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NCC news release recaps exchange about ‘the Jewishness of Jesus’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A National Council of Churches delegation disagreed with an Israeli government official’s statement to them that most “Christian bishops” in the Holy Land “have a problem with the Jewishness of Jesus.”

A news release posted April 29 by the National Council of Churches included a paragraph recounting “a lively meeting” between the 13-member NCC delegation and the director of religious affairs in Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gadi Golan.

The news release, dated April 26, followed two earlier NCC news releases dated April 25 and 26 relaying comments by various NCC delegation members after seeing the Jenin refugee camp at the center of a standoff between Israel and the United Nations as well as an Arab sector of Jerusalem.

The latest NCC release April 26 recapped the meeting with Golan of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a paragraph:

“Mr. Golan attacked the ways in which indigenous Christian leaders related to Israel. ‘When it comes to Israel,’ he said, ‘we definitely have a problem when it comes to Christianity. Most of the Christian bishops here have a problem with the Jewishness of Jesus.’ The church delegation argued that it had met with many of Jerusalem’s Christian Patriarchs and that this was not true. Mr. Golan persisted: ‘The future of Christianity in the Middle East lies with the state of Israel,’ he stated, implying that an ‘Israeli Jewish pluralistic society’ would do more to enhance Christianity than those who had been its guardians in the Holy Land for 2000 years.”

The NCC news release provided no further elaboration of Golan’s arguments about the theological/historical views of “Christian bishops” in the region and the impact on Christianity of centuries of Arab control of Jerusalem and the Middle East, or the responses of the NCC delegation, which wrapped up April 26 its 12-day mission in the Middle East.

The latest NCC news release also devoted a paragraph to a meeting with Rabbi David Rosen, head of interfaith relations for the American Jewish Committee.

“This, too, was a dynamic exchange, but Rabbi Rosen gave a much more nuanced view of the current situation in Israeli society and within Christian, Muslim, and Jewish relations,” the NCC news release stated. “Rabbi Rosen spoke extensively of the ways in which both Palestinians and Israelis view themselves ‘as the victim and as vulnerable,’ saying that ‘each side sees itself as under assault, …[and] the culture of incitement has become the norm.’ He heartily endorsed U.S. involvement in the peace process and particularly in helping to re-develop the Palestinian infrastructure. The need to insure that Palestinian society becomes self-sufficient, said the rabbi, ‘is in the security interests of both the Israelis and Palestinians.'”

The NCC news release also mentioned that the delegation’s agenda April 25 included a meeting with the director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, Rabbi Ron Kronish, but there was no recap of what was said.

The earlier NCC release on April 26 and one on April 25 focused almost exclusively on the Palestinian toll in Israel’s “Operation Defensive Shield” military response to the onslaught Palestinian suicide bombings.

Jim Winkler, general secretary of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, for example, recounted from his visit to the Jenin refugee camp — site of intense battles between Israeli troops and Palestinian fighters — that, “As we waited at a checkpoint today, a food shipment from the U.N. was permitted to go around us and right in. I was told later that the residents refused to accept the shipment because the people saw food packages on which were written ‘gift from the United States’ and that there were children’s toys that read, ‘Made in Israel.’

“I am happy when my tax dollars are used for food, but that food was rejected because a greater portion of my taxes were used to provide weapons that destroyed this camp and so many of these people. It is not a proud day for me,” Winkler stated.

Winkler and three other members of the NCC delegation, including NCC General Secretary Bob Edgar, traveled to Jenin in an aid delivery sponsored by several religious relief agencies.

None of the NCC news releases told of whether the NCC delegation visited with any Israelis who have lost family members during the wave of suicide bombings that prompted the Israel’s military counter-response in late March.