By Dow Marmur
Jerusalem (Aug. 8, 2018) – In the eyes of many of those in power in Israel, including the prime minister, liberal Jews are extreme leftists and potential enemies of the people. Mercifully, most of them reside in the Diaspora, which is a good reason to shun them. In any case, they’re soon likely to disappear through assimilation, as reflected in the intermarriage rate. Then only the good and kosher Orthodox Jews will be left.
Moreover, according to this doctrine, nowadays Israel needs neither the money nor the advocacy of Diaspora Jews. Christian evangelicals are providing both, and there’re many more of them.
With this in mind, the Israel Ministry of Education under the leadership of Naftali Bennett, the head of the settlers’ party Habayit Hayehudi, is sponsoring a leadership training programme for young Israeli Jews developed by Christian evangelicals. The programme is to help young Israelis to foster “a deeper connection to God by embracing their biblical and cultural heritage.” The implication is that evangelicals are especially equipped to teach the love of God to Jews!
According to Ha’aretz, “the driving force behind the initiative is Heather Johnston, the founder and executive director of the U.S. Israel Education Association, an American lobbying organization that supports the settlement movement and opposes the idea of an independent Palestinian state.”
Ms. Johnston, together with her husband Pastor Bruce Johnston, own and run a large Christian retreat centre In California. Dozens of Israeli school children have been brought to the centre over the years. It now also has a branch in Ariel, the West Bank settlement, where the new initiative will be housed. Several thousand Israeli school children will attend annually. Israeli taxpayers will contribute about a million shekel.
The Education Ministry website that proudly reports on the initiative doesn’t mention the evangelical connection. It must have just been an administrative error…. Perhaps it found comfort in the fact that the evangelicals at least aren’t Reform Jews.
The West Bank settlement of Ariel was founded in 1976 and has today a resident population of some 20,000 Jews. Pastor Johnston and his wife are said to have developed close ties with the settlement and its leaders.
In addition, Ariel has also has some 14,000 students at its university. The establishment of an Israeli university on the West Bank was a hotly debated issue in Israel and it took some time for it to be recognized on par with the other higher institutions in the land and abroad. By all accounts, it’s now flourishing; it even has perhaps as many as 1,000 Arab students.
Ariel University has been in the news in recent days as it opened its medical school, apparently paid by Sheldon Adelson, the Jewish-American casino mogul, and his Israeli wife; both are ardent supporters of right-wing causes in Israel and in the United States. They used to be close to Prime Minister Netanyahu, but rumour has it that the relationship has soured of late.
Liberal Jews in Israel and abroad may not be enthusiastic about Ariel and what it represents, but evangelicals obviously are. That’s good enough for the government of Israel to embrace the latter and to turn a blind eye to what many still believe is their hidden missionary agenda.