Canadian evangelical pastors tour Israel

 — Feb. 1, 20111 févr. 2011

by Judith Sudilovsky, Ecumenical News International

Nineteen Canadian Christian evangelical pastors are spending nine days on a study tour of Israel that is intended to provide them with information and perspectives that could be used to defend Israeli government policies.

The tour, a project of the Modern Israel Studies Department at Canada Christian College in Toronto in conjunction with the B’nai Brith World Center in Jerusalem, was funded by private donors.

“The evangelical movement has been very supportive of Israel. They are the ally we can rely and depend upon in Canada,” said Dr. Frank Dimant, an orthodox Jew who is dean of the Modern Israel Studies Department of the college and chief executive officer of B’nai Brith Canada, part of the international community service organization. According to its website, B’nai Brith International is also a “national and global leader in the fight against anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias.”

However, he noted, though many of the pastors had “tremendous knowledge of the New Testament” they lacked sufficient information about modern Israel to “effectively deal with the multitude of charges that are presented against Israel.”

“Knowledge is the key weapon. You can’t merely say because the Lord willed it, it is thus,” said Dimant, adding that organizers and speakers were presenting the position of the Israeli government and mainstream Israeli society to the pastors. “You have to respond in the lexicon of the day; you have to know the political jargon. It is important to see the facts on the ground to understand,” he said.

The 25 January-3 February tour is to provide evangelical clergy with the tools to counter various accusations from pro-Palestinian groups such as those which label Israel as a apartheid state and are opposed to Israeli settlements in “Judea and Samaria,” said Dimant, using the official Israeli government term for the West Bank.

Dr. Pat Francis, who heads the Kingdom Covenant Ministries in Mississauga, Ontario, said the tour provided her with a clearer understanding of “true Zionism” and the Jewish passion for and connection to Israel. While Palestinian supporters equate Zionism with racism, Francis, an Afro-Canadian who is originally from Jamaica, said she saw the movement as a Jewish nationalist movement fighting for its roots.

“It is good to hear the other side and to get at true perspective of what is true Zionism. To me Zionism is a more fighting for their roots, fighting for the establishment of Israel as a nation … to keep alive Israel as a … nation that is recognized with the freedom to stand in this world without the threat of annihilation,” said Francis, noting that she also disagreed with the comparison of Israel to an apartheid state.

Having worked in South Africa, she said she doesn’t believe the word “apartheid” applies to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. “It is not the right word to use. To me the domination, the one with the force and the aggressor is the Arabs, is (the use) of terrorism. ‘Either you bow down or we will kill you.’ That is beyond apartheid,” Francis said.

In addition to visiting Jewish settlements, archaeological sites, museums (including the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem) and a tour of Galilee and the Old City of Jerusalem, the group also visited shopping malls in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and Jerusalem’s famed open air market, to get a feel for “real life” in Israel, Dimant said.

They also listened to lectures by archaeologists, professors and a representative of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs who spoke about legal issues and history of negotiation agreements and the status of Palestinian Christians. They also spoke about the ramification of the protests in Egypt.

Though the participants did not meet with any peace activists or Palestinian representatives, they did not feel they were missing out on hearing the other side, they said.

“We’ve heard the other side,” said Pastor Peter Marshall of Victory International Church and Faith International Church of Hamilton, Ontario. “This is seeing the other perspective.”

The Rev. Dominic Tse said the study tour had been “eye-opening” and would spur him on to write articles based on the tour and speak to his Chinese congregation at the North York Chinese Community Church in North York, Ontario.

If the program proves itself to be successful, and more participants follow Tse’s lead, Dimant said they hope to emulate it for other groups. Dimant also said he envisions college-aged children from evangelical families joining forces with Jewish students at universities to confront anti-Israeli activities on campus.

In the U.S., many evangelical clergy have traveled to Israel since the 1980s, often hosted by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, wrote author Timothy Weber in a 2004 book, On the Road to Armageddon: How Evangelicals Became Israel’s Best Friend.

Posted: Feb. 1, 2011 • Permanent link:
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Transmis : 1 févr. 2011 • Lien permanente :
Catégorie : ENI

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