The call of Abram to leave his father’s household came with a promise, “I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you.” The assurance of these words from Genesis 12:3 have compelled thousands of Christians around the world to stand with the Jewish people and support the State of Israel. The equation is clear. Any man, woman or child, from any corner of the earth, who chooses to bless the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, will reap blessings from the Creator of the Universe.
These words motivated heroes such as Henry Dunant, the Swiss Christian founder of the Red Cross to support his personal friend, Theodor Herzl, and to actively participate in the First Zionist Congress. Likewise, they inspired “Righteous Gentiles” such as the Ten-Boom family to risk their lives to save Jewish lives. They did so by hiding hundreds of Jews in their small clock shop in Haarlem just outside of Amsterdam who would otherwise have been arrested by the Gestapo and eventually exterminated. In more recent history, these same words led right-wing conservative Evangelical Christians in the United States to urge President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocate the U.S. Embassy to it.
Perhaps more significant than each of these isolated exceptional stories has been the cumulative effect of Christian support of Israel. Many have made modest donations to non-profit organizations, which provide humanitarian aid for elderly Holocaust survivors. Others have helped bring impoverished Jews from places around the world back to the Land of Israel where they can live free from anti-Semitic persecution. There are also those who have planted countless trees across the mountains of Israel. These consistent, small donations have blessed Israel in insurmountable ways, meeting critical needs of the land and the people of the land in the flourishing Jewish state, and amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
As a lawyer in Jerusalem, I have had the privilege of representing hundreds of such organizations, donors and investors over the years, and witnessing their tremendous positive impact on behalf of the Israeli people. Nonetheless, the winds of change are coming, and a significant paradigm shift is on the horizon for Christian-Israeli relations.
Israel’s Challenges Have Changed
First of all, the challenges of Israel have changed. The Christian supporters of the State of Israel can be very satisfied that their sacrificial contributions have paid off. The Jewish state is no longer an impoverished third-world immigrant nation which needs to ration its food resources in order to prevent widespread starvation. What was once a barren fallow land has blossomed into an ecological miracle, with the largest agricultural output per-capita in the world.
Israel has one of the lowest unemployment rates of any OECD country, which reached 3.8% in January 2019. It also has a robust government-funded social welfare system, which grants medical coverage, education, and a basic financial net for those unable to support themselves. Today it takes an average of 90 seconds for an Israeli emergency response vehicle, in Jerusalem or Tel-Aviv, to reach a citizen’s front door, following an emergency phone call. Compared to 8 minutes in London, or 9 minutes in New York City, Israeli paramedic teams are likely saving more lives on a daily basis than any other nation.
Rather than Israel being a struggling developing country, its booming economy has now been ranked, according to the 2019 Bloomberg Innovation Index, as the fifth most innovative country in the world. From the WAZE navigation system to WhatsApp, to real-time holograms guiding non-invasive medical surgeries, and face-detection security systems in airports, Israeli technologies are protecting and improving the quality of life for humanity across the globe.
Furthermore, the enemies of Israel no longer have any military advantage over her. As the prophet Isaiah wrote, “no weapon formed against you shall prosper.” We see this manifested through our sophisticated defense systems, such as the “Iron Dome.” It takes hundreds of rockets on average to create an Israeli casualty. Such statistics are unprecedented in modern warfare.
While Israel is thriving, we must also look at the challenges she faces today.
Boycott, Anti-Semitism, De-legitimization
The enemies of Israel, understanding that they will never defeat her militarily, have now resorted to the old methods of boycott, anti-Semitic propaganda, and de-legitimization, policies once promulgated by the Third Reich and the Ku Klux Klan. We should never underestimate such methods. Students on liberal academic campuses are being brainwashed with anti-Israel rhetoric, as “Israel Apartheid Week” events spread like wildfire across Europe and the United States. International bodies, such as the United Nations Human Rights Council and the European Parliament, continue to single out and apply unjust policies towards Israel, from the labeling of her products to encouraging a boycott against her companies. Sadly, this trend has emboldened fringe radical groups within Western societies, resulting in a sharp rise in violent anti-Semitic attacks against Jewish communities worldwide.
This phenomenon inspired me in 2017 to establish a new organization called ARISE – Alliance to Reinforce Israel’s Security and Economy, dedicated to forging and strengthening economic ties between Israel and her Christian allies worldwide. We will never overcome the boycott by boycotting the boycotters, but we can create platforms, which make doing business with Israel simple and easy for those motivated by faith to bless her. If Christians worldwide choose to purchase Israeli products, the boycott movement will become irrelevant.
At ARISE’s first annual business matchmaking summit, held in Tel-Aviv in November 2018, we hosted 550 business people from 46 different nations, in collaboration with the International Christian Chambers of Commerce and several other Evangelical business networks. The results were very encouraging. Through a sophisticated matchmaking program established in collaboration with the Israel Export Institute, each of our international participants had the opportunity to meet, face to face, Israeli businesspeople in their specific area of practice. Hundreds of business “speed-dating” meetings were held and tens of millions of dollars of commerce was created in one day. ARISE is looking forward to hosting over 1,000 business people from some 50 countries in Tel-Aviv on December 4, 2019. Anyone who is interested in participating is welcome to visit our website at www.ariseforisrael.com to register for the summit.
Every Person can Play a Part
It is clear, however, that the vast majority of Christian supporters of Israel, like the vast majority of people in any population, are not necessarily business owners or entrepreneurs. How then, can Christians support Israel, today, in the most strategic way possible? For those who already give to Israeli non-profit organizations, it is also possible to be more strategic in your support for Israel, without significantly increasing your budget.
When Israeli products, produced in Judea and Samaria, are labeled as such in your local grocery stores, you can buy them intentionally. When you have the need to buy a new household device, perhaps a desktop computer, kitchen appliance or garden tool, you can do some simple research online to find and purchase products from companies which do business in Israel or incorporate Israeli technologies into their products. You can intentionally buy products manufactured in Judea and Samaria.
Likewise, it is possible to be more strategic with your non-profit giving. They are many excellent non-profit organizations, today, which are focused on combatting boycott, anti-Semitism, and de-legitimization.
As the relationship between Christians who support Israel becomes less humanitarian and more strategic, it also becomes less patronizing and more reciprocal. Christian-owned businesses which purchase cutting edge Israeli products and technologies obtain an immediate advantage over their competitors in their local markets. Similarly, small households which purchase Israeli culinary products, such as wine and olive oil, can quickly inspire friends with these high quality goods.
When someone becomes a member of the alliance to reinforce Israel’s security and economy, by giving ongoing support to ARISE, approximately 10% of the donations are used to purchase products from small Israeli business vendors and then send these products in quarterly gift boxes to the donors. In this way, not only do donations to ARISE support large business matchmaking events, they directly support marginalized Israeli businesses that are under the threat of boycott. We are consistently told by our donors that a highlight of their family life is to stand around their kitchen table and open our gift boxes to see what new products have been sent to them from Israel.
Therefore, the new paradigm of the relationship between Christians and Israel is less humanitarian and more strategic; less patronizing and more reciprocal.
Blessed are the Peacemakers
I know that many Christians share my conviction that in order to support Israel, one should not be anti-Palestinian. Likewise, in order to support the Palestinians, one should not be anti-Israeli. We should always support solutions which improve the quality of life, peace, and security for both peoples on both sides of the conflict. This is in honor of the assertion that all human beings are created in the image of their Maker and thus have the highest inherent value in their lives.
Supporting the Israeli economy is also the most strategic way to advance peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians. Well over 100,000 Palestinians are employed, this very day, in Jewish businesses across Israel, Judea, and Samaria. Currently, some 70,000 Palestinians possess Israeli work permits, with experts estimating that tens of thousands more are employed illegally by Jewish citizens of Israel.
Approximately 30,000 Palestinians in this demographic are employed in Jewish-owned businesses throughout Judea and Samaria and are specifically targeted by boycott propaganda. These jobs alone provide approximately $300,000,000 in salaries to Palestinians per year.
Each salary earned by Palestinian workers supports an average of ten people, due to the traditional multi-generational families in Palestinian households who live in the same complex and provide for one another. In other words, the very businesses which the boycott movement would like to shut down, put food on the table for approximately 1,000,000 Palestinians every day.
Palestinian workers in West Bank enterprises are integrated throughout varying corporate ranks, from menial laborers to members of executive management, happily working together with their Jewish co-workers. Many of their employers grant academic scholarships to their children to study in Palestinian universities, and later hire them to work for the same companies. They drive to work each day with their children and work together with them in businesses that award them salaries five times higher than the average salary in the Palestinian Authority. These include pension payments and robust social rights. Furthermore, the money they earn each month is spent in local stores in their villages, where they purchase food and other basic goods necessary for their households. Boycott induced factory shut-downs or relocations to an area within the Green Line produce a devastating ripple effect for these Palestinians, their families, and their entire villages.
This happened in two well-known cases, the SodaStream factory and the Bagel-Bagel factory. They relocated to undisputed territories due to pressure from the boycott movement, all of the hundreds of Palestinian workers lost their jobs, and these same jobs were given to Israelis.
Each time this happens, Palestinians who lose their jobs are thrust into poverty. Their children become susceptible targets of the messaging of radical organizations, such as Hamas, which promise them utopian benefits for joining their ranks. This phenomena snuffs out the best hope for peaceful coexistence and is detrimental to Israel’s security.
By finding a way to connect to, and support, the Israeli economy, Christians can support Israel today in the most strategic way. This exchange will create immediate reciprocal blessings for their households, businesses and local economies, and will advance the greatest catalyst for peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians.