By Susie Davidson/JNS.org
SHARON, Mass.—One month after a large rock was thrown through the windows of a Sharon, Mass., church—in addition to swastikas being painted on the church doors and a banner for an upcoming Jerusalem Day celebration being shredded—the same rock was repurposed as a symbol of hope during an event featuring noted televangelist Dr. Pat Robertson.
At the Victory Assembly of God Church on Sunday, the rock, which was inscribed with the words of Isaiah 54:17, “No weapon forged against you shall prosper,” became the centerpiece of a renewed and undeterred United Jerusalem Day Celebration—a triumph for the church considering that the initial promotion of the celebration is what drew the anti-Semitic vandalism there in April.
“This is a time to celebrate our love for the Jewish people and for Israel,” said Robertson, chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and host of its “700 Club” show.
“When people ask me why, as a Baptist, I have such love, I tell them it is because we worship a Jew who lived in Nazareth and died in the city of Jerusalem,” Robertson told the transfixed, capacity crowd of congregants, Jews from area synagogues, and Rabbis Jonathan H. Hausman, Barry Starr and Jonina Pritzker. Outside, Sharon police and fire department officials and a local security company maintained a tight presence, screening each entrant and confiscating phones and electronics.
According to its website, featuring a photo of the repurposed rock, the 250-member church seeks to “build relationships, strengthen families and encounter God through meaningful worship.”
Speakers at the event, which became a fundraising drive for Jerusalem’s ALYN Hospital, included Shai Bazak, consul general of Israel to New England, and Col. Amnon Meir, the Israel Defense Forces’ liaison officer to the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).
Bazak explained that his first name, Shai, was an acronym for Jerusalem—appropriate because Bazak was born in 1967 just after the city’s reunification.
“It is a part of my name,” he said of Jerusalem, adding that when he suffers from any stress, a vein in his forehead forms his name’s first Hebrew letter, Shin. The gravestone of Bazak’s father on Jerusalem’s historic Mount of Olives cemetery reads “One of the liberators of the City of Jerusalem.”
“Jerusalem of gold, iron, war, peace, tears, hope, of children and of elderly people; everyone has a piece of Jerusalem in their heart,” Bazak said.
Meir, a veteran of the second Lebanon War, said, “It was tough, but I knew exactly what I had to do.” Now, however, Meir said he doesn’t know “what the future will hold for Israel.”
“And I can’t say, because I am an officer of the military,” Meir said. “But I can tell you that Jerusalem is the heart of the Jewish people.”
ALYN (All the Love You Need) is the only hospital in Israel specializing in the diagnosis and rehabilitation of infants, children and adolescents who are suffering from physical disabilities, both congenital and acquired.
Cathy Lanyard, executive director of American Friends of ALYN Hospital, told the crowd, “Love never fails at ALYN. All the therapies in the world are meaningless unless you have the human touch, which is a recipe for miracles.”
Following Lanyard’s talk, the ushers came forward to take pledges from attendees to support the hospital, and the crowd broke out into a rousing rendition of “Heivenu Shalom Aleichem,” with music and dancing. Even a woman in a wheelchair pumped her fist.
After the event, Lanyard spoke about her personal connection to her cause with JNS.org. In 1998, her daughter was in a car accident on the New Jersey Turnpike—she suffered two broken knees and could not walk, and her friend died in the same accident. Lanyard’s daughter, at the recommendation of the family’s orthopedist, did rehab at Overlook Hospital in Summit, NJ.
“I took her every day and she was rehabbed between Memorial Day—when the accident occurred—through the end of August, when I took her to college,” Lanyard said. “She continued therapy at college for several months. She is fine today except in severe weather changes, like most people who have had breaks. Her knees will sometimes swell in strenuous physical situations.”
Minette Brown, president of the ALYN board, was also in Sharon for the event.
“My great aunt and uncle, Malcolm and Dorothy Woldenberg, saw children with polio being passed in and out of windows as their only way outside the former hospital site in a monastery basement in Katamon (a Jerusalem neighborhood),” Brown told JNS.org. The Woldenbergs decided to make a donation, enlisting zoning help from then-Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek in the process, to sec
ure ALYN’s current site in the city’s Kiryat Yove neighborhood.
Fumio Taku, president of event cosponsor Christians and Jews United for Israel, began the afternoon with a reflection on the recent Boston Marathon bombings, which occurred only a few days prior to the vandalizing of the church. “One month ago, as I watched the Boston bombings, I thought of suicide bombings that occurred in Haifa and Tel Aviv when I was in Israel,” he said.
Also speaking on the Boston Marathon bombings, Pat Robertson quoted verses from the Koran. He said Islamic theology has divided the world into a world of war, or one of submission to its doctrine—with no in-between.
“These two young men were not an aberration
,” Robertson said of the Tsarnaev brothers, the bombers. “One book (the Bible) is about love and hope, the other (the Koran), their book, teaches hate and violence.”
But in Sharon, the beauty of the relatively recent friendship between the church and area Jewish officials and institutions was on full display. Pastor Joe Green, director of outreach ministries for Victory Assembly of God Church and previously a pastor and instructor in Florida as well as national outreach manager for CBN, said he had never even met a Jew, let alone a rabbi, prior to coming to Sharon. Looking at those around him on the podium, Green said, “God is doing something incredible in New England.”
The crowd, upon exiting, picked up brochures for ALYN’s Guardian Angels donor program, and for its Oct. 1-9 joint “Mission of Love,” which will tour Christian and Jewish sites in Israel, including the hospital. Attendee Sherry Alpert of Canton, Mass., told JNS.org, “Hearing such diverse Jewish and Christian clergy, including Rev. Robertson, speak of their common love of Israel was a privilege.”
Alpert, however, said she was “disappointed that more Jewish organizations did not see this event as a rallying cry both to fight anti-Semitism and support Israel.”
“Aren’t these the primary reasons most [Jewish organizations] exist?” she asked.
Green told JNS.org after the event that while many people don’t see the relationship between Christians and Jews as positive, the “incredible bonds” between the two faiths are “even stronger because of what happened in the past two hours.”
“On the way to the airport, Dr. Robertson told me that the sincerity of the group there today was uncanny,” Green said. “He could feel that it was a real development on the part of Jews and Christians for Israel.”
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