Amish Delegation Visiting Israel? Probably Not…

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Part of the reason the topic I am about to showcase intrigues me is it appears to be yet another example of media -this time overseas media –  just sort of hearing one or two Amish people express a view and then extrapolating to imply that all Amish feel the same way.

A reader sent me an intriguing video clip that shows some “Amish” and Mennonites visiting the western wall in Israel as part of a delegation last month to apologize. There is some beautiful singing in the video and some interviews. The style of singing/harmony is quite consistent with what I’ve heard over the years. The video clip has very little context and after quite a bit of searching I just couldn’t find much to establish who this delegation was made up of or what they were apologizing for.  This is not to imply that an apology isn’t due, I just don’t have much information to go on.  And I’d venture to guess that the average Amish doesn’t pay much attention to the viability of the state of Israel or whether Palestinians have been treated unjustly or not or the historical relationship between Anabaptists and the Jewish faith.  Traditionally the Old Order Amish have been an insular culture with a very inward world view. In the video there is one Amish-looking man wearing a black vest and white shirt who is singing in the back row which I can say with 99 percent certainty is an evangelical ex-Amish from Indiana named Steven.  He is also interviewed at minute 1:44 in the video. He is also featured in this photo wearing the white shirt and black vest. I have my doubts that there are any actual Old Order Amish in this delegation, I think there are ex-Amish and other Plain people in the group, along with evangelical Mennonites.  I am not implying there is anything “sinister” about this trip. These, I am sure, are good people with good intentions partaking in something important to them. I just don’t think it probably reflects the views of the mainline Amish churches.

I can’t find much about the trip at all online.  This is one of the more indepth pieces I found, but even it is riddled with inaccurate information or just missing information.  There also was a trip in November 2010, also to go to Israel to apologize.  Apologize for what?  Again, it’s never really clear.  This is an article about that trip.  That article is even more of a head-scratcher as it keeps referring to a 50-member Amish delegation from “Idaho” that made the trip. There is a community of ex-Amish in northern Idaho, but I am unaware of any established Old Order Amish communities in Idaho.  The few pieces about this Amish-Israel reconciliation keep mentioning an Amish bishop, Ben Girod, from Idaho.  Here is a YouTube video I found of him and his wife being interviewed.

My Bottom Line Conclusions:   Certain segments of the Amish population are eager travelers.  I’ve met more than a few who have gone Europe to visit the land of their forefathers. Visiting the Holy Land is also a favored destination among traveling Amish.  I think the majority of Amish are not anti-semitic, I think the majority of Amish take a “live and let live” approach to other faiths and probably would be clueless as to what they would be apologizing for. The Amish are traditionally insular and not evangelical.  The delegation to Israel is likely made up of evangelical elements within the Plain church or on the edges of the Plain church and probably don’t represent the mainstream Old Order Amish.

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The Discussion

  1. This is the first I ever heard of any Anabaptist people who were ever anti-Jew or anti Israel. Most of us take the Bible literally and we stand with Israel.

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  2. Thank you, Kevin, for your research and article.

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  3. Mennonite World Review has this article from the December 24, 2012 print issue:

    As noted in the article, none of the Mennonites in Germany refused conscription during WWII, and may have participated in rounding up Jews and others to be sent to concentration camps. Even if they did not directly participate, by being part of the German military they participated. That is what the reconciliation visit was all about.

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