Delegation returns to Israel
Amish, Mennonite group pursues reconciliation, builds relationships on second visitBy Kelli Yoder Mennonite World Review
A group of 27 Anabaptists returned to Israel Nov. 18-25 to continue a reconciliation process begun with a written apology delivered two years ago.
For Al Longenecker, a deacon from Lancaster Mennonite Conference who took part in both delegations with his wife, Ada, the trip was a chance to atone for historic sins.
Years ago Longenecker found himself on a plane next to a rabbi discussing Christian persecution of Jews. Longenecker told him: “My people [Mennonites] never killed your people, because we don’t kill people.”
“And I felt really cool about that,” Longenecker said. But then he read a Gospel Herald article on Mennonites during World War II in Germany. No Mennonites resisted conscription there at that time, he learned.
“It was like a kick in the stomach to me — I just had no idea,” Longenecker said. His interest in finding a way to apologize for the acts of Anabaptists against Jews grew from there.
So he was glad to take part in both the 2010 and 2012 delegations, made up of mostly Amish and Mennonites. In 2010 they delivered a statement to at-times indifferent Jewish leaders, apologizing for Anabaptist “pride and selfishness by ignoring the plight of the Jewish people and the nation of Israel.”
This time they focused more on relationship-building — traveling throughout Israel, meeting with Jewish leaders, discussing their commitment to peace, understanding and reconciliation.
This trip found more receptive listeners, according to Lloyd Hoover, a bishop from Lancaster Mennonite Conference who traveled along as a Mennonite spokesperson.
“We felt like our message was accepted as we went back the second time,” Hoover said. “They carry a very deep pain. They carry a lot of woundedness related to their history with the Christian people.”
He said they don’t hear Christians apologize very often.
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