Israelis should embrace Christian supporters instead of shunning them
This year 7,000 Zionist Christians from all over the world will once again march in Jerusalem to fulfill that which is written in the Book of Zechariah, whereby all nations will make pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the messianic era to celebrate Sukkot.
Their parade is the highlight of an ongoing effort to stand by our side for better or for worse, unconditionally and without receiving anything in return. On the contrary, they are grateful that we accept their outstretched hands. In the US, their ranks comprise tens of millions who are well organized and who have substantial political clout.
Their belief in the Bible is the key to this rare phenomenon of Christian love towards Israel, which is not anything new. Christian Zionism emerged in England 32 years prior to the “harbinger of Zionism” Moses Hess (author of Rome and Jerusalem.) The Earl of Shaftsbury (1853) saw “a land without a people,” which God allocated to the “people without a land.”
His contemporary, British Prime Minister Palmerston pressed the Turkish Sultan to encourage European Jewry to return to the Land of Israel. Author George Eliot called for the revival of the organic center of Jewish existence in the Land of Israel (in her novel Daniel Deronda) 20 years prior to the publication of the “Jewish Homeland.”
Herzl’s loyal follower, Reverend William Henry Hechler, partook in the Zionist congresses. Even Lord Balfour and his Prime Minister Lloyd George had religious motives. The latter said: I was taught a lot more about Jewish history than the history of my own people. Wingate (the “friend”) didn’t go anywhere without the Bible.
Yet despite this, the evangelist Christians are rejected by liberal Jews in the United States and by leftists in Israel who label them “rightists” and proponents of the notion of Greater Israel. Their Zionism is rejected with the hollow argument that it is premised on their faith that Jesus will only return after the Jewish people return to the Land of Israel.
This year, the Zionist Christians have also encountered opposition from the Chief Rabbinate, which banned Jews from participating in the convention and in their parade. The reasons: They lend the Jewish holiday of Sukkot a Christian character, and among the participants there are those suspected of engaging in missionary work.
Non-Jews wearing Star of David
Let’s think about this for a moment before we turn a supporter into an enemy, something we tend to excel at: The International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem that organizes the Sukkot events was founded in response to the international diplomatic boycott of Jerusalem and as a gesture of solidarity, not because of missionary work. Even the Rabbinate doesn’t maintain that the evangelist support is missionary in essence. And if there are those among them who exploit it, does that mean an entire movement should be rejected?
Indeed, they instill their own content into the Sukkot holiday. What is it that we are after? Shouldn’t Christians be Christians? Jews are not invited to their ceremonies, but only to the parade and the events at the Jerusalem International Convention Center where they are careful not to include any Christian ritual. What more could we ask for?
The contact with Christian Zionists is creating a reverse phenomenon: Churches in the American Midwest are waving the Israeli flag, non-Jews are wearing the Star of David, they are opening up to Jewish music and other Jewish symbols. The Bible is what creates the encounter between us, and according to Reverend John C. Hagee, they support Israel because it is a fundamental value of Christianity, see the Book of Genesis: “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
After 60 years of independence in our land, it’s time for a little more self confidence and fewer ghetto-like complexes. In an alienated world, with antisemitism rearing its head, how can we reject those who honestly seek our company, the sons of a movement that heralded our revival?
Welcome to our Sukkot, dear friends, may there be many more like you.