An Orthodox Rabbi’s Case for Interfaith Prayer with Christian Zionists

Jan. 14 2019

On Israeli Independence Day in 2015, Rabbi Pesach Wolicki took part in organizing an interfaith service at an Orthodox synagogue in Jerusalem, in which Christians joined Jews in the recitation of Psalms 113-118 (known as Hallel). The service, which had the imprimatur of Shlomo Riskin, a leading American-Israeli rabbi, naturally drew sharp criticism from some rabbinic opponents. Undeterred, Wolicki has continued to organize such interfaith activities; he also conducts programs for Christians visiting Israel and defends the rights of Israeli Christians—once arguing for the presence of a Christmas tree in the University of Haifa’s cafeteria. In an interview with Alan Brill, Wolicki explains his positions:

For every Bible-believing Jew the ultimate goal is the redemption of the world. This redemption is described differently by different prophets, but the basic idea is the same. In Isaiah’s words, the goal is to reach a state wherein “knowledge of God covers the earth as water covers the sea,” or in the words of Zephaniah, when “all are calling on the name of the Lord and serving Him shoulder to shoulder.” The goal is for the entirety of humanity to believe in and worship the same God—the God of Israel. . . .

Joining in prayer with those who are not Jewish is not a deviation from [this] mission. In its ideal form, it represents the realization of that mission. . . .

The Christian Zionist/Jewish Religious Zionist relationship is not really an interfaith relationship in the traditional understanding of the term. It’s not a relationship based on the liberal idea of tolerance for and acceptance of the value of the difference of the other’s faith system. It’s more of an intrafaith relationship; it seeks and expands upon common points of faith and builds the relationship around what is shared. My understanding is that Christian Zionism is not primarily a political movement. It’s a theological redefinition of Christianity that leads directly to a Bible-based Zionism, which then produces political activity.

Critical responses to Wolicki’s arguments can also be found by following the link below.

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More about: Christian Zionism, Hebrew Bible, Interfaith dialogue, Jewish-Christian relations, Redemption

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey