Several dozen (some reports put the number at a couple hundred) Orthodox Jews demonstrated against “missionary activity” outside the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Sunday as a group of Christian tourists filed past.
The protest took place at the Davidson Center, an archaeological park adjacent to the Temple Mount where one can find the Southern Stairs of the Temple Mount, which would have served as the backdrop of many of Jesus’ recorded encounters at the holy site.
See important related article: The Israel Disconnect – A Chronic Christian Disorder
Orthodox Jewish demonstrators outside the Temple Mount ask Christian tourists to take their “missionary activity” elsewhere.
Credit: Yoav Dodkevitch/TPS pic.twitter.com/IUPqwNZY4N
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Joining the protest was Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Aryeh King and several prominent local rabbis.
“This is a just protest against those who allowed Christian missionaries to hold a Christian worship and ceremony designed to prepare a missionary effort directed at Israeli residents, and against the missionaries,” said King in a statement. “As far as I’m concerned, let every missionary know they are not welcome in the Land of Israel.”
The protest coincided with the conclusion of the 21-day “Isaiah 62” prayer and fast period that Christians around the world held for Israel.
Some religious Jewish groups were upset because the Isaiah 62 fast organizers defined it as a campaign “for the increase of God’s salvation promises and plans for Jerusalem and Israel.” They interpreted this to mean a “missionary” effort to “convert” Jews.
A large number of police were on hand to make sure the situation did not turn ugly. While there was some reported physical confrontation between the Christians and the demonstrators, most of the clashes occurred between the Orthodox Jews and police officers, who worked hard to keep them separated from the tourists.
One police officer in particular was the target of the protestors’ derision. As a fellow religious, kippa-wearing Jew, he was mercilessly shouted down as a “traitor.”
Several of the demonstrators held signs in English explaining why they opposed Christians coming to the site for religious purposes. They read:
“We haven’t forgotten our temple that was destroyed by Rome nor the equitation [they meant Inquisition] in Spain and all the pogroms.
“We have not forgotten all the bloodshed nor the six million who were murdered in the Holocaust.
“Now we have returned to our country and pray in the remnant of the temple that will be built soon.
“Please respect the feelings of the Jewish people and do your Christian ceremonies in your churches and not here.”
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While the sentiment is unfortunate given the tremendous progress in Jewish-Christian relations in recent decades, it is also understandable. Many Jews, especially those who grow up in religious communities that bore the brunt of historical Christian antisemitism, have a deeply-ingrained mistrust of Christians that will take much longer to heal.
And, of course, the healing process is not helped by some Christian evangelists who preach that the Jews must either “convert,” or burn in hell.
To them that threat is meaningless. Thanks to the way Christianity portrayed Jesus and faith in him for so many centuries, many religious Jews continue to see it as an entirely foreign religion, not unlike Islam, or even Buddhism. To convert to something that is, in their eyes, completely disconnected from their peoplehood is unconscionable.
See related: Why Are Jews Attacking Christians in Jerusalem?
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