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WHY THE SILENCE? – 6 Feb 2012

If the Arab ‘Spring’ is wintry, how cold is its winter?!  This is an exchange of e-emails with some Arab leaders in Israel and the Palestinian Authority that I had:

Shalom B, B, Y,

I looked on Come and See, hoping that I might see in writing what I am not hearing, but am both
disappointed and disturbed:  where is the Israeli/Palestinian (call it whatever you want) Arab Christian voice expressing outrage over what is taking place in Syria?!  

Why are only Israeli “injustices and human rights violations, etc.” condemned in the strongest of language
and emotion by you and other of my Arab brothers, when right next door one of ‘your own’ is ruthlessly
murdering its citizens and fellow human beings — men, women, children — without the slightest pangs
of conscience?  Where is the concern for the fellow Christians in Syria, not to mention all the other
Syrians who are oppressed?  Christian leaders there have even expressed support for the government out
of fear of their own lives and churches.  Where is the voice of their Israeli/Palestinian fellow Christians
to stand and be strong for the testimony of the truth of Yasu, not loving their lives even unto death?  Why
are you not calling on the ‘world community’ to put a stop to the bloodshed and oppressive policies of the
brutal dictators, who are clearly no true shepherds or friends of their own people and nation?

Not saying anything publicly — and in a manner that all can hear and see — is hypocritical in the face of
all the efforts to condemn Israel and to delegitimize her right to even exist or to be supported due to her
lack of righteousness and justice against you as you perceive it — rightly or otherwise.

Your brother and fellow laborer in the vineyard of the Lord,
Howard

P.S.  My opinion article on War was not written as a ‘theology’ of war.  We don’t have to make a theology
of every subject, but simply teach according to the Word of God, the knowledge of God and His ways given
to us in the Scriptures.  I would appreciate it if you simply title the piece as War.  The photo you put in is
also editorial on your part — adding to the suggestion that I somehow am in favor of war and its horrors.

12 comments to WHY THE SILENCE? – 6 Feb 2012

  • Sean Steckbeck

    Howard,

    Exactly! The gospel of the kingdom through repentance towards faith is the true message! Amen! I just hope that as we, the Jewish people, and the messianic Jewish community, are on a journey to find out what it means to belong both to our family’s heritage, legacy, and inheritance (in the land of Israel)….that the Arabs here can also find or develop a Spirit-led family identity, heritage, legacy, and thus foster an inheritance (whatever that may be). That we may truly live the reality of what it means to be both part of the kingdom of God/body of Messiah and part of our particular people groups and familial legacies.

    In many ways, the so-called Palestinian people, as refugees from many different Arab tribes and families over the last couple hundreds of years, will see themselves as a sort of patriarchal generation forming a vision for their newly formed people group for years to come. Just like America, as a refugee state, formed an American heritage out of many different people groups. Many Americans were refugees of Italy, France, England, Scottland, Germany, etc….but today they are “Americans” and would not want to be classified as any other people group. So I think the Palestinians don’t have a familial identity of their own. This causes an identity crisis, especially since the political situation (not only in Israel, but in the entire Middle East) doesn’t allow them the roots of their original familial/tribal identities. So they are patriarchs of a new identity and heritage for generations to come as a conglamarate people group. The only thing I am trying to do now is challenge them as to WHAT their identity is. Is Palestinian or Palestine the best identity? I personally would love to see them throw their destiny and future generations in with the destiny of the Jewish people and the nation of Israel (and support politically a one-state solution state of Israel- a Jewish state for all its people). However, as patriarchs forming a new people group, it is up to them to develop a healthy multi-generational family vision. Since the “Palestinian peoples” roots are everywhere (Kurds, Egyptians, Jewish converts to Islam or Christianity,Samaritans, Edomites, Crusader Europeans, Syrians, Saudi Arabians, etc.)…if they see themselves as one people, and the Palestinian Christians see themselves as belonging to that ONE people even having many roots depending on what Palestinian family they are from…it is time to develop One Root with a new family vision. Like Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldeans and developed a new family vision. Because to know where you are going as a people group, you have to know where you came from.

    Anyways, I don’t know how many Palestinian christians have ever thought about legacy, roots, heritage, and a multi-generational vision. I would guess if they had thought about it, the word “Palestinian” is not something they would pass on to their children’s children as an inheritance.

  • Howard

    Thanks, Sean, for an excellent contribution to the discussion.

    If the Palestinians associate their heritage with the Philistines, who as you point out come out from Greece (Javan, a son of Japheth), then they are not Semites, not sons of Abraham, with all that that means.

    In any case, the only hope for all peoples of any lineage is repentance and faith in Yeshua, His death and resurrection, so that we become a new creation, rooted in Him, the second and last Adam/Man.

  • Sean Steckbeck

    Howard,

    I appreciate your willingness to offer reconciliation and relationship, even going to places like Bethlehem to stand with them in hard times. You put feet to what you believe and say! You also do this as a believer who chooses to stand with God’s promises for Israel and the Jewish people. You are truly a brave man of God!

    A,

    I work in both the territories among Palestinian Muslims and in Israel among messianic Jewish believers planting house churches. If you may let me provide a little bit of perspective as someone who not only loves Palestinians, but risks my life many times in a southern West Bank city to see many of these precious people have the life of the Lord Yeshua for the past three years.

    First of all, there is a major identity crisis that is taking place. I know this may cause you to have a knee-jerk reaction of offense, but it isn’t meant that way. It is actually meant in Great Love that I am willing to die so that you may live. The word, Palestinian, even used by the Jewish people prior to 1948, is an offensive word for anyone to take upon themselves, Jewish or Arab. It comes from the Hebrew “polesh” which means “to invade.” The land adopted this name in 135 AD after the Emperor Hadrian wanted to spitefully paganize the land of Israel and rid it of any monotheistic themes as a response to the Bar Kockva revolt. This is why he also built a temple to Jupiter on the Temple Mount, and a temple to Aphrodites on the place of the death and ressurection of our Lord Yeshua. He renamed Israel as Palestine after monotheism’s arch enemy, the pagan extinct Philistines who were also Greek. He renamed Jerusalem, the city of peace, as Aelio Capotolina which is a pagan theme.

    I believe that many Arab Christians and some Muslims connection to the land is just. Even though the land was promised to the Jewish people, God keeps His promises not because of Israel’s perfection, but becomes of God’s faithfulness and namesake. Israel has not been the most just nation on the earth, although we may have differing opinions on how just they are. Israel has not always treated the “foreigner in our midst” with justice as the Bible entreats, but the foreigner in our midst has also not treated Israel with honor as well.

    That all being said, the Arab connection to the land of Israel has caused an identity crisis. Some of this crisis is because of war and displacement, some because of injustice, and some because of hatred and antisemetism. Either way, your people have adopted a lie called “the Palestinian people.” It may seem to you like I am trying to strip you of your identity and your people and degrade you, but the truth is that I am trying to liberate you and help you find your true identity.

    There is power in a name. Names describe generational heritage and legacy. Surnames describe occupations (smith, carpenter,levi, cohen, goldstein, etc.), and some names are given to describe your very spiritual identity. God renamed Abram and Sarai, and even curse others with the name Ichabod. Our Lord Yeshua’s name even describes His role as giving salvation, and Simon’s name was changed to Peter (small rock) to describe the first person to receive the greatest revelation of all times. Barnabas’s name describes his action as an encourager to John Mark. This is why names have power.

    Your people, the “Palestinian” people, are at a crossroads. No permanent solution or identity has been afforded to your people yet. You are establishing a heritage and legacy for generations to come and not only this living generation now. Much of the strength you see from the Jewish people is this understanding of heritage and legacy and the power of a name (Israel means to “reign with God”). Great heritages and legacies always have inheritances, which is why the Jewish people feel such a connection to the land of Israel. They have maintained a concentration on building and maintaining family legacy and heritage in the last century when the world has been plagued with modern and postmodern individualism. The ideal of family heritage and legacy has been brought next to nothing and has bowed down at the altar of Western modernism and Western postmodernism.

    So my question to you, and the Arab peoples of Judea and Samaria that I lay down my lives for is this:

    1.) Where are your roots?
    2.) Where are your people from?
    3.) Where are you going?
    4.) What principles do you want to pass on from former generations as generational blessings, and what ungodly principles do you want to change from former generations as generational curses?
    5.) If there is power in a name, by what name do you want your people group to be called for generations to come?

    I leave you with these questions, which is at the heart of building a healthy “family vision”, legacy, and heritage; and thus passing on a healthy family inheritance as well.

    S

  • Howard

    10 Feb 2012

    Dear A,

    We are aware of our differences, which have been clear for many years now. But I don’t think you and the others have caught the feeling or the emotion behind what I asked regarding the silence of my Arab brothers regarding the horrible situation in Syria, given your loud desire for “the Evangelical world to know our perspective” regarding Israel and the “occupation”, and its cause of suffering on the Arab Palestinians.

    Perhaps the Lord Jesus should throw all of us out of His land for all our unrighteousnesses and injustices against Him and one another.

    Trusting in His lovingkindnesses in Messiah,
    Howard

  • A

    9 Feb 2012

    Dear Howard,

    No, absolutely! I have never been offended by you personally. I value the fact that you come to Bethlehem with R and other brothers and sisters and meet with Palestinian Christians. I regularly meet with Messianic brothers and sister and I fully trust God’s grace on them. I cherish every moment and every occasion when brothers and sisters from both sides meet across the divide.

    What offends me and (perhaps) you is our varying political and theological positions. We do not see eye to eye when we talk about the land, God’s Chosen people and the future of this country. We have different interpretations of Biblical verses that relate to God’s people and the land. Some Messianic brothers and sisters support the occupation of the West Bank and they use the Bible to justify the occupation of the land. Their position is offensive to me. On the other side, the fact that I use the same Bible to question the legitimacy of the occupation of the West Bank, I become offensive to some Messianic brothers and sister. I have become persona non grata to many MB/S. Many in the Messianic congregations believe that God intervened on behalf of Israel to bring about victories for Israel in 1948 and 1967 wars. That kind of thinking offends me. I do not see God in the New Covenant taking sides in wars. But when I express my perspective, I could offend a Messianic brother or sister. We have different ways to look at prophecy and once we open our hearts and express our opinions, there is the risk that we could offend each other.

    The only way to keep the spirit of unity and love is to commit to each other to accept the other in spite of our perspectives on land and eschatology. I want to say to a MB/S, ‘I do not agree with you but you are still my brother/sister and I love you’. And I expect the same from my brother/sister. If most of us reach that maturity, ‘the offense’ will become insignificant because ‘…love covers a multitude of (offenses) sins’.

    I do not invite MB/S to endorse my perspective or agree with it but rather to accept me as a brother in spite of my perspective and to stay in fellowship with me regardless.

    In His name,

    A

  • Howard

    9 Feb 2012

    Dear A,

    Where there is light, there is fellowship. Praise God, for that is what does keep many of us in the bond of peace for Christ’s sake, wanting to demonstrate the love of God which will glorify our heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank-you again for responding, A.

    As you probably know, my wife — and sometimes some of the children — have been going to IEC for their Christmas service for many years now. After this last service, at which brother Y and his wife D also participated, I wrote in our newsletter the following paragraphs, and a Swiss Christian magazine wants to use it in their next issue, along with a statement from N:

    “With these two universally known Hebrew words, Hallelu-Yah and Amen — both of which speak of the true God and Savior (Rev 3:14) — we visited Bethlehem yesterday on Christmas Day with two other families from our congregation, and some medical students and other friends. We went first to IEC, where we have been going since 2003 — during the Intifada — as an expression of the reconciliation which we have through the cross, even though our peoples continue to be in a perpetual state of hostility with each other.

    At the Arab church there I was asked to share some introductory remarks from my heart, and spoke of the hope we all have through the gospel, which includes that Jesus will come back again to bring the Kingdom of God to Israel and the rest of the world. Political solutions will not satisfy the need for the righteousness of God, the peace which He gives, and joy in the Holy Spirit. At the end of the service, I was asked to bless the elders and the church with the priestly blessing in Hebrew, the language of the ‘enemy’. I gently reminded the brothers and sisters there to remember that the name of YEHOVAH God is still upon His people Israel, and asked them to pray for the Jewish Israeli people to honor His name and of His Son. Then I blessed them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It was a very special time, and I thank the Lord that the pastor took the risk to ask me for this honor.”

    Brother A, we do what we can to maintain Holy Spirit relationships with all other brothers and sisters in Christ, sometimes even at some risk. This is the love of God, and we pray that He would continue to enable us to do so — both to give, and also to receive.

    Could you please tell me, A, what is it about “your position” (that is, “my“) that is “offensive to many of [you]“, as you write in your letter?

    I will be out of the country from this Sunday until the 23rd.

    In Christ with you,
    Howard

  • A

    8 Feb 2012

    Dear Howard,

    Today, I spoke with S and he expressed willingness to help (through M) organize a meeting to focus on prayer for Syria. S said the most difficult challenge is to find the time when a good number of brothers and sisters from both sides would be able to attend. In such a meeting, we do not need to highlight political or theological disagreements.

    We do have theological and eschatological issues that we do not agree on. I believe both Messianic believers and Palestinian believers have reached a level of maturity of faith and commitment that we are able to keep the unity of the Body in spite of these differences. Let us be firm in our love and acceptance for each other in spite of our many political and theological differences. If we wait to agree on these issues before we have genuine fellowship, we will be waiting for years and perhaps never arrive to a time when we see eye to eye on all issues and we will miss fulfilling the commandment of our Lord to love one another. The secret is to agree to disagree and recognize the grace of God working with those who we do not agree with. The love of God that was poured in our hearts through faith in Jesus Christ is much greater than any point of disagreement that we have. As Palestinian Christians, many of us have a different perspective on the subject of fulfillment of prophecy and how the prophecies relate to the current political situation. If you consider that our position is offensive to you, believe me, your position is offensive to many of us. Yes, we want the Evangelical world to know our perspective. Messianic Jews and many evangelical Christians do not agree with our perspective and for years they have been teaching their perspective all over the world. In the US, there are at least 200 TV channels and over 500 radio station that support the Messianic Jewish position on the issues of prophecy and politics. I doubt it if there is one station that promotes our perspective. Of course, each camp believes that it has the Divine and true Biblical perspective. But even with our varying perspectives, we do not need to compete, fight, demonize or delegitimize the other.

    At BBC, we do not agree with many of the policies of the State of Israel but we are not anti-Semitic. We do not call for the destruction of the State of Israel and we do not deny the holocaust. We long for a genuine peace between Israelis and Palestinians and aspire to see Jews and Arabs live in harmony in this land. We strongly believe that followers of Jesus should be in the forefront of those who work for peace and justice. We will keep our hands extended and our hearts open to our Messianic brother and sister regardless of their attitude towards us.

    Let us keep focusing on the One who unites us,

    A

  • Howard

    9 Feb 2012

    Hello J,

    I do not know if we are at a point yet to do what you are asking, but I do hope and pray that we will get there. In the meantime, I suggest, as I have, that even if we are not able to come out with a joint statement, that my Arab brothers would consider doing so anyway in a publicly clear way for all to see — in Arabic, English, Hebrew.

    To make any such statement from the “Holyland” is still part of the problem, J. There IS a country called Israel, and there is at present a political entity called the Palestinian Authority. I remember being in a conference in Jordan when JORDAN was called the Holy Land because Yeshua taught there! I was the only participant at that conference with a name tag that did not state what country I was from. My tag said Holy Land. Would it have been clear to every one which ‘Holy Land’ was being referred to?

    On Sunday I am leaving the country until the 23rd. I will not be in much e-mail communication, but if something important needs to be communicated, please do write, and when I do see it, I will respond, if necessary.

    Thanks,
    Howard

  • J

    7 Feb 2012

    Thank you Howard for your concern and thank you A for your input, I feel the Lord is moving us maybe to come with a statement against what is happening in Syria.

    I suggest that A and H compose such a statement or a letter and all of us endorse it, we can call it A Joint Statement from Arab and Jewish Believers in Christ in the Holyland against the evil that is going on in Syria.

    Then maybe we can have a joint prayer meeting very soon, and set a fund for the help of the brethren in Syria.

    J

  • Y

    9 Feb 2012

    Dear Howard:

    Greetings my friend and brother in the body of the Messiah. Thank you for your email. I have read it with interest and enjoyed reading your interaction with A. You might be interested to read the following articles (NB: they are posted on our website i.e. Christ at the Checkpoint).

    http://christatthecheckpoint.com/index.php/blog/86-jesus-christmas-and-the-arab-spring-a-letter-from-nazareth

    http://christatthecheckpoint.com/index.php/blog/90-reflections-on-the-arab-spring-and-the-persecution-of-christians

    I pray that you will be able to join us at Christ at the Checkpoint. We truly love to see you.

    Your brother

    Y

  • Howard

    7 Feb 2012

    Thank-you for responding, A, to my letter you received through J. You are the only one that has written back; another gave me a call.

    I would certainly be interested in working in cooperation with others from among the Jewish and Arab brothers, but would prefer that it not be done as an initiative by any particular organization. If S would want to offer the administrative services … available to help put out some joint invitation for whatever action may be taken, that could be very helpful.

    At the same time, unless there is some acknowledgment that the ‘new theologies’ being developed work towards voiding clear covenant promises of God — which not only concern Israel as a people in a land, but also would invalidate the hope and future of Lebanese, Syrians, Jordanians, Egyptians, etc, as people in
    their own lands — and simply promotes Israel bashing and delegitimization, and not genuine Christian Biblical study of the Bible. I am not sure that we could really come together in unity of heart, in the face of the silence on my brothers’ part regarding the far worse situation in Syria than has ever been the case here. Righteousness and justice, which we all want, is not at the expense of the rest of the whole counsel of God, which whole counsel includes doing what we can to do justly, to love grace, and to walk humbly with our Father and Lord. The silence in the face of the brutality of the Syrian government betrays a self-interest. Nor, of course, do we hear anything from Fatah or Hamas, whose positions regarding Israel’s existence are public knowledge. Some evangelical churches have already been sealed closed by the Syrian regime, because of being portrayed as anti-government, sometimes by the institutional churches trying to maintain their own worldly power and safety!

    For the record, I do not believe that Israel must have all the promised land now; nor do I exclude the possibility that there could be a Palestinian state. God will do what He has to do to accomplish His purposes for us who believe in Yeshua, for those that will refuse to, and for those that simply fear God and do righteousness without knowing Him personally before He comes. We have the gospel to preach to anyone and everyone, and the teachings in the Scriptures to build up the believers in our local congregations that promote holiness in the fear of God, and fellowship with Him and one another to do the work He has given us to do until the Lord returns.

    We must find the way to get away from extreme positions that do not promote our unity, and find with the help of the Holy Spirit that common ground that is not natural to any of us, but is the better ground in which we have been placed together in Messiah/Christ. It will surely cost us to be outside the camp —
    any camp — with Him, bearing His reproach, but worth far more than whatever the devil or the world or our self-interest would offer instead.

    In brotherly love,
    Howard

  • A

    6 Feb 2012

    Dear Howard,
    I agree with you that we, members of the Body of Christ in Israel and in Palestine need to respond to what is happening in Syria. At our church in East Jerusalem, we are praying for Syria and especially for our brothers and sisters in Christ there. In the sermon I preached last Sunday (yesterday), I reflected on the turmoil in Syria and I shared with the people that beyond the fighting that we see, between a brother and his brother in Syria, a cruel spiritual warfare in is raging on. Evil spiritual powers are causing so much hate, bitterness and fear. I referred to the passage in John 10:10 where Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (NIV). As God’s people who are filled with the Spirit, our mandate is to use the spiritual powers and authority available to us from our Lord to confront these powers of darkness that cause so much pain.

    I believe, many of us are in shock and perhaps are num and wonder what we can do. One brother told me today, I can’t watch TV and see what is happening in Syria because it makes me sick. Yes! It is heart-breaking to see all the killing and destruction and realize that we can do so little to change the situation. We must always remember that he that is within us is able to make a difference. I suggest that we call for a day of prayer and fasting for Syria. Perhaps M can take the initiative? Perhaps on that day, Messianic and Palestinian brothers and sisters can gather together to have a special time to pray and intercede for Syria. This call of prayer can be circulated by Come And See, Linga and any other media outlets that reach our people. To go a step farther, we may set up a fund to encourage our people and congregations to make contributions to help brothers and sister in Syria who have lost everything due to the conflict. In addition, we need to pray for world leaders that the Spirit of God will lead them as they seek to help Syria out of her dilemma.

    Thank you Howard for raising this important issue,
    In His service,
    A

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