Faith should be seen as an integral part of peace-making in the Middle East, said Israel’s ambassador to the United Kingdom in a unique presentation at the annual meeting of the Church of England’s highest legislative body.
“I no longer think the standard negotiator’s toolbox is wide, deep or rich enough to solve the most difficult disputes,” said Ambassador Daniel Taub on Wednesday afternoon, who offered his reflections on negotiating in the Middle East, and spoke about his emerging conviction about the role of faith in reconciliation.
“Faith and our faith texts offer untapped tools for transforming our dialogue.”
Seventy bishops, church ministers and lay leaders of the Anglican church attended the talk.
During the event, Taub led a text study of the conflict between brothers Jacob and Esau in the Book of Genesis.
The presentation was the fruit of collaboration between the Israeli Embassy, the Council for Christians and Jews and the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
The General Synod, an annual three-day conference in London, is the national assembly of the Church of England.
Bishop David Gillet of Norwich opened the event with an address and Archbishop of York John Sentamu, the second-most senior clergyman in the church, also sat in attendance.
“The Bible gives both of our Christian and Jewish faiths hope for teshuva, meaning transformation in Hebrew,” said Rabbi Natan Levy of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. “Only a year ago a Synod debate on Israel divided our communities, but the Ambassador has opened the door now towards healing and wisdom.”
The relationship between the Church of England, also known as the Anglican Church, and the Jewish community has been rocky in recent years.
In October 2012, Britain’s Jewish leadership lodged a formal complaint to the Church about one of its clergymen, accusing him of producing anti-Semitic material and posting links to anti-Semitic websites on his blog.
Reverend Stephen Sizer is “an avid reader and publicizer of websites that are openly and virulently anti-Semitic, and Rev. Sizer has himself descended into making anti-Semitic statements,” according to the complaint, lodged by the Board of Deputies, the community’s main representative organization.
In July of that year, despite the protests of the chief rabbi and the Jewish community, the General Synod voted to support an organization that brings international church members to the West Bank to “experience life under occupation” for three to four months, and expects them to campaign on their return for “a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through an end to the occupation, respect for international law and implementation of UN resolutions.”
The Board of Deputies accused the group, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, of creating “a cohort of very partisan but very motivated anti-Israel advocates who have almost no grasp of the suffering of normal Israelis.”
Hopes for better relations rose after Justin Welby, who has a Jewish father, was enthroned as the leader of the Church of England in March.
The Anglican Church has 80 million followers worldwide.