(February 17, 1922 - April 9, 2002)
|Shortly after her eightieth birthday, Christina (Stijn) Pilon has died
in Nes Ammim, Israel. After the death of her husband, Johan
Pilon, in 1975, she was the face of this Christian reconciliation-project
in the north of Israel for more than a quarter of a century.
For tens of thousands of tourists, pilgrims and 'holy landwalkers' she was a guide in the village and rose-gardens. With inspiration she has taken over the torch of her husband, who died at the age of 58 years old. She never got tired of telling the same story with style and humour. The story about the fatal failure in history between Christians and Jews, and about the Christian hate which had drawn a mark through the history of the Jewish people.
After a period as medical mission-vicar of the Christian Reformed Churches in the former Celebes in Indonesia, Johan Pilon got the chance to become a gynaecologist in the Scottish mission in Tiberias (Israel). Before, in Holland, he had seen deportations of Jews from close by, and now he was full of admiration for the building of the young state of Israel. But soon, Johan and Stijn could not hold out in Tiberias with its still pre-war way of mission work. With Sjlomo Bezek, a Jew from the Netherlands and coming from the kibbutz Ayelet Hasjachar, they made plans for a whole new approach between Jews and Christians.
After a difficult start in 1960 and heavy resistance from both the Jewish and the Christian sides, finally a result came in the form of the ecumenical and international village Nes Ammim. The Israeli did not trust the new tackling, and could not believe that Christians would stop their evangelisation. Churches and Christians refused to follow the pioneer Johan Pilon and saw him as a liberal modernist. But Johan pushed through as a real charismatic. Finally, in 1967 churches began to change ideas and became warm believers. I met this visionary man, with difficult traits, when I started in 1974 in Nes Ammim as a vicar. But soon, on the 17th of July 1975, I conducted his funeral service.
Since then, Stijn stepped out of his shadow and continued his legacy. I spoke with her for the last time in September 2001, when I visited Nes Ammim, right after a suicide-attack nearby. It was difficult for Stijn to understand the latest developments and find a new task for Nes Ammim, particularly peace-work and the dialogue between Jews and Palestinians in Galilee. The explosions of violence that we witness today in the Middle East, show that we must pick up this new job energetically. Especially in this challenge lies the real the inspiration of the pioneers of Nes Ammim. Meanwhile the story, which Stijn has passed on so many times, has to be told. Her memory will bless us.'
These words are from Simon Schoon - vicar in Nes Ammim from 1974 till 1981. Today he is a vicar in Gouda (The Netherlands) and Professor of Relations between Jews and Christians at the Christian University of Kampen (The Netherlands).
From a Dutch newspaper, Thursday 11th of April 2002. Translated by Jan Pilon.