Christians have their choice of two conferences in Jerusalem this week, one in support of Israel, the other in support of the Palestinians.
Today, some 300 delegates, mostly evangelical Christians from more than 20 countries, are to attend the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem's Fourth International Christian Congress on Biblical Zionism at the International Conference Center. On Wednesday, over 250 participants from 21 countries are to attend the fourth international Sabeel conference at the Notre Dame Conference site, with visits planned to Ramallah and Bethlehem.
Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon has been invited to speak at the Christian Embassy event, which is also to be addressed by Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert and former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The participants are to visit Yad Vashem and hold a prayer vigil at the Haas Promenade overlooking the Temple Mount. There is to be a post-congress tour to communities in Judea and Samaria.
Rev. Malcolm Hedding, executive director of the ICEJ, said the conference comes at a critical time and seeks to face the many challenges facing Israel and the Jewish people from a biblical perspective.
"Here at the start of a new century, the Jewish people and their Christian friends can proudly point to many stunning successes for the Zionist movement over the past 100 years. But the impressive achievement of a Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael, realized only through great determination and sacrifice, remains under assault from formidable adversaries both without and within," he said.
Lecture subjects include "Islamic Theology and the Land of Israel," "The New Antisemitism," and "The Biblical Basis of Christian Zionism."
The Sabeel conference is described by its organizers as one of the most important international acts of solidarity with the Palestinian people since the beginning of the Aksa intifada. The participants are expected to visit with those described as victims of Israeli aggression and march in rallies in Bethlehem and Ramallah, as well as take part in a candle-light vigil at four gates of the Old City of Jerusalem.
Rev. Naim Ateek, president of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, said that this year's conference had been changed because of the events since last September.
"We want to show the world that part of our Christian faith is to speak the truth and to seek justice. To do that, we will not limit our conference to the walls of the conference hall, but we intend to go out and meet the people to show Christian solidarity with them in their time of trouble," he said.
Speakers are to include Palestinian Authority Minister of Information Yasser Abed Rabbo, MK Azmi Bishara, attorney Jonathan Kuttab, and Ha'aretz journalist Amira Hass.
Lecture subjects include "Countering Apartheid," "Economic and Legal Structures of Domination," and "The Zionist Ideology of Domination vs. the Reign of God."