Weekly Update: Passover, Easter and the blindness of the West

editor - 1 April 2021
This week, nestled between Jewish Passover and Christian Easter, we take a step back to consider the West’s struggle to relate to the worlds of Islam and Judaism.

It seems the Middle East remains a foreign, impenetrable planet for the Western mindset.

Example 1. The EU is constantly reviewing its Middle East policies, seemingly unable to work out whether Israel is a friend or an opponent, and how to relate to the Islamic/Arab world generally. The EU has a love/hate relationship with Israel, its Palestinian statehood project is a disaster, and it has no meaningful strategy for dealing with the volatile developments in the Middle East following the collapse of the “Arab Spring” into an Arab Winter.

Example 2. The new US Administration is also flipping back and forth in a desperate attempt to develop a meaningful approach to the region. This week new Secretary of State Antony Blinken launched the US’s 2020 Human Rights report. It’s full of criticism of authoritarian regimes, such as Syria, Saudi Arabia and Myanmar. The language of human rights provides a framework for analysing the world. But criticism is easy; the difficulty comes when one tries to turn that into realistic policies and implement them on the ground. Negotiate with Iran? Support Palestinian statehood? Withdraw from Syria? Sanctions on Saudi Arabia?

One suspects all this may have something to do with our identity crisis in the West. Who are we, what do we really stand for? No one seems to know.

Early on, by adopting replacement theology, the church cut itself off from the “root” that supports it – the God of Israel. Christianized Europe arrogantly assumed that it was the “new Israel”, the chosen one. Then we cast off Christianity, in favor of secularism. Now it seems the secular left is allied with parts of Islamic culture intent on eliminating what remains of the West’s Judeo-Christian foundations.

In the meantime, while Christian communities are being annihilated in Syria and Iraq with impunity, most European nations turn a blind eye, instead supporting prosecution of Israeli (Jewish) leaders for the “war crime” of allowing Jews to live in the Old City of Jerusalem – the birthplace of Judaism and Christianity.

The Apostle Paul says a blindness (“hardness”) is on Israel (Romans 11). It would seem a much worse blindness is over the West. Worse, because we have called it upon ourselves by cutting our spiritual root.

As Christians celebrate Easter, let us reconnect with our root. Jews and Christians share a common hope in the coming of Messiah. He will reveal the power of His resurrection.

The Editorial team
Israel & Christians Today



According to Rafael Bardaji, “The irony is that the Europeans, in their embrace of secular values while exhibiting hostility toward the Jewish state, see no contradiction between these sentiments and their tolerance of Muslim migrants who ascribe to “a religion that is hostile to our values and our way of life,” and who are becoming more radicalized. Indeed, the “new left” in Europe has established a “symbiotic relationship” with Muslims that is “making [the continent] more fertile for anti-Semitism … [and] anti-Israeli criticism.”
> Read more..

Hadassah Brenner reports in JPost that it is exactly 529 years since the Spanish expelled the Jews from Spain, sparking the Inquisitions, that led to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Jews and Muslims. “This brutal expulsion was devastating for Jews of Spanish origin who were once major contributors to Spanish society and culture; many felt deep animosity and betrayal by the country they once proudly called home.”
> Read more..

In the words of Princeton scholar Charles Issawi, “The legacy of the long, sad past is still very much with us, and will continue to color images and bedevil relations between the West and the Islamic World for a long time to come.”
> Read more..

Since the expulsion of ISIS from the Ninawa Plains of Iraq in 2017, local Christian residents of the area have sought to return to their homes. They have been subject to ongoing harassment, however, from militias aligned with the pro-Iran Hashd al-Shaabi, and specifically with the Badr Organization, the oldest and most established of the IRGC-aligned Shia militias in Iraq. This harassment takes many forms.
> Read more..

A recent report by the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University: “Ten years after a series of uprisings swept the Middle East and North Africa, there is general agreement that the so-called Arab Spring and its aftermath severely disrupted, if not altogether overturned, a decades-long order characterizing the Middle East. Still, consensus remains elusive on precisely what has come in its place. Is it possible to discern a new Middle East order today?”
> Read more..


Scripture for the week: Romans 11:1-24

I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew.Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”

 5 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, as it is written:

“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
eyes that could not see
and ears that could not hear,
to this very day.”

And David says:

“May their table become a snare and a trap,
a stumbling block and a retribution for them.
10 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
and their backs be bent forever.”

11 Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. 12 But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring!

13 I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry 14 in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.

17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root,18 do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” 20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

22 Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.23 And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree.