by Shlomo Shamir | Ha'aretz | 15/11/2004
NEW YORK - Special safety precautions were taken in Presbyterian churches throughout the United States on Sunday after leaders received threats that churches would be burned by Monday if they did not demand a reversal of what a letter writer called their "anti-Israel" policy.
The Presbyterian church decided in June to divest itself of companies doing business with Israel.
The threats were contained in an anonymous letter received last weekend at the denomination's headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky. The letter, postmarked Queens, New York, threatened that in response to the church's "anti-Israel and anti-Jewish" stance, its houses of worship and offices would be set on fire.
Jerry Van Marter, a church leader, said Sunday that the letter cited Monday as the day by which its authors were to demand the church change its policies on Israel. "We take the threat seriously," Van Meter said.
Relations between the Presbyterian church and the U.S. Jewish community and Israel soured after the June decision. Van Marter admitted Sunday that since the decision was made, thousands of letters and e-mails protesting it have been received.