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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Read more at Book of Doctrines and Opinions

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

No, Israelis and Palestinians Can’t Simply Sit Down and Solve the “Israel-Palestinian Conflict”

Jan. 17 2019

By “zooming out” from the blinkered perspective with which most Westerners see the affairs of the Jewish state, argues Matti Friedman, one can begin to see things the way Israelis do:

Many [in Israel] believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won’t end the conflict, because it will wind up creating not a state but a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos, or Iranian proxies, or some combination of both. That’s exactly what has happened . . . in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. One of Israel’s nightmares is that the fragile monarchy in Jordan could follow its neighbors . . . into dissolution and into Iran’s orbit, which would mean that if Israel doesn’t hold the West Bank, an Iranian tank will be able to drive directly from Tehran to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. . . .

In the “Israeli-Palestinian” framing, with all other regional components obscured, an Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank seems like a good idea—“like a real-estate deal,” in President Trump’s formulation—if not a moral imperative. And if the regional context were peace, as it was in Northern Ireland, for example, a power vacuum could indeed be filled by calm.

But anyone using a wider lens sees that the actual context here is a complex, multifaceted war, or a set of linked wars, devastating this part of the world. The scope of this conflict is hard to grasp in fragmented news reports but easy to see if you pull out a map and look at Israel’s surroundings, from Libya through Syria and Iraq to Yemen.

The fault lines have little to do with Israel. They run between dictators and the people they’ve been oppressing for generations; between progressives and medievalists; between Sunnis and Shiites; between majority populations and minorities. If [Israel’s] small sub-war were somehow resolved, or even if Israel vanished tonight, the Middle East would remain the same volatile place it is now.

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Read more at New York Times

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East