(Image Courtesy of PBS)
This week, while listening to a conference-call conducted by The Israel Project with Ethan Felson of The Jewish Council for Public Affairs on the issue of Divesting in Israel, he spoke about the upcoming meeting taking place in Pittsburgh with the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
PCUSA is the third largest mainline Protestant denomination in America and the first church to endorse divestment against Israel calling for “phased, selective divestment of multinational corporations operating in Israel.” There’s also a resolution calling Israel an apartheid state.
The hope is that the PCUSA will join the other mainline Protestant denominations and reject the path of divestment. For example and according to Felson, the Methodist Church, by a margin of more than two to one, rejected divestment when it met just a few weeks ago. Also, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church this year came out with a statement rejecting divestment and endorsing the use of positive investment. The Lutheran Church in 2007 and 2011 – the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – rejected divestment.
Still, the PCUSA’s meeting is of great concern and listening in on the conference call, I admit to doing a bit of free associating. I was sent back in time and reminded of one of my favorite boyhood stories, “The Last of the Mohicans” by James Fenimore Cooper.
Taking place during the French and Indian War, when France and Great Britain battled for control over the North American colonies, it told the story of the last two members of the tribe of Mohicans – Uncas and Chingachgook and their white friend, Hawkeye. They were all on the side of the British and opposed to the Hurons, who were led by their nemesis Magua, who sided with the French.
While the story takes place in 1757 and in a land far away from the Middle East conflict, one can learn a lot about the current plight of Israel from it.
In the story, the Hurons far outnumber the two lone Mohicans. Indeed the title comes from Chingachgook who says, “When Uncas follows in my footsteps, there will no longer be any of the blood of the Sagamores, for my boy is the last of the Mohicans.”
It’s only when Uncas, reveals his wider heritage to the Delaware tribe, disclosing that he’s descended from the Turtle and therefore related to them, that an alliance is created between the Mohicans and the enormous Delaware.
So what has this to do with Israel today?
Israel and the Jewish people, as a tribe, have a friend in several American churches; including the Evangelical Lutheran Church (the second largest in America with some 60-million in the U.S.) and the Episopals. In fact, according to polls, eighty-percent of people in the pews in the Presbyterian Church support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship and support positive relationships between Presbyterians and Jews. It’s only in their clergy where there’s a 20-30 point difference and less support for Israel.
To combat any antagonistic onslaught toward the Jewish state, Mr. Felson said, it’s all about relationships, “it is very clear that the person-to-person relationships are what move people, the stories that people are told…they are the business partners and next-door neighbors of members of the Jewish community and the pro-Israel community that we should be having conversations with about Israel.”
Similarly, but on another plane, talks between Israel and the Vatican have been going on over the status of Catholic Church property in east Jerusalem and it’s been reported that the Vatican is preparing to accept the application of Israeli law on Catholic Church properties in east Jerusalem. Palestinians say that would be a violation of international law.
Ultimately, embracing, accepting and strengthening the ties that bind Christians to Israel and their genealogy with the Jewish tribe is of utmost importance. Given the onslaught of ill will emanating from the Arab and Muslim world, we need more allies and avoid becoming “The Last of the Mohicans.”