With the Middle East in turmoil, Europe moving backward and the United States fatigued from years of war and recession, Canada has emerged as a staunch supporter of Israel. At a time when Israel is routinely singled out for condemnation, Canada has been at the forefront of those defending Israel and criticizing its enemies.
This outspokenness comes amid the growing economic and political clout of Canada, a country that is traditionally accustomed to keeping a low profile internationally. While Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper embarked on his first trip to Israel, from Jan. 19-22, the Jewish state rolled out the red carpet for him. Has Israel found a new best friend?
“[Harper] really understands the importance and moral justification for a Jewish state. He gets it,” Rabbi Philip Scheim of Toronto’s Beth David Synagogue, who is traveling as part of Harper’s delegation to Israel, told JNS.org.
Since World War II, Canada’s foreign policy has centered on multilateralism and participation in international organizations. But Harper has moved beyond those traditional corridors and has focused on a stronger and more independent Canadian foreign policy.
Part of this new independent foreign policy has been supporting Israel, an often-unpopular position around the world. Immediately upon taking office in 2006, Harper bucked world opinion and supported Israel in its war against the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah. This outward support has continued in every military engagement Israel has been involved in since.
Canada has also supported Israel in the U.N., joining only a handful of small nations and the U.S. in voting against upgrading the Palestinians to nonmember observer state status in 2012 and repeatedly voting against resolutions condemning Israel.
On Iran, Harper has aligned more closely with Israel’s position than with the positions of some of its allies in Europe and the U.S. In 2012, Harper cut diplomatic ties with Iran and expelled Iranian diplomats from Ottawa, Canada’s capital. More recently, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said he was “deeply skeptical” of the interim nuclear deal with Iran and reaffirmed that Canada would maintain its sanctions against Iran.
These positions have come with some costs for Canada. In a shocking outcome in 2010, Canada lost a bid for a seat on the U.N. Security Council. Some speculated that Harper’s strong pro-Israel stance might have played a role in straining relations with the U.N.’s large Islamic bloc.
“This is really something we have not seen before, a prime minister of Canada taking a really strong position at a great political cost. He knows that this could really hurt him in some areas, but he doesn’t care, because this is what he really believes,” Scheim told JNS.org.
Harper, an evangelical Christian who belongs to the Colorado-based Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, has also come under fire from critics who claim that his faith influences his foreign policy.
“My sense is that there may be an element of religious connection [to Israel]. But that is certainly not all of it; I think it also has to do with his sense of the world, his sense of justice and understanding of history, especially Jewish history,” Scheim said.
But Canada, like its American and European allies, still has a vocal anti-Israel movement within the country, particularly on college campuses and in certain media outlets.
In 2005, Toronto’s York University became the first school to host “Israel Apartheid Week” (IAW), and its student union, the largest in Canada, voted last year to divest from Israel. IAW events have also spread to other Canadian universities.
Harper’s recent selection of Vivian Bercovici, who is Jewish and has been a vocal supporter of Israel, to be Canada’s next ambassador to Israel has also drawn some criticism in the Canadian media. In an interview with Baird, CBC anchor Evan Solomon questioned whether it is appropriate to appoint a pro-Israel Jew to be the ambassador to Israel.
“Vivian Bercovici is Jewish, so there are going to be some questions. Why not appoint someone who doesn’t even have the perception of any kind of bias [in favor of Israel]?” Solomon asked.
Yet despite the criticism of Harper’s pro-Israel stance, Shimon Fogel, CEO of Canada’s Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, credits Harper for making support for Israel a mainstream position in Canada.
“Adopting those positions on Israel is what a mainstream party should look like in the eyes of most of the Canadian electorate today,” Fogel told JNS.org.
This support has shown itself in the positions of the leaders of Canada’s two main opposition parties, the centrist Liberal Party and the center-left New Democratic Party (NDP).
“Yes, the Liberal Party will have Israel’s back—but not because it’s in our political interests to do so at home, but because it is the right thing to do on the world stage,” Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau recently told a crowd of 500 people at Beth Tikvah Synagogue in Toronto, the Jewish Tribune of Toronto reported.
Meanwhile, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has strong Jewish ties. Mulcair’s wife is a French Sephardic Jew whose parents are Holocaust survivors, and his children are being raised Jewish. Mulcair has described himself as an “ardent support of Israel in all instances.”
Adding to their credentials, both Trudeau and Mulcair have also visited Israel before.
“The opposition parties are very close to the position of the Conservative government [on Israel]. But it has to be recognized that this government [Harper’s Conservative Party] established that benchmark,” Fogel told JNS.org.
Amid the political implications, one aspect of Harper’s trip that may be overlooked is the economic component. Like Israel, Canada has successfully weathered the global economic crisis over the past five years and has invested heavily in high-tech areas.
“One of the things we have done over the last decade has tried to broaden the base of support for Israel. We have spent a lot of time to helping foster interest and engagement of the private sector in seeing Israel as a high-tech destination. There has been a ton of partnerships and investments from the private sector,” Fogel said.
Joining Harper on the trip to Israel are 30 of Canada’s top business executives, including billionaire real estate and media moguls David Asper and Albert Reichmann, as well as Air Canada CEO Calin Rovinescu.
Upon touching down in Israel for the first time, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greeted Harper and praised him as “a great friend of Israel and the Jewish people.”
“I think he has taken a moral stand worthy of admiration, and I welcome him on behalf of the Israeli government and on behalf of all the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu said, the Jerusalem Post reported.
At a time when few countries around the world come to Israel’s defense, Rabbi Scheim believes the trip is an opportunity for Israel to finally express its appreciation for Harper.
“He is very well-known in Israel,”Scheim told JNS.org. “You go to the U.S., nobody knows who the prime minister of Canada is, but in Israel, the whole country knows him, and I am very proud to identify with him.”
I had never been “under the power” before. Now, looking up at the ceiling of the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, I wondered if this first touch from God was the beginning of revival for me.
It was Nov. 24, 1994. Over 18 years before, Bill, my husband, and I had left Texas and had gone to pastor a church in Pittsburgh with little more than a promise from God that one day a “river” would flow into our lives and out the doors of our church, watering the desert around us.
But after 18 years all we had seen was desert and no water. We had been up and down on a roller coaster of hope and disappointment.
As a steady stream of would-be parishioners came and went, the fear of abandonment only increased our pain. Feelings of failure pervaded our thought lives as we reeled in the wake of church splits. Too many nights I lay awake wondering where we had gone wrong, why had we missed God’s blessing.
Then in 1994, in the aftermath of surgery, I began to suffer from hormone shock. Panic attacks assaulted my already fragile emotions as waves of fear rolled over me. The wilderness had done its work well. I had become desperate for Jesus.
I was too numb from bracing myself against the storms of ministry to hope that this experience on the floor in Toronto was the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s long-ago promise. For more than 20 years since first being filled with the Holy Spirit, I had seen no value in what was happening to me now. I suppose I was among those children who wanted God to touch them but never expected that He would.
I had never fallen or responded outwardly to the Holy Spirit. But now, to my surprise, I was “glued” to the floor, afraid to move for fear of disrupting the sweet sense of His presence.
A flicker of hope leaped within me, along with a new sense that Jesus really loved me after all. I repented of my unbelief, jumped off the banks of apathy and dived into the river. For the first time in nearly two decades, I let God touch me.
The Holy Spirit must have accompanied us home from Toronto. The following Wednesday night my husband called the 60 or so members of our fledgling congregation together.
To our amazement the Spirit’s presence began to hover over our tiny group. Spontaneously, people started to worship and weep as we told them what we had seen and experienced.
Bill promised to pray at the next service for anyone who wanted prayer. He had not been outwardly touched when he received prayer in Toronto. In fact, he had felt nothing.
He knew only what he had seen-hundreds of people, many of them pastors who had literally crawled to Toronto with the same sense of hopelessness we’d had, coming back to life with the hope that maybe, just maybe, this was real revival.
Bill kept his promise at the following service. As he reached out his hand to touch those who wanted prayer, he purposely touched them gently and then put his hands behind his back to avert any conclusions that this was somehow hyped by a heavy-handed preacher pushing would-be receivers.
The presence of God began to fall upon first one and then another of our members. These weren’t strangers, as in Toronto; these were people we had known for years.
Soon the floor of our church was covered with the bodies of people responding to God in the same way we had seen in Toronto. Only none of them had ever seen Toronto! In fact, most of them had never had any outward manifestation in response to prayer before that day.
The outward signs were only the beginning. Lives began to change. Our once subdued children’s pastor was instantly set free from a three-year depression as she drummed her feet on the floor and waved her arms in the air.
One of our congregation’s most jovial members stood and wept loudly and openly as the Holy Spirit touched him sovereignly in a service, delivering him from a depression he had kept hidden from all of us.
Almost every member was being touched. Then healing miracles began to happen. Within a few weeks, five people had received documented healings confirmed by radiologists.
For me, however, the greatest miracle was taking place in my own once-cynical heart. I was falling in love with Jesus all over again.
Nearly four years had passed. I received prayer-mostly from ordinary people, not well-known ministers-hundreds of times in big and small churches flowing in this same river of blessing, and the sense of the Lord’s presence has flourished in my life. Waves of panic have been washed away by wave after wave of His healing love.
Now the trickle has become a gushing river in my soul. It has carried me into dimensions of His love I never knew existed, as well as into foreign nations and even prisons.
In Spain I saw this river touch a Muslim man, hardened by the bruises of life. He began to shake as the Holy Spirit’s presence sovereignly fell upon Him, and He turned immediately to Christ.
In England I watched a teen-age boy, unsaved and skeptical, fall to the ground under the influence of God’s power, then sit up and give his life to Jesus. In prisons, I’ve seen laughter and spiritual drunkenness overcome once-hardened sex offenders and murderers who have then turned to Christ.
I’ve seen widows healed of their searing grief. I’ve seen hopeless addicts gradually restored to lasting sobriety through repeated doses of His soaking love. I’ve seen deadly tumors disappear both suddenly and gradually under repeated touches of the Holy Spirit.
But while the river is blessing multitudes, others are wondering whether or not it is God. In the beginning I, too, was a skeptic. I ridiculed this precious outpouring, despising the laughter and all I still do not fully understand.
When I saw the river’s powerful restorative effects, however, I was faced with a choice. Would there ever be any substitute for that final risky leap of faith?
No. So I jumped in.
I’ve given myself to practically every expression of His power and love. I’ve unashamedly made 22 trips from Pittsburgh to Toronto to enjoy the meetings. I’ve received “soaking prayer” over 500 times, allowing the Holy Spirit to touch me in practically every service I’ve attended, both here and abroad.
Isn’t this extreme? Perhaps. But how would a dying man in a scorching desert react if he suddenly happened upon a pure, deep river? Would you consider his behavior extreme if he threw himself into the waters and began to drink?
Ultimately, I decided that there are no toxic levels of the Holy Spirit. Can anyone, after all, receive too much of Jesus’ love, too much of His joy, too much of His peace? Can any of us receive too much of the Father’s blessing?
Some ask, “Is it renewal-or revival?” I guess that depends on how dead you were when it started!
Whatever it’s called, I believe this is the beginning of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our generation. “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God” (Ps. 46:4, NKJV)-and the river is here!
TORONTO — Canada allowed the National Security Agency to conduct widespread surveillance during the 2010 Group of 20 summit in Toronto, according to a Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) report that cited documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The report by CBC News late on Wednesday cited briefing notes it said showed the United States turned its Ottawa embassy into a security command post during a six-day spying operation by the top-secret U.S. agency as President Barack Obama and other world leaders met that June.
Reuters has not seen the documents and cannot verify their authenticity.
The report said the operation was no secret to Canadian authorities, with an NSA briefing note describing the operation as “closely coordinated with the Canadian partner.”
The CBC report said the documents did not reveal the precise targets of the NSA operation, but described part of the U.S. eavesdropping agency’s mandate at the Toronto summit as “providing support to policymakers.”
“We do not comment on operational matters related to national security. Our security organizations have independent oversight mechanisms to ensure that they fulfill their mandate in accordance with the law,” Jason MacDonald said in an email to Reuters.
Harper came under fire from opposition politicians last month after a report by a Brazilian broadcaster alleged CSEC spied on a Brazilian government ministry. That report strained ties with Brazil.
Jerry McAuley was a bad lot through and through, the kind of person we call “impossible.” Born in Ireland in 1839 he was raised by a grandma because his mother could not or would not care for him. Who his father was, he did not know. The grandma cursed him when he threw clods at her while she prayed her rosary.Eventually she shunted him off to relatives in New York. He ran away from this home and lived by stealing–drifting in and out of prison. When he was nineteen, authorities, only too happy to get him off the street, convicted him on trumped up robbery charges. He was sentenced to fifteen years in Sing Sing prison. For the first time in his life, Jerry found himself obeying rules. He saw it as his one chance to regain freedom. He learned to read.
The event that transformed him from an “impossible” case to a soul winner was the testimony of a former pal who had become a Christian. Jerry wanted the hope he saw in Orville Gardner. He began reading the Bible and tried desperately to pray. Finally one night a supernatural presence appeared in his cell and a voice seemed to say, “Son, your sins which are many are forgiven.” McAuley did not change all at once. He still drank too much and fought. But that night he was converted.
Pardoned by Governor Horatio Seymour, he went free on March 8, 1864. After a renewal of his faith, Jerry McAuley began to work for God. He saved money and on this day, October 8, 1871,opened the Water Street mission in New York City to reclaim men like himself. Set in an old dance hall, it was the first rescue mission in the United States, the forerunner of many more.
Hundreds of men were turned from lives of sin and misery to hope in Christ. Jerry also inspired Emma Mott Whittemore to begin her Door of Hope mission for fallen women. Jerry’s life demonstrates the power of God to do the impossible: to change lives that are rotten to the core.