Unification News for December 2003 and January 2004

A Jewish/Unificationist Perspective on the Jerusalem Peace Rally.

by Rev. Bruce Sutchar

My brother lived in Eilat on the south coast of Israel for 3 years, yet I am the only member of my extended living family to not have visited Israel. In fact, I never really desired to go to Israel until I suddenly heard about the first pilgrimage in May 2003. The trip was very selective (only ministers who had taken down their crosses were invited).

However, I was so single minded and felt such a purpose driven focus that both Bishop Ki Hoon Kim and Rev. Jenkins approved my participation. I brought along a guest who was a Coptic Christian professor of religion from Egypt. (Did you ever think that Egypt, being converted by one of the disciples, was a Christian nation for 700 years until Mohammed converted the population to Islam?) Professor El Mallakh is a wonderful professor of World Religions in Chicago who shares a deep love with Jesus Christ and has a deep respect for our True Parents.

This first pilgrimage went first to Rome (over which my Austrian Catholic wife was drooling), and after viewing the historic sites from the lives of Peter, Paul, and the early Christians amidst the ruins of ancient Rome, we departed for Eritz Yisrael (Israel).

Our tour primarily focused on the religious shrines; the upper room, the Sea of Galilee, Gethsemane, the empty tomb, the Mount of Beatitudes, Capaernum, the tomb of David, and the Western Wall. Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jericho, and Gaza were all off limits and not part of the tour.

Of course the pilgrimage concluded with our interfaith conference (130 Christian ministers, an equal number of Israeli rabbis, academics and social activists and a handful of Imam and Druse leaders. Then for a grand finale lead by Bishop Stallings, a chief Rabbi of Israel, and a Muslim Sheik, we all signed the Jerusalem Declaration. I felt that my Cohan ancestors (the Priests within the tribe of Levi) were celebrating as I was able to sign the proclamation just after Mr. Abe (the Japanese National Messiah of Israel). I had a similar feeling when I approached the Wailing Wall (the closest place that a Jew can stand to the site of the original temple) for the very first time.

Six months later, I have digested some of the meaning of the pilgrimage and I was debating how I could attend the December Peace Rally (originally scheduled for the week before our True Family Values Banquet in Chicago). Then one day around Thanksgiving I got a call from Rev. Jenkins in Jerusalem asking me to come to Israel for the December 22nd rally and bring some Jewish leaders from Chicago.

By one miracle of God I was able to be included in the El Al Charter flight and before I could even take one deep breath after our December 13th banquet, it was 4 am on December 16th and I was headed to Midway airport in Chicago.

Flash forward to Christmas Eve. I have been back in Chicago a little over 24 hours and I am trying to prepare for tomorrowís festivities and at the same time beginning to put the pieces together from the last whirlwind 8 days in Israel. So many things happened so fast in those 6 days - almost like all of human history passing before your very eyes. There is one thing that really stands out - from the level of heart Ė and that is our own brothers and sisters.

Being in Israel was much like a high school reunion, like Godís Day at the New Yorker. So many of the people that I have known over the past 27 years were there, many of whom I havenít seen in 10 or 20 years. My teachers, my team captains, my spiritual children, but most of all, my brothers and sisters. And in the midst of all the activity we would all gather (maybe 600 of us) for morning Hoon Dok Hae at 5am every morning and then re-gathered from 8-10pm for reflections every night.

My heart really goes out to those special Task Force staff persons who basically were confined to office work and had little chance to leave the 8th floor of the Renaissance Hotel in Jerusalem. Not wanting to leave anybody out (I refer to people coordinating transportation, media, publications, and all the details that were necessary to make the march and the rally on December 22nd happen), names that immediately come to mind include Reiner Vincenz, Tom Cutts, Howard Self, Joshua Cotter, Bill and Donna Selig, David Eaton and so many others. (Rev. Vincenz mentioned that he had been out of the hotel 3 times during the month.)

So many others had the challenge and the blessing of going out every day and visiting synagogues, mosques, businesses, churches, and schools to invite their inhabitants to the rally. And a third contingent under the leadership of our sister Akiko Ikeno went out daily, performing service projects in some of the poorest areas in Israel (Bethlehem, Jerusalem, etc). But how wonderful it was to be seeing our true brothers and sisters throughout the hotel (and throughout Jerusalem) everyday.

And the ministers were working alongside us in every way. Men and women of God like Rev. and Mrs. Carl Rawls (a giant of man, physically and spiritually) from Selma Alabama, who was the Grand Marshall of the March, Rev. H.G. McGhee, Jesse Edwards, Dr. Gloria Wright, and

Rev. James Hampton. And these were joined by Imams from the United States and from Israel. And then there were our new Israeli brethren, Professor Shuki and Shoshana Ben Ami, Dr Eliezer and Rachel Glaubach and Mr. Baruch Shalev -- these 5 who along with our Israeli brother and sister Had Ben Zvi and Shelley El XXX, have been on this pilgrimage from May, through the Washington DC conference in June, the blessing in Chicago in July, and the next 3 pilgrimages to Israel.

This pilgrimage was unique, as was my earlier sojourn in May. First of all, we had the opportunity to go to Bethlehem (where we had to get off the Israeli bus, cross the military checkpoint, and then board a Palestinian bus) and Nazareth (which I found to be a quaint town of 40% Arab Muslims, 30% Arab Christians, and 30% Jewish). We visited Nazareth on a Saturday and visited the church built on the spot where Jesus was born. Our Palestinian guide was wonderful and I felt that the local natives were so grateful to welcome the tourist trade.

On the night before the rally we held an evening of song and testimonies. I had the distinct feeling that within this ballroom sat the most diversified (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Druse, Greek Orthodox, Coptic Christian, Protestant, Evangelical Christian, Caucasian, Arab, African American, European, and I am sure that I missed many more) collection of people that existed anywhere in the world. What an incredible gathering of righteous men and women of God our True Parents have brought together. No one, no how, no where, could ever have done this kind of feat.

The march and the rally themselves were incredible. I believe, based on the foundations that had been set by our True Parents, by the leaders of our movement worldwide, by our brothers and sisters all over the world (through prayer, fasting and financial contributions) and the special task force in Israel led by Dr. Yang and Rev. Jenkins, that the march and rally were a guaranteed success before they even began.

December 22nd began as a clear, crisp, and windy day in Jerusalem. The heavy rains and snow of a few days earlier had passed and we were expecting a bright and sunny, if a little bit chilly December day. The march began promptly at 9am, and 500-700 pilgrims marched in unity to the holy shrines of the Wailing Wall and the Temple Mount at the Dome of the Rock. At each shrine we gathered for pictures, prayer, and celebration. One wonderful experience was the feeling of Godís power as we were joined suddenly by our international church leaders, such as Rev. Kwak, Rev. Hwang, Drs. Thomas Walsh, Frank Kaufman and Andrew Wilson.

After a wonderful lunch in a kibbutz restaurant overlooking Bethlehem, we arrived at Independence Park about 2pm to enjoy the dayís festivities. The afternoon was filled with Israeli music and the incredible Fire Choir from Dimona, the home of the Black Hebrew Community. They sang especially He-nay Matovu Manayem, letting the congregation know that it is good that men and women of God can be gathered together in one place. Rev. Schanker looked so handsome in his black tuxedo as he served as the program MC. The park was filled to the rafters as far as the eye could see, especially with the colored hats that had been placed on every seat.

The program was a wonderful blend of peace, repentance, and reconciliation. It ended with the stage being filled with Christians, Muslims, Jews, Americans, Israelis and Arabs, all standing together in harmony. The program was not easy. Rev. Jenkins lead the festivities while Rev. Kwak offered the keynote address. But the support from every sector of the religious community united and combined to bring a total victory for our True Parents!

As I returned to one of the hundreds of busses that were lined up to take the participants back to their homes and hotels, I reflected on our first Jerusalem Conference in May. This conference foremost focused on repentance and reconciliation between the sons of Abraham. What was most amazing was that when the conference ended, many Israelis told me that a conference of this magnitude, bringing Christians, Muslims, and Jews, had never happened in Jerusalem before. Never? No never! Amazing!

Once again, our True Parents had broken virgin territory. Peace in the Middle East - what an amazing effort! Whenever we told people why we were going to Israel, they mostly just shook their heads in skeptical disbelief that peace could ever be accomplished. But then again, they donít know our True Parentsí resolve and determination: first the Berlin Wall, then the Iron Curtain, now the Middle East and finally Korea. And all the walls of the spiritual world are being torn down in the process.

Recently my family read True Parentsí sermon from Christmas Day 1979 entitled "The True Meaning of Christmas." As we were reading, I realized that while thousands of Christmas sermons were going out all throughout the globe, no one listening was gaining the insight and understanding of the life of our beloved brother Jesus the way we were, due solely to the love and grace of our True Parents.

The Jewish cry "Next Year in Jerusalem" has become "This Year in Jerusalem". Next year Korea, next year world peace, next year - well - next year only God and True Parents know for sure.

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