A Response to Representatives of the International Messianic Jewish Community
Paul Liberman, President
Joel Chernoff, General Secretary
Messianic Jewish Alliance of America
Howard Silverman, President
Russell Resnik, Executive Director
Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations
Jeff Forman, Chairman
International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues
John Fischer, President
Joel Liberman, Executive Director
International Messianic Jewish Alliance
Dear Brothers in Christ,
Because we consider you family in Christ, because we recognize God’s grace on you and on all Messianic brothers and sisters in Israel and around the world, and because we desire continued fellowship with Messianic brothers and sisters, we write this response to your appeal. We were quite disappointed to read your statement, and we encourage you in the future to contact us directly (Matthew 18:15-20) in order to resolve differences rather than send a public letter to appeal for dialogue through the internet. Had you done that, you would have discovered that many of the accusations against us and against the conference were untrue, and you would have given us the opportunity to address your concerns.
Over the last year, we have reached out to many of the Messianic leaders in Israel regarding the conference. We have met face to face, shared, listened, discussed, and prayed together regarding the conference. We truly and deeply care for our relationship with the Messianic believers. We are excited that a small delegation of Messianic believers will be involved in the conference, and we have worked hard to get them permission from the Israeli authorities to enter Bethlehem. We have made sure that the Messianic voice will be represented in our discussions on reconciliation and peacemaking, through our brothers Evan Thomas and Richard Harvey. In addition, Wayne Hilsdon,
who is part of the Messianic community, will share about his biblical understanding regarding the place of Israel in God’s plan. Wayne has the support of most of the Messianic leaders in Jerusalem regarding his participation.
Your statement has undermined all these reconciliation efforts, given the wrong impression concerning our relationship with the Messianic body, and done harm to the unity of the body of Christ in the Holy Land.
By using the title “Christ at the Checkpoint,” we in no way mean that Israel is withholding Jesus at the Checkpoint, or that Israel is involved in a systematic persecution of Christians. We have stated this clearly on our website and in our statements. “Christ at the Checkpoint” is used in an effort to articulate the question, “How should Christ's followers respond to this political, multi-faceted conflict? If Christ stood in front of a checkpoint today, what would he say and do?” Walls and checkpoints have a huge effect on the Christian community in the Palestinian Territories. As a result, the checkpoint and the wall have become focal points and symbols of the conflict, and we desire to bring Christ into our daily context.
We would like to kindly challenge you to listen to our cry in the midst of this conflict. If we choose to describe our situation in terms like "checkpoint," then please respect this. We have the right to express our situation as we see it. The checkpoint is our reality. You cannot dictate the way in which we identify our suffering. We acknowledge the suffering of Jews throughout history. We acknowledge the right of Israel to have safe and secure borders. We simply ask that you acknowledge our suffering and aspirations.
To clear up misunderstandings, we have decided to share with you where we stand. We, the organizers of the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference believe:
- God loves all people equally. We believe that this love includes the Jewish people. We do not teach that God has abandoned the Jewish people. Christ has taught us to love all Semitic peoples, including Jews. We do not endorse or preach any theology that discriminates against or harms the Jewish people.
- Jesus Christ died on the Cross to save all humanity, and those who believe in Him and accept Him become children of God regardless of their ethnic or religious background. We pray and look forward to the day when all the people of Israel/Palestine, regardless of their religions or ethnicities, will live together on this land in peace and harmony. We do not call for the destruction of the State of Israel but rather we call for Palestinians and Jews to live together in harmony, either in two separate states or in one state.
- In case a two state solution is worked out in the future, we are for an Israel with secure borders and we hope for a viable Palestine with secure borders.
- Our ultimate desire for all the people of this land is to return to God through faith in Jesus Christ and to experience the love and grace that God showered upon us through the death and resurrection of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. We appreciate the efforts of our Jewish brothers and sisters who are being a living witness for Christ and his Kingdom in this land.
- We believe that both Palestinian believers and Messianic believers are called by Christ to shine His light on the people of this land and that through our combined testimony, genuine love and fellowship with each other, we can overcome many of the obstacles that hinder the reconciliation of our peoples.
- We stand against all forms of violence whether it is Palestinian violence against Israelis or Israeli violence against Palestinians.
- We believe that followers of Christ must non-violently stand against all forms of injustice and are called to be prophetic in siding with the poor and the oppressed in this land. As the living Body of the Messiah, we suffer with all victims of violence whether they are Palestinians (Muslims or Christians) or Israelis (Jews or Arabs).
- We do not accept the expansion of God’s Kingdom on earth through military means, and therefore we do not see the bloody wars of the Middle East as positive signs towards the establishing of the Kingdom of God. God’s Kingdom is established through obedience to Christ’s Great Commission.
- We believe that God’s greatest gift to the Jewish people is Jesus Christ and the work of His grace in their lives rather than the possession of territory in the land that we call Holy. We hold the same belief for Palestinians and Arabs.
- It is natural and right for Palestinian believers to identify with the daily suffering of their people due to Israeli policies and to seek to expose many of the injustices. At the same time, it is natural and right for Jewish believers to expose anti-Semitism and all forms of violence against Israelis and Jewish people around the world.
- We understand that we differ with you, our Messianic brothers and sisters, on some theological and political issues, however, we emphasize that these differences should not be exaggerated by either side to a level that would hinder fellowship or stifle freedom of expression.
We invite you, brothers and sisters, to be our honored guests at the conference, not because we want to win you over to our perspectives nor for you to win us over to your perspectives, but in order that together, we may discover ways to keep the unity of the Body and to demonstrate to Evangelicals and Christians worldwide that our bond in Christ is far stronger than our differences. We plead with you to attend the conference, and then make judgments. We plead with you to respect the theological diversities that exist between us. We plead with you to affirm our unity in Christ. Together, we can stand against all forms of violence, racism and hatred, and together we can work toward peace and reconciliation.
With you and for the Glory of Christ,
Munther Isaac, Bishara Awad, Salim Munayer, Hanna Katanacho, Jack Sarah, Sami Awad and Alex Awad
Christ at the Checkpoint Conference
Click here to download the original letter (pdf).