NEW YORK (Apr. 27)
Christians should follow the example of the Israelis, who today are searching their consciences and asking themselves if they “did the right thing” in Lebanon, a Dutch theologian stated.
Speaking at a press luncheon at the American Jewish Committee’s headquarters Dr. Simon Schoon, former pastor at Nes Ammim, the only Christian agricultural cooperative in Israel, said that Christians should not forget that it was Christians who did the killings in the Palestinian camps. “Then,” Schoon added, “out of collective responsibility we can really discuss the matter.”
The whole situation is so complex, Schoon asserted, that “we must go back to history in order to Judge the present religious and political complexities in the Middle East.”
A UNIQUE AND MOVING ATTEMPT
Both Schoon and Christine Pilon, one of the original settlers of Nes Ammim, and the widow of the founder, described the settlement as “a unique and moving attempt to build and demonstrate Christian solidarity with Israel.” It was born of its founders’ desire, they said, “to voice a meaningful Christian response to the Holocaust and to centuries of anti-Semitism.”
Appealing to Christians to visit and spend time in Nes Ammim, Mrs. Pilon said: “We must understand the depth of the suffering the Jews experienced at the hands of Christians. We must repent of that persecution by identifying with a living Jewish people in their homeland.”
Schoon told the group that “a basic pre-condition for solidarity with the Jewish people today requires the abandonment of the missions to the Jews, which is clearly a moral offense against the living faith of Judaism and the Jewish people.”
Founded not quite 20 years ago, Nes Ammim today is home to 150 Christian men, women and children — mostly Dutch, German, Swiss, and American. Some are permanent settlers, others visitors who “come to experience the visionary atmosphere of Nes Ammim and to learn what it can teach them both about Judaism and Christianity.”
In the Galilee Hills not far from Haifa and the Lebanese border, Nes Ammim is generally regarded in Israel as a genuine center of ecumenism. At first, fear of missionary activity cast a pall but this has been largely dispelled, in part because of Nes Ammim’s unmistakable interest in Jewish customs and traditions.