VAN NUYS — A joint Christian-Jewish celebration of Israel's Independence Day, scheduled for Wednesday at the Church on the Way, has been postponed at the church's request because of the fighting between Israel and the Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militia operating out of southern Lebanon.
Based on a successful joint celebration of Israel's birthday for the past three years at the church, as many as 1,400 people had been expected to attend. Israel's deputy consul general was expected to bring greetings and the touring Israeli Gvanim Dance Troupe was to perform.
But "given the recent tragedies in Israel and Lebanon, . . . a celebration-style service with dancing, singing and rejoicing would probably be insensitive in light of the mourning taking place right now," wrote the Rev. Scott Bauer, senior associate to the pastor, the Rev. Jack Hayford, in a memo to B'nai B'rith's Jacob Castroll, the program chairman.
Bauer emphasized that the 9,000-member church does not want to cancel the event, but to reschedule it for later in the year.
A number of celebrations of Israel's 48th birthday have been held at synagogues, including a dinner concert Wednesday night at Stephen S. Wise Temple atop Sepulveda Pass.
Rabbi Paul Dubin, executive director of the Southern California Board of Rabbis, said he has not heard of any Jewish groups postponing their observances. "It seems counterproductive to postpone such an event; I would take note of the long struggle and the fact that war is horrible," Dubin said.
Bauer said that on May 1 the church will instead conduct a prayer service honoring those who have died and praying "for divine intervention" to stop the violence.
Bauer said the church is a strong supporter of Israel, and that Hayford will be leading his 17th study tour of Israel next month.