Chief Rabbi: ‘The Jewish people and the Anglican Church should join forces’
The signatories agreed on the need for a sense of urgency in the search for long-term peace, justice, and security in the Middle East in general, and in Israel and the Palestinian Territories in particular. This should include, they said, both the physical infrastructure, and the emotional and psychological relations of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim believers.
The text of the agreement mentions the ‘all too many times of violence and persecution by Christians of Jews’. Importantly, it celebrates the fact that ‘the United Kingdom, encouraged by its Christian community, was involved in the origins of the State of Israel’. It continues:
‘Among our profound concerns is the rise of anti-Semitism in Britain and the rest of Europe, in the Middle East and across the world… Where it is fostered by governments or political parties, we will openly oppose it…recognising that there have been times when the Church has been complicit in it.’
Importantly, Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, the chairman for interfaith relations of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel Council, defined as blasphemous the idea of divine sanction for suicide and homicide as a ‘religious’ sacrifice.
That won’t go down very well in some quarters…
He continued: "Unfortunately, we continue to witness in Israel, Britain, and elsewhere, people who think they are serving God by killing people. Therefore, it is imperative for us - the Jewish people and the Anglican Church - to join forces to combat those religious leaders who purport to be speaking in the name of God, but who are actually preaching bloodshed and terror.”
Cranmer can hardly wait. He hopes they have more luck than Channel 4, but half expects the Archbishop and Chief Rabbi to be reported by the police and a file sent to the CPS accusing them of incitement.
The Chief Rabbi acknowledges: “The Palestinians have their cultural and religious rights. However, the religious rights of the Jewish people cannot be sacrificed. Although religion can be a source of tension, it may also prove to be the principal vehicle through which a solution may be found. We are meant to live together here, and to love and respect each other… Zionism is therefore not merely a relatively recent political movement, but a religious injunction incumbent on all Jews.”
As Dr Lancaster observes: ‘The true meaning of Zionism, as described here, has not always been understood by those in the Church of England. She quotes from the Revd Dr James Parkes’ A History of the Jewish People:
‘The roots of Zionism are to be found…everywhere and in every century of Jewish history. One thing has been constant - a determination to maintain roots in the 'Promised Land'. Much of the modern discussions of Zionism would have been clearer if this had been realised. It was no case of “Jews returning to a land they had left two thousand years ago”. As a people, they had never left it either physically or spiritually…All through the centuries Jews had intended to return to it.’
It is brave indeed of Archbishop Williams to be party to a declaration which fuses ‘secular’ Zionism with the deeply spiritual Jewish desire to live in the Holy Land. Cranmer just wonders what he’ll say the next time he meets the various and disparate leaders of Islam in the UK…