In January 2017, a delegation of 20 Christian leaders from across South Africa and Mozambique visited Israel and areas under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian national leadership to assess first-hand realities on the ground. Included were visits to Biblical sites of significance to Christians and Jews, visits to a variety of projects and initiatives to give insight into Israeli society, exposure to several speakers who presented positions from Jewish, Arab Moslem and Arab Christian perspectives and a visit to the de facto capital of the Palestinian people, Ramallah. The 20 leaders represented a broad cross-section of the Church and were representative of the ethnic diversity of Southern Africa.
After the visit, the delegation agreed upon the following statement as representative of their conclusions:
· We affirm that the modern restoration of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland reflects the image spoken of in prophetic passages such as Ezekiel 36, Jeremiah 16 and others.
· We embrace the responsibility spoken of in Scripture, to pray and to practically support this process of restoration.
· We reject all efforts to remove or reduce the historic and spiritual connection of Judaism and Christianity to Jerusalem and the land of Israel. Specifically, we reject various UNESCO resolutions and UN Security Council resolution 2334 which erase the Jewish/Christian significance of the Holy Land in favour of later Palestinian and Islamic claims. This calls into question the integrity of the Holy Scriptures.
· We report that no evidence exists to support the accusation that Israel is an apartheid state and that this concept was rejected repeatedly by Israeli Arabs who addressed the group. On the contrary, evidence of integration was evident in visits to the Israeli Parliament (The Knesset), healthcare facilities and on the streets of Israeli cities.
· We observed that Palestinian cities such as Rawabi and Ramallah portrayed elements of affluence and sophistication that is inconsistent with the general perception of conditions in the West Bank.
· We recognise that the inflexible Palestinian demands for a full return to ’67 borders and the integration of potentially 5 million Palestinian refugees into Israel cannot be agreed to by Israel as it jeopardises Israel’s demographic and physical survival. This inhibits progress towards a settlement.
· We learned of significant humanitarian and developmental initiatives by Israel, unreported by South African media, which assist other countries and individuals in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere.
· We express concern that the Palestinian education system, through questioning Jewish historical connections to the land and by presenting negative stereotypes of Jewish people, promotes violence and frustrates the potential for peace.
· We perceive that Israel offers many useful strategies and products which address challenges facing Southern African countries.
· We acknowledge that the Church, without compromising the integrity of Scripture, needs to be an expression of love and compassion to both Jewish people and Arab Palestinian people.
· We understand our responsibility to be a proactive catalyst to extend understanding of the significance of Israel’s prophetic restoration to those within our immediate sphere of influence and beyond.
· We challenge all Christian leaders to review their theological position on Israel to provide sound Biblical leadership in positioning their congregations and denominations concerning Israel.
Pastor Meddy Katwala – Christhood Chapel
Pastor Gerhard Lingenfelder
Pastor Owen Mthlhabane
Pastor Henry Strydom
Pastor Thomas Mofokeng – City of Mercy Tabernacle
Pastor Clint Roodt – His Will Ministries
Pastor John Maritz – Baruch Worship Centre
Pastor Brad Espin – Church on the Rise
Pastor Alberto Chiculuveta – Beth El Acai
Pastor Carlos Tembe – Mozion Culture
Reverend Vincent Benjamin
Pastor Tshepo Rametsi
Archbishop Nehemiah Sibiya – Omega Bible Church
Reverend Desmond Robyn
Pastor Rowland Mogaecho
Pastor John Botilo
Bishop Mandla Vilakazi
Dr. Thembi Sibiya
Pastor Dumsane Mavuso – African Conference of Christian Churches