Does Israel need Christian help? It’s an old dilemma, as devout Protestants were advocating the restoration of a Jewish State with Jerusalem as its capital long before Theodor Herzl. Moreover, Anglicans of the 19th Century played a central role in the process that led to the State of Israel’s establishment of.
The question about pro-Israel Christian activism cyclically surfaces in Israel and in the US public debate. Now the focus is on Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, because his Mormon Church is charged with baptizing dead Jews, a rite that has been a Mormon practice for more than a century. Meanwhile, the latest Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s top 10 anti-Semitic slurs list features two Christian priests from Syria and the US.
The current Christian arena is divided among the liberal Protestant churches - like the United Church of Christ attended by US President Obama - which are prominently anti-Israel; the Vatican, which embraced a new aggressiveness against Israel; the US Evangelicals, which are the most pro-Israel, and some independent Protestant groups, like the Christians for Israel.
In the last decade, US Christians invested millions of dollars in school equipment, playgrounds, medical supplies and bulletproof buses to protect the Jews in Judea and Samaria, while other groups, such as Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, raised money to protect Sderot’s residents from Hamas’ rockets.
The contempt for Evangelicals shown by US Jewish leaders, like Anti-Defamation League Director Abraham Foxman, is motivated by the doctrine that sees Israel as having a special role in the final earthly battle in the “End of Days” during which most Jews are wiped out and the rest embrace Jesus. But it seems that most Evangelical leaders rejected this theology.
Indeed, it is true that some Evangelicals did not show a real tendency to curtail their missionary activities among Israeli Jews, which cannot forget 2,000 years of Christian anti-Semitism (burning of Talmud, Crusaders, Inquisitions, blood libels and pogroms.) But to label all pro-Israel Christians as “missionaries”, as haredi group Yad L’Achim is saying, is not accurate.
Certainly, some US Evangelicals would like to convert Jews, and Israel must fight them. However, the vast majority simply wants to bless Israel because that is what they believe is the right thing to do. The origins of Christian support can be traced back to the Gutenberg press (1456), which popularized ideas of “The Promised Land” and “The Chosen People.”
The hostility toward Israel encouraged by liberal Christians, such as the World Council of Churches and the Vatican, poses a much greater near-term threat to Jews than anything the evangelicals espouse. Last week, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales offered the Palestinians a powerful tool of propaganda: The comparison with Jesus’ passion.
“We are to be freshly attentive to the needs of those who, like Jesus himself, are displaced and in discomfort, a shadow falls particularly heavily on the town of Bethlehem tonight,” Archbishop Vincent Nichols said during his Christmas Mass sermon at Westminster Cathedral. This propaganda is much more dangerous for Israel than the pro-Israel fever of the US Evangelicals.
Israel’s leaders urgently need to set up a moral platform rejecting the “Judeo-Christian” blend, which theologically fuses Jews and Christians together without protecting the Jewish faith and maintaining Israel as an independent single-faith Jewish community. But the Bible teaches also that if there is the “gentile” who is jealous and aggressive (Amalek), there is also a “Righteous gentile” who is admiring and willing to help (Jethro.)
Israel will continue to struggle against Amalek-like governments and groups that utilize terror against innocent citizens, but it will be blessed by establishing Jethro-like partnerships with those who recognize the unique role and place of the Jews and Israel in this world.
Giulio Meotti, a journalist with Il Foglio, is the author of the book “A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel's Victims of Terrorism”