Yes, well. It’s not something that we spend a lot of time talking about. Jews and Christians live and work and intermarry and break bread together in the good old USA, some of my best friends are Jewish, some of my best friends are Christian…but thousands of years of history, persecution, and dogma difference still divides us, as does simple fear of the other.
Ahh. But there’s a great unifier that way too few people on both sides know about, and this is the resolute devotion to Israel of both Evangelical Christians and Jews (I know, I know: there exists now a dark, dangerous Christian revisionist history movement, as well as a destructive fashionableness among some liberal democrats to blindly denounce Israel. But that’s another blogpost).
What I know is that ever since I attended my first Christians United for Israel conference and witnessed a world I knew nothing about, I’ve Changed My Tune. Actually, I’ve just changed. Let me explain:
1. Devotion to Israel from two different directions.
I was raised with Israel: praying the sacred Shema Yisrael, singing Am Yisrael Chai, learning Israel in school, feeling Israel at home, Grandfather Rabbi Leo Jung and Israel, our family trips to Israel, and now I have many beloved relatives and friends living in her green and verdant hills. My attachment to Israel is rich and deep and visceral – and intellectual, when I consider her history. But all of this does not give me a monopoly on loving Israel.
Evangelical Christians – Christian Zionists – call them what you will – are devoted to Israel as deeply from their faith as I am from mine. That they come to this biblically and through God’s revealed word – as it is written, so it shall be done – is reverent and beautiful. They take the idea of the chosen people to heart in a way Jews do not, from a place most Jews couldn’t understand. They hang mezuzahs on their doors and quote the bible with a pure poetry that speaks to God and holiness, like rainwater falling from the heavens on Sukkoth. They visit Israel in droves, supporting her spiritually, financially, and politically. Israel is deep in their soul.
2. Agreeing fervently on one issue, disagreeing on others: what’s wrong with that?
Like many of you, I hang tough with Israel. I’ve watched her try for peace and be rejected again and again by false, non-partners. The world has a ridiculous double-standard about how Israel ought to behave, given her history and hostile neighbors. That she exists as a pulsating democracy with passions and problems and contributes so much to the betterment of the world is the only real miracle I know.
And my Christian Zionist friends agree.
They are often the first to defend Israel, to battle media bias, to stand tall with the brave IDF soldiers, to pray for the safety of her citizens. When a lying BDS group put up hateful anti-Israel billboards all over San Antonio, Texas, what did Christians United for Israel do? Yes. They erected billboards right next door telling the truth about Israel, thus mounting an in-your-face positive media counterattack.
Might we disagree on social issues? Same-sex marriage? Abortion? Yes, we might. But we can agree to disagree on these issues while remaining absolutely united in our commitment to the security of Israel, that she has a right to protect herself, and that she will, against all odds exist, prosper and thrive.
3. United in our clear-eyed view of the scourge that is antisemitism.
Rabbi David Wolpe, reviewing the recent book, A History of Antisemitism, says:
A people that is 0.2 percent of the world population, sometimes hated even in places where there are no Jews , suspected of running the world in places as disparate as Kiev and Sun Valley, the survivors of a recent gargantuan effort to wipe them out because they exist, who today are targets of a worldwide campaign by jihadists, are indeed in a unique position. This hatred cannot be tamed by analysis or lassoed by reason. Anti-Semitism is the wild, irrational eruption of the world’s dark collective unconscious.
Did you know that Christians United for Israel sends Irving Roth, Holocaust survivor to Christian campuses across the country to tell his survivor story to young students, so that they will know and understand this nightmare of the past to better serve the future? Irving has said at these events “You are proof to me that God exists.” Does it get more profound than that?
In a world where irrational Jew Hatred continues to fester, I say this: Thank you, Christian friends, for not buying into the madness. Thank you for your reverence, your Godliness, your heart. Thank you for your devotion to your faith, your resolute love of Israel and the Jewish people.
Best wishes for a blessed Christmas, and may your days be happy, healthy, and long.