In recent weeks on the Reform Rabbis List Serve (called RAVKAV – Kav is Hebrew for “line”) a debate among my colleagues has been taking place vis a vis a group of right-wing fundamentalist Christians (Christians United for Israel – CUFI) that includes Pastor John Hagee whose support for Israel is strong (like Glenn Beck) but whose values and policy positions are contrary to almost everything liberal Judaism affirms. Some of my colleagues (echoing PM Netanyahu and Israel’s right wing government) are grateful for CUFI’s support regardless of all that CUFI stands for, and others believe that accepting CUFI’s Israel support is tantamount to sleeping with the devil. The latter is my view. Several years ago Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Reform Movement, publicly took Hagee to task for his extremism and bigotry.
Rabbi David Sandmel, a colleague and scholar of Christianity, recommended as an aside that interested colleagues read a background paper recently released on the Palestinian Christian population. This study was an eye-opener for me and I recommend it to you (see link below). Before you do, a bit of Rashi (i.e. context) to explain this post.
In the past several years I have led 2 missions to Israel. The first was a joint trip with my friend Father Mark Stuart and his parishioners at St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church in Hollywood, and the second was last October in which Barbara and I led a Temple Israel leadership group (for those interested, I wrote a review of that second mission that can be read on the Temple Israel of Hollywood web-site – www.tioh.org.)
On the first trip we visited Jewish and Christian sites all over the State as well as the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem now controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Among the highlights of the second trip was a another visit to Bethlehem to meet with the CEO of the Ma’an Palestinian News Agency.
After each of the tours I was left with two distinct impressions about what has happened to the Palestinian Christian community in Israel and the West Bank over the past 100 years:  that the Palestinian Christian population is dramatically shrinking, and  that it is shrinking because of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank on the one hand and Muslim extremism on the other.
After reading this excellent paper by Ethan Felson at the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) – “JCPA Background Paper – The Palestinian Christian Population” I was surprised to learn that both impressions are substantial distortions of the truth.
This paper is a careful analysis of the demographics and politics around this controversial issue. It is well worth reading and sharing with any Christian Ministers, Priests and Christian friends you might know.