Friday, April 18, 2008

Kentucky Legislature Honors Ami Ortiz

You can find this on the Kentucky Legislature site here.

A RESOLUTION adjourning the 2008 Session of the Kentucky House of Representatives in honor of Ami Ortiz, a world-class example of how one teen and his family have demonstrated God's love and forgiveness in the face of murderous religious persecution.

WHEREAS, at 2:30 p.m. On Thursday, March 20, 2008, a 15 year-old Ami Ortiz, the son of a well-known pastor in Ariel, Israel, miraculously escaped death when he opened a traditional "Happy Purim" gift loaded with explosives and delivered to his home by terrorists intending to frighten members of the tiny Messianic community into fleeing their homes, city, and nation; and

WHEREAS, a March 23 Jerusalem Post article reported that Ami's "neck had an eight-inch gash like someone slit his throat. He has a ruptured lung. Doctors had to operate on his tongue. He has second-degree burns to his chest and arms, and there is no flesh on the thighs." The article further disclosed that doctors amputated two of Ami's toes and are working to prevent the loss of his arms and legs and to remove fragments of nails, bolts, screws, and metal shards from his entire body, including his right eye; and

WHEREAS, prior to the murderous bombing of his home, Ami Ortiz, the youngest of David and Leah Ortiz's six children, had also endured, along with other family members, years of harassment and intimidation associated with anti-missionary efforts to frighten the family by throwing a Molotov cocktail at the family's car, vandalizing their property, demonstrations, threats, and distribution of hurtful flyers and "wanted" posters plastered around their town with the personal information about the Ortiz family; and

WHEREAS, Pastor Ortiz's ministry to both Arab and Jewish believers resulted in death threats from the Hamas terrorist organization in the mid-1990's for preaching the Gospel to Palestinian Muslims; and

WHEREAS, the Ortiz family has also received similar threats from certain ultra-Orthodox Jews, some of whom have been involved in anti-missionary efforts to outlaw the free expression of Messianic faith in Israel; and

WHEREAS, the latest attempt to murder the Ortiz family marks an escalation of physical attacks on Messianic Jews in Israel, following the fire-bombing of a Messianic house of prayer in Jerusalem several months ago, and the ongoing attacks in Arad; and

WHEREAS, prior to the bombing of the Ortiz home, the Messianic community complained that Israel's media have often under-reported, downplayed, or reframed the significance of deadly attacks on Jewish believers; and

WHEREAS, the evening following the attack on the Ortiz family, Israel's Channel 10 news unwittingly justified such attacks with the statement, "Where there are missionaries there will be anti-missionaries;" and

WHEREAS, a recent article on Ami Ortiz in the March 25 issue of The Jerusalem Post quotes Howard Bass, head of a Messianic congregation in Beersheba as saying there has been "very little sympathy for our plight. We get the feeling that nobody in Israel is willing to take a strong stand against violent, anti-missionary activity;" and

WHEREAS, just before Christmas in 2005, Bass' congregation was attacked by hundreds of demonstrators who received the backing of the local rabbinic leadership, the Post said. Another Messianic believer, Edwin Beckford, is under house arrest. Last Fall, arsonists set fire to Jerusalem's Narkis Street Baptist Church, which sustained minor damage; and

WHEREAS, the government of Israel's history of reluctance to aggressively prosecute anti-missionary terrorists who have attacked Messianic Jews and their congregations in Beersheba and Arad with the same zeal that Israel prosecutes other terrorists dehumanizes a religious minority and emboldens terrorists to believe that Messianic Jews are fair game; and

WHEREAS, the police and courts in Israel may soon face pressure by certain ultra-orthodox religious politicians in Israel's Knesset and government ministries to "go easy" on the perpetrators of this attempted murder of the Ortiz family because some of these politicians believe missionaries to be at fault for being a "severe provocation;" and

WHEREAS, in the face of death, Ami Ortiz called upon the Messiah Yeshua, and has continued to set the right example for all believers by embracing the words of Yeshua: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you;"

Be it resolved by the House of Representatives of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky:
Section 1. The House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Kentucky hereby adjourns the 2008 Session of the Kentucky House of Representatives in honor of Ami Ortiz and his family for demonstrating the love and forgiveness of God in the face of murderous religious persecution.
Section 2. The Clerk of the House of Representatives shall send copies of this Resolution to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, 3 Kaplan Street, Hakirya, Jerusalem 91950; Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, Knesset, Kiryat Ben-Gurion, Jerusalem 91950; Mayor Ron Nachman, Ariel Municipality, Ariel City Hall, Ariel, Israel 40700; and Ambasador Sallai Meridor, 3514 International Drive N.W., Washington, DC 20008.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Simone Weil and Jewish Estrangement

A film about Simone Weil is touring the South and coming to the Light Factory in Charlotte April 15 (next Tuesday). Who is Simone Weil? The film's promo identifies her as “one of the most compelling and contradictory spiritual thinkers of our times. A pacifist who fought in the Spanish Civil War, a former Marxist who discovered the value in religion, a Jew and a Christian who refused to be baptized.” From the parts of the interview with the filmmaker I listened to, the filmmaker who came to filmmaking through 'philosophy' was drawn to do a film on Weil because her 'outsider approach' to mystical Christianity produced a 'spirituality' that resonated with the 'practical' something-about-post-Marxist and liberalist thus-and-so... I admit that I got little lost as it got beyond my level. But I did find out that you pronounce her Simone Weil's last name "vey" (as in "oy-vey"), because that's how they roll in France.

Here is an overview on Weil's life by Jillian Becker. I found this much more insightful than the snippets or the interviews. In the part I am quoting from, the context is that the WWII Vichy regime in France had just denied her a teaching position because she was Jewish:

Rejection on the grounds that she was Jewish could not have come to her as a bolt from the blue, but as a bolt it struck her. She winced under it, smarted from its unfairness. Yet in the light of her temperament, her history, and her idealism, might one not fairly ask: why did she not see this hardship as a gift? Was this not her opportunity to come out strong? She who had for so long thought of herself as the champion of the oppressed, the comforter of the afflicted, who felt only for them and not for herself and desired so ardently to share in ther lot, to bear their anguish with them, was now almost inescapably one of them. She had the words to protest; she had the courage to endure; she had the intellect to perceive, analyze, understand, clarify the issue; and she had the will, a positive ardor, to suffer in the cause of suffering humanity. Compassion was her calling. So what might be expected of her now? At the very least, perhaps just to start with, she could publish a denunciation of the Vichy government and its craven collaboration with the Nazis in their policy of persecution and genocide. Had not the Jews a claim, at least as great as any other oppressed people if not at this moment greater, on those who routinely published protests against oppression and injustice? Now, would-be saint and martyr, now is your hour!

She did not seize it. She wrote to the government, and, yes, it was a letter of protest. She reasoned with them sharply against what she felt to be an injustice—one inflicted on Professor Simone Weil personally. Not one word did she say about the evil of anti-Semitism, not one word on behalf of the Jews who were being stripped of all they possessed, torn from their families, deported, imprisoned, starved, enslaved, tortured, and massacred. The letter was entirely and exclusively a complaint that the authorities had classed her as a Jew. She argued that to call her Jewish was an unfounded, unreasonable allegation.

I do not know the definition of the word, “Jew”; that subject was not included in my education. The Statute, it is true, defines a Jew as “a person who has three or more Jewish grandparents.” But this simply carries the difficulty two generations back. Does this word designate a religion? I have never been in a synagogue, and have never witnessed a Jewish ceremony. As for my grandparents—I remember that my paternal grandmother used to go to the synagogue, and I think I have heard that my paternal grandfather did likewise. On the other hand, I know definitely that both my maternal grandparents were free-thinkers. Thus if it is a matter of religion, it would appear that I have only two Jewish grandparents, and so am not a Jew according to the Statute. But perhaps the word designates a race? In that case, I have no reason to believe that I have any link, maternal or paternal, to the people who inhabited Palestine two thousand years ago… . I myself, who profess no religion and never have, have certainly inherited nothing from the Jewish religion… . I would say that if there were a religious tradition which I regard as my patrimony, it is the Catholic tradition. In short, mine is the Christian, French, Greek tradition. The Hebraic tradition is alien to me, and no Statute can make it otherwise.

Therein lies the problem: How could an encounter with the real, historical Yeshua not just stem from but even reinforce a total alienation from one’s Jewish identity? It seems to me that the tired “Jew/Christian” dichotomy by which the promo got my attention doesn‘t really give a contradiction at all. Rather, the contradiction lies in her refusal to recognize her own Jewishness, under the spell, not of the faith reflected by the Scriptures, but of a self-abasing Gnosticism.

Did she manifest or express some vital aspect of twentieth-century Zeitgeist that continues to haunt us? I think she did....she was, “at least by temperament,” a Cathar—Weil herself had declared that her religious beliefs were closest to these medieval dualistic heretics.

To her, as to them, the human soul was a moral battlefield where good and evil were locked in a time-long conflict. Like Gnostic thinkers, such as the Marcionites of the second century, she denounced the god of the Jews as a lesser and evil god, and sought to be reunited in spirit with the true but absent God, the God who is goodness itself, the Platonic ideal or essence of goodness.

Becker concludes, "If ... Simone Weil epitomizes the moral ideals of our time, then we are morally adrift in an era of darkness."