By Ellen Horowitz
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN, July 29, 2007
Now more than 30 evangelical leaders are stepping forward to say these efforts have given the wrong impression about the stance of many, if not most, American evangelicals.
On Friday, these leaders sent a letter to President Bush saying that both Israelis and Palestinians have â€œlegitimate rights stretching back for millennia to the lands of Israel/Palestine,â€ and that they support the creation of a Palestinian state â€œthat includes the vast majority of the West Bank.â€
They say that being a friend to Jews and to Israel â€œdoes not mean withholding criticism when it is warranted.â€ The letter adds, â€œBoth Israelis and Palestinians have committed violence and injustice against each other.â€
[..] Both sides have a lot to gain from a thaw. At a time when the evangelical leadership is seeking new outlets for influence, both domestically and abroad, it provides the possibility of an entree into the Arab world. For the representatives of the Arab-Muslim world, it offers the potential for improving relations with a previously hostile community as well as with Americans in general.
Hardly a monolithic group, theopolitical change could be in the air as evangelicals battle with their own dual loyalty issues. This is the reality:
a) Upcoming election year in America with Carter and Clinton joining forces to rally evangelical support for the other side.
Remember Â³The Year of the EvangelicalÂ² (Time Magazine) back in 1976 when born again Jimmy Carter was swept to power by evangelical Christians (and a lot Jews)?
And how Oslo facilitator Bill Clinton, garnered a staggering percentage of the Jewish Republican vote in 1992 by evoking his dying pastorÂ¹s warning of, “If you abandon Israel, God will never forgive you.”
b) A new generation of Falwells, Roberstons and Grahams seem to think a bit different than their daddys’ do or did
c) Irresistible missionary opportunities opening up in the Muslim world (Remember that was Benny Elon’s suggestion to them in 2004:
“Go from mosque to mosque and bring the Muslims into the light.”)
d) overall frustration and disgust with Israeli policies and corruption (why should they be different than us?)
Does Hagee have a handle on the real feelings and motivation of 60 – 100 million evangelicals as he claims?
Look at the change in attitude by celebrated Christian Radio Talk show host Janet Parshall who launched the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus back in 2004, and then withdrew her support a few months ago:
“The formulation of this caucus in the Knesset concretizes that relationship. And, in a very formal way, says there will now be the recognition of the work that Christians have done in support of Israel. That is a monolithic step forward! And it gives us, I think, an open door in
a more broad fashion to articulate our support for the nation of Israel.”
God didn’t wake up one morning and say, “I’ve changed my mind. I’ve now decided that the land no longer belongs to the chosen people.” If we get that directive from God, my politics will change.
“We can’t just blindly support Israel,” Parshall told a Christian news outlet. She said Israel should not tell evangelical believers, “We’ll take your aid, your support and your tourist dollars, but we won’t take your Jesus.” Christians should not have to “choose between the cross or Israel,” she said.
Now whose politics changed, G-d’s or Janet’s? Or did we Jews never really understand what Janet wanted in the first place?
Do we want direct Christian involvement in the Knesset? Do we want a large block of evangelicals on the Board of Governors of Likud? Do we want missionary rights protected in Israel under America’s first amendment and right to religious freedom legislation? Do we want a Judeo-Christian nation?
The relationship needs to be put in perspective, and like any alliance, we need an exit strategy in case of theopolitical changes.
Letter to the editor from Ellen Horowitz
SMOKE IN OUR EYES
July 29, 2007
Sir, – Rather than clarify a complex problem, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin throws more smoke in the eyes of both Jews and Christians (“In praise of Christian-Jewish interfaith dialogue,” June 24). By mowing down the fences which have been scrupulously used to preserve the unique faith of the Jewish people and maintain respectful connections with other faith communities, he has further obscured the “Who is a Jew” issue. This opens the door to Israeli Jewish assimilation into a globalized world – which, enticing as that may be, leads to disaster.
Rabbi Riskin’s historical arguments go back a mere 40-some years – surely shortsighted in light of a 2,000-year history among gentile nations which, in spite of being full of persecution and pogroms, was also characterized by golden ages of prosperity and periods of emancipation and
enlightenment. It can be argued that it was usually within these brief spans of camaraderie,
dialogue and cooperation that we Jews committed the errors that would help pave the way to periods of spiritual and/or physical destruction.
This is why great modern Orthodox rabbinical figures went to such great pains to safeguard our unique status by defining differences rather than seeking common denominators. It’s the quest for Jewish spiritual continuity rather than a fear of anti-Semitic eruptions that continues as the
driving force behind Torah-observant Judaism’s insistence on drawing clearly defined
theological lines between faiths.
I’m surprised Rabbi Riskin chose to largely ignore the rampant proselytizing in Israel by evangelical movements (whose raison d’etre is to evangelize), and the confusion this breeds among our youth. He certainly has the option to try and further Jewish-Christian relations with empathetic and impassioned evangelicals at a time when Israel’s position needs to be bolstered. But he leaves us no option to respectfully exit the relationship should it turn sour under ever-changing theopolitical realities.