A response from Ambassador Michael Oren

Following is a statement from Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren in response to a guest commentary by Richard Stearns, the U.S. … Continued

Following is a statement from Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren in response to a guest commentary by Richard Stearns, the U.S. president of the Christian humanitarian group World Vision, that appeared in Religion News Service on Wednesday (April 4):

“The claims made in a recent article by Richard Stearns (”A dark Easter for Palestinian Christians”) are completely without foundation and are libelous to the State of Israel.

“Israel has provided more than 20,000 permits this year for Palestinian Christians to enter Jerusalem for the Good Friday and Easter holidays. Five-hundred similar permits have also been issued to the remaining Christians of Gaza, though the area is under the control of the terrorist organization Hamas.

“With the exception of the very few individuals who have raised security concerns, and not withstanding the measures we must take to protect our citizens, any Christian from the West Bank can reach Jerusalem on Good Friday and Easter. All allegations to the contrary are flagrantly untrue and represent a reckless attempt to defame the Jewish State.

“Israel, the only Middle Eastern country with a growing and thriving Christian population, remains committed to maintaining its superb relations with Christian communities worldwide. Though we face serious and continuing defense challenges, we uphold the principle of free access to the Holy Places to all religions. On this year, as in all previous years, we wish Christians throughout the world a joyous holiday.”

(Michael Oren is the Israeli ambassador to the United States.)

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  • director6

    Richard Stearns, president of World Vision, one of America’s largest Christian humanitarian agencies, is a compassionate and uncomplicated man who deserves a little deference. Instead he got an uncalled for rejoinder from the Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren. Is “libelous” the only word statesman Oren can come up with when censured? This is especially cheerless at this hallowed time of year for both Jews and Christians.

    The State of Israel is here to stay; they needed a home. As a representative of his country Ambassador Oren might want to think more before using such harsh language in a situation that Stearns, who has taken the time to observe both sides, knows to be true.

    The people of Palestine suffer in many ways under the hand of the State of Israel. The issue here is not how many permits have been issued – the issue is failing to understanding the narrative of the “other” while at the same time only remembering your own historic narrative. Thankfully, a growing number of Israelis and Arabs are starting to listen to the storyline of the other. Ambassador Oren might want to leave the halls of Washington D.C. more often and experience the needs of all the people in the Holy land, Israelis and Palestinians.

    To maintain good relations with all the people of Israel and Palestine (and the USA) please, Mr. Ambassador, leave the words “defame” and “libelous” aside. Some humility and introspection might make for better statesmanship.

    Leonard Rodgers, Director, Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding

  • mxyz

    .The people of Israel and Jews worldwide suffer in many ways under the hand of terrorism, supposedly “justified” by a largely false “Palestinian” narrative. The issue here is not how many permits have been issued – the issue is failing to understand that with the record of terrorists both attacking large gatherings and trying to gain a tactical advantage on religious holidays, that Israel should not be chastised for temporarily beefing up its security on these occasions.

    For Mr. Stearns to try dictate what security precautions a nation is justified in taking and then criticize that nation based on his own expectations is presumptuous in the first place. When he does so in print, using a false figure which reflects only one-tenth of the extent that the nation had already voluntarily gone to in attempting to accommodate and then censures them and calls for more accommodation, his words become just more of the same false narrative that lies at the bottom of much of the problem.

    Some humility and introspection might make for better statesmanship…