Following the horror of October 7, many Jews were appealing to non-Jews on social media, “Reach out to your Jewish friends. They are not ok.”
So I did. The responses I received were warm and grateful. Yet mere expression of non-Jewish solidarity is hardly adequate to meet the enormity of this moment and the challenge we are facing.
That’s right, I said, “we.” And no, I am not Jewish.
The historical relationship between the Jewish people and the non-Jewish world is complex and often unbearable. The persecution of Jews is unmatched in human history and has taken place in nearly every generation and geographic location. The Holocaust was the culmination of this nightmarish pattern.
Those who thought the human race had somehow evolved since the Holocaust received a reality check on October 7. The painful lessons of history and the appalling reaction today from many non-Jews to the Hamas massacre may have led Jews to believe they are alone.
I am here to say, You are not.
I am a Christian, which complicates our relationship. While the history of the Jewish people with the rest of humanity is difficult, their interaction with Christians has often been traumatic. Of course there are exceptions and one must be wary of generalizations. Still, the historical record is unassailable.
Because of that legacy, many Jews are understandably wary when Christians support Israel and the Jewish people. Surely there must be some ulterior religious motive, they wonder.
My support for Israel and the Jewish people does indeed have a religious, or rather Biblical, component. But it is so much more than that and has nothing to do with an effort to convert Jews and nor is it based on some kind of apocalyptic theology. I support Israel because it is the historic Jewish homeland, because Israel provides security and self-determination for Jews, and because of the many good things Israel gives to the world. No nation should be forced to justify its very existence.
I am not the only Christian offering Israel unconditional support without a hidden religious agenda. There are many of us, and we are determined to rise to the occasion. This war against Israel is indefensible by any legitimate moral standard. Meeting the challenge of this time requires that Jews not be forced to fight it alone; it must encompass all of those in the non-Jewish world who consider this fight to be ours too.
I know that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is complicated. As one who has immersed himself in Israel’s historical, social, and political dynamics, the complexity can sometimes be daunting. But what is happening to Israel now is not complicated, it is existential, and the people of the world need to choose a side. The complex social, political, and economic issues facing Israeli society generally have not magically disappeared and will necessarily be revisited in the future. Our job is to ensure that there is a future.
While speaking up is essential, there is no way we can “out-shout” the deeply-rooted maniacal fervor of antisemitism. That hatred is fueled by a near-supernatural negativity. We must begin to form a more substantive strategy.
We are facing a war whose epicenter is Israel but extends far beyond its borders. It is outrageous that Israel must not only fight a war for its very existence but must also wage a public relations campaign against the lies of antisemites around the world.
It is not hyperbolic or reductionist to assert that this is a war between good and evil. No one is without blame of course but now is not a time for that accounting. What is reductionist is to label this war as a conflict confined to the Middle East. The manifestations and implications are global.
This moment in history demands a coalition of the just – Jew and non-Jew. While we cannot sacrifice our humanity in battle, neither can we allow our humanity to cause us to shrink from what must be done.