In a wide-ranging conversation, Israel365News correspondent Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz engaged in a dialogue with David Nekrutman, the Executive Director of The Isaiah Projects and an Orthodox Jewish theologian, who has been building bridges between Christians and Israel for over two decades. The conversation began by discussing recent incidents underscoring the animosity between Orthodox Israeli Jews and Christians who either targeted Jews for proselytizing or held prayer events expressing hope that Jews would accept Jesus.
In a significant development that underscores the complex dynamics between Jews and Christians, a protest during a prayer event in Jerusalem’s Old City has highlighted the deep divisions that still exist between the two communities. The incident has been described as a pivotal moment, revealing the challenges faced in bridging the gap between Jews and Christians.
The prayer event in question was organized by the International House of Prayer (IHOP), a Christian organization based in Kansas City. The initiative, known as the Isaiah 62 fast, involved Christians from around the world praying and fasting for Israel. While the intention behind the event was seen as positive, tensions arose when a group of several hundred Jews, including prominent rabbis and a city representative, confronted the participants.
The incident, captured on video and circulated on social media, has drawn attention to the broken relationship between Jews and Christians and the urgent need for educational initiatives to promote understanding and cooperation. Nekrutman and Berkowitz expressed the importance of addressing the misunderstanding and working towards advancing Jewish-Christian relations.
Berkowitz began the conversation by addressing the motives behind the protest, questioning whether it was rooted in a general hatred of Christians among Jews. Nekrutman promptly dismissed this notion, stating that the protesters’ actions were not driven by animosity towards Christians but rather by a misunderstanding of the prayer event itself.
Nekrutman stressed that not all Bible-believing Christians support Israel, and the Isaiah 62 fast was a grassroots movement initiated by non-denominational Christians. He acknowledged that while there had been a history of replacement theology, which questioned the continuing covenant between God and the Jewish people, a growing number of Christians are now embracing their support for Israel.
The Orthodox Jewish protest against the prayer event, Nekrutman argued, was misguided and served to desanctify God’s name. He expressed concern that such incidents perpetuate negative stereotypes of Jews among Christians and hinder efforts to build bridges between the two communities.
Berkowitz highlighted the protesters’ explicit opposition to missionaries and the call to pray for Jews to accept Jesus. He referred to a statement from the International House of Prayer’s website, which outlines their mission to mobilize a global prayer movement for Israel to accept Yeshua (Jesus) as their true Messiah. Nekrutman acknowledged the sensitivity of this issue and the historical context of forced conversions but clarified that the prayer was not intended to impose religious beliefs but rather to express a hope for Jews to embrace Jesus through prayer.
Another incident followed the protest at Davidson one month later as Orthodox Jews protested a concert held by the Messianic movement in Jerusalem.
The dialogue with Nekrutman covered the complexities of Jewish-Christian relations, the challenges of interfaith dialogue, and the importance of embracing mystery in fostering meaningful connections.
One of the topics that emerged was the experience of Nekrutman addressing a Christian group during their visit to Israel. He shared an encounter with a pastor, whom he described as a beautiful soul, but who expressed his hope that Nekrutman would eventually accept Jesus. Nekrutman reflected on the complexity of such interactions and the need for space to accommodate the mysteries and differing beliefs that exist between Jews and Christians.
Both Nekrutman and Berkowitz emphasized the significance of developing genuine relationships between Jews and Christians, moving beyond superficial interfaith interactions. They stressed the importance of acknowledging discomfort and allowing it to foster growth and understanding.
Both Berkowitz and Nekrutman expressed their disapproval of the Orthodox Jewish protesters’ actions at the prayer gathering. They recognized that while they disagreed with the protesters’ behavior, they understood the source of their concern, which stemmed from Christians praying for Jews to accept Jesus.
Berkowitz emphasized the importance of trust between Jews and Christians, stating that the biggest obstacle to further progress in Jewish-Christian relations is the lack of trust on the part of Jews. He called on Christians to cease missionizing Jews, as he believed it hindered the development of trust and the realization of prophecies.
Nekrutman, however, provided a different perspective, acknowledging that many Christians who support Israel and pray for the Jewish people are not aware of the historical context and sensitivities surrounding Jewish-Christian relations. He emphasized the need for education and understanding among Christians, pointing out that the majority of Christians who pray for Jews to accept Jesus do so out of genuine faith and a desire to share what they consider to be good news.
The conversation also delved into the remarkable phenomenon of Christians engaging with Jewish texts, such as the Hebrew Bible, and the inclusion of the Book of Esther in the Christian canon. Nekrutman highlighted the theological significance of Christians quoting Esther 4:14, a verse that symbolizes support for Israel during times of crisis. He marveled at the unique nature of this connection between Christians and Jews, acknowledging that it is a remarkable departure from historical precedents.
The discussion turned to the recent protest at the Davidson Center in Jerusalem, where Orthodox Jews confronted Christians participating in a prayer event. Nekrutman expressed disappointment at the protesters’ lack of understanding and stressed that such actions only serve to reinforce negative stereotypes. He criticized an elected official’s involvement in stoking the fire and causing harm to the relationship between Jews and Christians.