The Scottish Council of Jewish Communities and the Board of Deputies, representing the Scottish and United Kingdom Jewish communities, note that the Church of Scotland has made some revisions to its report The Inheritance of Abraham? A report on the 'promised land' as the result of the dialogue between the Jewish community and the Church of Scotland last week. (Click here to read the original report and here for the revised version.) That dialogue was very valuable, and provided the opportunity for the Jewish community to explain their concern about passages which, as the Church has acknowledged, caused worry and concern, and became the subject of international controversy.
We would not presume to make comment on matters of Christian theology and did not do so, just as the Church of Scotland recognised in its previous report on the Theology of Land and Covenant (May 2003) that "As Christians we must be sensitive and accept that we have no right to dictate to Jews how they ought to respond to their traditions; whether, for example, they should be Zionists or non-Zionists, religious or secular. Such issues are rightly part of a lively inner Jewish debate." Our intention was to correct deep-seated errors in the original report's perception of Jewish belief, emphasise shared themes in Christian-Jewish dialogue, and draw attention to the increasingly hostile contemporary experience of Jewish people in Scotland.
We would have wished that this conversation could have taken place earlier, but we are glad that it has belatedly taken place now. The results are very clear. The new document confirms a number of views that the Church has assured us always formed part of its policy. These include the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security, and condemnation of all acts of terrorism, violence, and intimidation. It also confirms that the Church's previous reports, including the 2003 report which states "There is not, and never has been, one agreed interpretation of Scripture in either Jewish or Christian tradition", are still valid, and continue to form part of the Church's policy. There is also the addition of a direct repudiation of claims that one faith should consider itself to have superseded another. And critically, there is a commitment to ongoing dialogue in the amended Deliverance.
However, we continue to have very grave concerns about the lack of balance in the document's approach to the Middle East conflict, even in its revised form. Although most of the excesses of language in the original report have been modified, the unacceptable underlying message remains unaltered. For that reason, it is unlikely to be embraced by mainstream opinion in the Jewish community, and we do not consider that it will advance the cause of the peace in the Middle East that we all, Jews, Christians, and Muslims, so fervently pray for.
We also regret that the Church and Society Council has given no thought to the impact of its document on Jewish people here in Scotland. As the umbrella representative body of the Jewish Community of Scotland, SCoJeC has, on a number of occasions, drawn the attention of the Church to the findings of our recent Government-funded Being Jewish in Scotland project, during which 4 out of 5 respondents reported, without prompting, that the undisputed increase of anti-zionist activity in Scotland adversely affects their lives as Jews in Scotland, and makes them feel uncomfortable, alienated, and unsafe. We are therefore saddened that the Church has not seen fit to meet us to discuss how they could contribute to better relations between communities in Scotland, but instead has issued a document that contributes to that climate.
However, because we value our relationship with the Church, we remain fully committed to continuing dialogue, and look forward to an improved understanding that will enable us to work together on issues that are of concern to both of our communities. We therefore hope that, rather than adopting the report, the General Assembly will refer it back in order to permit a serious and sustained dialogue that will bring our communities together rather than driving us apart.