(April 13, 2020 / JNS) Early this month, more than 35,000 Christians and Jews from around the world gathered virtually to learn about Israel’s response to the coronavirus and rising anti-Semitism. Organized by the international grassroots organization Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM) and the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), the digital event featured keynote speakers from Israel, inspirational stories of Christian leaders and a musical concert.
CAM director Sacha Roytman-Dratwa said that the gathering of Israeli and Christian leaders during this time is important now more than ever as the spread of coronavirus provides fertile ground for the spread of anti-Semitism. “Just as the coronavirus knows no borders and does not discriminate, anti-Semites are willing to attack with increased venom in their hate and conspiracy theories, especially at this dire time,” he told JNS.
He added that “the Jewish people and the Jewish state are grateful for and rely on our Christian and interfaith allies to help defeat anti-Semitism.”
Susan M. Michael, the American director of ICEJ, maintained that just as the Jerusalem-based Christian Zionist organization has shown solidarity with Israelis during other crises over the last 40 years, “we’re with them during this one.”
“As Christians,” she told JNS, “we should respond to anti-Semitism with acts of love and kindness towards our Jewish brethren in our local communities. It lets the Jewish people know that they are not alone.”
During the meeting, Consul General of Israel in New York Ambassador Dani Dayan spoke of the response of Israeli society in challenging times, saying, “As always in Israel in times of crisis and in times of need, our ingenuity and sense of contribution reaches its apex. As we speak now, dozens and dozens of Israeli firms and researchers, institutions—governmental and private—are working together to find a cure and to find something that will lower the deaths or at least, mitigate the suffering.”
Israeli medical professionals discussed the effects of the pandemic on Israeli society and gave a behind-the-scenes-look at the reality in its hospitals, including cutting-edge health-care solutions that are being developed and implemented.
Dr. Osnat Levtzion-Korach, director-general of the Yitzhak Shamir Medical Center in Be’er Ya’akov in central Israel, shared her experience as a hospital executive in preparing for the pandemic, including making a “corona center” on site and protecting staff “by minimizing their exposure including through robots that can bring patients medication.”
She said “once the coronavirus started, health care and the government picked up really quickly the magnitude of what’s going to happen.”
Aviv Shoher, CEO of Ichilov Tech at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, spoke of the various inventions created to cope with the coronavirus crisis that are in experimental stages in Israel. The two overarching themes that stand out, he noted, include “a collaborative approach among all stakeholders in Israel” and “the development of a long-term effect on the delivery of care,” including hospitalization at home and telemedicine.
‘Stand in solidarity with the Jewish people’
During the event, Middle East scholars and activists addressed Israel’s regional challenges, including how the country’s enemies are using the pandemic to fuel hateful anti-Semitic attacks against the Jewish state, its allies and the Jewish people at large.
NGO Monitor vice president Olga Deutsch expressed being unsurprised, but nevertheless shocked, to see a sharp spike in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and narratives during the coronavirus. “Too many NGOs, instead of promoting human rights, promote BDS and anti-Semitism against Israel. Different groups are blaming Israel for coronavirus or comparing Israel to coronavirus,” she stated.
Sarit Zehavi, CEO of the Alma Research and Education Center, similarly reported an uptick of anti-Semitism in Turkey, Iran and in the pro-Palestinian movements that “blame Israel, the Jews and the United States for spreading the virus.”
“Anti-Semitic expressions are a planned effort from these regimes to draw the attention away from their own inadequate responses to the pandemic,” she claimed.
Christian faith and campus leaders then spoke of their personal connections to Israel and the importance of showing solidarity with the Jewish people during this crisis.
Juliana Taimoorazy, president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, shared her personal journey—fleeing persecution in the Middle East—and her love for Israel, which was “planted in my heart by my father who taught me to love the Jewish people—not because Jesus was a Jew but because of who the Jews are, and what they stand for and what they have suffered, which is very similar to what we, the Assyrians, have gone through.”
“For me as a Christian, as an Assyrian, it’s just natural to stand in solidarity with the Jewish people against anti-Semitism,” she said.
Christian Zionist student leader at UCLA Darion Ouliguian shared how he came to be a supporter of Israel, despite backlash he has received. As the first non-Jewish president UCLA’s “premier pro-Israel organization,” Bruins for Israel, he said, “I have faced backlash from my communities on campus. I have lost friends. I’ve been called names and been told I was a fake Armenian. But my personal connections to Israel and the Jewish people made these hardships worth it.”
“As an Armenian,” he explained, “I understand what it’s like to be a people in diaspora, surrounded by hostile enemies. And as a student who values truth, I know that the realities on the ground are much complex and nuanced than they are made out to be on campus.”
In addition to being hosted by CAM and ICEJ, the event was co-sponsored by 12 CAM coalition partners, including American Christian Leaders for Israel, American Pastors Network, Belgian Friends of Israel, Faith Wins, Forecefield Human Rights, IMPAC, Iraqi Christian Relief Council, the Lawfare Project, the Philos Project, Stand in the Gap ministries, Stand Firm and Sweden Israel Alliance.
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