ISRAEL needs all the good publicity it can get at the moment.
And that is why former Evangelical pastor Martin Connolly’s book, The Founding of Israel — The Journey to a Jewish Homeland from Abraham to the Holocaust (Pen & Sword, £19.99), is so welcome.
The Belfast-born evangelical, now living in West Auckland, County Durham, deliberately timed the publication of his book, which traces the historic roots of the Jews with the land of Israel, to coincide with Israel’s 70th anniversary.
He told me: “I knew that Hamas always organises demonstration on Israel’s anniversaries.
“I wrote the book because people say that the Israeli state has no right to be. Hamas say they should be wiped off the face of the earth.
“That is fake news. It’s a lie. My intention, with the book, is to show that the roots of the Jewish people have always been in the area where Israel now is.
“I have traced from Abraham to the Holocaust through historical and archaeological evidence that the Jews have always been in that area and have always had Jerusalem as the centre of their nation.
“This should be recognised and accepted. They have a right to ask for Jerusalem to be their capital after 3,000 years.”
He wrote the book primarily for Christians.
He said: “Antisemitism is a terrible stain on the history of the Christian Church.
“People are using the Israel situation as a cloak for their antisemitism.
“When they attack Israel they are really attacking the Jewish people. It is right to be able to criticise the behaviour of a country, but wrong to use that as a cloak for antisemitism.”
He said that there would only be peace in the region when all Arab nations accepted Israel’s right to exist.
Having been born in Belfast, Mr Connolly has had personal experience of conflict.
He writes: “I was born into the arena of sectarian division and have personally experienced the discrimination, violence, hatred and persecution of minority that struggles for self-determination.
“These life experiences, alongside the study of child development, suggest that no child is born to hate or to seek the extermination of the other, rather it is in the education and example shown, that forms prejudice or the lack of it.”
Martin studied the relationship between Christians and Jews at the Centre for Jewish-Christian Relations at Wesley College, Cambridge.
He served as a pastor at Peterborough’s Wellspring Community Church and was a frequent visitor at the local synagogue, which his community helped when they were suffering from antisemitism.
He said: “I always taught my congregation to respect the fact that the Jews are the chosen people of God.
“We are beholden to them. I am always fighting against antisemitic attitudes in the Church, which unfortunately still exist.
“Christians are not as vocal as they should be on the issue. I know that there are a lot of Christians, like myself, who believe that Israel is the people of God and have the right to establish themselves.”