A High Holidays Reflection on our Christian Friends

Photo: Ethan Roberts
Photo: Ethan Roberts

These are the days of cheshbon hanefesh, literally an “accounting of the soul.” It’s a time to reflect on our actions, where we fell short, how we might do better in the year ahead.

That makes it a very good time to think about our relationship with our Christian friends, specifically those Christians who passionately support Israel and the Jewish people.

I recently attended a “Night to Honor Israel hosted by the Living Word Christian Center in suburban Minneapolis and Christians United for Israel. Coming on the heels of this summers terrible events, with Israel besieged by rockets in the air and bias in the media, the event felt like an immersion into healing waters.

The program was the deepest expression of Christian generosity, kindness, and celebration of our shared spiritual roots.

We were welcomed to the church with effusive warmth and enthusiasm,  then seated in the front of the sanctuary. Israeli flags flew in the air as the dynamite band and choir launched into “Am Yisrael Chai” and other songs, all in Hebrew. Around me, hundreds of Christians sang along.

So did the four hundred or so members of the Jewish community in attendance, their expressions a mixture of gratitude and sheer amazement.

It was gratifying to see so many Jewish participants. But I wish that ten times more Jews had been there.

So if you are a Jew who shies away from these events, I hope that these words, and the spirit of cheshbon hanefesh will cause you to rethink.

Pastor Mac Hammond, founder of Living Word Christian Center, gave a forthright explanation for Christian support of Israel and the Jewish people:

*God’s covenant with the Jews is eternal and close to God’s heart.

*Christianity’s spiritual roots lie in Judaism.  We are commanded to honor our parents. In this case, it means that Christians must honor their spiritual parents.

*Replacement theology (the belief that the Jewish covenant with God has been replaced by Christians) must be totally rejected. “Purge this poison of anti-Semitism from the body of Christ”, he implored.

Some Jews are uncomfortable with the generally more conservative politics of Christian supporters of Israel.  To which I say, so what? Those who share your outlook on social and political issues may not be with you on Israel. The further you move in the progressive direction, the more likely you will see a steep decline in support for Israel.

In the end, the only person who will line up perfectly with you on every issue is…you.

The fact is, Israel needs friends. Jews need friends. And that brings me to this disturbing possibility.

After two thousand years of exile and untold suffering, we are, in some ways, a traumatized people. Perhaps we are more comfortable dealing with enemies than embracing friends.

If that is the case, then it’s time for our community to reflect on how we respond to those who extend their hands to us in true friendship.

It’s time to step up our game and show up in full force at events like Night to Honor Israel.

It’s time to show gratitude to those whose imagination and efforts resulted in such a phenomenal interfaith evening.

It’s time to recognize that in a world saturated with Israel hatred, which is now indistinguishable from anti-Semitism, there are decent Christians who stand with us.

We can, in the New Year, resolve to do better.

We can demonstrate the values of gratitude and open mindedness that our tradition teaches by embracing the Christians who reach out to us in support and friendship.

I’ll see you at the next Night to Honor Israel. I hope it is standing room only.

About the Author
Sally Abrams co-directs the Speakers Bureau of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas. She has presented the program “Israel and the Middle East: the Challenge of Peace” at hundreds of churches, schools and civic groups throughout the Twin Cities and beyond. A resident of suburban Minneapolis, Sally speaks fluent Hebrew, is wild about the recipes of Yotam Ottolenghi, the music of Idan Raichel, and is always planning her next trip to Israel. Visit: sallygabrams.com