Thursday, 26 November 2020

Should Diaspora Jews Have a Say in Israel’s Internal Affairs?

The divide between Jews in Israel and abroad has widened. A new Knesset bill could bridge the gap

This is going to be a two-part series, the second installment of which will ask the question “Should Christians Have a Say in Israel’s Internal Affairs?” But it is instructive for our readers to first understand some of the sensitive issues in the relationship between Israel and Jews living in the Diaspora.

Although this is not a new question concerning Israel-Diaspora relations, it has become once again relevant due to a new bill to be proposed in the Knesset. The legislation is being endorsed by Minister of Diaspora Affairs Omer Yankelevitch and sponsored by MK Tehila Friedman, both members of the “Blue and White” party.

The proposed law offers to establish a mechanism making it mandatory for Israeli lawmakers to consult Jewish leaders around the world when making decisions on issues that could affect Diaspora Jewry. While the bill lacks any specifics as to what would constitute the kind of issue that would require consulting world Jewry, its proposal is a significant step toward bridging an ever-widening gap between Israeli Jews and Jews living outside the Jewish State.

Prior to Israel’s independence in 1948, the Zionist movement had always catered and reached out to Jewish communities around the world for support. Diaspora support came in many forms, including financial donations and political lobbying in their local governments. Diaspora Jewish support for the establishment of Israel was so significant during the War of Independence that Golda Meir said herself that Diaspora funding was crucial for the newborn country’s success.

Interestingly, Israel’s Diaspora engagement policies have become a model for other countries around the world interested in courting their own diaspora communities abroad. For example, when Croatia was striving for international recognition in the early 1990s, it established a diaspora lobbying model based on Jewish pro-Israel organizations in the United States. Since gaining statehood, Croatia has also allowed for non-citizen Croats abroad to vote as well as hold seats in its national parliament. Israel is not alone in dealing with the question of diaspora influence in internal affairs.


How much influence should diaspora Jews be given in Israel’s internal affairs?

First, obvious limitations should be noted. It seems absurd that non-citizens, even if they are Jewish, should have any kind of decision-making authority on matters of security, the economy, and any local issue that does not concern the diaspora community. Only Israeli citizens should have the right to determine processes that affect their daily lives and well-being.

In addition, there is a potential domestic threat in allowing for Jews abroad to influence internal affairs. Since Israel’s inception, ethnic tension has prevailed between Jewish and Arab groups in the country. For many Israeli Arab communities living as a minority population in a self-identified Jewish state, citizenship and civil rights are sensitive issues. National belonging is not a given.

Although rare today, Arab citizens of Israel have participated in some of the country’s most deadly terror attacks. Non-citizen Jews having too much say in Israel’s internal affairs is likely to arouse those tensions which have been quite dormant in recent years, due to understandings that an ethnic group abroad is being favored over actual tax-paying citizens of the country.

At the same time, Israel’s entire existence is predicated on its role as the official nation-state of the Jewish people. Thus, if Israel is to remain a country that claims to represent and serve world Jewry, then its leaders must at the very least allow them to voice their concerns and opinions in an official way.

Israel does make decisions on Jewish issues that potentially affect diaspora communities abroad, such as conversion, definitions of who is a Jew, the Kotel (Western Wall), and Aliyah (Jewish immigration to Israel). For instance, any changes to the Law of Return, which gives the right of Jews around the world to live in Israel, certainly should be made only after consulting Jewish leaders. Although Israel should always retain the exclusive right to decide who is able to cross its borders, Aliyah is based on the right of any Jew to automatically become a citizen of his or her homeland, Israel. Therefore, changing this status in any way has a significant effect on Jews living abroad.

Opening up an official channel for direct discourse and consultation between Israeli and Diaspora Jewish leaders is also beneficial for building understanding and respect in a highly damaged relationship. In recent years, the divide between Jews in Israel and abroad has widened. Young people are on average far less engaged than their parents and grandparents in supporting Israel and an influx of anti-Zionist Jewish organizations such as ‘If Not Now” and “Jewish Voice for Peace” are appearing.

While there are several causes to the increasing divide, a central one is due to prevalent Diaspora perceptions that Israel is only interested in hearing what they have to say when their checkbook is open. The proposed bill has the potential to bridge this gap and restore a strong Jewish attachment to Israel.

Thus, a delicate balance must be preserved between containing local ethnic tensions and bridging the divide between Israeli and Diaspora Jews in order to increase Jewish engagement of Israel. Granting diaspora communities authority in determining substantive local issues such as security and the economy can tilt that balance in a dangerous direction in which a minority already struggling with belonging to the country (Israeli Arabs) may perceive that a non-citizen ethnic group abroad is being prioritized over them. However, Israel can consult Jewish leaders abroad on Jewish-related issues that may directly impact their communities. This both preserves the peace at home and is likely to encourage reconciliation between an increasingly divided Jewish people.

Jesus Christ, Our Great God, and Savior

Titus 2:11–14 gives us the reason for why we should live as godly men and women, old or young, and in our places of service (Titus 2:1–10)—the saving grace of God has appeared in the person of Jesus Christ to teach us how to live godly lives. Part of this godly life is to expect our Lord Jesus Christ to appear again. Titus 2:13 describes us as “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” In the last phrase of this clause, we find one of Scripture’s strongest declarations of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is not just our Savior and the Christ, but He is also “our great God.”

Some prefer to understand “our great God” to refer to the Father. If this is the case, Jesus is identified as both the glory of the Father and as our Savior Jesus Christ. However, five reasons suggest “our great God” also refers to Jesus Christ.

First, one article before both “God and Savior” ties these two titles together as one and the same. The text literally reads “the glory of the great God and Savior of us Jesus Christ.” The glory that appears, then, is Him who is God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Second, several passages similarly identify Jesus as God. John 1:1 identifies Jesus as the Word who is God at the Father’s side. Thomas identified “him” as “My Lord and my God!” in John 20:28. Acts 20:28 mentions “the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” Romans 9:5 identifies Christ as “God overall.” 2 Peter 1:1 speaks of a righteousness that belongs to “our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Third, using references from just the Pastoral Epistles, while it is true that the Father is identified as our Savior (1 Timothy 2:3; Titus 1:3; 3:4), Jesus is identified as Savior as well (2 Timothy 1:10; Titus 1:4; 3:6).

Fourth, if it was the Father’s grace in Christ to appear in Titus 2:11 and not the Father Himself, so also would we expect the “appearing” in Titus 2:13 to refer to Christ as well. Just as Mathew 25:31 refers to the final descent of Christ as when He “comes in His glory,” so also Titus 2:13 refers to Christ’s coming appearance as glory itself.

Fifth, Paul likely used a well-known phrase and applied it to Jesus Christ. “God and Savior” could refer to leaders or even the emperor, and Paul’s use of the phrase identified Christ as the only One who should properly receive such a title.

Whether using Titus 2:13 or one of the passages above, one truth is certain—the man Christ Jesus is also God. May the Father’s grace through Him continue to change us to be more like His Son, especially as we wait for Him to come again.



By David Huffstutler 

David pastors First Baptist Church in Rockford, IL, serves as a chaplain for his local police department and teaches as adjunct faculty at Bob Jones University. David holds a Ph. D. in Applied Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His concentration in Christian Leadership focuses on his contributions to pastoral and practical theology.


Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Biden administration will likely seek to make its own stamp on Mideast

 say experts

President-elect Joe Biden speaking in Gettysburg, Pa., on Oct. 7, 2020

Michal Hatuel-Radoshitzky, a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, states it is safe to assume that the incoming president’s initial energies will be internally focused due to the coronavirus and the economy. In addressing the Mideast, the priority is likely to focus on Iran and the nuclear deal, followed by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

(November 9, 2020) U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s yet-to-be-confirmed victory over incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump has ushered in a flurry of questions in Israel over what a Biden-Harris administration would look like and how it would differ from the Obama administration specifically with regard to Israel.

Eytan Gilboa, an expert on American politics and foreign policy, as well as a senior research associate at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, told JNS the next administration “will differ in certain areas” compared to Obama’s. 

“We should not expect much continuity,” he said. “Every president wants to leave their own imprint.”

Gilboa noted a few points. First, Biden’s top priorities will be domestic: dealing with the coronavirus, interracial relations and the economy.

Second, Biden’s ability to pass legislation will depend on the makeup of Congress and whether the Republicans or Democrats control the Senate.

Third, according to Gilboa, many of the so-called progressives, the radicals, “are anti-Israel and some are anti-Semitic.”

“The question is how powerful they will be,” said Gilboa.

 

‘A need to change the sunset clause’

While Biden may not necessarily take a hard line against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “the people under him may not be so forgiving, as many are Obama veterans. These people are not very friendly [towards Israel]. The question is how much influence he will give them.”

With regard to policy, Gilboa said, “there will be continuity in terms of all bilateral relations, including intelligence coordination, security cooperation, joint maneuvers and development of missile defense systems. These will continue and perhaps improve.”

Gilboa suggested that Israel will likely need to be concerned about three issues. The first is the United Nations, where Biden is likely to renew American involvement and participation in U.N. international organizations such as the International Criminal Court and the U.N. Human Rights Council. The Trump administration spent four years lambasting the United Nations over its anti-Israel stance, and in 2019, Trump withdrew America from the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The second issue to concern Israel is Biden’s intention to work closely with Europe, which according to Gilboa, could be “problematic on issues such as Iran and the Palestinians.”

With regard to Biden’s approach to Iran and his intention to sign a new deal with the Islamic Republic, Gilboa said Israel should make every effort “to participate in the formulation of a new deal.”

He explained that Biden said he wants to negotiate a new deal with Iran and while Iran thinks it will be similar to the 2015 deal, it won’t. “Five years have passed, and there is a need to change the sunset clause,” he said.

In fact, UNSCR 2231’s section on the arms embargo against Iran already expires this year. United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace has warned that the expiration of the arms embargo “will have immediate destabilizing consequences for Yemen, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Israel. Terror organizations like the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force, the Al-Ashtar Brigades, Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Houthis are the likely beneficiaries of this sunset provision.”

Gilboa said any new deal with Iran “will have to be tougher and include issues left out of the original deal such as the development of ballistic missiles.”

Iran would like to negotiate, said Gilboa, but it insists the United States must abolish the economic sanctions as a precondition to any deal.

Regarding the Palestinians, Biden has said he won’t move the U.S. embassy back to Tel Aviv, though there are reports that Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas will insist on it.

More worrying for Israel, is Biden’s intention to restore aid to the Palestinians and UNRWA, which could result in the financing of terror against Israel, and he has said he will reopen the PLO mission office in Washington.

“I doubt he will emulate Obama’s obsession with the peace process,” said Gilboa. “I do not see any major peace process or peace plan. I don’t think this is going to happen.”

The third issue that will concern Israel according to Gilboa related to the Abraham Accords that saw Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Sudan agree to normalize relations with Israel. Trump planned to add other countries such as Oman, Morocco, maybe Kuwait, and even perhaps Saudi Arabia. The reason was to counter Iran in the region.

Representatives of Iran and the P5+1 world powers pose for a photo in Vienna, Austria


Biden had applauded the Abraham Accords, but his top foreign-policy advisor, Tony Blinken, has said that the significance of the deals was “a little bit overstating” and noted that Israel had close ties with the countries under the Obama administration as well.

But Gilboa said that Iran will now give the United States an ultimatum. “If given the choice, Biden will choose Iran,” said Gilboa.

For its part, Israel and Arab Gulf state are reportedly moving to help the Trump administration levy a “flood” of sanction on Iran before Biden is sworn in reportedly out of concern that Biden could undo Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against the Islamic Republic.


‘Israel has changed, and Iran has changed’

So will a Biden administration be more pro-Israel than the Obama administration? Or less?

According to Michal Hatuel-Radoshitzky, a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, “what was considered ‘pro-Israel’ in Obama’s term is not necessarily seen as ‘pro-Israel’ today.”

“Since Obama’s presidency America has changed; Israel has changed, and Iran has changed, as have the region and the world in general,” she said.

“Furthermore,” she added, “one has to take into account that similarly to American society, Israeli society is divided and multi-faceted with different sectors having completely different perceptions of what it means to be ‘pro-Israel.’ ”

Hatuel-Radoshitzky said that both Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have proven time and again that they are Israel’s allies.

“Among other things, they are committed to maintaining Israel’s QME [Qualitative Military Edge], and they have declared that they will not condition aid to Israel on the Israeli government’s policies vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” she said.

Whether the Biden administration will launch an effort to create a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, Hatuel-Radoshitzky agreed with Gilboa, saying that it is “safe to assume that the Biden administration’s initial energies and resources will be internally focused. In addressing the Middle East, the priority will likely be addressing the JCPOA. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will come in only later.”

According to Hatuel-Radoshitzky, Israel should prepare for a Biden administration by making a “proactive effort to establish open and direct communication lines with Democratic Party officials to transform Israel into a bipartisan issue.”

She said Israel should not fear the renewal of Palestinian aid, but should rather perceive it “as an opportunity towards increased US leverage vis-à-vis the Palestinians who will once again perceive the United States as an acceptable mediator.”

Hatuel-Radoshitzky said she believes that returning U.S. aid to UNRWA or returning the United States to the UNHRC or to UNESCO “could play out very positively for Israel if conditioned upon important changes in the way these bodies function. In other words, there is an excellent opportunity to increase U.S. influence in a way that will be conducive to Israel, too.”

Top 5 challenges for the church after this election

Amid all the analysis and opining about the 2020 presidential election, one thing must not be overlooked: The church’s witness in the world has been damaged almost beyond repair.


The politicization of the faith, the abandonment of biblical teaching, the hypocrisy, the sacrifice of truth, the love of money and status — all these have caused the church to lose relevance and authority to speak to modern culture. Of course, erosion of trust in the church did not begin with this presidential election or the 2016 election, although the divisions of the past four years certainly accelerated the trend.

It wasn’t that long ago that American conservatives — and especially Christian conservatives — cared deeply and passionately about absolute truth and strict morality and certain reality. And it wasn’t that long ago that American progressives were accused of promoting an “everybody do your own thing” mentality that empowered looser morality, sexual ethics, and doubts that there is such a thing as absolute truth.

Yet today, it is the progressives who are most likely to be fighting the onslaught of misinformation, fake news, conspiracy theories, and outrageous lies by demanding a consistent standard around a flagpole of definitive truth.

No wonder we’re all confused; some would say the tables have turned and the sides have switched uniforms.

Every publication and pundit out there is commenting on how this election has revealed the deep divides in American society that might as well have us living in two separate universes. And in the midst of this, pastors are left to try to make peace in their churches. Is this possible?

Here are five challenges pastors and church leaders face in these post-election days:


Avoiding both-sides-ism

The natural tendency for peacemakers is to point out that there has been wrong done on both sides and to call everyone to the middle through confession and forgiveness. That will not work in the present moment. Although both sides may feel equally offended by the other, both sides have not acted in the same way or with the same malice. Each “side” must be dealt with on its own merits and actions, just like good parenting requires dealing with each child as an individual. Both-sides-ism is a lazy and unrealistic way out of this quagmire.

“Both-sides-ism is a lazy and unrealistic way out of this quagmire.”


Restoring respect for truth

This is not simply a matter of one side believing the truth and the other side believing a lie. It is, instead, a case of both sides firmly believing their views are true. Except in rare cases, it is not possible for two opposing ideas to be simultaneously true. Somehow, we’re going to have to come to an agreement on what is true and what is false in the real world. Coronavirus has shown us the peril of living in a world of lies. Eventually, lies will get you killed. If the church can’t help us sort out truth from lies, we don’t need to stay in business.

“Coronavirus has shown us the peril of living in a world of lies. Eventually, lies will get you killed.”


Overcoming the love of money

For the church, this is a debt that never gets paid. We’ve got to keep telling this story over and over. Remember that Jesus talked more about money than any other topic recorded in the Gospels. Getting this right sets up all other successes. And yet time and again — in both Democratic and Republican campaigns — appealing to personal economic interests tops all other concerns. Our society has conditioned us to care most about our own economic well-being; the Bible should condition us to see that the love of money is the root of all evil.


Revaluing community

Too often, the church has portrayed “community” as a kind of forced uniformity or assumed uniformity or even homogeneity. We go to church and assume everyone else there thinks like we do, and we tend to cluster with others who look like we do. We foster a community that is as shallow and superficial as a Sunday morning hello at a coffee station. True community places us in the same boat together with everyone given an oar. We’ve got to figure out how to row the boat without capsizing. This is a lesson the church should model. We should be handing out oars, not complaining because the boat is taking on water.

“True community places us in the same boat together with everyone given an oar.”


Loving neighbor

I long for the old days when we could debate what was the best way to love our neighbors, meaning, for example, is it better to give a homeless person money, job training, or food. When we agree we must love our neighbors, we can engage in helpful conversation about how to fulfill the command of Jesus. Sadly, the debate today has moved to another realm: “Must we help that pitiful person?” Or a somewhat gentler adaptation: “That’s not my problem to worry about.” Getting this fundamental teaching of Jesus right would set in motion a lot of cures for the other things that ail us. We love God by loving neighbors as ourselves.


Underlying all this is the need to restore trust in the church. To get there, the root question pastors may need to face is whether they want to serve the church that has been or the church that will be. I’m reminded of our church’s journey toward LGBTQ inclusion four years ago when an older member said: “I know where the trend is going on this and that in 20 years this will not be an issue at all. But can’t we older folks just have our church the way it has been until we die?”

Whatever the issue — don’t get hung up only on the LGBTQ illustration — the church cannot regain the trust of the community until we’re able to see all the community around as beloved of God and not just targets for our conversion.

Church consultant Mark Tidsworth hit this nail right on the head in a recent BNG story: “If you want more young people in the church, you are going to have to drop the belief that social justice issues are off-limits while focusing only on personal piety and salvation. People under 35 write us off as irrelevant because we are unwilling to address the issues of the day.”

It’s time to flip the script and show the world that the authentic church of Jesus Christ solves problems rather than creating problems, tells the truth, loves people more than money, and builds authentic, diverse community.


Credit to Mark Wingfield, serves as executive director and publisher of Baptist News Global, where this article was first published.

Chelsey James “Hands on the Bible” New Music Video

Hands-on the Bible


During these strange times of uncertainty and change, Chelsey James shows the importance of keeping our “Hands on the Bible” with her passionate music video. Without apologizing, James sings a powerful message for the symbol representing her faith.


Throughout the various places in the town of Seymour, the Missouri native sings about the one thing that has kept her rooted in her beliefs. As she roams the down to earth and country rooted environment, the camera captures multiple moments of people in the community keeping their hands on the Bible, and their eyes in it.


Chelsey James

Now in the month of thankfulness, James says there is a lot to be thankful for. For one, she says we have the “ground to put some green on, the good book to lean on when times start getting tough." The video displays a hard working and very loving community. Connected through faith, they are thankful for each other. Engaging in fellowship, they pass the plates of country fried chicken and bowls of southern mashed potatoes. Proving that even with all the craziness that is happening this year, James reminds us that “all you need for survival, is bread on the table, and hands-on the bible.”


Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/7E1voHe5TyUOHRXjQyq5eJ

Chelsey James: https://www.chelseyjames.com


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