By Abbie Wolf
Bus bombings. Jews in synagogues, stabbed mid-prayer. The discovery of an underground city of tunnels running from Gaza into Israel, dug (and lined with donated cement) for the sole purpose of terror attacks. Governments exterminating their citizens by the tens of thousands in Syria, Iraq, and Nigeria — but the United Nations opens an inquiry into war crimes in Gaza.
It’s clear that much of the world doesn’t believe Israel has the right to defend itself against the millions who wish for its annihilation. In a tumultuous, dangerous world like this, Israel needs as many friends as possible.
But, what happens when these friends come with a figurative price tag? In the case of Christian Zionism, do the positives outweigh the negatives, or is it the other way around?
The Community Relations Committee has scheduled a program this month to address this very question. David Brog, the national executive director of Christians United for Israel, will speak and answer questions beginning at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 25 at the Gordon Jewish Community Center.
While Israel benefits from Christian Zionism, some members of the Jewish community have a host of questions about this fervent support. Some find the gamut of views advocated by Christian Zionists to be disquieting.
So what are some of the concerns about Christian Zionism? One is a distrust of the motives behind their support. What’s the catch, we wonder? What will they ask of us, and when? Is there an expectation of quid pro quo? If it’s support for their domestic agenda they seek, that would be challenging. For example, on many issues like maintaining a strong wall between church and state, we tend to part ways.
Another concern is that Christian support of Israel comes at the expense of our ultimate survival as a people. We fear their support is grounded in Christian biblical prophecy. If their support for Israel is based on their belief that the ingathering of Jews in Israel is a prerequisite for the End of Days, where does that ultimately leave the Jewish people? Further, many believe we must exercise caution in dealing with Messianic Jews – Christians who consider Jews who haven’t accepted Jesus to be “incomplete.”
Still others in our community feel that Christian support for Israel comes at the expense of the Muslim community, both here and abroad. Some Christian Zionists’ views are strongly rooted in the belief that there are no moderate Muslims and that Islam is a faith rooted in violence. This broad-brushing of Islam doesn’t consider Muslims who want nothing more than peace for their families and communities.
Every one of these concerns is compelling and none should be summarily dismissed. However, it’s important to look at the other perspective as well. The Christian Zionist movement has pumped millions, perhaps billions, of dollars into Israel. They visit Israel in droves – and they keep going, undeterred by the terrorism that keeps many others away. These dollars – both donated and spent as tourists – aid Israel in numerous ways. In fact, many of the donations given by groups like CUFI support the very same projects the Jewish Federation funds such as aliya and absorption.
And the assistance doesn’t stop with financial contributions. Groups like CUFI represent massive voting blocs and wield considerable power to lobby our elected officials. The political capital they expend certainly furthers the pro-Israel legislative agenda. Some might say if Israel is losing in the court of political opinion and becoming further politically isolated, it’s important the U.S. Congress continues to advocate for Israel in a world less and less supportive of Israel’s right to exist.
Are you feeling conflicted? You’re not alone. That’s why you’re invited to hear Brog, who will explain what Christian Zionists truly believe and what motivates them to be so pro-Israel. Not only is this an educational opportunity, it’s also a rare chance to ask questions of (and share concerns with) someone who has the ear of much of Congress.
Please RSVP to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 354-1637. I hope to see you there. •
Abbie Wolf is the director of community relations for the Nashville Jewish Federation. She also staffs the Community Relations Committee (CRC), which presents programs throughout the year on important issues for the Jewish community.