A life-changing moment for me took place on the special evening when I was graciously welcomed into the suburban North Carolina home of Bishop Paul and Debbie Lanier.
They are Christian, I am Jewish.
They are American, I am Israeli.
Their necklace is a cross, mine a Star of David.
Yet we share a deeper connection than any label or attire.
When I entered the family’s beautiful home, a sweet smell filled the air. “We know that you keep kosher,” said Bishop Lanier with a huge smile, “so I went to the local Chabad house and bought us all packaged cooked kosher salmon. We are warming it up in the tin foil as we were instructed by the rabbi.”
With my mouth open in shock, Bishop Lanier continued telling me about his love, respect, and admiration for the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson. He just finished reading Joseph Telushkin’s new book on the Rebbe’s life, and has adopted the Rebbe’s tradition of handing out dollars out at his church on New Year’s Eve, telling his congregation to do something good with the money.
Bishop Lanier is certainly no ordinary person.
We sat in Bishop Lanier’s elegant dining room eating our Chabad meals on paper plates with torn silver foil lining the table. Even with their fine china dishes put away on the shelves behind me, the Laniers did not complain about eating this microwaved kosher food, but rather thanked me for the opportunity.
We sat at that blessed dinner table for hours, speaking about the history of the Jewish people, Jewish-Christian relations, the fight currently raging between good and evil in the world, their beloved daughter’s summer studies in Nazareth, and Israel.
The only time we took a break from talking was when the “code red” app on Bishop Lanier’s phone rang, and we all silently prayed. Looking up from prayer, I got the chills as the bishop boldly said only two words: Never again.
Two words that give honor and meaning to 6 million deaths.
Two words that today give security and hope to millions more.
Two words that are being desecrated and trampled throughout the world.
Those two words reminded us all that at this very moment terrorists are calling for all Jews to be murdered. At this point in history, there is a question mark after those famous two words, instead of the exclamation mark it deserves.
Bishop Lanier rightfully pointed out that the Jewish and Christian communities have no choice but to stand together; like it or not, we are put in the same category of “infidels” by terrorists dedicated to our collective destruction. Rockets are being launched at Israel to try and wipe out the Jewish people, and Christians in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere are being murdered in order to purge the Middle East of their faith as well.
We agreed that our peoples must stick together during these tumultuous times.
After hours of laughter, fellowship, and talk of Israel, I left Paul and Debbie’s house with renewed hope for my homeland and people.
The Laniers – along with thousands of other Christians that I have been blessed to spend time with – have reminded me who Israel’s true friends are. These people are not affected by the latest trends, media bias, or the shifting political winds.
Their friendship, partnership, and support are real.
This pro-Israel sentiment is shared by so many Christians. They are not naïve, uneducated, or foolish; they are faithful. They understand the tremendous evil in the world, they know that the Jewish people are in a fight against it, and they have chosen to be on our side.
Leaving Israel during wartime was difficult, yet the wellspring of support that I have experienced in America is inspiring. As I return back home to the Holy Land, I will always carry this profound message of hope in my heart.