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Letters From Mount Carmel

JERUSALEM

The Way of the Jewish Christian Community

Mt. Carmel, October 10, 1948

Article by Abram Poljak

1

Kept Away

Since my arrival in Haifa in the middle of February, 1948, I repeatedly tried to go to Jerusalem, yet every time the way was blocked.

In March when I had already given up my abode on Mt. Carmel, outward circumstances as well as an inner warning kept me from going to Tel Aviv whence the journey to Jerusalem would have to be continued by convoy (of cars). The next day it became known that this very convoy had been attacked by Arabs. A fight of several hours ensued which caused a number of dead and wounded on the Jewish side.

In August I made another attempt, after the press had reported that the connection with Jerusalem, interrupted by the war, had now been restored. I came as far as Tel Aviv. There I was told that this announcement was premature. Thus I had to return to Haifa. If I had come to Jerusalem in those days, the Stern Gang, having arrested the council of our Community there and, wanting me, would have "received" me.

Looking back upon these months,I recognise the will and ways of God: I was not to go through the sufferings in beleaguered Jerusalem but remain on Mt. Carmel which was spared the upheavals of war; from here I was to follow the events in Palestine in quietness, weighing happenings and personalities from a biblical standpoint. In Jerusalem I would have been drawn too much into the whirlpool of passions and fighting, unable to fulfil my spiritual task. For this reason I was kept away from Jerusalem and "detained" in the "EIijah's Rest", a hostel an Mount Carmel.

Re-union

On September 1st, I at last succeeded in getting to Jerusalem. By car I went from Tel Aviv along the "Burma Road", a detour road which, during the night, the Jews had built in the immediate vicinity of the Arab lines whilst the fighting was going on. Bombed villages, ruined towns, war, war . . . .

Several times our car was stopped by Jewish guards scrutinising our papers. (To visit Jerusalem a permit was required from the military authorities.) After a three hours drive from Tel Aviv we entered Jerusalem about 7 p.m.

Life in Jerusalem was normal. A few days previously the clearing-up of the debris had been finished; sufficent food had been brought into the City. Only ruined houses and shot marks on walls, doors and boardings showed that the city was in the fighting area. From time to time I heard shots and at night the thunder of guns. In spite of the truce, fighting still went on at several places; however, so long as the whole town was not completely in flames, people were content, speaking of truce and peace.

My friends entertained me - with explanations. When they offered me white bread, they said : "This has been obtainable for the last ten days - and that for a week, and that since three days, and that we could buy today for the first time". And when they served tea, I was allowed a second cup, for there was now sufficient water . . . .

Hilda Anderson

I met my old friends again. We greeted each other as those who had returned from the dead. In the months past we had had suffcient reason to doubt the possibility of a reunion. Only Hilda Anderson, a Swedish lady who lived on the Mount of Olives (it was in her house we had our first prayer centre)--I saw no more; she had been deliberately killed by Arabs. But all my other friends had weathered the storm. Each day which they survived was a miracle.

By several means Satan tried to destroy the members of our Community. The house in the New City of Jerusalem where we held our meetings was badly damaged by the bomb outrage in Ben Yehuda Street (February, 1948). Our friends who lived in this flat were saved, but a Cash box containing their savings, and money belonging to the Community, was buried under the ruins and never found. Similarly, other members of the Community escaped death but suffered great material damage, some were completely ruined economically.

Pauline Rose

Our Community stood firm. Several times each day Pauline Rose went through the rain of bullets from her flat in Rehaviah, a suburb, to our meeting place in the centre of the New City of Jerusalem - often the only person to be seen in the streets. She also fetched food and water for other people who dared not go into the street; she assisted sick women in their housework and nursed patients in a hospital. Her faith and quiet heroism made her a shining example, keeping the Community together. The fact that as a woman she thus despised death carried the others along with her, and during all these months not one of the appointed services was cancelled.

Arrested

Information by hostile circles led to the detention and questioning of several of our members in the course of the war months. They were well treated by the Jewish police and military authorities; and having proved that they did their duty as citizens and had no contact with the enemies of Israel, they were set free again, the authorities expressly declaring that they did not take exception to our members' beliefs. (The Jewish government had, at the proclamation of the State of Israel, guaranteed freedom of religion.)

However, the arrest of five members of the Community by terrorists in the middle of August took a different turn. The Stern Gang aimed at Pauline Rose in the first place, who holds a British passport, speaks English and looks like a Gentile. The Stern Gang members maintained that she was a British agent, and the Jewish Christian Community a spy organisation under a religious cloak.

The Sternists had succeeded in laying hold of a number of British spies and Jewish traitors. The first, they handed over to the authorities for trial; the second, they shot themselves. And now three women and two men of our Community were in their hands and recommended to say their last prayers.

The group pleaded their innocence but emphasised their faith in Jesus as the Messiah of Israel. Only one woman, on hearing the death threats, denied her faith, telling the Sternists' court that she would have nothing more to do with the Community, whereupon she was set free. The trial of the other four was postponed to the following day.

Meanwhile the "arrest of the Jewish Christian Community" had become known in Jerusalem (a Hebrew daily paper reported about it), well-known Jews who knew Pauline Rose took up the case, convincing the Sternists that their accusations were untenable, and achieving the discharge of all.

The time has not yet come to speak of the experiences of our friends in prison. I only want to say that however hard the test was, they all thought of it as a privilege, a divine favour and considered it their happy lot. Like the Apostles of old, these Jewish Christians were able to sing songs of praise in prison and witness to the light of Christ before the powers of darkness.

In summing up we must say that the conduct of the Community during the siege of Jerusalem, and that of its leading circle in prison were worthy of our great calling, and form a chapter of praise in the history of the Jewish Christian movement.

II

The Fall

To conclude my report at this point is unfortunately not possible. I have to add that after Satan's unsuccessful attempt to destroy our Community physically, he was able to gain a spiritual victory over them.

The leadership of the Community (at present about 20 persons) rests with a council of four, two men and two women. It was these four whom the Sternists arrested and who passed their test in prison.

But just this great victory was destined to bring about a spiritual defeat. " Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall "! Our friends did not reckon with the possibility that Satan can set traps for us, and that God permits us to be tested even when the sun of grace is in its zenith.

Their spiritual victory, their witness for Jesus at a place which must be called one of the darkest in Jerusalem, and the impression it made on some of the terrorists, intoxicated their souls, caused an exaggeration of their enthusiasm for the Jewish people, allowing expression of thoughts and feelings which had been hidden until then.

Barely had they returned home from prison when they took the decision to make the Community still more Jewish than I had left it a year ago, and to do away with everything, which, in the least, would be a reminder of the Church. They declared themselves as " The New Community ", removed our flag (the cross in the star of David) which, as a symbol of our faith, hung on the wall of our meeting room; they furthermore decided to speak only of the “Messiah Jesus” and to address their prayers no longer to Him, but to God.

Of these decisions I was informed by a letter which reached me on the eve of my departure for Jerusalem. I was faced with an accomplished fact, and the hope was expressed that I would agree to the new course of the Jerusalem Community.

The situation was clear: Our friends had acted with the best intentions, but in a false enthusiasm. Their lack of Bible knowledge, their inability to discern the spirits, their patriotic feelings and my absence had all furthered a satanic manoeuvre aiming at the destruction of the spiritual foundations of the Com¬munity, and which would make us incapable of serving God as a channel of blessing in Israel in future.

The Cross Matters

In my report to the council of the Community in London I wrote: " I under¬took the journey to Jerusalem with mixed feelings, since the reforms caused me deep concern and I envisaged a dangerous development ... I made it clear to our friends that through their common suffering (which was, indeed, indescrib¬able) they had been made into a unit by God, but that as a unit they had gone one step too far ... For the first time I had to defend in our circle the line of Paul which means more to me than my " Jewish mission ". When everything is at stake, we have to sacrifice all our human and national bonds and take our stand on Calvary. . . . ".

In the discussions in Jerusalem I made the following points:
(1) I would not mind the removal of the flag, did I not see that it was not the question of the flag as such, but of the cross in it. If our flag had only shown the Jewish national emblem, the star of David, no one would have thought of putting it away. What became a stumbling block to some, was not the flag, not the star of David, but the sign of Christ, the cross in the star of David.
(2) Neither would I have any objection against altering our prayers and placing the emphasis on the Messiah Jesus, did I not perceive that the more the Messiah Jesus was put into the foreground, another thought was pushed into the back¬ground, namely that of His divine Sonship! Satan wants us to think so much and so long- of our national king Jesus, until we forget the Lamb of God, His vicarious suffering, His blood shed for us on Calvary. However important it is to acknowledge Jesus as the king of our nation, it is much more important to know Him as our personal Redeemer and cling to the grace of God which has become incarnate in Him. With one word: it is the Cross which matters, the Cross of Calvary!
(3) In our Jerusalem Community a " semi-Christian " idea now attempts to break in upon us, which for some time has played a part in the spiritual life of Israel. It is the attitude: " For Jesus - against Paul "!
For tens of years already, leading thinkers of Israel (like the professors at the Hebrew University, Martin Buber and Joseph Klausner) have proclaimed the thought that our people should accept Jesus as the "central Jewish figure", but should reject Paul. Our attitude, however, is that there is no true Jesus without Paul, that only through Paul the highest revelation of the person and meaning of Jesus was given.
(4) It is clear that if we were to drop the difficult teaching of Paul, approximate the attitude of Buber and Klausner, yet draping the messianic cloak around Jesus as an adornment, we would soon become fashionable in Israel and would win many adherents, but the power of God would be taken from us. Therefore it would be better that we have only two or three Jews who would stand in the fulness of faith and of grace, than thousands who would be but sounding brass and tinkling cymbals.

The watchword of our Community must be: "The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us which are saved it is the power of God" (1 Cor. 1:18), and its functions (a) a pure, childlike faith in Jesus the King of the Jews and our personal Redeemer, (b) loyalty to the Jewish people - without concessions to mere trends of the time or nationalistic tendencies.

After-effect

Three of the council members acknowledged their wrong, giving in at once. The fourth from whom the difficulties emanated, a person of good will though without experience of Christ, declared himself as remaining outside the "old Community". Thus I believed to have restored order, thanked all once more for their leading of the Community and keeping it together in these most difficult times and returned to Haifa, where other duties awaited me.

Unfortunately I had underrated the difficulties in Jerusalem. A few days later two members of the council came to Mt. Carmel, and only then the depth of the conflict became clear to me. There were no gradual differences of opinion but fundamental ones. An alien spirit had taken hold of the leadership of the Community and established its power.

I found myself confronted with a situation which I had had to meet once before, in London ten years ago, shortly after the Community there had been founded. My absence (I had gone to America) was used by the chairman at that time to incorporate our work into the Anglican Church, i.e., to make it a branch, a mission of the Church of England. When I learned about this, I returned to England by the next boat and restored the independence of the Community and the distinctiveness of its faith. Then it was an aberration to one side, now to another.

I have no doubt that when these lines appear in print, the crisis in Jerusalem will have passed. The power of darkness will be broken, the alien spirit be driven away.

If, in spite of this certainty, I inform our readers also of this development in our Community, it is done because I must not be silent about its dark sides, after having spoken about its light ones, and I feel that there should be no secrets between us. Our friends (and also our enemies) should know everything. Only if we confess our sin openly, will God forgive us and redeem us from evil.

The main reason for publishing this is my wish to call upon our Jerusalem Fellowship prayer league (and individual praying friends) the world over, to stand by our Community in the Holy Land. Even, if the present crisis may have ended when the news of it reaches you, dear friends - you must know from which side and by which means war is waged against us on earth as well as in the realms of the spirit.

The present crisis may yet be overcome today - but who can doubt that new crises, new tests, new temptations, new fights await us? Will not Satan do his utmost to extinguish the light of Christ in Israel and slay His banner bearers? By the grace of God he will certainly not succeed, but it is imperative that we "watch and pray . . . . ".

     
“JERUSALEM” is the name of the British monthly of the Jewish Christian Church [‘Judenchristliche Gemeinde, JCG’] in the U.K. . This periodical was not always published regularly but like its French counterpart “Jérusalem” survived till today in a much smaller edition than in French. Poljak usually published his articles in German.

If any reader of this page is aware of a source where the numbers of this English publication can be found it will be possible to find out if Abram Poljak published anything in English that was subsequently not also published in German.” It is possible that ‘Letters from Mount Carmel’ were originally written and published in English. Poljak’s main monthly outlet, JCG, was published in German from 1935 to 1963. After Poljak’s death it was continued by his successor Baron Albert von Springer until 1980 when the JCG dissolved and their center in Möttlingen (near Stuttgart) was sold.

This article is of particular interest for today’s Messianic Judaism as it contains Poljak’s first defense of the cross in the “star” of David, the emblem of the JCG. The translation of the Jewish New Testament (JNT, David Stern) avoids the term ‘cross’ for historic reasons. Furthermore, this term is associated with Christian anti-Semitism and is therefore replaced by substitute terms like ‘execution-stake’. Could it be that Poljak, despite of his insistence on the Jewishness of the Jewish Church was still closer to it than he was willing to admit?


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