“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” (or kippah)
Shakespeare – Henry IV. Part II, 1597
I woke up one morning last week and decided I was going to wear a kippah, the small cap worn by observant Jews all around the world.
I am a Gentile, and I am a Christian; and I do not have a romanticized notion of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I did have a Grandma Kaplan on my father’s side. Though she was not known to be Jewish, I confess to a decades-long secret hope of having a few drops of King David’s blood coursing through my veins, but it was completely dashed following the results of my recent Ancestry.com DNA test.
I have been a Christian Zionist for over 30 years. I decided to wear a kippah in solidarity with the Jewish people and their war against the terror of Hamas and their war against the terror of Jewish hatred exploding throughout parts of the world.
Well, be careful Dad,” my daughter cautioned upon hearing my plan.
“Be careful?!” I laughed with a forced, fatherly bravado attempting to calm her fears. I assured her that those with whom I may be interacting had better look out for me!
My daughter’s instincts that publicly identifying with Jewishness may be inherently dangerous brought the first of several painful and unexpected contractions in the birthing process of becoming a Jew for a day. My pondering her fears for me was immediately followed by a parading of the faces of my many Jewish friends across my mind. How does a Jewish mother or father face the dilemma of allowing their sons to go outside wearing a kippah in this 1933 world into which we have plummeted?
I arrived at the airport to embark upon a pro-Israel West to East Coast speaking tour, coinciding with my journey from Gentile to Jew. It was in the US Airways private sitting area where I removed a kippah from my traveling manbag, and in a twinkling of the eye, I was reborn – a Jew.
The first thing that startled me was the unexpected weight of the kippah…once positioned upon my head. I’ve worn them countless times throughout the last 30 years of my pro-Israel activism, but always within the safety and sanctity of a synagogue, surrounded by my Jewish friends who were born as such, and are strong enough to be crowned by the head covering.
The moment my hands left my head, leaving the black crocheted marker upon it, I literally stumbled into my new identity. I felt like Superman who unknowingly had a brick of green kryptonite in his pocket as my 6’5” reserves of battle-tested self-confidence leached out of my being with every new step I took, as a Jew.
I wrestled with foreign emotions while contemplating the thought that everything I wanted strangers to understand about me was unimportant and invisible under the ancient marker upon my head.
I am now only a Jew.
I am both embarrassed and ashamed to confess how quickly I wanted to rip the kippah off of my head, abort the birth, and return to my life of ease as a Gentile. My initial plan was to change my identity for four days. I barely lasted one.
The Journey started on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, when most kippah-wearing men were not likely traveling — thus I was the only “recognizable” Jew in each airport and room I entered. I soon realized that this was likely the reality for most observant Jewish men on any day of the week.
I never faced anti-Semitic confrontations during my long observant day, though I caught the eyes of several people with whom I conversed dart up and down from what felt like a 10-gallon-growing-more-enormous-by-the-hour kippah smothering my skull.
One very kind man I sat beside on one of my three flights of the day started a conversation with me just as we were landing. “You know, my father hid Jews in our home when I was a little boy. I am Lebanese, and during the war in Lebanon we hid our neighbors for almost a year!” he comforted me with his righteous sense of pride.
As a bright-eyed-hair-braided hippy and his girlfriend held an elevator door open; I sensed his sincere overture to be kind to this “Jew” as he grinned and proclaimed my sports was, “really cool!”
The most overwhelming and inescapable emotion I experienced was the responsibility within my new identity to be a “good” Jew. The eyes of the Gentile world were upon me wherever I went so I was not just “a Jew” but I represented every Jew by my actions — and the world was at war with the Jews in Gaza. I found myself being extra smiley with the children so people would easily see I was kind, and I was not as loud as I always am so that people would understand that I was humble and…
G-d chose the Jews.
The smallest of the nations has been chosen to be a light to the Gentiles in bringing us the knowledge of the One True G-d. The tiny nation needed to grow strong, as they faced other nations that do not like to be troubled with Israel’s G-d who judges between evil and good.
I do not have the strength to be a Jew, not even for a day, but I am humbled and honored to take my place as one of the Gentiles in the prophetic words of Psalm 126: 1-4:
When the captives returned to Zion it was like a dream. Our mouths were filled with song, and our hearts with shouts of joy. And the Gentiles said, ‘Adonai has done great things for you!’
This author’s commentary: The encouragement from these Gentiles awaken the captives from their dream and they proclaim:
Adonai has done great things for us – we are glad!
As the Gentile Jethro encouraged Moses, as Rahab protected the Jewish spies, and as Ruth left her pagan past to cling to the G-d and people of Israel, so I will spend the rest and best of my life gathering, creating, and educating Christian Zionists. I will teach them to stand, as they teach their children and grandchildren to stand with the Jewish people and the Jewish nation of Israel. And together we will continue to gather round about and cheer on the captives who have returned to Zion: “Adonai has done, is doing, and will do great things for you! You are His Firstborn — you are the apple of His eye — you are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and your G-d is a Promise Making and Promise Keeping G-d!
So be strong, be courageous, do not be terrified, do not be discouraged for the L-rd your G-d is with you wherever you go. —Joshua 1:9 (NIV)
Am Yisrael Chai!