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Jerusalem deputy mayor owes Christians an apology for 'missionary terrorism' comment

Aryeh King makes remarks during protest against Christian prayer service near the Western Wall

Orthodox Jewish activists clash with police during a protest against a Christian Pentecost prayer event outside the Davidson Center in Jerusalem Old City, May 28, 2023. (Photo: Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

One of Jerusalem's deputy mayors, Aryeh King, feels justified in labeling Christian adherents, who came to pray in close proximity to the Western Wall, as those who commit “missionary terrorism which is as dangerous as Islamic terrorism.”

[Editor's note: Currently there are 10 deputy mayors in Jerusalem. Another deputy mayor, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, condemned King's remarks.]

His reasoning is that “these Christian missionary organizations from Israel and abroad, who haven’t hidden their intentions, chose to hold this event in a place that has nothing to do with Christianity but actually with Judaism,” stating that “similar events took place in the past but they were behind closed doors and not in religious sites that are holy according to Jewish heritage.”

After doing some research on the exact location where this prayer service took place, it was not at the Western Wall, known as the Kotel, but rather on the Southern Steps, which is another area nearby, but not at the site of the Wall. These steps happen to be a place that is heavily trafficked, on a regular basis, by many tourists – Christian and otherwise, so it would appear that King has a problem with the fact that these Christians were praying, which, of course, is their prerogative to do anywhere in what is supposed to be the free country of Israel. 

Given that their Messiah was an Israeli Jew, who famously walked the streets of Jerusalem and was tried and crucified in the same city, why does King claim that this particular piece of real estate is only holy to Jews? If the truth be known, just meters away from the Kotel is an area which is revered and held as one of the holiest places in Islam. King seems to forget that Jerusalem is a city where three religions claim to be particularly holy, and since these Christians were not seeking to disavow the Jewish ownership of Jerusalem, why should praying outside on steps be labeled as terrorism?

Protestors seemed to be greatly concerned that the estimated crowd of 700, who came to pray for what they called a Global Day of Prayer for Jerusalem and the Nations, are there to convert the Jewish people as well as the inhabitants of the world. And what if they are? Would they be able to accomplish such a feat by force? Who would permit that? In short, what is the real fear here?

I remember growing up in Brooklyn, New York and hearing that familiar knock on the door of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They would do this on a fairly regular basis, hoping to be invited in to share their faith to those who might want to listen. My family was not interested, and so we habitually turned them away. Each family had the same choice, but, make no mistake about it. It is a choice! Even here in Israel, no one can stop another person from speaking about their personally-held religious convictions.  

Most of us are regularly confronted by ultra-Orthodox who stand on street corners, trying to pass out pamphlets while the traffic light is red. Why aren’t they labeled missionaries? Their goal is to also make believers out of the population, at large, but those who are not interested simply ignore them. Those who are, roll down their windows and happily take their brochures. Some even give them money.

It’s a sad day when an official of Jerusalem, the city which represents three major religions of the world, refers to one of those religions as terrorists who inflict the same kind of destruction as Islamic terrorists. Those words are completely reprehensible, inflammatory and deserve a sincere apology, because nothing could be further from the truth!

When sincere people converge in a holy place for the purpose of prayer, they should not be shouted down, told to go home or be compared to killers, whose aim is to eradicate Jews and others, who might happen to be collateral damage as a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. We have been in a period where the amount of vitriolic language, pitting Jews against Jews, has been so destructive, that prayer for this nation could not come at a better time.

To suggest that these humble and earnest people, who came to seek the God of Israel, to bless this land, are one and the same as haters of Jews whose raison d’etre is to stop at nothing until every inch of Israel is turned into the Palestinian homeland, is to really miss a huge opportunity to appreciate our greatest protectors and supporters.

No one, whose personal faith is strong, vibrant and firmly planted, should ever worry about any individual who tries to share their different persuasion with them. For those who are solidly grounded in the tenets of their faith, it would be impossible to move them from that deep and abiding conviction which they hold and which has been a strong anchor in their life. 

But, likewise, it is the prerogative of individuals, who are still searching, to gather whatever information they choose, in order to come to their own conclusions about truth and belief in God. That freedom must never be removed from free-thinking people whose right it is to come to find answers for themselves.

I firmly suggest that Deputy Mayor Aryeh King remember that Christian tourists make up a sizable number of Israel’s visitors, most of whom are repeat sojourners to the land which is just as holy to them as it is to those of us who claim inheritance to the ancient home of our forefathers.

King owes a sincere apology to the Christian community for likening them to terrorists. In a world where real anti-Semitism is a constant and present danger, evangelical Christians are the last people who should ever be told to go home, because the real danger, as far as I see it, is that they may never come back – and what a loss that would be for our nation!

A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.

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