STATEMENT ON ISRAEL AND THE PCUSA
I have been asked by CUFI to reflect briefly on the impact of my trip to Israel in January of this year, particularly in light of my role as a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
The visit to Israel did not change or modify my thoughts about the country. From my childhood I was taught that the formation of the modern State of Israel was a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. In my youth, Moshe Dayan and Golda Meir were my heroes. The books of Yigael Yadin, the Israeli archaeologist were avidly read, and I rejoiced when the Jews, against all odds, triumphed in the Six Day War and liberated Jerusalem. I can still see in my mind’s eye the pictures of Jewish soldiers rushing to worship at the Western Wall.
In 1983, I was given the gift of a trip to Israel, and when I stepped off the plane, I felt as if I had come home. My visit in 2016 did not fundamentally alter my views. What it did accomplish echoes what the Apostle Paul told Timothy in last letter to him: “Fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you.” My existing love for Israel and its people was fanned into flame, becoming a more passionate, insistent and prominent concern. The motto of CUFI sums it up: “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent.”
How does all this relate to my position as a minister of the PCUSA? It is a sad fact that our denomination has adopted an increasingly antagonistic stance towards Israel. The recent approval of divestment from companies supportive of Israel will be followed by a further report calling for boycotts and more divestment. In the West, pop culture allows for only one narrative regarding the Middle East: Israel is the enemy, and the Palestinians are helpless victims. The current policy of most of the Arab States is “Death to Israel”, and is matched by a growing anti-Semitism in both Church and State in America.