A recent The World news broadcast produced
jointly by WGBH (a Boston public broadcasting affiliate), British Broadcasting
Corporation (BBC), and Public Radio International (PRI) has demonstrated that
fair and accurate coverage of Israel on public radio is not an impossible
standard. On the Nov. 20 broadcast, which was aired by public radio stations
around the United States, Aaron Schachter reported on the American Christian
right and the movement's support for Israel and for the Israelis living in
What was remarkable about this broadcast was that it was
straight-forward and free of editorial comment, allowing the subjects to speak
for themselves. It was a refreshing change from typical National Public Radio
coverage of settlers, which is generally pejorative. Regardless of the
political considerations pro and con of settlements, journalistic
standards of objectivity require these subjects to be dealt with fairly and
without partisan editorializing in news stories.
Commendably, Schachter managed to do so. In addition, the
context that he provided not only touched on the tension between the Jewish
minority surrounded by the Arab majority, but also included the ancient history
of Hebron's Tomb of the Patriarchs.
For a complete transcript of the broadcast, please see
Wednesday, November 20, 2002
Host: Tony Kahn
Christian Coalition in the West Bank (8:30) The World's
Aaron Schachter reports on how the American religious organization, the
Christian Coalition is visiting the West Bank to show support for the Jewish
KAHN: This is The World; I'm Tony Kahn. In the Middle East
today, the Palestinian Authority welcomed a call by Israel's new opposition
Labor Party leader, Amram Mitzna, to restart peace talks. Palestinian leader,
Yasser Arafat, likened Mitzna to slain, former Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin,
who signed a peace deal with the Palestinians, nine years ago.
ARAFAT: We are ready, today, with anyone who have to be
elected and our hands will be extended for the peace of the brave which I have
signed with my partner, Rabin, and I hope that Mitzna will follow the same line
KAHN: Mitzna, though, may not get the chance. Polls show his
Labor Party far behind the ruling Likud Party ahead of January's election.
Whether led by Likud or Labor, the Israeli government regards the U.S. as its
closest friend. It used to be that American Jews were most active in forging
that friendship but increasingly they are joined by American Evangelical
Christians and those Christians tend to agree most with hawkish Israelis.
The World's Aaron Schachter traveled with an American
Christian group on a so-called fact finding tour through the
SCHACHTER: It is an amazing thing to travel through Israel
with a group of Americans whose knowledge of the Holyland is so intimate yet
entirely gleaned from the Bible. This tour follows in the footsteps of Abraham,
the father of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It began near the Temple Mount
in Jerusalem where the Biblical sacrifice of Isaac was to take place. Then it's
off to the spot where Abraham settled.
WILDER: We're going to start today's tour at the most
important site in Hebron.
SCHACHTER: This tour group just happens to include the
leadership of the Christian Coalition, the largest religious based political
organization in the Unites States. The group is being led not just to holy
sites, but also to spots in the occupied territories where Jews have setup
towns and reclaimed land held by their ancestors. David Wilder, spokesman for
the Jewish community of Hebron, serves as guide. As he speaks, the mid-day
Muslim call to prayer echos in the background.
WILDER: This is the second holiest site to the Jewish people
in all the world, second only to Temple Mount and that site that we're talking
about is called in Hebrew, "mearat hamachpelah," which means in
English, the "Tombs of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs."
SCHACHTER: The Old Testament says this is the spot where
Abraham chose to bury his wife Sarah nearly 4000 years ago. Some 2000 years
later, King Herod built a memorial over the Tomb. It was converted in the 13th
century into a Moslem mosque. Wilder says, Jews and Christians were barred from
entering the building for 700 years until Israel beat back the Arabs in the
1967 Six-Day War. Soon after the War, the Israeli government gave the
Palestinians control of the site. The Palestinians partitioned the building.
Wilder tells the tour group that history has shown Muslims never allow free
worship at holy sites.
WILDER: That's why we live in Hebron. That's why there is a
Jewish community in Hebron and that's why that community is going to stay here
forever. This is our home. These are our holy sites. These are sites that were
given to us by God. This is where Abraham was. This is not only the roots of
Judaism, but this is the roots of all of monotheism. We all start here and we
all know what happens if you take a tree and you cut off the roots. Look it's
very simple, any place in the State of Israel that has any Jewish identity,
they want to wipe out.
SCHACHTER: The point of this tour is not just to have a
group of devout Christians get in touch with their own heritage but to help
them see the current situation in Israel through Jewish eyes. Hebron is now a
disputed area. More than 100,000 Arabs surround about 10,000 Jews, many of whom
are under constant Israeli Army protection. The tour continues to the spot in
Hebron where last Friday night, twelve people were gunned down by Arab
terrorists. Jewish residents of Hebron have christened this dusty clearing
The Heroes Battalion Neighborhood. The settler families squat on
the land. Wilder introduces them to the Christian leaders.
WILDER: This is one of the first families that's coming to
live here and they are living here now in this red container. That's their home
and they've come to live here so that there are people here.
First female (Christian Zionist): God bless you. Well, I
just want to encourage you. Thank you so much. You hang in there. We are proud
of you; we'll be praying for you.
Second female (Hebron resident): Okay, thank you very much.
It means a lot that you're coming.
First female: Don't get discouraged. We'll go back and we'll
tell we'll tell everyone.
Second female: Tell everyone how important it is for us to
First female: We will; we will.
SCHACHTER: The Jews here are not at all popular with most
Israelis but they say that's because many of their countrymen have lost their
way. The Christians on this tour say they understand. In fact, the conservative
Jews here and the conservative Christians here from the U.S. have much in
common. Sandra Oster-Barris(sp), an Orthodox Jew, runs an Israel based
organization called Christian Friends of Israeli Communities.
BARRIS: I believe that you can not look at anything
happening in Israel without seeing it from a Biblical and religious perspective
as well. What we do is focus on the aspects of our respective religions that
are in common and that is the Hebrew Scriptures -- the Hebrew Bible. We have
one vision of Messiah; they have another vision of Messiah. When he comes we'll
ask him if he's been here before.
SCHACHTER: Jews and Christians may disagree on the Messiah
but they're utterly united in their belief that Israel's uncooperative
neighbors are not listening to the Word of God laid out clearly in the Bible.
Christian Coalition pastor, Michael Brown, is on the tour.
BROWN: According to Genesis 12:3, when God gave the Covenant
to Abraham, He said, I will bless those who bless you; I will curse those
who curse you and in you will all of the families of the Earth be
blessed. The Jewish people preserved the Scriptures that we hold dear.
According to the Scriptures, God has a tremendous plan for Israel. This
transcends politics. It transcends anything other than just the fact that we
really have a deep abiding love for the nation because God loves Israel.
SCHACHTER: But politics, of course, is why the group is
here. The Christian Coalition is getting more and more powerful in Washington.
Dow-Jones just named it one of the most powerful groups on Capital Hill.
Officials here want the Christian Coalition and others to use their power and
fervor on behalf of Israel.
BROWN: They're looking around for who their true friends
are. I think they've realized that conservative, Bible believing Christians are
their best friends out there.
SCHACHTER: David Parsons is spokesman for the International
Christian Embassy, Jerusalem, a pro-Israel, non-denominational, Christian
organization. Parsons says, Jews and Christians, who at one time clashed over
social issues, have decided the troubles in Israel are worth rallying around.
He estimates that upwards of 70 million Evangelical Christians and many more of
other faiths raise about 100 million dollars a year to support Israelis.
PARSONS: I think it's more main-stream than most Americans
would want to admit. In Biblical prophecies, we're told that they are a light
through dark times. Does it provide us a light today in this dark period that
we are in of weapons of mass destruction and mass terrorism? We think it does
and everyone owes it to themselves to investigate.
SCHACHTER: Parsons says you need not be religious to accept
Scripture. He says if you look at history in the last thousand years, Genesis
has proven itself true. Spain, Portugal and Germany have oppressed Jews and
fallen from grace; the United States has embraced its Jewish population and
Female voice: Why don't we all pray (Voices heard in
SCHACHTER: The Christian-Jewish alliance may yet falter;
after all some Christian conservatives believe a future conflict in the
Holyland will usher in the end of time in Judgement Day. That's not a view
shared by the vast majority of Israelis (voices heard worshiping in song). For
The World, I'm Aaron Schachter, Hebron.