To the Editor of The Christian Century
The intent of the Presbyterian Middle East Study Group Report “Breaking Down the Walls” is clear: “to break down these walls that stand in the way of the realization of God’s peaceful and just kingdom.” But in their critique of the report published in your June 29 issue, Ted Smith and Amy-Jill Levine of Vanderbilt Seminary strike at the heart of this message. They ask us to believe that the report advocates “a historical narrative that points indirectly to a single state—a new social body—in which a Palestinian majority displaces Jews.” In a shocking distortion of the Study Group’s evocation of Ephesians 2:14, they claim that "’Breaking down the walls’ in order to form ‘one new humanity in the place of two’ evokes old echoes of theological supersessionism and transposes them into a political key.” “Old habits die hard,” lament Smith and Levine. But it is the habit of crying anti-Semitism whenever Jewish sensibilities are disturbed or the actions of the State of Israel are questioned that we must urgently confront. This piece is the latest in a series of articles, by Jews and Christians alike, written in reaction to the growing opposition to the policies of the State of Israel and our own government’s support of these policies.
In publishing this piece, The Christian Century has missed the point. In a handful of words of breathtaking clarity and beauty, Ephesians 2:14 articulates a vision of universal wholeness, of the breaking down of hostilities born of divisions between peoples. This is the core of the Christian vision put forth in Ephesians and this is the spirit and intent of the Presbyterian report. The report is not perfect. But it is a precious, faithful document, and it represents the best hope for peace. These Presbyterians are not about destroying Israel. They are about saving it. The survival of Israel, whether as part of a partitioned territory or as a single, multiethnic state, depends on we as Jews (as well as our Christian supporters) letting go of the belief that every critical word about Jews, Zionism or the State of Israel stems from the implacable hatred of Jewish people, rather than, of all things, our own actions.
Mark Braverman, author, Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land