Michael Oren, Israeli Ambassador to the United States, thanked 300 pastors and Christian leaders for supporting Israel but noted Israeli "sensitivity" to Messianics. His audience gave him a warm welcome, in contrast to the raucous anti-Zionist reception at the University of California's Irvine campus. University police last week arrested a dozen protesters who at one point prevented Oren from speaking for 20 minutes.
Oren said he came to address a meeting of southern California Christian evangelists "because the Evangelical community in the United States is a very prominent and crucial component of the United States-Israel relationship. It is a component that has proven vital to Israel’s security and well-being in the course of Israel’s existence over the last six decades.”
In an interview with the Christian Telegraph, Ambassador Oren said that Israel remains sensitive on the subject of Messianics. Proselytizing in public is illegal in Israel, but the prohibition increasingly has been violated.
"I have no statistics on the size of the Messianic community, but I think certainly that the State of Israel wants the Jewish people to remain Jewish and greatly values its relationship with the evangelical community and other Christian communities in the world,” he said.
“But the State of Israel, because of our particular history, we are very sensitive to the notion of proselytizing -- very sensitive.”
Oren diplomatically ducked taking a firm position on several political positions. Asked if he thinks Christian Evangelists should support building for Jews in Judea and Samaria, Oren replied, “Evangelical Christians have every right to express their political beliefs as do American Jews."
Aftermath of Campus Protest
In the aftermath of the arrests at the University of California, pro-Arab activists have launched a campaign claiming that their “free speech”: was denied when tried to keep Oren from speaking on American-Israeli relations.
"ActLeft” activists appealed for supporters of the protestors to point out that the arrests were “unjust” and that the demonstrators were being punished for “having the courage to stand up and speak out against a man responsible for propagating the deaths of thousands of innocent people."
They termed the protest action, which effectively barred Oren from speaking, was an act of “civil disobedience [that] has historically played an instrumental role in the civil rights movement in America.”
Following the protests, Director of the University's Political Science department, Professor Mark P. Petracca, told them, “This is beyond embarrassing...this is no way for our undergraduate students to behave. We have an opportunity to hear from a policy maker relevant to one of the most important issues facing this planet and you are preventing not only yourself from hearing him but hundreds of other people in this room and hundreds of other people in an overflow room. Shame on you! This is not an example of free speech.”