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PHOTOS: Christian Zionist marchers challenged with subversively symbolic Bible lesson

Created on 06 October 2012
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(photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

Amid the ranks of Israeli military troops in this year’s Jerusalem March strode a colorful and vocal group of international Christian Zionists. Waving their countries’ flags, wearing their national costumes, and carrying signs in various languages, including Hebrew, they showered Israeli onlookers with blessings and greetings—with special praise for the heavily armed police and soldiers lining the parade route. “God bless the IDF!” and “We love the IDF!” punctuated the more general expressions of love for Israel.

 

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(photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

 

Christian Zionists are one of the most potent political forces affecting international policy toward Israel and Palestine today. Heavily influenced by apocalyptic theology that sees the modern State of Israel as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy, they typically bless its military actions and settlement expansion as proof of God’s plan that will hasten the return of Jesus to earth.

 

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(photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

 

However, many Jews, Israeli or otherwise, are troubled by the beliefs of some Chrisitian Zionists that see Israel as something of a pawn in an End Times battle plan in which some Jews convert en masse while others are annihilated.

 

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(photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

 

Though popularized through bestselling books, Christian Zionism remains outside of the doctrine of most traditional Christian denominations. Yet this once-fringe theology has had a significant influence in the political realm as a special interest group capable of mobilizing key constituencies and donor dollars. For example, according to polls, very few U.S. Christians (or Jews, for that matter), cast their vote on the basis of support for Israel. Yet such groups help solidify the perception among candidates that criticism of Israel can only be an electoral liability, while little political capital can be gained by standing up for Palestinian rights.

 

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(photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

 

Yet Palestinians continue to stand up for themselves. In this year’s march, as in previous years, Palestinian Christians led a creative attempt to penetrate the conscience of those who often blindly support Israel while either ignoring or distorting the Palestinian perspective. Members of Sabeel, a Palestinian Christian Liberation Theology Center, mobilized local and international activists to offer “gifts” to the Christian Zionists marching through West Jerusalem. The group dressed in dog costumes and distributed thousands of flyers and 531 pieces of “Kaek il Eid,” the bread with an egg in the center traditionally served at Easter by Palestinian Christians. Each egg was dyed in a color of the Palestinian flag, and 531 were given to symbolize the number of Palestinian villages depopulated in the Nakba.

 

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(photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

 

The accompanying flyers referenced a passage from the Christian Bible, Mark 7:24-30, in which Jesus uncharacteristically refuses to heal the daughter of a non-Jewish woman, saying, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." The woman responds, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." Impressed by her answer, Jesus heals her daughter.

 

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(photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

 

As one Palestinian Christian activist explained, “We wanted to give them a gift from the ‘dogs of the land’ that would critique any theology that excludes and demeans half of the population of this land.”

 

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(photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

 

The flyers also included Bible passes from Psalm 146:7-9a and Ephesians 2:19 which describe a God of love and justice who cares for the oppressed. They also promoted two web sites: www.kairospalestine.ps, a unified movement by Palestinian Christians to resist the Israeli occupation which endorses boycott, divestment, and sanctions, and www.christianzionism.org, a site which actually challenges the theology of Christian Zionism.

 

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(photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

 

While it’s uncertain to what degree this symbolic action will influence the hearts or minds of its targets in this year’s Jerusalem March, the activists made an important public statement that will ripple well beyond the march's West Jerusalem streets, declaring the existence of Palestinian churches who struggle under the reality of an occupation that many of their international Christian sisters and brothers have yet to confront.