A Scottish pastor with a history of comparing Israel to Apartheid South Africa has been tapped to take over the spiritual leadership of the capital’s St. Andrew’s Church, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Reverend Páraic Réamonn, a member of the Church of Scotland, is to take over the Jerusalem congregation in September. This raises concerns among some churchgoers that he will use his new pulpit as a platform for the furtherance of his views.
Réamonn had come under fire by supporters of Israel for saying that Israel exiled “millions of Palestinians” and for calling for a boycott of the Jewish state.
“We European Christians are doubly complicit in what Israel is and does,” Réamonn wrote in 2011. “First, in that centuries of utterly deplorable Christian anti-Judaism prepared a seedbed for modern European anti-Semitism and ultimately for the Holocaust. Second, in that Holocaust guilt and belated repentance of anti-Judaism prompt too many of us to keep silent while Israel persists in a strategy of dispossessing the indigenous population of Palestine that began in 1948 and continues to this day – grabbing their land, demolishing their houses, stealing their water, uprooting their olives trees and killing them.”
The church’s “greatest need,” he said, is to “challenge ordinary, decent Jews in Israel who, like ordinary, decent Afrikaners in South Africa of old, are blind – utterly blind – to the reality of what is done in their name and its human consequences.”
Such Jews, he said, are “destroying their own souls.”
Neither St. Andrew’s, the Church of Scotland nor the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities immediately replied to requests for comment.
There is usually a fairly rapid turnover of ministers in Jerusalem, a source familiar with the matter told the Post, adding that the position is seen as a relatively easy job for a minister and for clerics who are reaching retirement age and want a reasonably quiet posting.
The Church of Scotland does not have an easy relationship with the Jewish community. It engendered significant anger among Jews worldwide last year when it issued a controversial report that said “scripture” provides no basis for Jewish claims to Israel.
In addition to suggesting the church boycott Israel, the document rejected “claims that scripture offers any peoples a privileged claim for possession of a particular territory,” saying that “promises about the Land of Israel were never intended to be taken literally.”
It was subsequently taken off the church’s website for revisions.
In response to criticism, the church replaced the original version with a slightly modified one, saying that criticism of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians “should not be misunderstood as questioning the right of the State of Israel to exist.”
As recently as May, British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis rebuked the Church of Scotland for the report, telling Church leaders that their actions were “putting a strain on Jewish- Christian relations in Scotland.”
JTA and Jerry Lewis contributed to this report.