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December 19, 2018

American Lutheran In Jerusalem Affirms that IDF Soldiers Are “Stormtroopers,” Backtracks

Rev. Carrie Ballenger Smith is a pastor at the Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem. She ministers to the English-speaking congregation that meets at the Lutheran church, which is located in the Old City of Jerusalem. She is also listed as “special assistant to the Bishop” of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. Her husband is Rev. Dr. Robert O. Smith who used to work for the University of Notre Dame’s Jerusalem Global Gateway before he stepped down from this position in June. (More about him below.)

In a recent discussion on Facebook, one of Ballenger Smith’s friends referred to Israeli soldiers standing guard near Damascus gate in the Old City of Jerusalem as “stormtroopers.” Ballenger Smith’s friend declared, “nothing about Zionist stormtroopers is ‘normal’.”

In response, Ballenger Smith declared “exactly!”

Upon being challenged by an Israeli expert in Christian-Jewish relations, Ballenger Smith backtracked a bit, declaring, “I didn’t use that word but am affirming that nothing about the situation is normal. Should have clarified.”

Here is a screenshot of the Facebook conversation:

Carrie Ballenger Smith.jpg

It is laudable that Rev. Smith “clarified” her apparent affirmation of a description of Israeli soldiers as “stormtroopers.” It is regrettable that it took a challenge from an expert on Christian-Jewish relations to make it happen. Israeli police officers should be able to protect Jews in their homeland without being called Nazis. But that's what happened.

"Stormtroopers" has a very specific meaning, and its’s not rooted in Star Wars but in German history.

“Stormtroopers” is a word used to describe members of the SS who engaged in acts of genocide against Jews in Eastern Europe. There is simply no comparison between Israeli soldiers and the genocidal killers who murdered huge numbers of Jews (and other civilians) during the Holocaust.

The description of Israeli soldiers standing guard near Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem (where numerous stabbing attacks have taken place) as Nazi-like killers is a defamatory lie that Ballenger Smith should have challenged immediately. Portraying Israeli police officers and soldiers as Nazis is an immediately recognizable anti-Semitic trope.

Ballenger Smith's misstep prompts a pressing question: What is going on at the Church of the Redeemer?

If the belief that Israelis are the new Nazis is present in the membership of the Church of the Redeemer, it should be challenged and combated, not encouraged.

This is not the first time an American Lutheran working in Jerusalem has engaged in irresponsible rhetoric. In 2012, Ballenger Smith's husband, Robert O. Smith, appeared at a pro-BDS anti-Israel event in South Africa during which he asserted there was no connection between the contemporary state of Israel and the Israelites described in the Old Testament.

It is essential that all of us understand that the Israel of the bible, the ancient Israelites are not linked in any substantive or material way to the contemporary modern state of Israel. The biblical narrative of Israel has almost nothing to do with contemporary Israel other than the intentional manipulation of sacred texts to justify a political project.

Here, Robert O. Smith, a Lutheran scholar, denigrates the Jewish connection to the land of Israel and accuses Israeli Jews of manipulating the Hebrew Scriptures to justify their actions in the Holy Land. These two accusations indicate a fundamental contempt for the Jews in Israel and troubling indifference to the dilemmas faced by the leaders of the Jewish state.

These two missteps, taken together, raise another troubling question: What exactly is the attitude of the American Lutheran expat community in Jerusalem toward Israel?

Posted by dvz at December 19, 2018 05:36 PM


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