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Are American Christians really our friends?
We must be wary of those intolerant people who use their religion to look down upon and be intolerant of others
On Sunday I went to what was for me a very unusual celebration. It was a group of Christians—three thousand of them to be precise—celebrating Israel’s 60th anniversary. Besides for a few Jewish speakers the entire celebration was organized by gentiles. There were Goyim singing traditional Israeli songs in Hebrew, as well as a beautiful show that included a theatrical presentation of actors dressed in traditional Chassidic garb and dancing as if they were from the shtetl of Eastern Europe.

 

However, what really moved me was the outpouring of love that these gentiles had for the Jewish people and for the State of Israel. Now there is no doubt that some Christians have dubious and troubling reasons for supporting Israel.

 

However, it would be wrong to paint all Christian philosemites and supporters of Israel with the same brush. The Christians that I met at the celebration on Sunday supported Israel because they had a love for the Jewish people. These were believers in the Bible—including the Hebrew Bible that we call "the Tanach"—who subscribe to the idea that G-d chose the Jews and therefore see loving Jews as part of what G-d demands from them.

 

Many academics rightly point out, however, that the root of modern day anti-Semitism is found in the New Testament and throughout the centuries we have suffered terribly at the hands of devout Christians. It is therefore legitimate to doubt whether it is possible for people who see that same book as their inspiration to really love and care for Jews.

 

History, however, provides us with the answer. Contemporary anti-Semitism comes primarily from the Muslim world that often uses the Koran to encourage Jew-hatred. This was not always the case. Abd-ar-Rahman III (889-961), the great Caliph of Cordoba Spain, was a devout Muslim and also a very tolerant man and a good friend of the Jews. And according to many sources he learned his tolerance for other religions from the same Koran that Osama Bin Laden and Hamas learn Jew-hatred from.

 

Millions of good people

So how does it work? The answer is that good people will study their holy books and only see goodness and love within its pages. Evil people, conversely, will see, within the same book, a mandate to, hate, murder and terrorize. The point is clear; it is not the book that makes the people good or evil. Rather good people will use their religious books for good whilst evil people will use that same book to legitimize and further their reprehensible desires and evil ideas.

 

Fortunately there are millions of good people in the US, many of whom are Christian. The fact that they support Israel and promote positive, good, tolerant and decent values reflects positively on the morals and decency of the American people rather than on Christianity itself.

 

So are American Christians really our friends? Some are and some are not. We must be wary of those intolerant people who use their religion to look down upon and be intolerant of others. However, we must also be welcoming of those fundamentally good people who care for what is good and right no matter which religion they believe in or from what part of the world they come. The privilege of spending an afternoon amongst such people was both inspiring and moving, and it is not an experience I will forget easily.

 

Rabbi Levi Brackman is executive director of Judaism in the Foothills , and is the author of "Jewish Wisdom for Business Success"

 

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