Beverly Willett

I’m Catholic. I stand with Israel.

To anti-Zionists I say is it not conceivable establishment of Israel was itself the product of divine intervention?

“Seasons of Love,” from the musical Rent, became an earworm when I read about the rescue of hostages who had been kidnapped during the Hamas massacre. In it, the cast sings about measuring the value of a year in a person’s life.

The hostages had been held captive 245 days. Noa Argamani had been separated from her mother, terminally ill from cancer, for three hundred fifty-two thousand eight hundred minutes.

I’m not Jewish, but the longer Hamas refuses to surrender, using Gazans as human shields, the more uninformed college students spew hatred, the deeper leaders sink to ally with anti-Semitic dilettantes, the stronger my resolve grows.

After October 7, I had an urge to wear a Star of David. But I hesitated, fearing criticism for cultural appropriation and making enemies for supporting Israel. The coward in me sought cover.

In the 1980s, I’d married a non-observant Jewish man from the Bronx – I had an ecumenical streak. Along with Christmas and Easter, I insisted our children celebrate Hanukkah. We attended occasional Seders and bar mitzvahs. I learned a smattering of Yiddish.

After our divorce, I don’t think his aunt, a devout Jew, ever spoke to him again. But she and I became devoted to each other. I’ll never forget the day she held my face in her hands and said she’d always consider me family.

Decades later, I still light candles. When a local developer sought to disturb holy ground by building a hotel between two historic Jewish cemeteries, I dashed off a strong admonishment to the planning commission.

My familial connections probably made it kosher to buy that Star of David. But “cover” reeked of cheap grace.

During Christmas in New York, my pulse quickened when I saw pro-Palestinian protestors on Fifth Avenue waving signs saying “All the Walls Will Fall.” I fled in fear. Christmas Day they mocked my Savior’s birth with a vile nativity scene.

I’ve read Catholics shouldn’t conflate Israel with the historical chosen people. To me, that defies logic and Biblical truth.

Israel is the historical Jewish homeland, inextricably intertwined with Jewish identity. Recognition of Israel in 1948 acknowledged that fact. To anti-Zionists I say is it not conceivable establishment of Israel was itself the product of divine intervention?

Rejection of Jesus as the Messiah may represent a divide between our faiths, but a wide bridge remains. As the Catechism states, when “the [Catholic] Church delves into her own mystery [she] discovers her link with the Jewish People.”

I remember sitting next to my adoptive Jewish aunt at her twin grandsons’ bar mitzvah, watching them read from the Torah, then return it to the ark. The memory flashed back to me years later, watching my Catholic deacon return the Book of the Gospels to the altar.

Jesus and his parents were observant Jews, with an unbroken lineage to King David. That lineage is my lineage. Catholics consider Mary the new Eve and the new Rachel. Jesus so reversed the Jerusalem temple that he called it his “Father’s house.” He stood on Mount Tabor with Elijah and Moses. Before confession, Catholics examine our conscience alongside the Ten Commandments given to Moses!

Acclaimed Bishop Barron teaches that while Jesus criticized religious corruption, he transfigured the “classical Israelite religion – temple, law, priesthood, sacrifice, covenant – into the institutions, sacraments, practices, and structures of his Mystical Body, the Church.”

That vision is on display at Catholic masses throughout the world.

In 1965, Pope Paul VI declared that the Church decries anti-Semitism. In 1987, Pope John Paul II acknowledged the right of the Jewish people to a homeland. Statehood was recognized in 1993.

Israel’s defense of itself after October 7 was clearly just. But the Catholic just war doctrine also requires that arms not “produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.” Protestors and certain media would have the public believe the war is but a numbers game. Which inevitably values one person’s life greater or less than another’s.

Here are some overlooked numbers. Ben Carson’s new book states that, based on Israel’s population, the 3,000 Americans killed on 9/11 equates to a slaughter of 40,000 Israelis on October 7. And let’s not forget the 352,800 minutes of only one freed hostage.

No one wants innocent Gazans to suffer. The Catechism’s moral restraints apply to Israel too. But only Hamas and its supporters call for extermination of Jews, which the Catechism condemns as a mortal sin.

Earlier this year, I asked a friend’s mother about the #StandUptoJewishHate blue pin she wore. “I’m Roman Catholic; I’m pro-Israel,” she said without hesitation.

This is no time for equivocation by me or other Catholics either. Anything less edges closer to condoning a fresh holocaust.

I’m Catholic. I stand with Israel. We are family. Along with the Cross of Christ, I now wear the Star of David.

About the Author
Beverly Willett, J.D., is a retired New York City attorney and author of “Disassembly Required: A Memoir of Midlife Resurrection. She has written op eds and personal essays for dozens of the leading U.S. publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, The New York Post, The New York Daily News, The Washington Examiner, The Federalist, and more.