Israel and Christian ambivalence

  • January 30, 2014

The visit of Stephen Harper to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan has been judged a success. Israel’s government was ecstatic for Harper’s steadfast support, the Palestinians overlooked that and were grateful for tens of millions in Canadian aid for schools and security. There were good media reviews at home, and favourable contrasts were drawn with the last visit of a Canadian prime minister to Israel, Jean Chretien’s bumbling and error-strewn tour in 2000.

Yet there was at least one group that was not pleased — a group I always spend time with when I come, the local Christian community. Christians in the Holy Land are quite few in number and, while growing in Israel, they are diminishing in Palestinian areas, especially Bethlehem. So it does not matter much in the world of Arab-Israeli relations or international diplomacy what the local Christians think. But it should matter a great deal to us, out of fraternal solidarity with our fellow Christians, and out of love for the mother Church of Jerusalem.

Last week, I wrote: “Israel as a homeland of the Jewish people — a promised homeland, the object of a providential pilgrimage, a return after a calamity of biblical proportions, an in-gathering after two millennia of expulsion and exile — is a language that must resonate with any Christian who looks at history through the eyes of faith. Contemporary questions of justice and peace, liberty and security, not only for Jews but also for Arabs, are critical, but the fundamental outlook has to be shaped by biblical history.”

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