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Israeli Group’s Attempt to Strengthen Ties With Black Pastors Faces Obstacles

Black evangelical leaders visited a Jerusalem crafts workshop for elderly Israelis, a project supported by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. The group and Israel's tourism ministry sponsored the pastors' trip to Israel, part of the Fellowship's new outreach effort to Black congregations. (IFC)

Black evangelical leaders visited a Jerusalem crafts workshop for elderly Israelis, a project supported by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. The group and Israel’s tourism ministry sponsored the pastors’ trip to Israel, part of the Fellowship’s new outreach effort to Black congregations. (IFC)

NPR reports Israel is reaching out to a group of Black pastors and is in the process of learning how to navigate American racial and political issues.

A group of Black pastors from the Church of God in Christ recently conducted a week-long trip to Israel paid for by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. The organization has traditionally built relationships with white evangelical churches. Like white evangelical churches, members of the Church of God in Christ also believe the modern state of Israel is a manifestation of a promise from God.

However, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, said he had to approach the Black pastors differently. They are Democrats, while most white evangelicals are Republicans. Since they are Democrats, they are more likely to be supporters of President Barack Obama. Ekstein lobbied against Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran and sees Iran as an “existential threat” to Israel.

Obama also has a strained relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu, who lobbied against the Iran deal. Netenyahu also came to America, addressed Congress, and urged America to go to war with Iran.

According to NPR, Kristina King, director of the fellowship’s new outreach program, said many Obama supporters saw Netanyahu’s behavior as disrespectful.

“Safety and security is the issue with the Jewish community,” she said. “Respect is the issue with the African-American community. So when you disrespect our president, it’s a hard offense to overcome.”

However, members of the delegation declined to talk about the issue saying it was “too sensitive.” The delegation also visited a migrant center and met with Jewish Ethiopians, who have struggled to be integrated into Israeli society. There have also been complaints of police violence against Ethiopians, similar to what is happening in the United States. This might be an area that appeals to the Black pastors, said NPR. Bishop P.A. Brooks, global vice president for the Church of God in Christ, said he would like to help Israel with its racial problems.

“I feel we can assist in that area, in funding,” he says. “And we could, in a consultative way, advise how best to handle these types of situations and not be in denial.”

Valeria C. Cooper, associate professor of Black church studies at Duke University, said Black and Jewish people have been allies since the civil rights era, but this union has fractured in recent years. Progressive Blacks have sided with the Palestinians and believe they are being treated unfairly. A group of more than 1,000 Black activists, including Angela Davis, Dr. Cornel West and rapper Talib Kweli, recently signed a solidarity statement with Palestine. Many of the activists feel Israeli oppression of Palestinians is similar to what Black people are going through in America.

“Black and white evangelicals share an almost mythic understanding of Israel and a very unqualified support of Israel,” said Cooper in an interview with NPR. “On the more progressive side, among African-Americans in particular, there are those who see the Palestinian struggle as racialized.”

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7 thoughts on “Israeli Group’s Attempt to Strengthen Ties With Black Pastors Faces Obstacles

  1. Yep, no way a Black person should grant their support to a nation that practices Apartheid.There's a reason why Black South Africans are critical of Israel. Of course, the Zionist propaganda machine goes nuts trying to obfuscate the reality on the ground. Zionist Evangelicals, whether Black or White, support Israel no matter what they do.

  2. As a black man, I side with Palestine. While I don't know all the dynamics and scenarios playing out behind the scenes, I do think that Israel is anti-semitic and it shows. Not all Israelis are racist or bad people but I have seen it in person and I have to say that I want to avoid it at all costs. I just want to stay away from those that hate me, works out better that way.

  3. Hernan Tasies Guido And if these are so-called evangelicals, how come they don't know that the Hebrews spoken about in the biblie are BLACK & not these descendants of 8th century converts? They are posers/imposters. If there IS a convenant with the Creator; it wouldn't be with them–AshekaNAZIS–sometimes the truth is staring you right in the face. They are the masterminds when it suits them & play victim when the scheme/con calls for that.

  4. Its laughable to see blacks/african americans debate over a group of people that when or if they get to america,will receive more benefits and respect than themselves. We have an abundance of needy, hungry, homeless downtrodden black people right here in america. Help them, support them. Where were these evangelist when our black males were being murdered or wrongly incarcerated. The fight is here at home. Yes we should be aware of whats going on in the world but we need to take care of home first.

  5. The idea that Israel is "in the process of learning how to navigate American racial and political issues" are misplaced efforts. What does America racial and political issue have to do with Israel? Israel need to spend it time cleansing its soul and demonstrating respect, fair and just treatment toward the Palestinians? Seeking out religious Republicans and Democrats reeks of political manipulation that has been veiled behind biblical sentiments –Old Testament. Until Israel can love its neighbor as itself, that is the neighbor that is not Jewish, Zionist or Christian but the one of a different faith entirely that is presently sharing the same land, how can they reach across the ocean to America extending olive branches if it’s not political or meddling?

    Pres. Obama's political ends serves America's democracy and it has absolutely nothing to do with groups spiritual ends. Israel says it is a democracy but the truth is its a theocracy, it behave, think, organize and governs as theocracy, so what one call itself is insignificant, action is the determining factor. Hence the issue here is a moral and human right one and I fail to see how real Christains can overlook fundamental aspects of their own religion, unless they too are giving their religion lip service.

    with that said, I am stunned that Israel having brutally mistreated the Palestinians who are looked upon as inferior, and yet have the audacity to solicit and desire to break bread with Black churches, when black people suffered the same indignities for over a hundred years is beyond belief. I cannot wrap my head around the idea nor the belief that the modern state of Israel is a manifestation of a promise from God without addressing the nature of God.

    How could God manifest in the mist of discrimination and the murder of women a children as blood running in streets? Either God is God of Universal love, peace or prosperity or God is not. The only way God can manifest is through individuals whose natures mirror the nature of God. Can a good seed produce that which is unlike its nature? To suggest otherwise and to illustrate ungodly– intolerance and unjust behavior and attitudes, as I see it, ought to be affront on the nature of God, further it places God underneath the will of man.

    Therefore, common sense ought to suggest that if God has anything to do with a manifestation of his promise, then God’s nature would be enmeshed within and surround that manifestation regardless of the differences in races and faith and cultures, there would have been fairness and peace from the outset, but instead for 68 years there has been bloody turmoil, so it seem to me that either God's will had already been fulfilled or that manifestation was man's will since God does not make mistakes. No one, in my view, can properly serve the Divine if they are willing to forgo and abandon reasoning and common sense.

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