Dogma Alert

Friday, May 27, 2005

Evangelicals Joining Gaza Pullout Protest

Adam Dickter - Staff Writer

In what is likely the largest turnout against Sharon’s Gaza disengagement plan to date in the U.S., thousands jammed the streets around Baruch College Sunday blasting the prime minister’s pullout plan.

In an effort to reach beyond the Jewish community to gain traction in the fight against Israel’s Gaza disengagement, a major pullout opponent has signed up a group of Bible Belt Baptist ministers who see the plan as an affront to God’s will to join some 100 American Jews on a sojourn to Israel next week.

The ministers hope to spend three days with the soon-to-be-vacated Jewish settlers in Gaza on a mission organized by Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind to depart on June 5.

“The Bible says that land belongs to the Jews,” the Rev. James Vineyard of the Windsor Hill Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, said in an interview. “The Lord, God of Israel, is not going to look favorably on the giving-away of one grain of sand.”

Rev. Vineyard last month organized a demonstration in Crawford, Texas, against disengagement when President George W. Bush hosted Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He belongs to a coalition of Jewish and Christian Zionists, Yedidim for Israel — or dear friends of Israel — that opposes all concessions to the Palestinians. Rev. Vineyard said he recently raised more than $50,000 to create a DVD for churches and synagogues explaining opposition to the Gaza plan.

After Hikind invited him to participate in the mission, Rev. Vineyard said he consulted with his friend, Benny Elon, a Knesset member who recently resigned as minister of tourism, and Elon encouraged him to go.

Also participating in the mission are Rev. Vineyard’s son, the Rev. Merle Vineyard, a missionary stationed on Africa’s Ivory Coast, as well as the Rev. Danny Dodson of Center, Texas; Pastor Cecil Ballard of Marion, Iowa; the Rev. Bryan Sharp of Pacific, Mo.; and the Rev. Joseph Buckly Consford.

The ministers’ move comes as thousands of Gaza pullout protesters jammed the streets Sunday around Baruch College on 23rd Street, where Sharon was addressing 1,500 Jewish leaders supporting the disengagement. It was the largest show of force to date by the anti-pullout movement in the United States, much of which is centered here.

Hikind said he was undaunted by the proselytizing activities of the Evangelical ministers, a source of concern to some Jewish organizations that are skeptical about fundamentalist Christian support for Israel.

“As far as I know they are not directly involved in [proselytizing],” Hikind said. “They are coming on this trip to show their support for Gush Katif [the settlers’ bloc in Gaza], and that’s the beginning or the end of the conversations I have had with him.”

Rev. Vineyard said that in 28 years at his 3,000-member congregation, he has “never had a Sunday when we haven’t had someone saved and somebody baptized.” But he said he had never baptized a Jewish proselyte.

“I don’t go to Israel to win souls,” he said. “I go to keep America from going down the tubes.

“If America causes Israel to give away Gush Katif, Israel goes down the tubes, and as goes Israel, so goes America.”

Rev. Vineyard said he believed that Sharon, about whom he had once spoken enthusiastically, has agreed to give up Gaza as part of a deal with left-wing politicians and judges in order to end an investigation into his campaign finances and business dealings that was aborted last year.

Speaking at Sunday’s protest rally, Hikind expressed frustration that more Jewish leaders had not signed on to his trip.

“It is easier for me to find Baptist ministers than rabbis,” he said in a booming voice. [...]

In addition to Hikind’s trip, Americans for a Safe Israel is planning a 10-day trip to Israel beginning Sunday to protest the disengagement. But it is not clear whether the Israeli army will allow the groups into Gaza after announcing that the area would be closed to non-residents after Passover.


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