I was feeling pretty miserable following the vote in the British Parliament this past Monday approving by an overwhelming margin a measure to recognize unilaterally a Palestinian state. Although non-binding on the British government, the vote conveys to many of us a certain depressing outlook on British society and probably on European society as a whole.
In spite of all the talk about how the governments of Western Europe are determined to combat anti-Semitism and condemn the recent upsurge of statements and acts against Israel and against Jews in their countries, one can’t help but wonder what it is that obsesses them with the plight of the “downtrodden” Palestinians, including those who willfully fire rockets at Israeli civilians. Do we hear calls for recognition of the sovereign rights of other, far more numerous and far more persecuted peoples in the world who have sought independence for years but whose cries fall on deaf ears — the Kurds are a prime example.
As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is fond of saying: “If it walks like a duck, and it talks like a duck, (etc.), then it must be a duck.” We’re often accused of paranoia in these matters, but one can’t help but wonder why the Palestinians, davka, are the ones our European and some American “friends” always feel so sorry for. What lies behind the hostility to our state and to our nation?
But there is more than a ray of hope. There are some really good friends out there, without the quotation marks around the word. My wife and I had the privilege on Oct. 14 to attend the Israel Night program of the Feast of the Tabernacles event held each year by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. We had actually visited the very first such Feast back in 1980, but hadn’t been to it since.
The Israel Night program is open to Israeli residents, in addition to the Christian participants, and it was an overwhelming outpouring of love and devotion to our country and to our people that we witnessed at the new Jerusalem Payis area. In song and dance and declarative statements, the speakers and performers sang the praises of Israel and Jerusalem that no doubt would have embarrassed some of our more “sophisticated” and “cosmopolitan” Israelis – especially those Israelis who signed the petition urging the British Parliament to approve the Palestinian recognition measure.
The big stars of the evening who received the loudest applause consisted of a large contingent of solders from the IDF who had served in Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, including those who had suffered wounds in the fighting there. A small group of Christian Arab soldiers in the IDF also received a warm hand. Also present and hailed were UN soldiers from Fiji serving on the Golan Heights who had been captured by Muslim rebels but luckily were released and found safe haven in Israel.
For my wife and I the evening was a shot in the arm of unabashed Zionism and unabashed devotion to God as the protector of Israel. It is comforting to know that there are many hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of Christians all over the world who share these sympathies. Indeed, the Feast of the Tabernacles attracted some 5,000 pilgrims from about 80 countries, including places far removed from our soil.
My wife sat next to a couple from Cairns in far northeastern Australia. The woman said she had been to Israel 22 times. How many Jews living abroad could make that kind of statement? The man sitting next to me was from Tennessee and said this was the fifth Feast of the tabernacles celebration he had been to. We met a man in the elevator confined to a wheelchair who had come all the way from New Zealand to attend. There was a huge delegation there, as always, from Brazil and pilgrims from all parts of the globe.
Yes, there are the so-called “friends” out there who grant us somewhat begrudgingly our existence, if we are willing to “give” to attain some kind of (doubtful) peace without making any demands on the other side to compromise. But there are also many, many true, believing, Christian friends who say to us: “Be strong and courageous, because we stand behind you.” Thank God for them.