Christian Friends Welcome!

While Jewish history spans thousands of years, it has never seen something like the friendship of Zionist-Christians. From Lord Balfour and Winston Churchill to the millions of Christian friends Israel has today, modern Jewish-Christian relations are at a point they have never been at before. Many Jews, however, question this friendship. “They are supporting us because they would like to see us all die in the rapture,” I hear some say. Rejecting sincere friendship is a historical mistake.

Questioning the motives of our Christian friends is not only morally wrong, but it is also historically and theologically mistaken. In the year 1263 a horrific trend has begun—public debates between Jews and Christians. These were not genuine debates as must as they were gotcha games. Rabbis were summoned to defend their faith and to prove that they were right. It was a lose-lose situation. If you won the debate, you have insulted Christianity, and if you lost it, you proved that Jews are just being stubborn and stiff-necked by not accepting Christianity. This led to atrocities such as pogroms, the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 and many pogroms to follow.

Ever since, Christian censure of the Talmud has affected Jewish literature in Europe(Jews in Muslim countries were not subject to this horrible aspect of being a minority in Islamic countries.) Anything that seemed like an insult to Jesus or Christianity was taken out by the censure. No matter how remote or isolated the line may have been, the thought police of Europe was there to erase it. It didn’t matter that the Jews were loyal citizens, faithful countryman, kind neighbors, and civic heroes—Jews were being judged by what their scripture may have implied.

And so, looking at those who question the theology of our Christian friends, brings to my mind very powerful questions. I ask my Jewish brothers and sisters: would we like others to police our theology? Would we want others to question your motives? Or, would we prefer to be judged by our behavior and friendship. I believe we all would opt for the latter.

I will admit now openly when I stand up for an old lady on the subway; I don’t do so just because it is the right thing. I do it because I believe that after I die, in Heaven, I will be rewarded for that good deed. Would I like people to hold that good deed against me just because I had an ulterior theological motive? Absolutely not. Furthermore, would we want our friends to question our friendship and start analyzing our motives and disqualifying us based on them? Of course not!

How would we feel if our friend told us:” well, I know you are just my friend because you would feel lonely without me”? What kind of world will that be?

Good deeds are good, and they ought not be questioned. No one would like to live in a world in which good deeds are scrutinized and disqualified based on theological underpinnings.

Needless to say that if Christians were actively seeking to convert Jews and befriending them for that purpose Jews should just look aside. For centuries Jews have given up their rights, property and even lives to keep their faith. A friendship that comes to alter what is most precious to us is not a friendship, it is seduction. That is not the case of Christian Zionists. Christian friends of the State of Israel and Jewish people have championed the verse of “I shall bless those who bless you”. They have thrown away the zero-sum attitude that used to dominate the interfaith discourse and turned it into a positive-sum relationship. Competition and contempt have made way for care and cooperation, and for that, we should be thankful to them.

In a world in which hate and jealousy are becoming all too prevalent, we must not turn away a hand reached out in peace. History will never forgive a time in which such an embrace between faiths was turned away. This is not compromising one iota of who we are as Jews; it is embracing with confidence which we are and taking a hand extended to us in peace.

About the Author
The writer is a rabbi, writer, teacher, and blogger (www.rabbipoupko.com). He is the president of EITAN-The American Israeli Jewish Network and lives with his wife in New York City.
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