London Church Exhibit on West Bank Checkpoints Sparks Local Jews' anti-Israel Fears

Entitled 'You cannot pass today,' the display was organized to coincide with the World Council of Churches' World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel.

Israeli security forces search a Palestinian woman at a checkpoint in the West bank city of Bethlehem, June 10, 2016.
Nasser Shiyoukhi, AP

Plans by a Methodist church in London to host an exhibit reconstructing an Israeli border checkpoint between Jerusalem and the West Bank have unleashed a controversy in the British Jewish community.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews issued a statement from its vice president, Marie van der Zyl, noting that "Israel's security infrastructure comes in response to continued terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians," and stating that the display at the Hinde Street Methodist Church in central London "looks like a one-sided exhibition, which puts unwelcome and unnecessary strain on Christian-Jewish relations."

On its Facebook page, the organizers of the exhibition, which is entitled "You cannot pass today," explain that the display was organized to coincide with the World Council of Churches' World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel, which this year features the theme "dismantling barriers."

According to the Facebook page: "It has been put together on the basis of principled impartiality. This means putting concern for human rights above support of any particular group and using international humanitarian law as the principle for impartiality."

The Daily Mail Online noted that one Facebook user responded to the group's post to the event, asking: "'Where is your exhibition of what it is like to be blown up by a suicide bomber? Because the security fence has saved thousands of lives."

And Rabbi Barry Marcus of the Central Synagogue, which is near the Hinde Street church, reportedly told the Times of London that he was concerned that the exhibition, which opens Monday, would demonize Israel. "Why the hell is a church wasting resources on fanning the flames of anti-Semitism? They should be ashamed."

Michael Ivatt, the chief media officer for the British Methodist churches, said the exhibition had "been carefully curated to reflect the issues of divided communities within Israel and Palestine and to promote reflection and prayers for peace. The display seeks to explore aspects of human rights and dignity. There is no criticism or judgment of the Jewish community or faith," the Jewish Chronicle of London reported.