Jewish Journal


May 31, 2007

Evangelical Skeptic


Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz

Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz

If there's one subject that can spark a juicy debate among lovers of Israel, it is what to do with these millions of Jesus-loving evangelical Christians who love Israel to death.

Personally, I'm blinded by how everybody picks on Israel, which makes me desperate to find anyone who will help defend her.

Is there a country in the world that gets picked on more than Israel? Have you seen those polls in Europe that make Israel the "world's most dangerous" country, or the U.N. resolutions and widespread calls for boycotts that make Israel look worse than genocidal regimes?

And don't get me started about real existential threats, like that Iranian desperado who won't even wear a tie to announce his intention to nuke the Zionist state.

So while Israel is under siege, here comes this global cavalry of about 100 million evangelical Christians ready to defend her to the end. And I'm supposed to get all picky about my friends? I'm sure that Christian Zionists would love us all to believe in their messiah, and they wouldn't mind having the Ten Commandments scrolling across the bottom of every TV channel 24 hours a day. And I know they have this belief called Armageddon that pretty much guarantees a continued confrontation between Jews and Arabs.

But I'll take all that in return for unconditional love.

Ten million Jewish liberals can demonstrate tomorrow against their intolerant social policies, and the Christian Zionists will still raise millions for Israel. You can't buy that kind of love. As far as guaranteeing a confrontation with the Arabs, they were beaten to the punch -- by the Arabs themselves. Does anyone think that if the evangelicals believed in Peacemageddon, instead of Armageddon, this would reduce the widespread Arab animosity toward Israel?

As much as their love for Israel is unconditional, so is the hatred for Israel.

In a time of war, there's nothing like old-fashioned, die-hard loyalty to counteract the kind of enemy that would proudly murder hundreds of innocent Jewish children in Sderot -- if only they could get their hands on more accurate bombs.

So when I see all these pro-Israel evangelicals, how do I not offer these people a drink?

Well, I met a rabbi in the hood the other night who doesn't think I should. Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz has been a fixture of the Pico-Robertson neighborhood for more than 20 years. With his group, Jews for Judaism, he spends his days fighting the efforts of Christian groups who want to convert Jews.

I've known him for a long time, and he always seems to be on an emergency trip to "de-program" a Jewish kid who fell under the missionary spell. He says missionaries have spent hundreds of millions to convert Jews and too often succeed.

His specialty is deception. He can go on for hours -- and over dinner at Shilos, he did -- on the deceptive techniques used to lure unsuspecting Jews: distortion of biblical passages, use of Jewish symbols and rituals, phony friendliness, etc. In the last few years his alarm bells have been ringing a bit louder, because he sees evangelicals as using the lure of all lures to try to convert Jews: The Jewish weakness for Israel.

He knows we've all heard these accusations before, but with his inside knowledge, it has a different ring. He quotes Joe Dean, founder of an American Christian-Zionist organization: "By standing with the Jewish people in love and support, we can provoke them to jealousy, as the Apostle Paul said, so as to win them to Christ. Not by cramming the gospel down their throats, but by showing that our faith produces faithful works. By taking this stand, the Jewish people don't run away from us, and we are able to witness to them indirectly."

When he sees Israel lovers like me fawn over events like the recent Evangelical Prayer Banquet in Beverly Hills, it makes him cringe. He says that one of the Christian organizers, Jack Hayford, a legendary Israel lover, even revealed at the banquet that he believes in the deceptive proselytizing argument used by Jews for Jesus that a Jew can be Christian and Jewish at the same time.

He quotes an e-mail from a spokesperson for one of the most prominent Christian Zionist groups, the John Hagee Ministries: "Keep in mind that God has 'blinded the eyes' of the Jews and hardened their hearts for having denied Christ. Pastor [Hagee] believes that one-on-one witnessing is more effective than targeting the nation as a whole."

The rabbi's bottom line is that "evangelicals have a mandate to convert Jews ... more than 300,000 have converted to Messianic Christianity, including 15,000 Israelis."

He calls it "a monumental crisis threatening Jewish survival."

Perhaps realizing the extent of his alarmist views, the rabbi reassured me that he wasn't advocating rejecting Christian support for Israel. But if we're going to open our Zionist hearts to them, we better also open our Jewish eyes -- and watch our Jewish backs.

As I witnessed this one man's passion for Jews and Judaism, I couldn't help thinking that he was in the same boat as the evangelicals he's up against: They're both eager to help Israel, but there's something that matters to them even more -- Jewish souls.

What's scary is that in the competition for these souls -- especially the vulnerable ones -- the rabbi wasn't sure who had the advantage.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine and Meals4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.

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