By Christine Douglass-Williams
With the goal of strengthening ties between Christians around the world and the State of Israel, the 2022 Christian Media Summit (CMS) convened in Jerusalem from Dec. 11-14 for dialogue and to experience Israel firsthand. Following my last attendance in 2019, I wrote at WND “Israel: World leader in tech, diversity, human development.” Israel’s culture of life and progress radiates, despite its coexistence with deadly enemies, its fight for survival and an effective propaganda war against it that propagates anti-Semitism. It is a country united by an inviolable collective determination that transcends partisanship, a determination that characterized this year’s summit.
The summit launched with a Gala Event featuring a warm welcome by Nitzan Chen, director of the Israel Government Press Office (who openly acknowledges that Jesus was a Jew) and speeches that included Rabbi David Rosen, international director of interreligious affairs at the American Jewish Committee, who captured the essence of Christian-Jewish relations today: “We are living in the golden age of Jewish-Christian relations with some serious flaws and challenges. … We have never had a relationship with the Christian world as good as the one we have now.”
One disappointment drew some local media attention: the absence of a scheduled welcome by Benjamin Netanyahu, a favorite among evangelicals. Sentiments were split amid whisperings, yet an understanding prevailed that Netanyahu was under extreme pressure to form a coalition, and quickly. Yair Lapid could have greeted us, as could have Naftali Bennett or Isaac Herzog, but Israel’s government was in a crisis moment – in the face of global realignments to boot. Netanyahu’s absence, though felt, was hardly viewed by most attendees as a mortal sin given the political climate.
Amid the presence of inescapable Israeli politics, we were regaled with a comedy performance and a local ABBA band that saw some of the most devout evangelicals dancing in their chairs as they recaptured the sensation of the ’70s Swedish super-group.
Throughout the summit, a strong fellowship between attendees, our Israeli government hosts and featured speakers was apparent, despite divergences of opinion on Israeli politics or the Palestinian dilemma.
The Palestinian people are pleasant in daily encounters, so it is perplexing to grasp that an active Palestinian jihad “resistance” is being waged. For many, a cognitive dissonance is amplified by the near invisibility of an ever-present war (save for the news) that threatens the lives of Israelis. The only real physical evidence of threat is the high visibility of armed Israel Defense Forces.
We visited the Tze’elim IDF base where we were briefed by Brigadier-General Bentzi Gruber – the deputy commander of the IDF Armored Division – who laid out the ethical challenges of combat in Gaza. Imminently challenging to IDF is the protection of life, which includes Palestinians. Rapid assessment of collateral damage in the face of confrontations must be proportional to the immediate threat. Gruber emphasized that “remaining sensitive” is most important for the IDF. Particularly difficult is the fact that jihadists have no ethics. They use women and children as human shields, and target civilians.
To jihadists and supporters, martyrdom is the highest calling. Vast rewards are boundless for the Shahid (martyr) in the afterlife (Quran 3:169-172, 2:154, 55:72) so death is gloried. The Shahid receives a crown of dignity, 72 virgins, all is forgiven, and he is permitted to intercede for 70 relatives (Abu Dawud 2522).
It is a misconception that Palestinians who sacrifice their children as human shields and martyrs do not love their children. Martyrdom is deemed a glorified, great call.
A recent poll found that an overwhelming majority (70%) of Palestinians support the actions and formations of more terror groups like the Lions’ Den; while nearly 80% opposed any surrender of jihad armed group members and their weapons. Iran also pours in billions to promote the erasure of Israel from the map – a “cancerous tumor” they call the Jewish State.
Some civilians who addressed the summit viewed Palestinians as “just wanting the same things as us.” Although well intentioned, there are consequential differences. Palestinian children are brainwashed by their leaders to revere martyrdom. Palestinian Media Watch, whose founder Itamar Marcus also spoke, is promoting the hashtag #SavePalestinianChildrenFromTheirLeaders.
After Gruber’s briefing, we visited “Mini Gaza,” the IDF’s Warfare Training Center. We explored a Hamas tunnel simulation before proceeding to the nearby Nirim Kibbutz, which has seen large numbers of Hamas rockets. Its residents are meters away from the Gaza perimeter fence, where I stood in contemplation. Residents have seconds to escape to shelter when red alert alarms warn of incoming rockets. As one speaker noted: “We don’t focus on trauma. We focus on resilience.”
We dined at the Eshkol Regional Community Center with residents, including Gadi Yarkoni, head of the Eshkol Regional Council who lost his legs from rocket-fire during Operation Protective Edge. His zeal for life still shone.
The Jewish faith and cultural tradition embrace Tikkun Olam. It means “repair/heal the world.” Tikkun Olam is evident in the DNA of Israeli society, reflected in the richness of its life, its embracing of diversity, developments in every field that benefits humanity – from medicine, field hospitals, science, agriculture and tech to the arts.
For Christians, God is love, and His light shines in darkness. Should Israel put down all of its weapons, its light and existence will cease to exist. Israel’s Christian friends recognize this fact all too well.
Christine Douglass-Williams is public affairs and media consultant with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem-Canada. She is also an award-winning journalist, author of “The Challenge of Modernizing Islam” and former external adviser to Canada’s Office of Religious Freedoms. Christine is also author of “Fired by The Government of Canada for Criticizing Islam” published by the Center for Security Policy in Washington, a regular writer for Jihad Watch, associate editor for FrontPage Magazine and served on the board of governors for the Gatestone Institute.
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