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ICEJ Petitions UN to Stop Iran

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem has today delivered a global petition to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon signed by over 55,000 Christians from more than 120 countries worldwide demanding that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad be indicted for incitement to genocide against Israel.

The petition was delivered to the United Nations on the eve of the Iranian leader’s planned visit to New York to address the Opening of the UN General Assembly next week, where he will be greeted by a mass rally on Monday demanding a stronger UN and international response to the growing Iranian nuclear threat.

“In a sense, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and the United Nations were both born out of the ashes of the Nazi Holocaust. The silence of most Christian clergy in the face of Germany’s horrific bid to annihilate European Jewry left a deep stain on the churches. Yet from it has arisen a sense among multitudes of Christians today that we have an inescapable moral duty to earnestly speak out whenever another genocidal campaign threatens the Jewish People,” said Rev. Malcolm Hedding, the ICEJ’s Executive Director.

“Unfortunately, we are concerned that just such a genocidal campaign is taking shape in the form of Iran’s repeated threats to eliminate the Jewish State and its quest for the nuclear means to carry out these threats,” Hedding said.

In a letter to the UN Secretary General accompanying the petition, Hedding noted that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other senior Iranian officials have made repeated calls to “wipe Israel off the map.” Employing inflammatory language, they have labelled Israel and Jews as “the source of plague and typhus,” “parasites,” “cancerous tumours,” and “a germ of corruption”, among other slanders also used by the Nazi propagandists.

Hedding also noted that Amadinejad appears to have developed a warped self-awareness that he is to play a key role in the advent of the 13th Imam expected by many devout Shia Muslims. In his last address before the UN General Assembly, he insisted that an “aura of light” engulfed him as he prayed for the coming of this mythical figure.

“Taken together, this makes for a highly potent elixir, as the Iranian regime would possess both the motivation and the means to trigger unspeakable carnage and chaos worldwide,” warned Hedding.

Hedding also took to task certain leaders in the Mennonite and Quaker movements that will be hosting Ahmadinejad at a ‘dialogue’ reception during his visit to the US.

“The Bible nowhere advocates this type of engagement and in fact warns against it,” said Hedding. “Jesus did not talk with Herod because he represented a system that was corrupt and evil. These Christian leaders will forever be associated with the appeasement of wickedness!”

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is headquartered in the Israeli capital, with branch offices and representatives in some 80 nations, and a reach into more than 125 nations around the world. Its primary mandate is to serve as a “ministry of comfort” to Israel and the Jewish People worldwide, as a means for Christians to finally redress the lingering grievances which the Jewish people have against us due to the tragic history of Christian anti-Semitism.

Welcome at Succot

During Succot, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem again will host thousands of Christian pilgrims for our 28th annual celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. The largest annual tourist event in Israel, our gathering draws Christians from nearly 100 nations and we expect a record crowd of 7,000 visitors this year. These pilgrims have a deep love and concern for Israel, and bring a lot of colour and joy to the city of Jerusalem. And they always receive a warm welcome from the Israeli people, as seen in the streets of the capital during the Jerusalem March. Our international participants have been the largest delegation in this parade since 1980, and are the reason most of the city's residents come out to watch.

Thus it is disappointing to learn that rabbinic authorities are trying to discourage the Jewish public from participating in this traditional march. They suspect that parts of our group are engaged in missionary activity, but the ICEJ has never conducted any missionary programs in Israel and we instruct our Feast pilgrims against such activity during their stay here.

The truth is that these Feast pilgrims are coming up to Jerusalem at Succot because the Bible invites them, and the members of the Rabbinate know this well. Israel's former Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren once addressed our gathering with the words "Bruchim habaim b'Shem Adonai!" – the traditional greeting given to feast pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem. He knew that Succot is a time of joy when even the nations are invited to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob here in this city. So it would go against the Hebrew Scriptures to now reject our presence in Jerusalem.

For nearly 30 years now, the ICEJ has served as a "ministry of comfort" to Israel and the Jewish people in order to address the historic grievances that Jews have suffered at the hands of Gentile Christians down through the centuries. Evangelical Christians like us did not commit these atrocities, but we must bear the bitter legacy of those who came before us in the faith.

Thus the Christian Embassy has engaged in many dynamic, pioneering works in the fields of aliyah, absorption and social assistance. Our social aid programs have touched the poor, the elderly, the disabled, Holocaust survivors, single mothers, battered women, troubled youths, and many others with needs. For instance, we sponsored Israel's first mobile medical clinic and recently dedicated a new therapeutic swimming pool in Ashkelon to serve all the handicapped children of the Negev. We have assisted over 100,000 Russian-speaking olim in making aliyah since 1989. And we have defended Israel's cause abroad through our network of national branches and representatives in some 80 countries worldwide.

In times past, the great Sages of Israel read the Hebrew prophets and declared that when the Lord would begin to restore Zion, Gentiles would be involved as well. As the prophet Isaiah foretold:

“The sons of foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you... That men may bring to you the wealth of the Gentiles, and their kings in procession... Also the sons of those who afflicted you shall come bowing to you, and all those who despised you shall fall prostrate at the soles of your feet; and they shall call you The City of the Lord, Zion of the Holy One of Israel." Isaiah 60:10-14

We see ourselves as those friendly Gentiles promised in Scripture.

Sadly, however, some in Israel are alarmed by a Christianity that is no longer intimidating or hostile towards Jews. The Christian world has undergone tremendous changes in recent generations, and many of us now have a compelling love and concern for Israel and the Jewish people, instead of the hatred and contempt of the past. Many Jews have come to recognize this transformation. We will continue our efforts to win the trust of others who have not yet accepted our sincere repentance and righteous deeds on behalf of the Jewish people.

Rev. Malcolm Hedding is the Executive Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org.il 

Response to Evangelical Letter to President Bush

Recently, a group of 34 Evangelical Christian leaders in America wrote an open letter to U.S. President George W. Bush to register their support for his efforts to achieve a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to clarify that not all Evangelicals oppose such a resolution of this long-running dispute. As a leading Christian Zionist ministry, we value the opportunity to graciously respond to these Christian brothers, particularly in regards to their handling of the Biblical "mystery" that is Israel. 

We respect the right of American citizens to engage with their government on matters of such immense importance as the Israeli-Arab conflict. We cannot agree, however, with the historical and moral equivalence that these Christian leaders have drawn between Israel and the Palestinians, nor with their exegesis of Scripture. 

The Jewish people have an ancient claim and attachment to the Land of Israel dating back 4000 years to the Hebrew Patriarch Abraham. There they became a nation that made universal contributions to all humankind, not least of which are the Bible and the Messiah that we Christians hold so dear. In modern times the Jews have returned to their ancient homeland many centuries after being violently uprooted from it not once, but twice. On repeated occasions, Israel has demonstrated its bona fide willingness to partition the land into separate Jewish and Arab states for the sake of peace with their Arab neighbours. 

In contrast, though the Palestinian Arab presence in the Land of Israel dates back several generations, they never built an independent nation here and, with all due respect, have made no positive contributions of note to the world. Palestinian nationalism gained traction a mere 40 years ago and only then due to the movement’s adoption of terrorist tactics. It is an historic fact that at every point in which the Jewish people agreed to a two-state solution, the Palestinian Arabs have rejected such compromise in favour of violent 'resistance' to any expression of Jewish sovereignty in the land. 

As a result, most Evangelical Christians distrust Palestinian intentions and therefore remain highly skeptical about the merits of a two-state solution at this time, as do a great many Israelis. We think Christians should be very cautious about urging our governments to push Israel prematurely into such risky and unworkable solutions. 

At the same time, this does not mean we are "blocking" peace in the Middle East. The blame for that lies largely with the parties in the region themselves and primarily with militant Arab and Islamic elements that seek Israel's destruction. 

It is our assessment that the Evangelicals writing to President Bush were nonetheless able to place Israel and the Palestinians on an equal footing because of two theological errors: 

  1. A failure to grasp the biblical paradox of 'free grace' versus 'divine election', and 
  2. Their adherence to the vestiges of a doctrine known as Replacement theology. 

It is clear from the Bible that God indeed loves all men the same, whether Israelis, Palestinians or others. Yet it is equally true that God in His sovereignty calls and elects certain vessels for His eternal purposes. "Jacob I loved, Esau I hated", affirms Romans 9:13. Thus we understand that God established a unique relationship with Israel for the purpose of world redemption, and that relationship is enduring and has no equivalent whatsoever on the Palestinian side. 

Yet many Christians to this day deny that Israel still stands in a special covenant relationship with God. Because it was the source of so much evil and hostility against the Jewish people down through Church history, many who cling to such Replacement thinking prefer the term “Fulfillment” theology – meaning that the coming of Christ and birth of the Church fulfilled all the promises that God made to ancient Israel. In either case, the result is the same – Israel is seen as having already completed her redemptive mission, leaving the modern state of Israel with no theological significance and she should be treated accordingly. 

It is our belief, however, that God's covenants with Israel are as valid today as when He first swore two irrevocable and unconditional oaths to Abraham:

  1. To 'bless' or redeem the world through his seed (Genesis 12:1-3), and 
  2. To deliver the Land of Canaan to Abraham's natural descendants as an "everlasting possession" (Genesis 17:8). 

Thus both the people and the land of Israel were chosen for the purpose of world redemption, and to remove either one from the equation undermines the Abrahamic covenant, and by extension even our own salvation as New Testament believers. Why? Because according to the Apostles' teaching it would render God a liar and absolutely untrustworthy (see Romans 3:1-4; Hebrews 6:13-20). 

Yet many Christians ignore or demean the land component of the Abrahamic Covenant, even though the Bible lays emphasis on it throughout its pages. For instance, when the Psalmist describes the covenant with Abraham, he stresses the land promise and its validity for "a thousand generations" (Psalm 105:8-12). Nothing in the New Testament abrogates or nullifies this land promise (see Romans 3:3; II Timothy 2:13; Galatians 3:15-17). 

Now it is true that in the Mosaic covenant, God then comes along and places conditions on Israel's right to enjoy possession of that which they already own (Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 28). Yet Israel's loss of domicile in the land has never meant her loss of underlying title to the land (Leviticus 26:44-46). Even the past 2000 years of exile is not a sign of Israel's ultimate rejection before God; rather God was simply keeping His side of the 'bargain' made at Sinai. Thus in Israel's exiles we see God's righteous and just character, but in Israel's returns we see His faithfulness and favour (Psalm 102:13). 

In the end, Abraham was promised not only a ‘seed’ to bless the whole earth, but also the physical land of Israel as an ‘everlasting possession’. The Bible essentially tells us that the first coming of Messiah fulfilled the first promise (Galatians 3:16), while His Second Coming will ensure the latter. 

In other words, Israel will one day finally enter into her promised rest and peace in the land. We believe this will have its ultimate fulfillment in the Messianic Age. Until then, we will not be advocating that an unredeemed Israel enter into her full land allotment. But neither will we be a part of any effort to force Israel to permanently divest herself from her land inheritance. 

 

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