This article examines the relationship between Evangelical Christian Zionists and West Bank Jewish settlers and its implications to the Jewish-Christian boundary. Significant contact with Christian Zionists has sparked a fierce debate among rabbinical leaders in the settlements, with some working to radically redefine the Christian-Jewish boundary and others attempting to maintain it in its traditional form. Thus, while some view the shifting of boundaries as a mark of the messianic era, others perceive it as a serious threat that must be opposed. Based on fieldwork conducted among rabbis and Christian Zionist volunteers, we attempt to demonstrate the ways in which Jewish theology is negotiated regarding the definition of monotheism, approaches to Christian missionary motives and the involvement of non-Jews in the Zionist project. Such negotiation of religious boundaries reflects the larger story of religion in the global age, a time in which boundaries are challenged and borderland identities abound.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The contentious issue of accepting Christian donations has created a major conflict in recent years, regarding the activity of the late Rabbi Yechiel Ekshtein and the International fellowship of Christians and Jews. Since its foundation in 1983, the fellowship has engaged primarily in funneling donations from American Christians to a variety of welfare causes in Israel including poverty relief, security needs and assisting Jewish immigrants. According to the foundation’s website, donations amounting to 5.4 billion dollars, mostly from Christian in the US have been provided for Israel and the Jewish people up to 2016. The foundation’s activity in the past two decades has split the religious Zionist world, with several leading rabbinical figures supporting the foundation and its work and others vehemently opposing it. Opposition to the fellowship is partly based on the larger theological issue discussed above, regarding the prohibition on acceptance of funding from ‘idolaters’. It is also reflective of the suspicion that financial dependence on donations is enabling Christian missionary work (Ekshtein himself claimed that he refuses funding from Christians with a missionary agenda). Zefania Drori, the rabbi of Kiryat Shmona on the Lebanese border, called city authorities to refuse the foundations’ donations for bomb shelters, arguing that accepting money from Christians would ‘bring a curse – not a blessing’ (Nagar-Levitt ).
This work was supported by The Authority of Research and Development, Ariel University; Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology: [Grant Number 3-15748]. The authors acknowledge and appreciate the financial support provided by the Eastern R&D Center, Ariel University and the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology.
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- Christian Zionism
- Religious Boundaries
- West Bank Settlements