July 21, 2011
Surrounded by Christians who love Israel
The Christians United for Israel dinner in Washington, DC was an experience I won’t quickly forget. Until you sit in a room with five thousand Christian lovers of Israel and absorb their enthusiasm for the Jewish state and the Jewish people you would be hard pressed to think it possible. But there I was, surrounded by Christians from all over the nation waving Israeli and American flags, pledging eternal love and support to the most vilified country on earth. The speeches came fast and furious. The statements bold and unapologetic. Israel must never trade land for peace. Every attempt to do so has led to terror bases for Hamas and Hezbollah. Israel is one of the freest and most democratic nations on earth. President Obama better stop pressuring Israel or pay for it at the polls. Iran is an existential threat to both Israel and the United States. Those who treat the Jews poorly are abandoned by G-d, as history has shown time and again. The American University campus has become a hub of anti-Israel hatred. We’re deploying our legions to fight it.
Sheesh. I could scarcely sit down. Nearly every line deserved an ovation.
The crowd was anything but monolithic. The head of CUFI’s campus operations is a young African-American student who pledged his life to fighting for Israel. Shades of all colors were to be found in the audience with a smattering of yarmulkes dotting the landscape as well. Glenn Beck, the keynote speaker, is a Mormon even though the vast majority of participants were evangelical Christians who are often suspicious of Mormonism. An orthodox Rabbi gave the opening benediction. My friend Dennis Prager addressed the crowd the night before the banquet, and my friend Michael Oren, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, gave a moving historical account of Christians over the last century who were moved to support Israel based on Biblical teaching. Israeli music filled the room, sung by Christians from Texas whom I could swear sounded indistinguishable from musical acts from Tel Aviv. “I am an Israeli,” declared CUFI founder Pastor John Hagee, swearing to forever defend Israel against attack at the risk of life and limb. “It’s not only the support we offer Israel,” said Beck, “that matters. The reason for doing so is also important. We can’t do this because we think it will bring final salvation or for any other reason. Rather, it’s about love. Why did Ruth declare to Naomi, “Where you go I’ll go. You’re G-d is my G-d. Where you die I’ll die, and there I’ll be buried. Because she loved her. This has to be about love.” His words directly addressed the discomfort some Jews feel with Christian support for Israel as being based on end-of-days prophecy and a necessary precursor for the return of Christ.
I sat there thinking, if only the Jewish community could offer such unequivocal support for Israel…
Evangelical Christians have emerged as Israel’s most stalwart backers. They have been at the forefront of calling out President Obama for his pressure on Israel to make concessions while requiring little if anything of the Palestinians. While many Jews made peace with President Obama’s reference to Israel’s 1967 borders, evangelicals have refused to give an inch.
In December of this year I will G-d willing be publishing my book, “Kosher Jesus,” through Gefen Publishers in Israel. It has been a project of more than six years research and writing. The book seeks to offer to Jews and Christians the real story of Jesus, a wholly observant, Pharisaic Rabbi who fought Roman paganism and oppression and was killed for it. While many Christians will be confused by its assertion that Jesus never claimed divinity and not only did not abrogate the Torah but observed every letter of the Law, they will find comfort in my tracing most of Jesus’ principal teachings back to Jewish sources, this before he was stripped of his Jewishness by later writers who sought to portray him as an enemy of his people. This is especially true of Jesus’ most famous oration, the Sermon on the Mount, which is a reformulation of the Torah he studied and to which he was committed. A small sampling:
Jesus: (Matt 5:5) Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Jesus: (Matt 5:8) Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see G-d.
Jesus: (Matt 5:39) But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Jesus: (Matt 6:33) But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.
Jesus: (Matt 7:7) Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.
Jesus: (Matt 7:23) Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.”
But the book is also for Jews who remain deeply uncomfortable with Jesus because of the Church’s long history of anti-Semitism, the deification of Jesus, and the Jewish rejection of any Messiah who has not fulfilled the Messianic prophecies. We Jews will forever reject the divinity of any man, the single most emphatic prohibition of our Bible. And we can never accept the Messiahship of any personality, however noble or well-intended, who died without ushering in the age of physical redemption. But as Christians and Jews now come together to love and support the majestic and humane Jewish state, it’s time that Christians rediscover the deep Jewishness and religious Jewish commitment of Jesus, while Jews reexamine a lost son who was murdered by a brutal Roman state who sought to impose Roman culture and rule upon a tiny yet stubborn nation who will never be severed from their eternal covenant with the G-d of Israel.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, founder of This World: The Values Network, was the London Times Preacher of the Year at the Millennium and is winner of the American Jewish Press Association’s Highest Award for Excellence in Commentary. The best-selling author of 25 books, Newsweek calls him ‘the most famous Rabbi in America.’ Follow him Twitter @RabbiShmuley.