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Sexy or Not?: In Bed With Jews and Evangelicals

As indicated by this article in today's Jerusalem Post, the verdict is not out on whether Jews (both in and outside of Israel) should embrace the Evangelical community's growing support for Israel. But with the fairly recent establishment of Knesset's Christian … Read More

By / May 10, 2007

As indicated by this article in today's Jerusalem Post, the verdict is not out on whether Jews (both in and outside of Israel) should embrace the Evangelical community's growing support for Israel. But with the fairly recent establishment of Knesset's Christian Allies Caucus, a cross-party parliamentary caucus that works with Christian friends of Israel all over the world, even the State of Israel itself is, for better or worse, warming up to the possibility that Jews and Israel could benefit from the support of a group as large and loud as the Evangelicals.

The increasingly influential parliamentary lobby, which is made up of 12 Knesset members from seven political parties across the political spectrum, has come to epitomize Israel's newfound interest in garnering the support of the Christian world, especially the largely pro-Israel Evangelicals.

In some ways it's simply an issue of whether or not the ends justify the means. Do we overlook Evangelicals' literalist readings of the bible that see Jews and Israel as tools to usher in Armageddon in order to benefit from their support in the meantime? Should we close our eyes to their tenacious tendency to want to proselytize others? I'm just not sure what the answer is.

[Likud MK Gilad] Erdan said an alliance between Jews and Christians was absolutely critical in the war against Islamic extremism.

"If there is a chance to overcome the forces of Islamic extremism, it is by making them see that they have no chance of success, through an increasingly flourishing relationship between Christians and Jews," he said.

With the Evangelicals," continues Erdan, "we have common, shared Bible-based beliefs, and there is no need to convince them at the core." Right — many shared beliefs, except when it comes to that whole thing about the Messiah. But that's neither here nor there.

Of course, it's impossible to have this conversation without referring to John Hagee (who recently said that the Jews are to blame for the Holocaust), an influential evangelical leader from Texas who founded the national lobbying group "Christians United for Israel."

Hagee's fundraising events have, to date, raised more than $10 million for charitable causes in Israel. Now, this can't be a bad thing, right? According to an article in The Forward:

The funds sometimes flow directly into the coffers of the Jewish federations. This past summer, when philanthropic efforts were focused on raising wartime aid for Israel’s embattled northern region, $1 million of the money raised in San Antonio was donated to the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston for the Israel Emergency Campaign.

Another $3 million went to an orphanage in the Galilee, and $1 million was donated to Nefesh B’Nefesh, an Israeli not-for-profit organization that helps Jews settle in Israel. Hagee and his wife, Diana, were recognized by the national body of federations, United Jewish Communities, as “honorary chairs” of the $350 million emergency campaign.

I think this is awesome. Charity is charity, right? But one wonders what the trade-off here will be — not to mention the creepy presence of Jerry Falwell on the board of Hagee's organization.

Critics complain that Hagee’s hawkish, biblically based views on Israel do not serve the Jewish state, and that his conservative domestic agenda — including opposition to gay marriage, abortion and immigration — is squarely at odds with the liberal views of most American Jews.

“I don’t like that they would not like to see Israel trade land for peace, because in my view that’s a very important formula,” said Rabbi Jonathan Biatch of Temple Beth El in Madison, Wis. “The real bottom line is the fact that this organization would like to exacerbate tensions in the Middle East so it will lead to Armageddon.”

And, on a final note . . .

“To get in bed with the hard Christian right on Israel is a dangerous path,” said Daniel Sokatch, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Progressive Jewish Alliance. “This is a hard-driving, extremely smart and successful movement to essentially recast the U.S. as a Christian nation, and if Jews don’t think that empowering that group in American foreign policy isn’t part and parcel of empowering that group on domestic policy, they’re wrong.”

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