Christians Must Think Differently About Israel, Jews in Light of Past Atrocities

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

Christians Must Think Differently About Israel, Jews in Light of Past Atrocities: Gerald McDermott

 

Jun 22, 2017 | 10:05 AM

 The majority of Christians have been wrong about Israel for most of their history, according to a leading Anglican theologian and Israel scholar.
(Photo: Reuters) An Israeli flag flies high in Tel Aviv, December 28, 2010.

For many reasons, Christians ought to think differently about the land of Israel and the Jews as God’s covenant people, Gerald R. McDermott, Anglican chair at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, explains in a new book.

In an interview with The Christian Post on Tuesday, McDermott explained that his latest work, Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently About the People and the Land, articulates why it’s important for believers in Jesus to engage Israel with the utmost humility. This is necessary not only because of the geopolitical complexities present there but especially because “the Jews have been horribly wronged by Christians over the millennia.”

(Photo: Courtesy of Gerald McDermott)Gerald McDermott, author of Israel Matter: Why Christians Must Think Differently About the People and the Land.

“Even before the Holocaust, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Jews were murdered over the last 1,800 years by Christians as “Christ-killers,” McDermott said, noting at the time of the Holocaust Germany was the most Christianized nation in the world.

“Jews know these things and are afraid of us,” he said.

The error in thinking that Jesus departed from Judaism and began a new religion furthers the distance between Christians and Jews and makes Jews into an “other,” he said.

Yet in the past several decades, especially in the United States, a resurgence of what is known as Christian Zionism, the view that the land of Israel and ethnic Jews remain central to God’s eternal purposes, has occurred.

McDermott did not personally subscribe to this perspective because he associated it with dispensationalism, theology that considers biblical history as divided intentionally by God into specific ages to each of which He has allotted distinctive administrative principles. This teaching was popularized in the 1800’s by Anglo-Irish preacher John Nelson Darby.

But all that began to change for him upon doing further study of the Bible and history and he found that throughout the ages a minority has believed that one day, in accordance with Scripture, a massive in gathering of Jewish people to their historic homeland would take place.

(Photo: Courtesy of Gerald McDermott)Cover of the book “Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently about the People and the Land,” by Gerald R. McDermott.

He realized he did not have to accept a dispensationalist approach to regard the land and people of Israel as an essential component of God’s ongoing work in the world. Nor did he have to subscribe to the often wild, apocalyptic end times scenarios some Christian Zionists have espoused in the past.

In Chapter 3 of Israel Matters the author showcases “Those Who Got It Right.”

From early Church fathers like Tertullian to more recent figures like American theologian Jonathan Edwards and Swiss theologian Karl Barth, each of these men believed that a day would come when the Jews would return to their ancient homeland.

During his ministry Edwards repeatedly warned against spiritualizing biblical promises to the Jews. When the modern state of Israel was established in 1948 Barth wrote that it was a “secular parable” and that the large numbers of Jews returning to the land was a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

As is expressed throughout The New Christian Zionism, a volume of Christian scholarship on Israel released last year for which McDermott was the editor, Israel Matters argues strongly against supercessionism. This is also known as “replacement theology” which holds that the Church replaced Israel as God’s chosen people.

Today, what is known as “fulfillment theology,” which some assert is merely an updated form of replacement theology, also holds that Jews do not have a God-given destiny in their ancient land. But instead of the Church replacing Israel, its proponents contend that Jesus fulfills in his life and redemptive work all the promises that God ever made to the Jews, including the promise that the land of Canaan would be their everlasting possession.

This theology considers the land insignificant and that the only Jews who are now significant to God are Messianic Jews, those who believe Jesus is the Messiah.

But several passages in the New Testament suggest both beliefs are wrong, McDermott explained.

“Paul says in Romans 11:28 that the Jews who did not accept Jesus as Messiah were ‘enemies of the Gospel’ but nevertheless ‘are beloved’ to God, and that their ‘gifts and calling of God’ to be His special people ‘are irrevocable,'” he said.

Moreover, the Apostle Paul was writing to the Romans 30 years after Jesus’ resurrection but even then was still saying that God’s covenant with ethnic Israel remains in place. This did not mean that all Jews were saved, but that they were still special to God in a particular way.

Likewise, in his Beatitude in Matthew 5:5, Jesus was quoting Psalm 37:11 word for word when he said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the [earth.]” The Hebrew word for “earth,” which is used five times in Psalm 37, in every one of these five instances in Psalm 37 refers to the land of Israel, McDermott continued. So the Beatitude is better translated, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Land.”

And in Acts 1:6, “when Jesus’ disciples asked him just before his ascension, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ Jesus did not tell them they were wrong to think there would be a future Israel that God would establish,” he said.

“Instead, He (Jesus) said that the timing of that future was not to be known then.”

(Photo: Reuters)People walk near Damascus Gate leading into Jerusalem’s Old City, 2017.

In addition to the theological objections McDermott unpacks in the book, he explores the modern political history of the region, which is often characterized by intense and bloody conflicts.

Yet unlike some Christian Zionists who appear to think that the nation of Israel can do no wrong, McDermott is not afraid to criticize the Israeli government when it’s warranted.

He acknowledges in the book where Palestinians have been mistreated at times, how the Israeli government has broken promises, and how certain policies have been unwise. He also writes that the state of Israel should do more to protect Messianic believers. Whether an unjust action is perpetrated by a Jew or an Arab, he says, Christians need to feel free to raise their voices to criticize whoever is responsible when it is clear such an injustice has occurred.

Although imperfect, the state of Israel, “an oasis of freedom and democracy in the Middle East,” is inextricably linked with the Jews, McDermott insists.

“Even if the covenanted people of Israel and the state of Israel are not one and the same, they are intertwined in a complex way,” he writes in the book.

“The state could not exist without its people, and the covenanted people could not survive or flourish without the state. The state shelters the people, and the people — though not all are religious Jews — support the state. One without the other is unthinkable and impossible.”

For Christians who care about the Palestinians and their rights, McDermott encourages them to visit Israel since tourism helps everyone there, and to support the largely-unreported incremental steps Israel is taking to improve the lot of Palestinians.

(PHOTO: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN/FILE PHOTO) The facade of the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel as seen on Jan. 20, 2017.

Written in a scholarly yet accessible tone, Israel Matters is likely to be a important resource for Christians looking to bring their faith to bear on current events unfolding in the United States and in the Middle East. Earlier this month President Donald Trump signed a waiver delaying the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, skirting a key campaign promise that he might or might not revisit.

CP asked McDermott if moving the embassy would constitute a blessing to Israel, as some scholars have argued.

Such a move would “help the cause for peace, not hurt it,” he replied.

“First of all, it would be the simple recognition of reality: Jerusalem and no other city is Israel’s capital,” McDermott said.

“Second, the Palestinian leaders are thugs who would realize by this move that they can no longer dictate as they did to Obama, whose policies hurt both Jews and Arabs.”

The only hope for improvement is for [Palestinian President] Abbas to understand that he has to talk to the Israelis and moving the U.S. diplomatic outpost to the capital would signal to him that he can no longer circumvent the Israelis and try to get what he wants from the United Nations, he added.

Aside from the fulfillment of prophetic scriptures and political considerations, Christians need to think differently about the people and land of Israel because Jesus was and is Jewish, McDermott stressed. And in order to relate to Jewish friends, getting in touch with His Jewishness is essential.

“The Jews were raised up by God as representatives of humanity,” McDermott said. “So that if the Bible shows their departures from God, it is really illustrating ours.”

“Jesus prized Jewish law, said that salvation is from the Jews, predicted that one day Jerusalem will welcome Him, and foresaw that His Apostles will one day rule over the tribes of Israel,” McDermott said.

If Christians begin to think they are somehow better because they believe in Jesus as Messiah and the Jews do not, they fail to understand God’s grace, he added.

“When we realize how profoundly Jewish Jesus was and is, we will feel greater kinship with those for whom Paul said he had ‘unceasing anguish in his heart.'”

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Six Day’s In History 50 Years Ago

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE FRIENDS OF THE IDF)

Friend, this is a week for heroes.

This week, we are commemorating the 50th anniversary of one of the most heroic and pivotal moments in Israel’s history: the Six-Day War, which took place from June 5th to 10th, 1967. Against all odds, and with an outcome no one could have predicted, the young nation of Israel fought enemies from all sides and achieved unprecedented victory in just six days.

In June of 1967, Israel found itself poised for war against its neighboring Arab states. Taking place on three distinct battlefronts, the Six-Day War came after a period of escalating tension during which Egypt and its Arab partners had taken severe steps that threatened both Israel’s security and economy, including: expelling the United Nations Emergency Force from Sinai, infiltrating many military units into the Sinai Peninsula, and blocking the Straits of Tiran, Israel’s only waterway to Asia. On the northern border of Israel, the Syrians tried to divert the headwaters of the Jordan River and were supporting the terrorist activity of the PLO in Israel. All of this created serious threat and the risk of war was looming. Israel was forced to begin mobilizing reserve forces, despite the detriment to the Israeli economy.

On June 4, 1967, the government of Israel, headed by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, accepted the decision “to launch a preemptive strike against the Arab states in order to remove the military chokehold that has tightened on Israel…” The war began on June 5, 1967, at 7:45 AM, with a massive air strike by the Israeli Air Force, known as Operation Moked (Operation Focus) on the Egyptian airfields. This took the Egyptians completely by surprise and, due to its brilliant execution, decided the war’s outcome from its very inception with the destruction of the Arab air forces and full paralysis of their airfields. In the first two hours of the war, the Israeli Air Force destroyed 197 Egyptian aircraft, and by the end of the first day 300 Egyptian planes were destroyed, more than 90% of them while on the ground. In the second day, an additional 150 Jordanian, Syrian and Iraqi aircraft were destroyed as they joined in the war.

The war spread along all of Israel’s borders. Within six days, the IDF achieved a decisive victory as they:

It was a stunning victory in which the IDF removed the military choke hold, proved their superiority, and earned the title of “the best army in the world.” In those six days, the size of the State of Israel grew threefold. Click here for a full description of the events of the Six-Day War.

Victory celebrations swept the entire country. After 19 years that the Jewish people had been banned from praying at their holiest site, they were now able to return to pray at the Kotel on the Temple Mount. The song “Jerusalem of Gold” (Yerushalayim Shel Zahav) became one of the anthems of the Six-Day War. Amidst the euphoria of this victory, the hearts of the Israeli nation pained for the 779 IDF soldiers who paid the ultimate price by losing their lives.

On June 28, 1967, in a now-famous address called “The Man, Not the Metal” delivered at Hebrew University on Mount Scopus, General Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin, Z”L, provided the following insights from this unprecedented military campaign:

“War is intrinsically harsh and cruel, bloody and tear stained, but this war in particular, which we have just undergone, brought forth rare and magnificent instances of heroism and courage, together with humane expressions of brotherhood, comradeship, and spiritual greatness. Whoever has not seen a tank crew continue their attack with their commander killed and their vehicle badly damaged; whoever has not seen soldiers endangering their lives to extricate wounded comrades from a minefield; whoever has not seen the anxiety and the effort of the entire air force devoted to rescuing a pilot who has fallen in enemy territory, cannot know the meaning of devotion among comrades-in-arms.”

Fifty years have passed, and while the challenges that face the State of Israel have dramatically changed, the same fundamental precepts which guide and drive the IDF are the same spirit and morality which led to the incredible victory of the Six-Day War, and have passed from generation to generation to continue today as the ethos of the IDF. The warriors of the IDF and their commanders continue to operate from unequivocal commitment to their nation and country and the same values and ethics which accompanied these warriors for generations.

To honor this momentous anniversary, FIDF is hosting a series of community events across the US, featuring three of the paratroopers of the Jerusalem Brigade, among the first to reach the Kotel. The image of these three paratroopers setting their eyes on the Kotel for the first time in their lives, was made famous thanks to the camera of David Rubinger, Z”L, who captured this highly emotional moment, which has become the iconic image of the Six-Day War.

The 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War

Please join me today, in salute to the warriors of the past and the generation that continues, by bowing our heads together in honor of those who have fallen and their families, and in commitment to do all we can to contribute to the well-being of the soldiers of the IDF, to maintain their spirit, morale, and battle ethics by standing united with them and supporting them as we continue to say: Their job is to look after Israel. Ours is to look after them.

With deep respect,

Maj. Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir
National Director and CEO
Friends of the IDF (FIDF)

Trump The Habitual Liar Strikes Again: This Time Too The American People And Israel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

The United States embassy in Tel Aviv in August 2013. CreditAriel Schalit/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Trump signed an order keeping the American Embassy in Tel Aviv rather than move it to Jerusalem as he promised during last year’s campaign, aides said Thursday, disappointing many Israel supporters in hopes of preserving his chances of negotiating a peace settlement.

Mr. Trump made no mention of his pending decision during a visit to Jerusalem just last week and waited to announce it until almost the last minute he could under law, underscoring the deep political sensitivity of the matter. The order he will sign waives for six months a congressional edict requiring the embassy be located in Jerusalem, after which he will have to consider the matter again.

The decision is the latest shift away from campaign positions upending traditional foreign policy as Mr. Trump spends more time in office and learns more about the trade-offs involved. He has reversed himself on declaring China a currency manipulator, backed off plans to lift sanctions against Russia, declared that NATO is not “obsolete” after all, opted for now not to rip up President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran and ordered a punitive strike against Syria that he previously opposed in similar circumstances.

In this case, Mr. Trump may invite the wrath of powerful supporters like Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate and Republican donor who is close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and owns a newspaper in Israel. Some hard-line Israel backers have privately expressed concern that Mr. Trump has not lived up to his campaign pledges because he has been seduced into thinking he may reach the “ultimate deal” that has eluded every other president.

Continue reading the main story

Mr. Trump began backing away from his promise to move the embassy shortly after taking office when King Abdullah II of Jordan flew to Washington without a White House invitation to buttonhole the new president at a prayer breakfast and explain what he viewed as the consequences. The king warned that a precipitous move would touch off a possibly violent backlash among Arabs, all but quashing any hopes of bringing the two sides together.

Mr. Trump has also urged Mr. Netanyahu to hold off on provocative housing construction in the West Bank pending peace talks, despite appointing David M. Friedman, a staunch supporter of such settlements, as his ambassador to Israel. But the president pleased many in Mr. Netanyahu’s right-leaning coalition by abandoning automatic support for a Palestinian state unless both sides agree.

The embassy question has assumed enormous symbolic significance over the years. The United Nations once proposed that Jerusalem be an international city, but after Israel declared statehood in 1948, it took control of the western portion of the city while Jordan seized the eastern side. During its 1967 war with Arab neighbors, Israel wrested away control of East Jerusalem and annexed it.

Over the 50 years since then, Israel has declared that Jerusalem is its eternal capital and would never be divided again, even as it has built more housing in the eastern parts of the city intended for Jewish residents over the objections of the Palestinians and much of the international community. Most of its main institutions of government are based in Jerusalem.

Like every other country with a diplomatic presence in Israel, the United States has kept its embassy in Tel Aviv to avoid seeming to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital at the expense of Palestinians who also claim it as the capital of a future state of their own. The United States does have a consulate in Jerusalem that mainly deals with Palestinians but could be converted on a temporary basis into an embassy until a permanent site is found and a full-fledged facility constructed.

Like Mr. Trump, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both promised to move the embassy as presidential candidates only to drop the idea once they got into office. In 1995, Congress passed a law requiring the embassy be moved to Jerusalem by 1999 or else the State Department would have its building budget cut in half.

But lawmakers included a provision allowing a president to waive the law for six months if determined to be in the national interest. So every six months since 1999, Mr. Clinton, Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama and now Mr. Trump have signed such waivers.

Mr. Trump had promised that he would be different and presented himself as the best friend Israel would ever have in the Oval Office. During the campaign, he said he would move the embassy “fairly quickly” and on the eve of his inauguration reiterated his commitment by telling an Israeli journalist, “You know I’m not a person who breaks promises.”

But he has become enamored of the idea that he, unlike all of his predecessors, could be the one to finally negotiate a permanent peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, and he was persuaded that an embassy move would hinder that. The president has assigned Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, and Jason Greenblatt, his former personal lawyer, to lead the peace efforts.

Anticipating that Mr. Trump would back off the embassy move, some in Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition hoped that the president at least would say during his trip last week that Jerusalem was Israel’s capital, but he did not do that.

Mr. Trump did visit the Western Wall, the holiest Jewish prayer site in the country, becoming the first sitting American president to do so — an act that some interpreted as indirect recognition since the wall is in a part of the city that Israel took control of during the 1967 war.

Understanding The Bible’s Second Psalm

UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE’S 2nd PSALM

The 2nd Psalm: Coronation of the Lord’s Anointed

To me the Bible’s second Psalm is not a mystery, I do not say this as some sort of ‘brag’, I say it as an observation. I have studied the teachings of the Bible, Old and New Testaments since I was 10 years old, I am 60 now. During this time I have read through and studied through (there is a difference) the Bible many times. I am not going to say how many times I have done these things as studying G-d’s Word is not a ‘Cock Crowing’ contest. Studying the Scriptures is a practice of love just as Christianity is an act of love and obedience to our Creator. I ask you to please consider the definitions that I will give to you after I have completed typing in these 12 verses that make up the Second Psalm.

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?

The Kings of the Earth set themselves, and the Rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His Anointed, saying,

Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

He that sits in Heaven will laugh; the Lord will have them in derision (ridicule).

Then shall He (G-d) speak to them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure.

Yet have I (G-d) set My King (Christ) upon My Holy Hill of Zion.

I will declare the decree: the Lord has said unto me , You are My Son; this day I have begotten Thee.

Ask of Me, and I shall give You the heathen for Your inheritance, and the utter most parts of the Earth as Your possession.

You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall break them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.

Be wise now therefore, O ye Kings: be instructed, ye Judges of the Earth.

Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

Kiss The Son, lest He be angry, and you perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.

Bible scholars seem to have for the most part told us that King David of Israel wrote, or had a scribe do it for him, just about half (75) of Psalms 150 verses. 2nd Psalm is not one of those that is credited to King David. The 2nd and the 95th Psalm were not written by King David even though they are credited to an Israeli King. In the New Testament in the books of Acts 4:25 and in Hebrews 4:7 we gain the understanding that the King who pinned these two Psalms, his name translated into “Beloved of Yahweh”, and this was not King David. By the way, for the folks who do not already know it, Yahweh is the Hebrew name for G-d the Father. For those of you who are wondering why I have been spelling the word G-d this way is out of courtesy to my devout Jewish friends who do this out of respect to G-d just as some who even though they are quite fluent in the Hebrew language they tend to speak Yiddish, or some other language, again, out of respect to our Creator. Many feel that the average human is not worthy of speaking the “language of G-d”. Upon closing I bring you one other little tidbit of information concerning Psalms 2:7 and it’s fulfillment in the New Testament Book of Matthew 3:17, “G-d will declare Him to be His Son.”

Some folks think that the 2nd Psalm is talking about King David as David was indeed anointed by G-d to be an earthly King of Israel ( 1011-971 B.C.) David’s rule was temporal, when ‘The Christ’ descends from His home in Heaven the ‘New Jerusalem’ will have already been placed over the ruins of the current Jerusalem. ‘The Christ’ will sit upon His Throne upon ‘The Temple Mount’ and He will rule the whole world from there. At this time Christ will have banished Satan/Allah to His eternal home in the belly of Hell.

I hope you have enjoyed this short commentary and I hope that you will leave me any questions that you may have about this article, or pretty much anything else if you so wish. I did not get into the issue of Jesus being ‘The Christ’ as this issue easily makes for a longer article than this one all by itself so I will save that discussion/issue for another article. Thank you for taking of your time to read what I have written, I hope that you were able to enjoy the article.

Palestinians welcome Trump’s talk of peace but offer lessons in two-state demands

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Palestinians welcome Trump’s talk of peace but offer lessons in two-state demands

President Trump discussed how to fight terrorism and improve international relations during a speech alongside Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on May 23 in Bethlehem. (The Washington Post)
May 23 at 9:40 AM
President Trump told Israelis and Palestinians on Tuesday that he knows they are eager to reach a peace agreement with each other and that he is committed to helping them “make a deal.”In a speech at the Israel Museum as he prepared to end his four-day trip to the Middle East and depart for his next stop in Rome, Trump repeated his call for Arab countries and Israel to form a grand coalition with the United States to “drive out the terrorists and the extremists from our midst” and “defend our citizens and the people of the world.”

“This trip is focused on that goal,” he said.

Trump recognized that Israeli-Palestinian peace is a key component of cooperation in the region, although he has not outlined how he hopes to achieve an agreement that has eluded many presidents before him.

Trump on Middle East peace deal: ‘We’re going to get there eventually, I hope’
Speaking in Jerusalem, May 22, President Trump lauded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “commitment to pursuing the peace process.” (The Washington Post)

In some respects, his effusive praise for Israel during his two days here — which also included a Tuesday morning visit to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank — appeared to endorse Israeli claims to a united capital in Jerusalem.

Noting that Jerusalem is a “sacred city,” and that “the ties of the Jewish people to this holy land are ancient and eternal,” Trump recalled his Monday visits to the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, sites sacred to Jews and Christians in East Jerusalem, part of the West Bank, and claimed by Palestinians as the capital of their envisioned state.

To sustained applause, Trump cited the “unbreakable bond” between the United States and Israel, a place he called “a testament to the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people.” He spoke of “a future where Jewish, Christian and Muslim children can grow up together in peace.”

“America’s security partnership with Israel is stronger than ever,” he said. “Under my administration, you see the difference. Big, big beautiful difference, including the Iron Dome missile defense program . . . [and] David’s Sling,” an aircraft interception system. The former was established here under the Obama administration, the latter under President George W. Bush.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump, who introduced him and praised “the leadership that you bring,” condemned Monday night’s terrorist attack in Britain, claimed by the Islamic State.

But in describing the authors of global terrorism, Trump focused nearly all his attention on Iran and the anti-Israel organizations it supports, Hezbollah and Hamas. Iran’s leaders, he said, “routinely call for Israel’s destruction. Not with Donald J. Trump,” he said. “Believe me.”

Key moments from Trump’s news conference with Netanyahu
Here is President Trump’s May 22 joint news conference in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in less than two minutes. (The Washington Post)

“The United States is firmly committed to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and halting their support of terrorism and militias,” Trump said to sustained applause as Netanyahu stood and pumped his fist.

The audience included U.S. and Israeli officials, as well as prominent citizens from both. Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, who donated millions of dollars to support Trump’s campaign and then his inauguration, were seated just behind the stage, near first lady Melania Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Before his speech, Trump and his delegation visited the World Holocaust Remembrance Center at Yad Vashem, where he said the Jewish people had built the state of Israel out of the “depths of suffering” as “a testament to [their] unbreakable spirit.”

Earlier, he had traveled to Bethlehem for a private meeting with Abbas to discuss the peace process and his vision for anti-terrorism cooperation.

In joint remarks afterward, Abbas said he welcomed Trump’s efforts, which had “given all the nations across the region so much hope and optimism of the possibility of making a dream come true.”

“Our commitment is to cooperate with you in order to make peace and forge a historic peace deal with the Israelis,” Abbas added.

But while Trump spoke in generalities about the goal, Abbas laid out the specifics of Palestinian demands — which have been supported by the Arabs and rejected by Israel through decades of unsuccessful peace negotiations shepherded by American presidents.

“We reassert to you our positions of a two-state solution along the borders of 1967, a state of Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem, living alongside of Israel,” he said, referring to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank following a war against three Arab armies.

During the presidential campaign, Trump pledged to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but the plan has been shelved, at least temporarily.

Abbas said he had also drawn Trump’s attention to more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel who have been on a hunger strike for over a month, led by Marwan Barghouti, whom supporters call the Palestinian Nelson Mandela.

Abbas delivered to Trump a letter from the families of the strikers, who have demanded more family visits, access to telephones, medical care, the freedom to study and cessation of isolation as a punishment.

Israel and some U.S. lawmakers have objected to American aid to the Palestinians, claiming the money is used to make payments to the families of prisoners, who are considered “freedom fighters” among many Palestinians. Trump did not mention the aid or the payments in his public remarks.

Abbas also spoke of Palestinian insistence that all “final status issues” be resolved “based on international law” and United Nations resolutions, as well as the Arab Peace Initiative first offered more than a decade ago. It promised Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for a Palestinian state.

Escorted by Israeli police and helicopters, Trump and his delegation sped down Hebron Road and found themselves, just minutes from their Jerusalem hotel, at the gates of Bethlehem in the West Bank.

The closeness of Bethlehem — the physical proximity between Israel and the Palestinian territory — surprised most first-time visitors in the entourage.

Trump and the convoy passed through the 26-foot-tall concrete wall with watch towers that is Israel’s barrier and past “Checkpoint 300,” where thousands of Palestinian workers cross into Israel each morning to reach their jobs on construction sites.

Trump has cited the Israeli barrier as an example of the kind of wall he wants to build between the United States and Mexico, but many Palestinians view it as a symbol of oppression.

Bethlehem is lively and crowded, home to Palestinian Muslims and Christians and the Church of the Nativity, the Byzantine-era sacred site built over the grotto where the faithful believe Jesus was born.

The city is also surrounded by hilltop Jewish settlements on three sides, built in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, communities that most of the world considers illegal, though Israel disputes this.

Later, Trump told his museum audience that after his meeting with Abbas, “I can tell you the Palestinians are ready to reach for peace … I know you’ve heard it before. I’m telling you, they are ready to reach for peace.

“My good friend Benjamin [Netanyahu], he wants peace.” Both sides, he said, “will face tough decisions. But with determination and compromise … Israelis and Palestinians can make a deal.”

There was no applause from the audience.

Ruth Eglash in Jerusalem contributed to this article.

ISRAEL: Trump makes historic visit to Western Wall

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Trump makes historic visit to Western Wall

(CNN) President Donald Trump on Monday became the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Judaism.

Trump, wearing a yarmulke, placed his right hand on the wall and swayed slightly back and forth with his eyes closed. He was flanked by his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, who is Jewish, and Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich.
He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a white folded up note, and placed it into a crack in the wall.
Despite requests from Israeli officials, Trump visited the Western Wall without any Israeli government officials by his side.
The United States does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

21 Year Old Female British Student Stabbed To Death In Jerusalem

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

A British exchange student was fatally stabbed Friday by a Palestinian attacker just steps from Jerusalem’s Old City, where thousands of Jews and Christians gathered for religious holidays at one of the busiest times of the year, officials said.

Thousands of people filled parts of the ancient city: Jews to celebrate Passover, which ends Monday in Israel; and Christian pilgrims for Good Friday. The attack took place inside a car of the city’s light-rail train near the entrance to the Old City’s Christian Quarter.

The woman identified as Hannah Bladon, 21, was treated for stab wounds in a hospital and later died, police said.

Bladon was an exchange student from the University of Birmingham in Britain, and she arrived in Israel in January to spend a semester at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the latter said in a statement.

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency named the suspected attacker as 57-year-old Jamal Tamimi from East Jerusalem, a mostly Arab area. They said he had mental health issues and had attempted suicide this year while hospitalized. Tamimi was arrested at the scene, the report said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared the attack to other violent acts around the world in recent weeks. “Radical Islam strikes at the capitals of the world and, unfortunately, terrorism has hit the capital of Israel — Jerusalem,” he wrote on Facebook.

Israel considers Jerusalem its united capital, and all of its official offices are based there. Palestinians want part of Jerusalem as the capital of any future state.

Friday’s killing is the latest in a spate of stabbing, shooting and vehicular attacks by Palestinians over the past 18 months.

Israel has been accused internationally of being too heavy-handed in response to the attacks, which have left nearly 50 Israelis and more than 200 Palestinians dead. Israel says most of the Palestinians killed were attempting to carry out attacks against Israeli civilians, soldiers or police officers.

The targeted stabbings and other attacks started in October 2015 with almost daily assaults. Incidents slowed in mid-2016 and, with Israeli forces stepping up their response, fatal attacks are now rare.

The violence contrasts with the first and second intifadas of the 1980s and 2000s, which were centrally organized and included mass unrest.

Egyptian President Sisi Declares 3 Month State Of Emergency Following Church Bombings

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency in Egypt following twin church bombings that killed dozens of people in two cities on Sunday.Sisi announced the “state of emergency for three months” in a defiant speech at the presidential palace after a meeting of the national defence council.

The Islamic State group had claimed responsibility for the church bombings in the Nile Delta cities of Alexandria and Tanta in which at least 44 people were killed.

The attacks followed a Cairo church bombing in December and came weeks ahead of a planned visit by Catholic Pope Francis intended to show support for the country’s Christian minority.

At least 78 people were wounded in Tanta and another 40 wounded in Alexandria, the health ministry said.

Egyptian officials denounced the violence as an attempt to sow divisions in the country, while Francis sent his “deep condolences” to Tawadros.

IS claimed that its “squads” carried out both attacks, in a statement by its self-styled Amaq news agency published on social media accounts.

Images broadcast by private television stations showed bloodstains smearing the whitewashed walls of the church in Tanta next to shredded wooden benches.

“The explosion took place in the front rows, near the altar, during the mass,” General Tarek Atiya, the deputy to Egypt’s interior minister in charge of relations with the media, told AFP.

“I heard the blast and came running. I found people torn up… some people, only half of their bodies remained,” said Nabil Nader, who lives in front of the Tanta church.

The worshippers had been celebrating Palm Sunday, one of the holiest days of the Christian calendar, marking the triumphant entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem.

– String of attacks –

Prime Minister Sherif Ismail also condemned the attack, stressing Egypt’s determination to “eliminate terrorism”.

The Cairo-based Al-Azhar, an influential Sunni Muslim authority, said it aimed to “destabilise security and… the unity of Egyptians”.

Egypt’s Copts have endured successive attacks since Morsi’s ouster in July 2013.

More than 40 churches were attacked nationwide in the two weeks after the deadly dispersal by security forces of two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo on August 14, 2013, Human Rights Watch said.

Amnesty International later said more than 200 Christian-owned properties were attacked and 43 churches seriously damaged, adding that at least four people were killed.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who as then army chief helped remove Morsi, has defended his security forces and accused jihadists of attacking Copts in order to divide the country.

In October 2011, almost 30 people — mostly Coptic Christians — were killed after the army charged at a protest outside the state television building in Cairo to denounce the torching of a church in southern Egypt.

In May that year, clashes between Muslims and Copts left 15 dead in the working-class Cairo neighbourhood of Imbaba where two churches were attacked.

A few months earlier, the unclaimed bombing of a Coptic church killed more than 20 people in Egypt’s second city of Alexandria on New Year’s Day.

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Stockholm Truck Attack Kills 3; Many Seriously Injured: Terrorism Is Suspected

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Photo

Police officers near the site where a truck crashed into the Ahlens department store in central Stockholm on Friday. Credit Jonathan Nackstrand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A man steered a stolen beer truck into a crowd of people and then rammed it into a department store, killing at least three people in what officials were calling a terrorist attack in the heart of Stockholm on Friday afternoon.

“Sweden has been attacked. All indications are that it was a terrorist attack,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said in a statement.

The suspect in the attack was still at large. But at a news conference later in the evening, the Swedish police released a photo of a man being sought in connection for questioning.

The authorities said they did not know if it had been an isolated assault, or something bigger. The Swedish intelligence agency said “a large number” of people had been wounded.

Photo

A picture showing a man who is wanted in connection with the truck attack in Stockholm was released by the Swedish police on Friday. Credit Stockholm Police

Mats Löfving, the head of national operative department of the Swedish police, said, “This is now declared a national security event,” adding that officers across the nation were on heightened alert.

The Swedish Parliament was on lockdown, according to news reports. Train service in and out of the city grounded to a halt, and the police, who blocked off the affected area, urged people to stay at home and to avoid the city center.

The police said the first emergency call came in around 2:50 p.m. local time as the attack unfolded in Drottninggatan, Stockholm’s busiest shopping street. Witnesses described a scene of panic and terror.

“I saw hundreds of people running; they ran for their lives” before the truck crashed into the Ahlens department store, a witness identified only as Anna told the newspaper Aftonbladet.

 STOCKHOLM
Drottninggatan
Mäster Samuelsgatan
Crashed here
Ahlens Department Store

Bystanders fled after a truck rammed into a store on a busy shopping street on Friday afternoon.

By TWITTER/JOHNNY CHADDA on Publish Date April 7, 2017. Photo by Twitter/Johnny Chadda.

At first, she said, she thought the noise was people moving things around the store, but then the fire alarm went off and staff members told her and other shoppers to get out of the building.

“We were running, we were crying, everyone was in shock,” Ms. Libert said. “We rushed down the street, and I glanced to the right and saw the truck. People were lying on the ground. They were not moving.”

Ms. Libert, who followed others as they were guided by officials to shelter, added, “My sister in law and some friends are close to the scene and at lockdown, can’t leave their office.”

Photo

The front part of the truck ended up inside the department store.Credit Jonathan Nackstrand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

She said that she usually avoided busy areas that could be potential terrorist targets, but that she had decided to take the Friday afternoon off to do some shopping.

“Some people felt that this was just a matter of time,” she said. “Paris, Brussels, London and now Stockholm. I just had a feeling something like this would happen.”

After the assailant plowed into people, the front of the truck ended up inside the department store.

A representative of the Spendrups brewery told Radio Sweden that the vehicle had been taken earlier in the day. A spokesman for the company told SVT, a national public broadcaster, that the truck had been stolen while the driver was loading it from the rear.

The brewery’s driver told the police that a masked man stole the vehicle, and that he was injured trying to stop him, the authorities said.

Photo

The police outside Stockholm’s central train station. Security was increased on Friday after the attack at a department store nearby. Credit News Agency/Reuters

At the news conference, officials released a photo of a man wearing a hoodie. They did not name him as a suspect, saying only that they wanted to question him in connection with the attack.

The national police chief, Dan Eliasson, said, “We have the truck and the driver who usually drives it, but we do not have contact with the person or persons who drove it.”

Mr. Löfving, also of the police, asked for the public’s help in sharing the photo: “We want to get in touch with this man.”

The authorities also said that they could not confirm the number of dead or injured until they received more information from the hospitals.

Photo

People reacted after the attack at a department store in Stockholm. Credit News Agency/Reuters

The chief medical doctor at Stockholm’s Karolinska University Hospital, Nelson Follin, told the newspaper Dagens Nyheter that the hospital was treating “a handful” of people.

“The injuries are quite serious, but for now I cannot give further comments on conditions,” Dr. Follin said.

Previous accounts of shots being fired in parts of Stockholm were unfounded, the police said, adding that officers across Sweden were protecting high-risk sites.

The attack reverberated as far away as Norway, where the police said on Twitter that officers in that nation’s largest cities and at the airport in Oslo would be armed until further notice following the attack in Stockholm.

Photo

Some of the wounded in a street near the site of the attack. Credit Per Haljestam/Reuters

The assault came after several other episodes in Europe in the past year in which a vehicle was used to attack people.

The Islamic State group revived the idea of using cars as weapons after it broke with Al Qaeda in 2014. In the past year, ISIS militants have claimed responsibility for the deaths of more than 100 people in Europe.

In France, a man drove into a crowd on a busy seaside promenade during Bastille Day celebrations in Nice.

Another attacker plowed a truck into shoppers at a Christmas market in Berlin.

And last month, an assailant drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge near Parliament in London.

Other attempts, including an episode in which a man tried to drive over pedestrians in Antwerp, Belgium, claimed no victims, but have contributed to a sense of dread across the Continent.

Although some Swedes have expressed concern that immigration has led to a crime wave in the country — and President Trump seemed to suggest in a speech on Feb. 18 that there had been an attack in Sweden, when in fact nothing had occurred — the country and the region remain largely peaceful and safe.

The most notable exception came in 2010, when an assailant killed himself and wounded two others after detonating two bombs in central Stockholm, on a side street not far from where the attack on Friday took place.

The attack in 2010 was said to be the first suicide bombing in Scandinavia, and it caused consternation in Sweden. It was linked to an Iraqi-born Swede who had attended college in Britain.

On Friday, the police said they were well-trained for these types of episodes. “Last week we rehearsed a similar scenario,” said Anders Thornberg, chief of national intelligence.

Continue reading the main story

Israeli Jets Strike Inside Syria; Military Site Near Palmyra Reportedly Targeted

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Israeli jets strike inside Syria; military site near Palmyra reportedly targeted

An Israeli fighter jet takes off from the Ramat David ar base, southeast of Haifa, in June.

Story highlights

  • Syria says strikes targeted military site near Palmyra
  • Israeli jets make incursions inside Syria, but IDF rarely confirms it

Jerusalem (CNN) In the most serious clash between Israeli and Syrian forces since the start of the Syrian conflict six-years ago, Israeli aircraft struck several targets in Syria overnight, the Israeli military said Friday.

Israel targeted a military site near the ancient city of Palmyra, the Syrian military said, in what would be one of its deepest airstrikes inside Syrian territory since the civil war began there.
Palmyra, once held by ISIS and retaken by the Syrian government, is strategically important to both the regime and its opponents.
Most of Israel’s reported strikes have been around the capital of Damascus, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
In response, Syrian forces fired anti-aircraft missiles at the Israeli jets, saying they downed one aircraft and hit another. Israeli vehemently denied the assertions, calling them “absolutely not true.”
“At no point was the safety of Israeli civilians or the IAF aircraft compromised,” a statement from the Israel Defense Forces said. The statement is unusual in that Israel rarely comments on airstrikes in Syria.
The intercept triggered alarm sirens in the Jordan Valley. Shrapnel from the explosion, which was heard as far south as Jerusalem, landed in western Jordan, the Jordanian military said.

Israel denies Syrian claim it downed Israeli plane

Israel denies Syrian claim it downed an Israeli plane
Syria’s latest claims are reminiscent of its statement in September about downing an Israeli aircraft near Quneitra, close to the Golan Heights. Israel seized parts of that region from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War.
The Israeli military said then that Syria fired two anti-aircraft missiles at its jets targeting artillery positions, but both missiles missed. They were fired long after Israeli jets left the area, the military added.

Arrow missile defense

One of the missiles overnight was intercepted by Israel’s Arrow missile defense system, marking its first operational use. Arrow, Israel’s ballistic missile defense system and the long-range version of its Iron Dome, is designed to intercept missiles outside the atmosphere.
The use came more than a year after the first successful Arrow-3 intercept test was carried out in December 2015. At that time, Israeli officials would not say when the missile would become operational.
The Israeli military would not explain why Arrow was used against an anti-aircraft missile, fueling speculation that Israel was either testing the Arrow missile or that its Iron Dome missile defense system wasn’t within range of downing the anti-aircraft missile.

Taking aim at weapons smuggling

Israel has long focused on stopping the transfer of weapons from Syria to terror groups.
In December, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told a delegation of European Union envoys that Israel will “prevent the smuggling of sophisticated weapons, military equipment and weapons of mass destruction from Syria to Hezbollah.”
It was another acknowledgement of Israel’s ongoing operations in Syria. Last April, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that Israel has struck Syria “dozens of times,” breaking with the policy of remaining quiet about involvement in its war-torn northern neighbor.
Netanyahu returned last week from Moscow, where he reaffirmed Israel’s military coordination with Russia in the skies over Syria. The two countries established the coordination last year to avoid conflicts in Syrian airspace, ostensibly to allow both countries to operate freely. Netanyahu also expressed his concerns about a growing Iranian presence in Syria.

Repeated incursions

Israel has attempted to stay out of Syria’s civil war but has reportedly struck the country multiple times in the past, often taking aim at weapons shipments intended for Hezbollah in Lebanon.
As recently as late February, Syrian media reported that Israeli jets hit military positions and weapons convoys near Damascus.
In November 2012, Israel fired warning shots toward Syria after a mortar shell hit an Israeli military post, the first time Israel had fired on Syria across the Golan Heights since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Israeli jets have been hitting targets in Syria since at least 2013, when US officials told CNN they believed IDF jets had struck nside Syrian territory.
In 2014, the Syrian government and an opposition group both said an IDF strike had hit Damascus’ suburbs and airport.

Israel wary of Russian military buildup in Syria

 Israel wary of Russian military buildup in Syria
The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency characterized those strikes as “a flagrant attack on Syria, targeting two safe areas in (the) Damascus countryside in Dimas and near Damascus International Airport.”
Israeli strikes have also gone after ISIS fighters inside Syria. Late last year, IDF troops operating in the disputed Golan region came under fire from militants of the ISIS affiliate Khalid ibn al-Walid Army, Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said.
The soldiers fired back, triggering an exchange of gunfire. A subsequent Israeli airstrike destroyed a vehicle carrying four militants, Lerner said.

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