NEW YORK (Dec. 11)
The Rev. Jerry Falwell confronted a group of angry protestors and dodged eggs and other items hurled at the stage at Town Hall last night to engage with Rabbi William Berkowitz in a wide-ranging discussion on domestic issues and his views on Israel and the Jewish people.
At least 50 persons were forceably removed from the hall by security officials. Nonetheless, many of those who remained continued to jeer and catcall during the course of the two-hour dialogue. The demonstration at the outset of the forum set back the scheduled starting time by nearly 30 minutes.
Falwell, the leader of the Moral Moral Majority, told the equally partisan crowd of several hundred people that “I became a lover of the Jewish people by becoming a student of the scriptures” while in his second year of college. That remark was greeted by loud catcalls and other signs of displeasure.
NOT SEEKING MASS CONVERSION OF JEWS
Falwell repeated many of his views enunciated at past forums in the Jewish community asserting his right to preach the gospel, while maintaining that he has not singled out the Jewish people for mass conversion. “Our mission is a universal one,” Falwell said.
He said he had no ulterior motives for his friendship with the Jewish people, as some critics have charged, and that his right to preach the gospel should not be misinterpreted or misconstrued as anti-Semitic, just as, he asserted, an Orthodox rabbi’s rejection of the theology of Christiandom should not be regarded as being anti-Christian.
Berkowitz, who served as moderator of the discussion which comes under the auspices of the “Dialogue Forum Series” he has conducted for 34 years in New York City, introduced Falwell as “a good friend of the State of Israel.” Berkowitz called for Jews and evangelicals to work together for “common goals.”
Falwell referred briefly to his upbringing in Lynchburg, Virginia, which he described as a small Protestant community where there was no contact with Jewish people. He said, “My father was anti-Semitic,” adding that he was also “a racist.”
He was quick to note that the conservative evangelical Christians have become strong supporters of the Jewish State while “liberal” groups such as the National Council of Churches havemoved away from their support of Israel to support for the Palestine Liberation Organization.
SAYS ISRAEL IS A STRATEGIC ALLY
He described Israel as a strategic ally in the Middle East, without whom the Soviet Union would control the oil fields in the Persian Gulf. He stressed that equally important is the fact that Israel is the only democratic ally of the United States in the Middle East.
“The money we put into the coffers of Israel is the best dollars in military defense we spend anywhere on the face of the earth,” he declared. He praised Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in June, 1982 and rejected claims of the palestinian people for a homeland alongside Israel.
Falwell said he supports the moving of the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jeruslem, and offirmed that Israel has the right to settle any part of the West Bank. He lambasted King Hussein of Jordan for not doing more for Palestinian refugees.
VIEWS ON DOMESTIC ISSUES
On several issues of domestic concern, Falwell said he supports the call for voluntary prayer in the nation’s public schools, and said he does support the separation of church and state, although he equivocated by saying he did not feel the constitution called for a separation of “God and State.”
On the school prayer issue, Falwell rejected calls for comoulsory prayer in schools. He said no child should be forced to prayer in schools, that no child should be denied the right to prayer in public schools and that no prayer should be written by school or government authorities.
He predicted that the greatest contribution made by President Regan in his second term of office will be restructuring of the Supreme Court and the United States judicial system for “the salvation of the United States.” He predicted that in five years, “convenience abortions will be outlawed.”
The demonstration outside Town Hall featured speakers denouncing Falwell as “sexist, racist, and anti-Semitic.” Jacob Sender of the Manhattan Chapter of the New Jewish Agenda told the demonstrators that Falwell is “no friend of the Jews.” The Semorstration included the All Peoples Congress and the Workers Would Party, both leftwing groups.