When the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was celebrated this time last year, few could have imagined that anti-Semitism would get even worse. But it has.
The past year has seen two shocking terrorist attacks on Paris, with Jews specifically targeted on both occasions, along with the wave of stabbings and shootings in Israel itself. One incident occurred on Christmas Eve at Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem, just yards from Christ Church, where they were celebrating the birth of the Messiah who came to bring peace to a troubled world and where, ironically, they steadfastly work towards reconciling Arab and Jew through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.
But even as the UK marks Holocaust Memorial Day later this month, we too are witnessing an ongoing rise in anti-Semitic incidents necessitating armed guards having to be deployed to schools in London’s Jewish community. But is the Church as a whole rallying to the support of those who are once more threatened with genocide, as they were under the Nazis? Do they even care?
British publishing magnate Lord Weidenfeld did indeed benefit from caring Christians who took him in after he was rescued from Czechoslovakia through the so-called Kindertransport project of 1938, and has launched a campaign to rescue Christians from Syria out of gratitude for the compassion he was shown. He believes that the Islamic State terrorists are worse even than Hitler’s henchmen. The latter were cold and calculated as they killed on an industrial scale, but the Muslim fanatics seem to enjoy what they are doing.
Here is the stark reality of what is facing the Jewish people at the dawn of 2016: Iran is fast developing nuclear weapons with which to “wipe out” Israel (in the words of the Ayatollahs and Iranian presidents). And the current spat between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia only adds to the tension in the region. Meanwhile Lebanon-based Hezbollah has once again started firing rockets into the Jewish state, ISIS are believed to be stalking the Golan Heights near Galilee, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority continue to incite their people to murder and some Westerners are engaged in a boycott of Israeli goods on the pretext that they are oppressive occupiers of land not their own. But the truth is that most Jewish victims of persecution are attacked simply because they are Jews, not for political or economic reasons.
With all this in mind, UK Christians who can see what is happening are trying to draw the attention of a generally uncaring public to the plight of Jews everywhere. One such event will be held on January 24 at a Sheffield church and will involve other Holocaust escapees brought to England via the Kindertransport. One of them, John Fieldsend, whose parents perished at Auschwitz, was also taken in by a kind Christian couple. He became a follower of Jesus and a full-time preacher, but it could all have been so different. On a visit to the Children’s Memorial at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, he recalls: “As we listened to the names of the children being read out on an endlessly looping tape – which took several days to go round – I realized that had my journey from Czechoslovakia been delayed by only about five weeks, my name would have been on that tape! It was a very dramatic experience…”
Among the organizers of the Sheffield event – at the Bush Fire Church, 427 Halifax Road, Grenoside S35 8PB from 3 to 5pm – are Ginnie White, whose mother Stella was roughed up by Oswald Mosley’s fascists as a child growing up in London’s East End where she was also once jeered at as a “dirty Jew”. The afternoon will also involve the signing of the ‘Shalom Declaration’ promising support for the Jewish people.
And under the banner of Christians United for Israel, a petition is being sent to the UK Government expressing condemnation of anti-Semitism and acknowledging the huge contribution of its Judeo-Christian heritage in shaping British values.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s account of his own family history, shared in a United Nations speech, perfectly illustrates the necessity for such memorial days. After being beaten senseless by a group of anti-Semitic hoodlums at a railway station in the heart of Europe, his grandfather Nathan promised himself that, if he lived, he would take his family to the Jewish homeland and help build a future for the Jewish people.
Six million Jews perished in the gas chambers, but the nightmares of the survivors live on while new generations face fresh threats. When will it stop? We have so much for which to thank them – they gave us the Bible, on the foundations of which we have built a great civilization. And they gave us Jesus, Saviour of both Jews and Gentiles who put their trust in Him, who said: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25.40)
PHOTO: Jaffa Gate, site of a fatal incident also involving a serious wounding on Christmas Eve, and only a stone’s throw from Christ Church, a haven of reconciliation. (Charles Gardner)
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon, and Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com