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A Pentecostal Goes to Palestine: I wish I was back in Mea Shearim

Someone may recall a post I shared earlier this year written by Craig Nielsen;

Ever since reading fellow blogger Craig Nielsen was leaving Australia on Sunday January 6th to visit the middle east, (see: A Pentecostal Goes to Palestine) I’ve been watching daily for any new posts concerning what he witnessed. Today he’s posted the first message (more to come in the following weeks) concerning what he found on his trip.

For just over two weeks this January, I got up at six every morning, spending every day traveling up and down the length and breadth of the West Bank and Israel, seeing for myself, as best I could in such a short time, what conditions are really like for the Palestinians living under the illegal military occupation of the State of Israel.

I visited Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut, spoke to those who represent our country to Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority and Israel. I was briefed by representatives of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, spoke to Israeli trade union officials in Tel Aviv and Palestinian trade union representatives in Ramallah. I met with dozens of ordinary Palestinians in the West Bank in areas A, B and C, and Israelis in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Jaffa. I had long conversations with ex-Israeli soldiers who have now become peace activists and advocates for Palestinian human rights.

I saw conditions that Palestinians must endure in Jerusalem, Hebron, Ramallah, the Jordan Valley, Bethlehem and at least a dozen villages scattered throughout the West Bank. I saw for myself the plight of Bedouin herders in the Jordan Valley and spoke to Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem’s Mea Shaerim. I visited Yad Vashem (Holocaust museum) in Jerusalem. I visited all the Holy sites I could manage and spoke with religious Jews, Muslims and Christians.

I touched the separation barrier, saw huge Israeli settlements like Pisgat Ze’ev in Jerusalem, spent hours stuck at Israeli checkpoints and was appalled by the sight of Israeli settlers in the Old City of Jerusalem walking around with fully automatic weapons in the Christian quarter.

And if there was one thing that stood out and hit me right between the eyes, it was the fact that ISRAEL IS AN APARTHEID STATE. (continued here: Mine Eyes Have Seen Apartheid…Not the Coming of the Lord!)

After 7 months Craig has resumed his posting with a second installment on what I believe is an important topic.  As these are written by a fellow believer who writes from first-hand experience, I pray you will take the time to read not only this second part, but the first installment also, if by chance you missed it. Believe me, it’s a “must-read”. 

Due to illness and work commitments I have been unable to post on my blog for some months. My apologies for this. Hopefully I will, from now on, be able to post more regularly, particularly concernng my recent trip to the West Bank.

Quite possibly the most surreal experience of my life came during my recent stay in Jerusalem when I decided to go and visit one of the Rabbis from the staunchly anti-Zionist Orthodox Jewish organization known as Neturei Karta. While I am convinced that the anti-Zionist position taken by Neturei Karta is virtually identical to the mainstream Orthodox position on Zionism some 50 to 100 years ago, I am equally convinced that nowadays their viewpoints are very much in the minority.

What is extremely disturbing, is the virulent hatred for these Rabbis that is both harboured and promoted by Zionist Jews. I would be hard pressed to remember a case where such dreadful words of hatred and violence are spoken towards a people who basically want to be left alone to live in peace with all men…, Jew, Muslim, Arab and Christian.

I visited the home of Rabbi Hirsch, a Neturei Karta Rabbi, who lives in the Orthodox suburb of Jerusalem known as Mea Shearim. Walking down the main street of this suburb is something that I will never forget. Every person, except myself, was wearing the traditional black clothing that is the standard ‘unifrom’ of the Orthodox. It was like walking into a time machine, into an age and a place more foreign to me than anything I could have ever imagined. Yet at the same time I felt perfectly safe, just as safe as I felt walking through any Arab part of Jerusalem at any time of the day or night. I spoke to a number of Orthodox Jews, all of them very friendly and helpful, some even willing to talk about Zionism and Israel and a few even reminding me gently that the views held by Neturei Karta represent a tiny minority!

While I was dressed appropriately for the occasion and obvioulsy not a western looking female, or a tourist running around taking photos, I felt that my presence in Mea Shearim was quite easily tolerated. Wandering through the tiny, dimly light neighbourhoods trying to find Rabbi Hirsch’s home was daunting and yet fascinating.

Having finally found the Rabbis house at about 11:00pm at night, the Rabbi warmly invited me in and I sat down with him and his family and started to talk about the issue that burns in the both of us, be it for probably different reasons.

After spending about two hours talking with this Rabbi and his family, I could not help but see a man, very passionate about his convictions, but mostly concerned with finding a way to live in peace with his fellow men and women. He believes a key to this is telling the world that Zionism is not Judaism. That the current problems in the region are not the cause of religious conflict or bigotry, be it from Christians, Jews or Muslims. As Orthodox Jews who have lived throughout the world, they are used to being surrounded by peoples of other faiths and cultures.

No, the problem, in the Rabbis opinion, and in my opinion, lay fundamentally at the feet of a type of European colonialist ideology that is known as Zionism. This is obviously not to say that no fault can be found with Palestinian Arabs in their handling of the conflict. That would be ridiculous. But the roots of the conflict and the ongoing oppression of Palestinian Arabs can be found in the Zionists states unwillingness to give up on it’s colonialist project which the Rabbi and I find to be unjust and immoral. (continued here: I wish I was back in Mea Shearim)

Perhaps these first-hand accounts will not interest you…especially as they do me. But as one who knows they will never be able to visit the area and who is forced to rely upon filtered news stories within our own media concerning the conditions, politics, and cultural battles taking place, this is a great opportunity to see the truth through another believers eyes and experiences. I’m sincerely looking forward to more being posted in this series!

And lest I forget, Craig is a fellow believer who has been ill,  so let us pray for his continued good health. 

God bless… 

Israel-Palestine: A Christian Response to the Conflict


One comment on “A Pentecostal Goes to Palestine: I wish I was back in Mea Shearim

  1. Apartheid is a very fitting term. And unfortunately, so are “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing”. The whole story of the modern state of Israel is a study in deception. Such a forceful “retaking” of an occupied state by those long displaced by the current occupants, as far as I can conclude, had never before occurred in history … before the retaking of Palestine by Zionist Jews. And it could only happen by the enabling power of western military might. The way it played out was every bit as brutal as the many former conquests of the region, but in many ways was unique in that it mimicked the original Jewish conquest of the region wherein the goal was to either drive out or annihilate the existing population. In antiquity a truly independent Israel apparently only existed for a few hundred years between 1000BC and 700BC. From then on a series of conquests took place in which the land of Israel changed hands a number of times. Through much if not all of this, the indigenous population was not uprooted with exception of the the Jewish exile to Babylon. With the advent of the new contrived State of Israel, the long term goal has been to displace without compensation and if necessary extinguish the indigenous population, Christians as well as Jews. This strategy can only be compared to the genocidal treatment dished out to indigenous Americans by the European colonists and other such atrocities of history. But the in the case of Israel all of this has been excused by many based on a very flimsy interpretation of Bible prophecy and Israel’s biblical history. And there has been a concerted PR effort over the years by the Zionists to downplay the brutality and intolerance employed in order to achieve the goal of a modern day restored biblical Israel.

    At this point no one is going to undo what has already transpired in history anymore than anyone is going to undo the disenfranchisement of indigenous Americans who have been left with the option of assimilate or waste away. In that regard indigenous Americans have actually fared better than Palestinians under Israeli occupation. Israel is going to be around for a long time like it or not. But it is also going to remain an open wound that will never heal.

    The world is a very unjust place. Nothing is more true than that. Ultimately, only in Christ can one find justice and the hope of a better life in the world to come. Scripture teaches us that there are some who enjoy their riches and power in this life and others who will only experience true prosperity in the age to come when the Kingdom of Christ is fully manifest. Palestinian Christians already understand this truth. Most of us are so blessed not ever having had to face arbitrary expropriation and displacement by state authority. There is little hope of changing this crooked and broken world. But we don’t have to put our stamp of approval on it.

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