Amish in Israel.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Perhaps for the first time ever, the sounds of Christian song emanated from the offices of the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem Thursday afternoon during the visit of a group of Anabaptist pilgrims from the US.
The group, in Israel to promote interfaith understanding as well as to offer their regret for historical Christian persecution of Jews, burst into song while waiting for the arrival of Chief Rabbi David Lau, and drew numerous members of staff of the Chief Rabbinate into the room where they were singing to listen to their hymns.
Lau welcomed them warmly and requested an encore rendition of one of the songs the pilgrims had been singing, “Marching to Zion.”
Bishop Ben Gerard, the leader of the mission, thanked the chief rabbi for meeting with the group and expressed hope that the meeting would help strengthen ties between the Jewish state and the Anabaptist community in the US and further abroad.
“In order for us to come to our destiny with the Lord, we need to bless our Jewish brothers, because the Lord said to Abraham those who bless you will themselves be blessed,” said Gerard.
Lau ended the meeting by blessing the pilgrims and praying for peace between people around the world.
The group of Anabaptist Christians from the Amish and Mennonite churches arrived in Israel on Sunday for their 3rd Annual Reconciliation Mission, which was arranged in conjunction with the Keshet Center for Educational Tourism, and included a visit to Nazareth as well as the City of David excavations in Jerusalem, along with the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Garden Tomb and the Western Wall.
Ahead of their visit, the group of 35 pilgrims also expressed regret for historical Christian persecution of the Jewish people.
“We would like to meet and bless the people of Israel, to show our support, especially in the area of repentance, and acknowledgment of our errors, such as having rejected them as God’s chosen people,” the group wrote. “We would like to meet with city officials and other leaders who would give us a few minutes of their time.
We, the Amish and Anabaptist people turned away from the Jewish nation, while they were in their darkest hour of need.
We hardened our hearts against them, we left them – never lifting our voices in protest against the atrocities that were committed against them. We want to publicly repent of this and acknowledge our support of Israel.”
During their tour, the Anabaptist group also met with Yesh Atid MK Rabbi Dov Lipman, who said he was “deeply touched” by their sincerity.
“During my time in the Knesset, I have learned that many groups in the Christian community not only support Israel but seek friendship and cooperation with us,” said Lipman. “I hope we can work together to make the world a better place, and I am committed to being an active participant in that important process.”
Anabaptist denominations, which include the Amish and Mennonite churches, date back to 16th century Europe and advocate in particular a degree of separation from the wider world, pacifism and the separation of church and state.