“Thus said the lord of Hosts: The fast of the fourth month, the fast of the fifth month, the fast of the seventh month, and the fast of the tenth month shall become occasions for joy and gladness, happy festivals for the House of Yehuda; but you must love honesty and integrity.” [Zechariah 8:19]
On the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, Jews worldwide gather to mourn for the destruction of the Holy Temple and to commemorate multiple tragedies in Jewish history. Today, Christians and Jews are hard at work, creating an appropriate, parallel observance for Christians.
A Modest Beginning
It all began when two Christian men gradually uncovered the truth about the myriad of sins committed against the Jewish people in the name of the church throughout Christian history. They intuitively understood that they had to share these shocking facts with other Christians.
The two men, Bob O’Dell and Ray Montgomery, chose the 9th of Av, the traditional Jewish day of mourning, to raise awareness and encourage Christians worldwide to repent for centuries of bloody acts of antisemitism. Last year, O’Dell and Montgomery created a list of nearly 500 specific incidents of Christian persecution of Jews throughout history; incidents that included pogroms, lynchings, riots, forcing Jews to wear special clothing, expelling Jews, antisemitic writing from Church Fathers, burning synagogues with Jews trapped inside, forced conversions, accusing Jews of killing Christian children to use their blood to make matzah and the rape and murder of Jews. The pair asked Christians to spend time on the 9th of Av last year, reviewing the preliminary list and to consider fasting for a portion of the day as well as reading the Book of Lamentations.
They also encouraged Christians to sign a declaration acknowledging “the long and horrific history of antisemitic atrocities committed against Jews”, declaring their repentance for the actions and their wish to now stand in solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people. Close to 2,000 Christians did so and the feedback O’Dell and Montgomery got was remarkable. Laura Densmore was one of last year’s participants. She told Breaking Israel News that the experience changed her forever.
“A year ago, as we approached the 9th of Av. we found out about The LIST. Our prayer phone conference gathered on the 9th of Av. There are five of us and each of us shared an event that ‘cut her heart’.
“A very heavy spirit of repentance came upon us. One woman prayed that this should go to a wider audience. A week later, we debriefed about how The LIST had changed our hearts. It was a very powerful time.”
A New Initiative
From those modest beginnings, a new initiative, Nations’ 9th of Av, was created. This year, an entire team of Christians and Jews are working together to help shepherd many more Christians through the process of becoming aware of and repenting for sins committed against the Jewish people.
According to O’Dell, a core member of the Nations’ 9th of Av team, reviewing The LIST, participating in the suggested fast and repentance are important to improve their relationship with the Jewish people. He told Breaking Israel News that this process identically parallels the project’s foundational verses in Zechariah.
Thus said the lord of Hosts: The fast of the fourth month, the fast of the fifth month, the fast of the seventh month, and the fast of the tenth month shall become occasions for joy and gladness, happy festivals for the House of Yehuda; but you must love honesty and integrity. Thus said the lord of Hosts: Peoples and the inhabitants of many cities shall yet come— the inhabitants of one shall go to the other and say, “Let us go and entreat the favor of Hashem, let us seek the lord of Hosts; I will go, too.” The many peoples and the multitude of nations shall come to seek the lord of Hosts in Yerushalayim and to entreat the favor of Hashem. Thus said the lord of Hosts: In those days, ten men from nations of every tongue will take hold—they will take hold of every Yehudi by a corner of his cloak and say, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that Hashem is with you.” Zechariah 8:19-23
“Many Breaking Israel News readers find their hearts drawn to Israel and the Jewish people. Something inside them is whispering in their ear that “it’s not enough”. There is more work needed.
“Our goal is to provide access for how those readers can take their relationship to Israel to a whole other level. We want to transform the hearts of Christians, one Christian at a time, to fully repent with their actions. Repentance is not what you believe; it’s what you do. We hope that they will observe the 9th of Av wherever they are this year. ”
The Conference in Jerusalem
This year’s Nations’ 9th of Av initiative is multi-faceted. The core event is a week-long conference in Jerusalem, scheduled for August 9-16, 2019. There are already 100 attendees registered and another 100 are expected to join.
The conference will include a full Shabbat experience immediately preceding the 9th of Av. “The night of the 9th of Av, we’re going to hear Lamentations [first in Hebrew then in English]. We will not be repenting on the atrocities in the evening. That will begin in the daytime at the southern steps of the Temple Mount. We just want to be with the Jewish people [in the evening].
“The goal [of the conference] is to come to Jerusalem to meet Jews in Judea and Samaria and find projects we might want to support. The week is about touring and meeting Jews in the Land. We will finish on Tu B’Av on Har Gerizim with HaYovel.”
The team has put together multiple resources for those who cannot come to Jerusalem for the conference.
The LIST: Persecution of Jews by Christians Throughout History will be published by Root Source Press. According to O’Dell, the book is over 400 pages long, “with expanded descriptions, carefully researched references, and new items added, for a total of more than 850 persecution events.” Christians who sign the Declaration of Repentance gain immediate access to a free sample of the expanded list.
Root Source Press will also publish 40 Days of Repentance: A Companion Guide to The LIST. Edited by Densmore, the Companion Guide includes one devotional a day, based on 40 different events from the The LIST. It educates readers about the significance of certain key events and suggests appropriate prayers.
Densmore told Breaking Israel News, “It takes many, many hours to go through [The LIST]. The idea came to me to prepare a 40-day devotional as a way to absorb and reflect on what The LIST contains. This 40-day devotional can be used as a repentance prayer journey leading up to the 9th of Av or leading up to Yom Kippur.”
Densmore continued, “Reading through The LIST can be likened to this: it is like I have been attending a familiar and well-loved church for a long time, but then I discover a staircase leading down to the basement. I didn’t know there was a basement in my church. I walk down the stairs to the basement, but it is pitch black down there. What should I do?
“I could just go back upstairs and ignore the basement. Instead, I look for and then find the light switch (that is, I read The LIST), the light turns on and now the room is filled with light. It is a chamber of horrors and torture used against the Jewish people. In my basement. of my church. It is now between me and the Lord for me to decide what I will do about this. The LIST turns on the light in the basement.
“Leviticus 26:40-42, is the cornerstone of what we’re doing,” Densmore explained.
And they shall confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, in that they trespassed against Me, yea, were hostile to Me. When I, in turn, have been hostile to them and have removed them into the land of their enemies, then at last shall their obdurate heart humble itself, and they shall atone for their iniquity. Then will I remember My covenant with Yaakov; I will remember also My covenant with Yitzchak, and also My covenant with Avraham; and I will remember the land. Leviticus 26:40-42
The 40 days preceding the 9th of Av begins this year on July 3. Christians who sign the Declaration of Repentance will also receive a free sample of the Companion Guide. Both books can be pre-ordered on the Nations’ 9th of Av Marketplace.
O’Dell and the entire team are encouraging Christians to come together to observe the 9th of Av wherever they are. Beyond The LIST and the Companion Guide, they are preparing additional ideas and resources.
“We prefer that they come together with other Christians,” O’Dell said. The project will offer “conference calls to join with other Christians to pray during this day, to stop what they are doing while the Jews, in their time zone, are mourning the loss of their Temple.”
From Awareness to Action
O’Dell emphasized that, “We are beginning a process of finding appropriate observance for this Jewish holiday. We as Christians see from the historical truth that we now come alongside the Jewish people in their greatest day of mourning and take this opportunity to acknowledge the Christian history that has participated in making this day a day of tragedy. I’ve been a Christian all my life and I’d never heard of this. We need to raise these questions to the Church,” he stated.
The project’s website makes clear that, “This event is not about the evangelization of Jews.” O’Dell shared that, “It’s more about finding an appropriate Christian observance of a day that is already part of the Jewish calendar. The historical record of Christian participation on this day is pretty awful. This will be an annual event. This whole process is about repentance.” Drawing a parallel to Zechariah 8:23, he said, “True repentance is grabbing onto the Jew and saying ‘Let us go with you because God is with you.’ This is exactly what has not happened often enough in the last 2,000 years.”
Densmore spoke emotionally. “It is my deep heart’s desire to heal the divide between Jews and Christians. As we weep and repent, the mortar of the wall between Jews and Christians begins to melt and the stones can lie flat and be used to build a bridge, instead of a wall. We have blood on our hands. We’ve inherited it. And when you see that blood, it breaks your heart and you must respond,” she concluded.