By Albert G. Butzer III
Let me begin by saying that I am very disappointed with the decision of the General Assembly to divest from three U.S. companies doing business with Israel.
I have a great love and respect for the Jewish people, which began even before I was born! I grew up in a Presbyterian Church in Buffalo, N.Y., which had a wonderful relationship with the local synagogue. One day, tragically, Temple Beth Zion burned to the ground. Before the flames were extinguished, the minister of the church, The Rev. Albert Butzer (my grandfather for whom I am named), arrived at the scene, embraced his friend Rabbi Fink and offered the use of Westminster Church as a place where the Jews could worship until they were able to rebuild. Years later, long after those two clergy were dead and gone, the synagogue provided worship space for the Presbyterians when the church underwent a restoration. Those two congregations have made joint trips to Israel, have worked jointly on local mission projects and have studied together, celebrating the places were our two faiths agree, and talk honestly and openly about our differences.
My love for Jews does not diminish my sympathy for Palestinians. I first became aware of the plight of the Palestinian people when I traveled to the holy land in the late 1990s. We spoke with Palestinians, both Christian and Muslim, who had been forced off the lands their families had farmed for many generations and driven into refugee camps. The tragic story of their displacement is one of the unintended consequences of the creation of the modern State of Israel.