We, the Māori people support Israel. And there are many behind me and all over this nation that support Israel.
With these words Tawhiri Littlejohn, Ngati Whatua, opened the ‘Celebrating Israel at 70’ rally at Silo Park Auckland. He then recited the well known karakia, E to Matou Matua (The Lord’s Prayer).
We asked Tawhiri to tell us about his background.
I come from a family line of Ministers. My great-grandfather Paraire Paikea was a Methodist minister but then became a follower of Ratana. In fact he served as Ratana’s private secretary and was also a Member of Parliament representing Northern Māori. My grandfather, Tapihana Paraire Paikea, followed in his footsteps as a politician and follower of Ratana.
Growing up in the Ratana movement there was a lot of interest in Israel. We always heard that Israel are God’s chosen people. There was a lot of talk about the ways that Māori were connected with Israel. The importance of whakapapa was almost identical.
I worked in the music industry for fourteen years, playing drums in bands and working as a session musician, until I had my own experience of God. I married my girlfriend Katie in 2011 and then in 2014 left behind my music career and the lifestyle that went with it. I was asked to become a pastor of the local church and in 2015 was ordained at the Kaiwaka Revival Church.
My wife Katie has some Jewish heritage and for a long time we have wanted to learn more about Israel and meet Jewish people. Last year we took our first trip to Israel and attended an indigenous conference hosted by the Jewish community.
It was an overwhelming experience being in the place where the Bible was written. We enjoyed meeting the people, both Jews and Arabs. They were interested in us as Māori, which blew me away. I was taken aback that they even knew who we were. A soldier came up and asked if we were Māori. I asked how he knew and he said he had been to New Zealand. We stayed in East Jerusalem and the Arabs there were so welcoming. We felt the gift we could give them was aroha.
What did you think of the rally on Sunday?
I was really honoured to be part of it and to stand with Israel. My wife and I have had a desire to bless Israel for a few years now.
It was interesting to see the tension created by the Palestine supporters there. It was an odd experience to see that in New Zealand. It went against the Kiwi culture in my opinion.
What are your thoughts about the Israel Palestinian conflict?
First thing is don’t have a biased view of the situation. Learn your facts and educate people without getting into arguments. As Christians I believe the solution is to be bearers of love and truth and to show aroha to Jews and Palestinians.