Friday, 3 September 2010

AIPAC sends Christians to learn more about Israeli affairs

It's still a mystery to Carl Turner as to why he was one of 15 people selected to participate on a trip to Israel with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Not only did Turner, a former NASA employee who programmed the computer to put man on the moon in 1969, get chosen by AIPAC, but so did a few Christian pastors, business leaders and a town's mayor.

Turner doesn't know why, and he likely won't ever know how he was chosen. But ultimately, he said, he's thankful. The trip, supported by AIPAC and its affiliate the American Israel Education Foundation, sent Christians from the United States to Israel to educate them about the land and about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Turner's a Christian himself who wanted to learn more about Israel. But it wasn't until he was asked to trek along with 14 other companions that he actually thought about going there.

"I've always had an interest in Israel because we worship the same God," Turner said. "My faith comes out of the Jewish faith. I've always had an interest in Israel but never a desire to go. But this was a trip of a lifetime that had a huge impact on me. Jewish people are so beyond special. They truly are a blessed people. They are so desiring of peace. And I guess I never realized that until I went."

Turner said the trip lasted eight days in April, with each day beginning at 8:30 a.m. and ending at 10 p.m. For seven of the eight days the group was introduced to various problems Israel faces, such as security concerns and political issues. On one day a Palestine Liberation Organization negotiator spoke with the group offering their side of the conflict.

"They gave a well-rounded view. AIPAC never told us how they believe or how they want us to believe," Turner said. "AIPAC only presented facts, were cautious just to present the facts."

The different views led to some spirited and healthy debates, Turner said.

For AIPAC, the trip was about exposing American leaders, who otherwise wouldn't have first-hand knowledge of the issues Israel faces, to the challenges the nation faces.

"The trip is an intensive educational opportunity to give current and future leaders a firsthand opportunity to learn about and appreciate the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, Israel's security needs and, of course, the Jewish State's ongoing quest for peace," AIPAC spokesman Josh Block said.

One part of the trip stood out for Turner, and that's when the group visited the border of Israel and Lebanon. Turner said he looked at the Israeli side of the border and saw crops such as kiwi and grapefruit growing. But on the Lebanese side the onlookers could see opium fields.

"You're talking about a picture of good vs. evil," Turner said. "It was unbelievable to me."

Turner said that there were portions of the trip where the group saw missiles and rockets launched toward Israel that missed, and were buried partly into the ground. They also visited the West Bank settlements and looked over the Gaza Strip.

When Turner came back to the U.S. he said he had a desire to learn more. He's started by attending noon lunches with Atlanta rabbis and by reading books about Israel's economy, such as "Start-Up Nation" by Dan Senor and Saul Singer.

"I now understand how important it is for Christians to get involved with Israel," Turner said. "We have to bridge our gaps to talk and communicate better."

Jewish Museum Fetes John Paul II's Ties with israel (Need Subs. to read the rest)
A church bell’s chime is constantly heard in the large room, a space tastefully transformed into unpredictably curving pathways and nooks that give the feel of an old European town.
Upon turning one corner, the path goes through an entrance to a Nazi ghetto in Poland.…

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