This is what the Israeli Ambassador has now said about that anti-Israel carol service
held recently in St. James's Piccadilly:
I can't remember such a strong statement from a person of his stature ever being made before. When one considers the time and trouble taken by the various Israeli ministries to ease tourist access to Bethlehem, in conjunction with the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism, one wonders what planet some of Israel's critics are actually living on.
Thank goodness, as the Ambassador says, some of us are trying our hardest to hold real dialogue between Jews, Christians and Muslims. An example is the dialogical theology group that is beginning to meet at my home in Salford every other Sunday. The first such meeting consisted of Jews of various religious backgrounds; Protestants (including members of the Church of England and a German Lutheran), as well as senior Catholics in the Greater Manchester area.
It was a terrific meeting and we hope to be carrying on in similar vein this Sunday.
As I reported this morning
the AGM of the Manchester branch of the Council and Jews was held last night and was nothing less than inspiring. This was largely due to the chairmanship of Bishop of Manchester's interfaith advisor, Revd Steve Williams.
In stark contrast, carol concerts such as the one recently held at St. James's do nothing to assist the Middle East process and everything to cause antisemitism against British Jews at Christmas.
The guest speaker at the CCJ AGM, a leading academic in the field, stated that there were three main reasons for difficulty in dialogue between Jews and Christians. The first is Christian complicity in the Shoah, whether active or passive (i.e. not doing more to help the victims, but standing and watching as it all went on, or pretending that nothing was happening). The second is the uncomfortable theological fact for Christian triumphalism of the establishment of the State of Israel as a place that Jews can call their own once again, after 2000 years of occupation by others. In other words, the miracle of Israel's existence belies much of the Christian theology of contempt of the last 2000 years, in which the Christians were able to look down on the Jewish people and their homelessness as punishment for their sins.
What is puzzling if Revd Charles Hedley is innocent of all this is why he accepted the views of a small and vociferous minority within the Jewish community, when the vast majority do not hold these views? He may not know this, but in so doing, he is following in the steps of quite a few Christians of yore whose animosity towards the Jewish people ended in ....
Is this really what the Church wants?
Maybe Revd Charles Hedley and his colleagues should attend the Manchester University Open Day on Interfaith Dialogue that I'm running on June 11th 2009. Maybe that would give him pause for thought.
In any event, we shall plough on, continuing to have real dialogue, which will include the State of Israel, warts and all. When the UK learns to integrate its minority groups as well as does the State of Israel, then maybe we will be able to listen to criticism of Israel. However, I fear that the UK has a huge way to go to come anywhere near Israel's achievements in this regard. And I take no pleasure in stating this fact: