Arkush-Weissman exchange of letters

The exchange of letters between ICCJ President Dr. Deborah Weissman and Mr. Jonathan Arkush, Vice-President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, is for the time being coming to a conclusion. Dr. Weissman and Mr. Arkush have discussed the role of the EAPPI program of the World Council of Churches.

EAAPI stands for Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel.  Christians from all over the world come to Israel and Palestine to monitor e.g. the situation at the checkpoints. They are also part of a program of meetings with Israelis and Palestinians providing them with deeper insights into the complexity of the situation. Links to the earlier letters of Mr. Arkush and Dr. Weissman can be found below.

Dear Mr. Arkush,

Now that the fighting has subsided in Israel and Gaza, I would like to thank you for your letter. I am pleased that people read our Web site and want to respond.

On a lighter note, you did me a seriously undeserved honor by quoting the Midrash about God going down to Babel ("But unlike the Almighty descending to understand Babel, you are speaking from afar.") While it's true that I don't live in the UK, I do visit there often and I actually live within walking distance of the EAPPI office in Jerusalem. In my synagogue here, I have hosted many groups from that program.

In contact with that office and with the central office of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, I have received official confirmation that the EAPPI's spend their training, midterm orientation, and concluding seminars in Jerusalem, Haifa and Sderot. That comes to about 15 days. They also have 12 days during the program, during which they are free to travel--many spend additional time in Israel. In any case, I don't think that the exact number of days is crucial. What I feel is important is that we should try to deepen and enhance their connection with Israeli Jewish people, sites and experiences.

In your letter, you wrote, "We did not accuse EAPPI of antisemitism or that an endorsement of EAPPI by the Church of England would spell the death of interfaith relations, as you suggested in your letter." I suggested no such thing. I did not even mention your organization in my letter. I was quoting from a piece by Geoffrey Alderman.

Please understand that I do not in any way condone the spread of lies or half-truths about the situation here, or any other, for that matter. The anecdotes you related are deeply troubling. I have brought those incidents to the attention of the WCC, the sponsors of EAPPI.

I know that both of our organizations--the ICCJ and the Board of Deputies of British Jews-- are committed to the survival and security of the State of Israel and to the promotion of good relations between Jews and Christians. I assume that you, as we, are also committed to a just and peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We should try to find ways of working together in those directions.

Debbie Weissman

Link to Mr. Askush’ earlier response: