As a guide, my job was to teach Christian tourists the life and world of the historical Jesus of Nazaerth; a Jewish figure who lived in the first century within the context of Second Temple Judaism. My resources were archaeology, history, the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, the geography of Israel, external literary contemporary sources and sites in Israel that presented tangible evidence of Jewish life stretching mostly from the Hasmonean Kingdom through to the Byzantine period; Nearly six hundred years in which the Jews experienced political and religious tumult vis-a-vis pagan Greeks, a brutal Roman occupation right through to the tragic and religiously complex conquest of the Province of Judea by Byzantine Christendom. That was what I was employed to do. Period. As the senior guide who was given the responsibility to teach the other guides, this is what I was told to teach. Period. And this is what I did. Period. I hope that I succeeded to inspire Christians to visit Israel again because I believe that Christian tourism is essential to the Israeli economy.
By default of the fact that the narrative of the gospels is snuggled within the context of a first century Province of Judea, this provided me with the historical platform necessary to show that it is the Jews who have thousands of years of indigenous historical rights to the Land. This is contrary to the lies of the narrative of the Palestinian Authority that claims that Jesus of Nazareth was a Palestinian who suffered under “the Jews,” and vicariously, just they like Jesus, they are also suffering under “the Jews.” Like the former Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, I am of the opinion that the neglect to grapple with the historical Jewish Jesus has awarded the Palestinian authority with another blood libel, a sort of theological terrorism. It is like a poisonous gas, unseen and deadly, that has contributed to a gradual consequential and sinister delegitimization of the State of Israel.
For the most, my Christian tourists returned with a sense of appreciation of just how much of their own heritage is owed to the Jewish people. Many told me that the tours were a turning point in their lives because they were also empowered with an appreciation of the Jewish struggle to survive throughout millennium; millennium of ignorance and subsequent anti semitism that has corroded Christian theology and compelled European Christendom to seek the destruction of Jewish faith, Jewish life and eventually Jewish people. One of the most rewarding aspects of my job was that Christians learned to see the “Old” Testament as “old”, in the terms of it only being “senior” rather than “replaced and therefore, irrelevant.”
I studied very hard to get my guiding licence. I loved my job. I believed in my “mission.” I also loved the people I met. I tried to conduct myself in a respectful manner, treating each person without a label but trying to understand what makes them who they are. That has always been my ethos in life. I am not the Thought Police or the Religious Police. I never speak about theology because I do not aspire to understand it. I also find it contentious and somewhat subjective. Frankly I also find it tedious. I also only really care about what someone believes to the extent of what it makes them do.
I have spent a lot of time with Christians. I have also spent time in McDonalds – but I have never changed into a hamburger.
Some Christians were understandably disturbed with the new information that I presented on my tours. It caused them to question their own axioms and world view, which is something that shakes the core of any person. Due to PTSD I no longer have the intellectual stamina, compassion or patience needed to engage in a dynamic, lucid or sensitive manner required when dealing with the fragility of the human soul. But despite the terrible disappointment of not being able to resume to guiding, I am thankful to the Jewish Israeli organisations who have now embraced me as their colleague and speaker. Not only does this restore my dignity – because it enables me to provide for myself – it also bestows me with a platform where once again I can be a passionate defender of my culture and advocate of my country. I am compelled to do it even though constantly regurgitating the details of the murder, comes with a heavy, mental price.
For those who were “concerned” that I would exploit Jewish Israeli platforms to “convert Jews to Christianity,” I would certainly share your “concerns.” I hope that you would also share my sense of the ridiculous. Whether I be speaking to audiences to raise funds for terror victims or empowering Jewish students on campus to fight against the BDS movement, for the life of me, I cannot think why the pros-and-cons of a Jesus of Nazareth in Second Temple Judaism, Byzantine Christianity, or anti semitism in European church-life would ever do that job. Personally, I have found that being nearly murdered and the lessons subsequently learned, makes for a far more relevant, albeit grueling yet inspiring talk.
Since the attack, I have been very fortunate on my travels to stay with new Jewish friends many of whom are more observant than myself. Twenty three years in Tel Aviv ensured that the observant world remained an unfamiliar world and therefore naturally and sadly, one to be suspicious of, feared and avoided. In my encounters with these new friends, I have been awarded an appreciation of orthodox Jewish customs and observances that in the past I had never been around. As a result my world has been deeply enriched and I have also learned to cherish, respect and learn from those who differ from me.
These new observant friends, and other friends of various levels of observance (or non-observance) are the ones who have spoken up righteously in my defense. It is these people (who for me, at least) are a light to my path and an epitome of what the real, “Jewish Israel” should be.
I am truly thankful. And now back to life.
Kay Wilson is a British-born Israeli tour guide, jazz musician and cartoonist. She is the survivor of a brutal terror attack. Since the attack she is a public speaker for StandWithUs and OneFamily Together. Kay is currently campaigning to be given a chance to speak at J-Street’s next conference: visit her Facebook page for details.