British Jews should be better informed about the situation of Christians in Israel and the West Bank in order to understand the concerns of churches abroad, according to an Israeli interfaith expert.
Sarah Bernstein, director of the Jerusalem Centre for Jewish-Christian relations, who is originally from London, outlined the challenges facing Israel’s Christian minority during a UK visit.
“It is important for the Jewish community to understand the precarious situation of the Christian population in Israel and the West Bank,” she told a group of 30 Jews and Christians at a seminar hosted by the Board of Deputies and Council of Christians and Jews.
Pulling no punches, she voiced concern at the growing phenonenon of “price tag” attacks carried out by pro-settler militants against Christian targets, which recently included the vandalisation of the Anglican cemetery on Mount Zion.
“It was terrible for Jews to see these scenes of graves desecrated,” she said.
She also drew attention to problems in the education system which left Israeli Jews with little knowledge of Christians other than the historic persecution of Jews in Europe.
“If that is all you learn about Christians, you come out with not altogether positive views about Christians and Christianity,” she said.
Rejecting the idea that Christian emigration from the West Bank was largely due to the pressures of Islamic fundamentalism, she explained that was due more to the general conditions of Palestinians living there.
Jews and Christians in the UK should work together to support the development of a “healthy, trusting relationship” between the two faiths in Israel, she said, rather than exporting the Middle East conflict here.