historically had connections to top Israeli political officials.

Jerusalem, Feburary 20: Anti-Christian graffiti found on cars, and their tires slashed at the Baptist Narkis Street congregation in West Jerusalem. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

The “price tag” radicals are well known to police as products of the most extremist settlements. The irony in this case is that right-wing Christian support for settlers is a major source of income for even the most radical settlements, constituting a thorn in the side of both the American government and the Israeli military for years now:

A New York Times examination of public records in the United States and Israel identified at least 40 American groups that have collected more than $200 million in tax-deductible gifts for Jewish settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem over the last decade. The money goes mostly to schools, synagogues, recreation centers and the like – legitimate expenditures under the tax law. But it has also paid for more legally questionable commodities: housing as well as guard dogs, bulletproof vests, rifle scopes and vehicles to secure outposts deep in occupied areas. “I am not happy about it,” a senior military commander in the West Bank responded when asked about contributions to a radical religious academy whose director has urged soldiers to defy orders to evict settlers. Kimberly Troup, director of the Christian Friends of Israeli Communities’ American office, said that while her charity’s work is humanitarian, “the more that we build, the more that we support and encourage their right to live in the land, the harder it’s going to be for disengagement, for withdrawal.”

So now we have Christian funds from the United States that have effectively supported the misguided second and third generation settler youth who are actively attacking churches and referring to Jesus as a son of a whore. If this is what Pastor John Hagee and other radical Christians intended, then it suggests a rather bizarre theology of interfaith love and care. It seems in reality that these funds are intended to foment conflict, to promote a confrontational, apocalyptic and messianic end to the State of Israel.

Is this a pro-Israel Christian position? Are these the allies that Jews and Israelis really want? Would it not be better to stand in solidarity with a church that was attacked, which exists side by side with a synagogue in Jerusalem in respect and mutual toleration? Even better, would it not be wise to embrace and support interfaith peace and tolerance?

This is the choice that is facing Christians who love Israel, and Jews who welcome Christian support for Israel. It is the commonsense approach to the interests and values of both religious communities, Jewish and Christian, that they support only those forces on the ground that are fostering coexistence and nonviolent forms of engagement and even disagreement.

The strange culture of “price tag” Judaism is a sad stepchild of the occupation. It will ultimately hurt Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike, and it will compromise the viability of any state that Jews want to live in and feel safe in. This strange new reality of Christian funds going to support attacks on Christian churches is something that should cause some real soul searching, both among Jews and Christians.

Pastor Chuck Kopp mentioned that following the attack on his church, the synagogue next door gave flowers to the congregation.  That is worth remembering. Also, the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land issued the following condemnation:

The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land condemns the acts of desecration of the Baptist Church in West Jerusalem this morning. The Council calls upon people from all faiths – Christians, Jews and Muslims – to respect all Holy Places and sites for all three religions, and strongly discourages extremists’ behaviour that exploits or involves religion in a political/territorial dispute. In the name of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, The Ministry of Waqf and Religious Affairs at the PA, and The Heads of the Local Churches of the Holy Land.

It is also worth recalling the parallel verses in the New Testament from Peter, and from the Hebrew Bible’s Book of Psalms.

“For whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil, and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.” “Who is the person who desires life, who loves the days of life to see only good? Guard your mouth from evil, and your lips from deceit. Veer away from evil and do only good, seek and pursue only peace.”

The New Testament and the Hebrew Bible got it right here. When will today’s Christians and Jews get it right?

For more pictures of the church vandalization click here

Rabbi Dr. Marc Gopin is director of George Mason University’s Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution, and co-owns MEJDI Tours with Aziz Abu Sarah

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Myron Joshua

      The term “price tag” may have been used, but Jewish extremist action against this church need no “price tag” motivation as the history of desecration and torching of the church proves.

      The strong anti Christian feelings and acts (sometimes view by the perpetrators of the violent acts as “anti-missionary”) are sadly a long time tradition here.

      Reply to Comment
    2. aristeides

      If this news gets out to the ChristoZionist community, it’s likely to be more effective than news of other church desecrations and spitting on priests. This is a BAPTIST church, a “real Christian” church in the minds of the CZs, as opposed to those weird eastern churches that can’t really be Christian because they don’t look like us.

      .
      I’m still hoping that some haredi one day spits on Hagee.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Steve

      I wonder if some of these are “false flag” attacks, done by Israel-haters just to generate media attention for their cause. Easy enough to pull off.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Jazzy

      Yes, let’s have more ‘real’ Christians like Mitri Raheb and Naim Ateek, who revive antisemitic deicide and supersessionist doctrines, since that’s the protestant opposition to Hagee right now. Seriously though, let’s just leave appeals to Christianity entirely out of the argument – if your strategy honestly relies on the principles of human rights, you shouldn’t need religious incitement.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Jazzy

      To clarify: I don’t disagree with the article – I’m just wary of the reaction of some that these incidents should mean a 180 away from Hagee toward something equally grotesque on the other side

      Reply to Comment
    6. Dregen Jelencovich

      Steve, would you ever shut up, you imbecile?

      Accept the fact, for crying out loud, that are hateful idiots amongst your number that need to be exposed and face the law of the land and receive swift and justifiable punishment.

      (p.s. Apologies to the writer of the article. I understand completely if you wish to delete this comment or alter it in any way. Ignorant comments of that ilk are just painful to read.)

      Reply to Comment
    7. John Moyle

      @JAZZY – As a Christian pastor, I am completely comfortable in leaving appeals to Christianity entirely out of the argument. It is faulty Christian doctrine that has led to the Christian Zionist phenomena in America in the first place. However, I do believe that appeals to the one that I try to follow and point others towards – Jesus – are entirely appropriate in this context. Jesus taught us, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…. Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:27-28,31). I encourage all of my Christian brothers and sisters to allow the life, teachings, and way of the one that we claim to follow to be the example for our lives and our own witness. It’s what it means to be a disciple. And I ask my brothers and sisters of other faiths who may read this article to forgive us when we do not pattern our lives after Jesus, the one whose name we profess to take. Please forgive us, for we so often know not what we do. Peace, shalom, and salaam.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Jazzy

      @JOHN – leaving appeals to Christianity out of the argument is not consistent with claiming that a specific Christian doctrine is “faulty” or quoting the Gospel of Luke. Your anti-Zionist Sabeel colleagues are old-fashioned Christian anti-semites. Any criticism for them? Or just more disingenuous double-talk? Please let’s not play coy BDS word games, like Fady the Adalah mascot does.

      Reply to Comment
    9. John Yorke

      There’s a very old saying; ‘God helps those who help themselves.’

      Are we helping the overall position here by thinking that relatively minor incidents such as this will soon be forgotten and can thus be safely ignored for the time being? Do they represent so small a concern that pursuing them with any great fervour or diligence seems hardly worth the effort?

      This may, indeed, be the case but, as echoes of the larger problems dominating this region, these petty crimes are not without significance. Although they appear to be of far less magnitude than many other matters, they nevertheless convey a broader message; that of the inability of so volatile a mixture of religion, politics and national obsession to coexist within this pressure cooker of such huge racial and cultural diversity.

      Unless the ‘small’ stuff can be addressed in much the same manner as with the larger issues, this constant interplay of violent behaviour demonstrates just how difficult it will be to contain a situation that could already be well beyond the limits of retrieval.

      It will therefore require the installation of a program that can cast its net far and wide, one that’s quite able to haul in the bigger fish and yet still retain the capacity to tackle the smaller fry as well.

      http://yorketowers.blogspot.com

      Maybe, where this business is concerned, we do have to start helping ourselves.
      And that we can do by enlisting the most unlikeliest help of all; that of the business itself.

      Reply to Comment
    10. John Moyle

      @JAZZY – I stand by my plea that I stated above. “I encourage ALL of my Christian brothers and sisters to allow the life, teachings, and way of the one that we claim to follow to be the example for our lives and our own witness. It’s what it means to be a disciple.” There is no “double-talk” here. “All” means “all.” My words are addressed to ALL disciples of Jesus no matter what our doctrines and theologies are. If we do not reflect the love of Jesus through our words, actions, ministries, and, yes, our decisions to whom we give our monies, then we need to reexamine and modify our theologies, doctrines, and other beliefs that may be causing us to tarnish our witness of Jesus to the world. No more, no less … Cheers.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Jazzy

      @JOHN – you’re still appealing to Christianity (“disciples of Jesus”), which is fine, if you acknowledge it. But you originally denied it. So, ok, whatever, stand by your plea – but your argument is religious. Don’t lie about that. And don’t play games or pretend that our argument was about something other than the religious character of your views. Someone who went to Brown and Georgetown isn’t that stupid. You’re obviously not interested in honestly addressing what I said. Not a respectful thing to do. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that a Sabeel member, who patronizes Jews with Jesus quotes while his colleagues spew antisemitic venom doesn’t respect Jews. So how about you take your deceitful, hateful, antisemitic Christian crap and stay the hell out of Israel. Everyone understands what you’re there to do, and its not to make peace. The only people who don’t think you’re not a loathsome hypocrite with your preachy nonsense are the members of your cult.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Jazzy

      @JOHN – I bet you’re going to respond with more evasive nice guy pastor stuff. Not fooling anyone buddy.

      Reply to Comment
    13. John Yorke

      @John,

      Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:27-28,31) ‘

      This is certainly a positive approach to take in any aspect of life. Indeed, it is the basis of most, if not all religions. But, when such a belief is tested by events, there can be times when it is difficult to know exactly how to apply such a concept in the circumstances that have arisen.

      What would the Israelis and the Palestinians want us to do for them? What is their
      expectation of us and is it something we would welcome if the situation were reversed; if we were them and they were us?

      They need our help; that much is obvious. But how is it we can help them?

      Providing real assistance in this matter is not as straightforward as might first be imagined; sixty four years of continuous conflict and struggle have already demonstrated that much. Although we have offered advice and sought to resolve the various issues by diplomatic, financial and a string of other methods, none of these have prevailed and the delay in finding an acceptable solution has only contributed to a crisis that becomes ever deeper by the day.

      Helping to extricate people from a position to which they themselves have grown accustomed over the years is sometimes a tricky business. They may not like the situation in which they find themselves but, being only human, they soon come to resent all external attempts at rescuing them from their somewhat self-imposed predicament. Therein lies the problem.

      It seems we must take such reticence into account and proceed in such a manner that those rescued have a vital and indispensable part to play in their own salvation. To do otherwise is to insult them and render whatever assistance we might give much less than it could be.

      http://yorketowers.blogspot.com

      Sometimes the answer can be so simple that it fails to register with any of us.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Natalie

      Insanity, thy name is religion. What a bunch of bull puckey from all sides.

      Reply to Comment

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