A simple act of contrition by a devout Christian led to a powerful meeting in the Knesset and will hopefully lead to a global initiative to heal the difficult and painful history between Jews and Christians.
On Monday, 16 Christian and Jewish delegates met in the chambers of Yuli Edelstein, Speaker of the Knesset, and presented him with a declaration signed by 1,500 Christians in which they expressed a desire to comfort the Jewish people for crimes done to them.
“We the undersigned recognize the long and horrific history of anti-semitic atrocities committed against Jews in the name of Christ,” the proclamation read. “We repent for these actions, pray to God to continue turning the hearts of Christians to true love for His Chosen People, and submit this declaration to the representative of Israel and the Jewish People.”
The proclamation is based on a list of these atrocities, focusing on those occurring on the ninth and tenth days of the Hebrew month of Av. The ninth day of Av, Tisha B’Av in Hebrew, is a fast day for Jews commemorating the destruction of the Jewish Temples and several other heinous acts which appear on the list.
The story behind the list is an inspiring tale of personal service to God. After researching the Hebrew roots of his Christian religion for several years, O’Dell decided to research the history of Christian atrocities against Jews. As he read history books, he created a spreadsheet listing what he found. He was astounded when the list passed 500 major events.
“Jews think that Christians are aware of the horrors in Jewish history perpetrated in the name of Christianity,” O’Dell told Breaking Israel News. “The truth is that most Christians only know about the Holocaust and the Crusades. But even at that, we don’t know details or the full extent of the Jews at the hands of the Christians. This aspect of Christianity, its persecution of the Jews, is massive and we never heard about it from the Church. We certainly hadn’t been taught how pervasive and enormous it was.”
“There is no country in the world that has not persecuted its Jews. Even America has expelled Jews and turned them away while they were fleeing the Nazis. A lot of Christians will be surprised at how Christian Hitler felt he was.”
O’Dell decided that on the ninth of Av, while Jews fasted over the destruction of the Temples, he would, in an act of solidarity and contrition, spend the day meditating on the list. He spent one minute meditating on each of the horrors done to Jews in the name of Christianity. He began at eight in the morning but by one in the afternoon, he was little more than halfway through the list. He was feeling physically and emotionally broken from the experience and could not continue.
“I knew I could never be the same,” O’Dell said. “How could all this happen and how could I, especially as a Christian, not know about it? And even more daunting was thinking what my response should be. It was unthinkable that I should just walk away. I decided that I needed to work on being a blessing to the Nation of Israel for the rest of my life.”
As difficult as this experience was, it was a positive transformational experience for O’Dell.
“I am not doing any of this out of guilt,” O’Dell sad. “I can’t change the past. I can’t even change the perception of these atrocities. But I can do something good right now. I can be sensitive to the truth. I can change the paradigm by interacting with Israel in a positive way as a devout Christian, in direct contrast to what was done in the past. I am better for this because now I am free, or at least on my way.”
It is this positive element that O’Dell feels connects Christian repentance for past deeds with Tisha B’Av. Though Tisha B’Av is a fast day and a day of mourning, the Prophet Zechariah states that in the days preceding the Messiah, it will become a joyous day.
Thus said God of Hosts: The fast of the fourth month, the fast of the fifth month, the fast of the seventh month, and the fast of the tenth month shall become occasions for joy and gladness, happy festivals for the House of Yehuda; but you must love honesty and integrity. Zechariah 8:19
“This is my way of taking something awful that Christians should be doing repentance for and turning it into something positive: the basis for a Christian-Jewish relationship and a path of personal service for me as a Christian. I had to go through a difficult period of accepting what happened. After that, I felt free and happy since I wasn’t carrying around this hidden burden anymore.”
Though O’Dell was unable to attend, Gidon Ariel, who cofounded Root Source described the atmosphere at the Knesset gathering as positive and even lighthearted.
“It was, after all, Jews and Christians getting together without the dark cloud of history hanging overhead,” Ariel told Breaking Israel News. “It was out in the open and we were glad of it, ready to move on to better things.”
Though O’Dell feels this is a necessary stage in his life as a Christian, he realizes it is not for everyone.
“It is clear to me that Jesus would have hated these things that were done in his name. They go against everything Jesus is. It is our duty as Christians to fix this.”
“I am challenging other Christians to look at the past, to look at the historical truth and to grapple with it in the hopes that some form of reconciliation will take place that will enable them to move on to a higher level as Christians. There needs to be an internal, personal reconciliation as a Christian dealing with something horrible that was doen in Jesus’ name and a reconciliation toward the Jewish People. This is for people who have the right heart to receive it.”
O’Dell included a solitary positive historical event that took place on the ninth of Av. The last event on the list took place on Tisha B’Av 2015 when the Temple Institute presented to the public the plans for the Third Temple.
The list of atrocities and the sign up sheet can be found on the Root Source site.