Last October, Jane Kiel, a 42-year-old single, Christian Danish woman, moved to a Palestinian town near Jerusalem. She stayed with a friend there for five weeks, looking to soak in the aroma, the colors, the sounds and the commotion and “to pray in the Palestinian city for a unified Israel.”
Jane Kiel in Jerusalem: “I am the face of Israel in the world” – Photo: Jonathan Shaul
She didn’t bring the Star of David necklace she usually wears around her neck. She also left the ring with the quote “And I will betroth thee unto Me for ever” (Hosea 2:21) at home. Her Scandinavian features worked in her favor.
“It is truly like another world,” she says when we meet in west Jerusalem, in a small room she has rented in a quiet neighborhood. “The noise was intense. It was as though people were yelling all the time. I am not used to little children on the streets in the evening. In Denmark, they go to sleep at 8 p.m. There, I saw children roaming the streets until 11 p.m. There are Palestinian flags hanging in the windows of the houses and on the streets, and on the sides of shops there are stickers that say ‘Boycott Israel, liberate Palestine.’
“I heard an interview on the English-language media there, and the man kept saying that Israel was harassing Palestinian children at the checkpoints and that it was an occupation state. I almost choked. The foreign media lapped up everything he said.”
For the last three years, Kiel has been on a one-woman crusade for Israel. She runs a pro-Israel Facebook page in English — Israel, One Nation — with which she aims to raise international awareness of Israel’s point of view. She posts pictures and videos that she takes, demonstrating the complexity of life in this state. One example is the Temple Mount, “so that everyone will see and know and identify with what Israelis have to go through.”
“The pro-Palestinian propaganda mechanism is a well-oiled machine. They talk about how oppressed the Palestinians are so often that people abroad begin to take it for granted. They say they are suffering, and I believe they really are suffering, but it is because of their own government. The Palestinian Authority has received so much money over the years, including from my country, that there should not be a single hungry person there or anyone without medical care.
“But the reality is different. They leave thousands of people in refugee camps. They want to show that children are suffering, and it is all for the purpose of public relations. I am here to show the world that not everything they broadcast is true. I am here to show that things are not as simple and racist as the Palestinians claim.”
She was born into a devout Christian, Israel-loving family in Denmark. She is the second of five siblings. Her mother leads a local prayer group, which convened once a month at the Kiel family home. The group would talk about Israel and pray for its security.
“Israel was always at the center of attention at our home,” Jane says with a sparkle in her eye. “When I grew older and watched the news, I realized that we only hear about Israel when something bad happens there. They never talk about anything good in Israel.”
At age 17 she left her parents’ house and moved in with her older sister. She eventually studied television and radio at a communications college, and began working for a Christian radio station in Copenhagen upon completing her studies.
“I thought that my life had been sorted out; that I had entered the right path. But a month before I moved to Copenhagen for work, I slipped in the shower and hurt my knee. I had to go back home and undergo a number of operations. I had to give up all my dreams.”
For 10 years she was in an out of hospitals, going in for surgery after surgery and suffering immense pain. She lived on social security. At age 23, she lost a boyfriend in an accident that left her physically and emotionally hurt. She has not had a serious relationship since.
“While other people my age were meeting their spouses and starting families, I was shuttling from hospital to hospital. I didn’t have the normal life of a normal Danish girl.”
In 2000 she visited Israel for the first time with her mother as part of a Christian group. “It was very exciting,” she recalls. “After all, I know the entire history from the Bible.”
“There is nothing quite like Jerusalem — the Western Wall, the alleyways, it is an incredible sight. When we left Jerusalem to return to Denmark, I cried. I felt that I wanted to live here.”
She recalls how during that same visit to Jerusalem, an older Israeli woman approached them and asked why they had come to Israel. “She asked us if we knew that it wasn’t a safe place, and I saw it as an opportunity to tell her that I love the Jews and the Israelis and that I came to give strength. That is how I felt and it was important for me to say it; for her to know.
“She started crying, she was so moved. I did too. Since then, every two or three years I came here to visit for a week or more. Every time I left, I felt like I was leaving my heart behind.”
It all began with Abbas
The name Jerusalem rolls off her tongue with near sacred awe. She trembles when she describes her realization that she needs to show the world that Israel is not the bad guy in the story, the way it is being presented.
“During one of my visits here with a group of tourists, I went to a lecture given by a woman whose daughter had been killed in a terrorist attack. I don’t remember her name, but she made a very strong impression. Her daughter was young — she was waiting in line to enter a shopping mall or something and then there was an explosion. She looked directly into my eyes and asked what her daughter had done to deserve to die. She didn’t cry. She explained that she had run out of tears. My heart went out to her. I felt a lot of anger; a lot of pain. I realized that no one sees this side of Israelis — the good side, the hurt side.
“In May of 2001, Yasser Arafat visited the Danish parliament to ask for Danish overseers in the territories. My mother and I decided to take action. We grabbed an Israeli flag and took a six-hour train to Copenhagen to demonstrate outside the parliament building. I was furious that he was being shown respect. We felt that as Christians, we had to stand up for Israel and the Jews.”
In Denmark – Jane Kiel
In 2008, during one of her visits with a group of Christian worshippers, she realized that she wanted to live here permanently. “It was an epiphany,” she says. “We were riding a bus and suddenly I felt it — this was my calling in life, to come here to stand up for Israel. To personally experience the Israeli experience and be a voice that represents Israel abroad.”
“I returned to Denmark, and then a friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen in a long time asked me out of the blue why I didn’t just move to Israel. When I left her house, a group of people asked me for directions. They were Israelis. I had never encountered Israelis in that area, and here they were asking me for directions. It was a sign for me.
“I was single, without a job, and I felt with every fiber of my being that it was time to go to Israel. I sold all my possessions so that it wouldn’t be easy for me to return, got a visa and a one-way ticket.”
She completed the move in 2010. At first she lived with friends in Jerusalem for three months. “I roamed the streets, drunk on the beauty of the city. I got to know it. I volunteered at a Danish organization helping adults with mental retardation. But it was hard for me physically, and I got sick again and was admitted to hospital. In early 2011, after a short stay in Israel, I had to return to Denmark to get well.”
While recuperating from her latest bout of ill health, Kiel started her pro-Israel Facebook page. “It was after [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas said that Palestine should be recognized as an independent state. From what I’ve seen in Israel, I am against a two-state solution.
“I didn’t really know where all of this would go, but I launched the page and filled it with all the best things about Israel. I wrote about how Israelis are being murdered, and not only Palestinians, the way the world sees it. I passed along the news that are broadcast only in Israel — the Israeli inventions, the advances. You are a very smart people.
“In the beginning, the page included only reporting from the field. With time, people began asking me what I had to say about these things. I realized that people want something, or someone, to hold on to. They were looking for a personal touch, and that was me. So I added a personal tone. I began writing about my beliefs, about the overwhelming power of Judaism. Doing this attracted about 10,000 new followers — Americans, Israelis, from all over the world.”
After spending 10 months in Denmark, Kiel returned to Israel, this time to the city of Arad. She stayed at an apartment vacated by friends who were traveling in the U.S. “I had fun there, but my heart constantly longed for Jerusalem,” she smiles. Four months later, she went back to Jerusalem.
In June 2014, when three Jewish teens were kidnapped and subsequently murdered by Hamas operatives in Judea and Samaria, Kiel was visiting family in the U.S. “I had trouble breathing when I heard the news. My heart was in Israel. I sat and cried in front of the television, and my family teased me that I was more Israeli than the Israelis.”
She began working the circuit of Christian groups in the U.S., telling them that Christians needed to help Israel. She appeared on television in Los Angeles as the founder of the pro-Israel Facebook page and explained her beliefs and her work for Israel. That is when she received the news that her uncle had died. She had to return to Denmark to be at her family’s side.
Who hates whom?
“During the war last summer I wasn’t here,” she says. “And I am beating myself up about it.”
“Every time I heard about rocket fire into Israel, I felt like the rockets had gone through me. It hurt. I wanted to be here with you, for you. None of the newscasts in Denmark mentioned the Israeli suffering, only the poor Palestinians. It killed me.
“If I had been here during that time, I would have interviewed the Israelis. I would have asked them to express what they were going through, so that the world would know what was really happening.
“There is something that I can’t understand: when I passed the checkpoint into the Palestinian Authority I saw a sign prohibiting Jews from entering. It said that there was concern for the safety of Israelis who go beyond that point. It makes me so angry that Arabs are free to live everywhere in Israel, but Jews get killed if they enter Muslim towns. And after all that, people still say that Israel is an apartheid state. Who here hates whom?”
She angrily recalls two major demonstrations that she accidentally found herself in — one on the Temple Mount and another at the Western Wall. At both, the Palestinians accused Israel of wrongdoing — once of burning books at an educational facility and once of throwing rocks.
“I filmed the demonstrations on video, to show how they riot. I guess they thought that I was filming for their cause, because they assumed that if I was crazy enough to stay inside that awful mess I must be pro-Palestinian. There was a lot of hate in the air. People yelled ‘Death to Israel.’ There was a lot of rage. At the Temple Mount demonstration, the protesters claimed that the Israeli police had hurled rocks at Palestinians, but it was actually the other way around.
“When I posted the footage on my Facebook page, people thanked me for showing how Palestinians incite against Israel.
“When I saw two cameramen at the Temple Mount demonstration, I naively asked if they worked for Israeli television. Their faces immediately changed and they became aggressive. They said that it wasn’t Israel, but Palestine. Two hours later I went to watch a Knesset session, and the two cameramen were there too. It made me angry that all of a sudden it was okay for them to be in Israel. But on the other hand, that is what I love about Israel. That it is a democracy. That even they can broadcast all kinds of things, even if it is all lies.”
Recently, Kiel began receiving death threats. Her work has apparently pressed someone’s buttons. “We know who you are and what you are doing,” said an email written in English that was addressed to her, which included photos of her touring the Western Wall. “Leave our Al-Aqsa mosque alone,” the email said.
Taken by stalker – Displayed on Facebook page
Several weeks later, she received another email, this time from right-wing activist Yehuda Glick. In the email, Glick said he had received photos of her, taken by a man who claimed to be Jordanian and thought that she was a Jew seeking to pray on the Temple Mount (it is prohibited for Jews to pray there). More threats.
“Then Yehuda was shot himself,” she says, referring to an attempt on Glick’s life last October on the Temple Mount. “I suddenly understood what hatred is. I suddenly understood fear. Until I saw the photos, it didn’t even occur to me that I was being followed. It doesn’t feel very good to know that someone like that was really close to me for several hours. I filed a police complaint, and these days I don’t go anywhere by myself, and certainly not to Muslim areas.
“The Palestinians have already labeled me as their enemy, because of my page. When I go to the Temple Mount, I feel the atmosphere of malevolence. I sense the lack of respect for anyone who isn’t Muslim. And then they attack me because I say what I believe.”
Q: Do you ever think that, after all, this is not your war?
“But it is my war, and this is my home. I am the face of Israel in the world. People want to hear about me. They say I need to be protected. They help me every time I need to renew my visa, they help me look for work, perhaps as a journalist, so that I can continue to live here and to deliver the message of Israel.
“According to my faith, Judaism is the root of everything. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is my God. The Bible is not a buffet. You can’t pick and choose the things that appeal to you. It is a package deal. I believe that every Christian needs to do this — to come here and safeguard the state. It can’t be done from Denmark. I am here to tell you that I love you, and I will do this for you.”
Kiel currently subsists on donations from pro-Israel organizations and a stipend from the Danish social security. She has not learned Hebrew yet. “I have managed with my English so far, but I promise to begin learning Hebrew soon.”
Q: Have you considered converting to Judaism?
“No. I am a devout Christian. This makes my efforts appear stronger, unbiased.”
Kiel would like to settle down with a partner in Israel. “It is difficult to wage this war alone. I want to feel like I belong here more.”
Her mother, now divorced, provides constant support. She has lost contact with her father.
Q: Aren’t you afraid?
“If I back down now, it will look like the Muslims control us through fear. I don’t have a husband or children to fear for. I am single, and I can take care of myself. I will continue to do what I am doing as long as I am able.
“I once met a woman who lost a sister to terrorism. She was demonstrating outside a government building, trying to prevent the release of Palestinian terrorists. It tore me up. I couldn’t understand why Israel had to do such a thing, to release terrorists. Or why Israel needs to stop building in certain areas that belong to it, just because other countries are saying so. I don’t understand it.
“I take all these feelings and beliefs and I pass them along on my page and share with the world what is really going on here. Because I truly love you and your country, and you deserve to live here in peace. If I have to shout it out for the world to hear, I will shout it out.”
View original Israel Hayom publication at: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=23657