by Hillel Fendel

Close to 50 members of Amish Christian communities in the U.S.and Switzerland visited Israel last week for one reason: To apologize to the Jewish People.

The Ministry of Tourism announced that Bishop Ben Girod, of the Amish community in Idaho, led the delegation in submitting an official apology for having rejected Israel and the Jews.

In addition to touring various sites in Israel, the visitors met with Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Naomi Tzur, Yad Vashem’s Shaya Ben-Yehuda, and Holocaust survivor Eliezer Ayalon. Many of the Amish looked almost hareidi, with their white shirts, black vests, and beards – though no mustaches.

The Amish are famous for shunning modern technology, yet they waived this restriction by boarding cars and an airplane in order to arrive in Israel for their apology. Both in the U.S. and Europe, the Amish have had a history of anti-Semitism, believing that Jews have been “replaced” by Christians and even that Hitler was G-d’s agent in punishing the Jews for their rejection of Jesus.

“We are here to say we are sorry,” Girod told Israel’s Channel 2 News during the group's visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. “We no longer want to reject you or look at you as not being G-d’s people. You were G-d’s people long before we were.” Another Amish member said, “Our people have had some bad attitudes toward the Jewish people and have rejected the Jewish people to a certain extent, and we have come to restore that and apologize.”

A declaration of apology and commitment, beautifully printed on parchment, was presented to Rabbi Rabinovitch on behalf of the entire Amish community. In the declaration, the Amish ask Israel’s forgiveness “for our collective sin of pride and selfishness by ignoring the plight of the Jewish people and the nation of Israel.”

The document states that the Amish will, from now on, speak out strongly in support of the Jews and the Jewish state.

This was not the first time Amish and Jews have made group contact. In April ‘09, a Chabad-Lubavitch community in New York City took a delegation of Amish from Pennsylvania on a walking tour of their neighborhood.