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Biblical understanding about Israel
This year 2016 marks the 500th anniversary of the establishment of the ghetto of Venice, the oldest Jewish ghetto in Europe. Today the ghetto has been beautifully restored, and one can enjoy a delicious kosher meal at Ghimel Garden or Gam Gam restaurants, or stay in one of the beautifully-restored villa’s in the ghetto.
This fašade, of course, hides a less pleasant reality. For centuries the ghetto was a place where the Jewish people were isolated, ridiculed and persecuted. And while the Jews of Europe have been emancipated and the ghettos no longer function as places of persecution, the Jews are no longer safe in Europe. The State of Israel has become the new ghetto.
Jewish museum Venice
A Christians for Israel International delegation visited the Venice ghetto on 17th and 18th June, 2016. Following prayer and strategic planning meetings with our Italian branch Christiani per Israele, we participated in Shabbat services in the Spanish synagogue, and met with several Jewish leaders including the Chief Rabbi of Venice Rabbi Scialon Bahbout. Rabbi Bahbout is himself a child of his people’s troubled history – his grandfather was born in Morocco, his father in Jerusalem and he himself in Libya. Rabbi Bahbout was professor of medical physics in Rome, until he recently became chief Rabbi of Venice after his retirement. He told us about the unique character of the Venice Jewish community, drawn from many parts of the world.
Chief Rabbi of Venice Rabbi Scialon Bahbout
We expressed to the Rabbi our shame for the persecution of the Jewish people in Europe. We asked him if he had any message for Christians in Europe today. His answer reflected a sentiment we often hear from our Jewish friends in Europe: “I believe Christians need to regain pride in their own faith. Europe is undergoing a crisis of identity. It seems that Christians in Europe have lost an understanding of who they are, where they have come from and where they are going. It is symptomatic that many Christians are converting to Islam in Europe. That is a tragedy. I am worried about what the future holds.”
The ghetto of Venice
The visit confirmed the importance of our mission in Italy to provide historical and Biblical teaching about Israel and the Jewish people, so that the Church can understand the times we are living in. It is not easy, there are many difficult challenges. Our message is new to many churches, and there is much disinterest and even opposition from others. Further, the churches in Italy are not used to giving financial support for such ministries.
Olive tree in the square of the Jewish ghetto of Venice
Chairwoman of Christiani per Israele Prof. Edda Fogarollo travels the country tirelessly, speaking in churches, schools and universities about Israel and the Jewish people. She is a professor in the Faculty of Political Science in the University of Padua, and author of the book “Verso lo Stato d’Israele – itinerari storici”. Prof. Fogarollo leads several trips to Israel each year, and a team of young adults is being trained to spread this message into their networks throughout the country.
Please support Prof. Edda Fogarollo and her team, as they seek to speak into the church and political institutions in this important nation of Italy.
Andrew Tucker (Executive Director)
Marie-Louise Weissenbock (Regional Director – Europe)