The deadly April 27 attack on the Chabad of Poway synagogue in California was particularly jarring for our Shadow Mountain Church Community. Our congregation is a half hour from the synagogue, and our proudly Zionist church cherishes the Jews in our community, in Israel and around the world.
This has generally been our history in the United States since the first 23 Jewish immigrants landed in New Amsterdam (now New York City) in 1654.
Space prevents me from retelling the entire story of the mutual affection expressed between a Jewish congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, and the newly elected President George Washington.
But after a visit to Newport, President Washington wrote to the congregation: “May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while everyone shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
What I’m about to say is a dramatic statement, but not an overstatement. I believe America’s future, and any nation’s future, depends in large part on one simple factor: our relationship to the tiny nation of Israel.
You may be wondering whether my thinking is upside down. America is the world’s greatest superpower with a population of nearly 329 million; Israel is a tiny sliver of land accommodating only about 9 million people. One would think that America is the key to Israel’s survival, not the other way around.
But I’m an unapologetic believer in the promises God has laid out in Scripture. He tells us in Genesis 12:3, speaking to Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you.” And God has a perfect track record for keeping His promises.
Meanwhile, today a number of elected U.S. politicians openly voice their opposition to the “Children of the Stock of Abraham.”
The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign has also gained a disturbing level of popularity in America, from college campuses to Capitol Hill.
Proponents claim to be holding Israel accountable for alleged human rights violations. Yet in reality, we know the BDS movement is merely a cover for a deep-seated, centuries-long hatred of Israel and the Jewish people.
Many U.S. politicians have publicly supported the BDS movement, or at least are too scared to criticize it. Fortunately some – including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., – have been courageous enough to confront members of their own party on this dangerous movement.
America is not the only nation in Western civilization to have politicians making poor choices regarding Israel and her descendants.
In Great Britain, there’s been a dramatic rise in anti-Semitic rhetoric, especially within Britain’s Labour Party, which has been the traditional home for most Jewish voters. And all of this is taking place on a continent that should mind some extra caution, given its history with anti-Semitism.
We all know where intolerance can lead if left unchecked, and that oppression and opposition to Jews is nothing new.
That being said, whether or not our politicians, professors and pundits leave Israel alone, I’ve got a feeling that Israel is going to be just fine.
After originally reaching their promised homeland, the people of the young nation were continually attacked by hostile tribes and other nations.
In 722 B.C. the Assyrians conquered northern Israel and deported its people. In 586 B.C. Babylon conquered southern Israel and exiled its citizens. The Jews returned to their homeland 70 years later, but the Romans finally crushed them in A.D. 70, leaving them without a country for 1,878 years.
In the countries of their exile, the Jews were oppressed, denied rights, isolated in ghettos and persecuted.
In 1933, there were 9 million Jews living throughout Europe, but by 1945 two out of three European Jews had been gassed, beaten, starved to death or died of disease in Nazi concentration camps. The Holocaust led to the elimination of one-third of the world’s Jewish population.
Since 1948 and the establishment of the modern state of Israel – despite being hemmed in on all sides by hostile nations and against all odds or human logic – Israel has survived all-out war and constant threats of terrorism.
Israel has been forced to maintain a continual state of warfare throughout its 71 years of existence. Yet increasingly, the international media portray Israel as an aggressor nation, an occupying force, a brutal regime afflicting poor and disenfranchised Palestinians who have had their land stolen out from under them.
Indeed, many among the Palestinians genuinely want a peaceful resolution to the current conflict. But a Palestinian nationalism continues to thrive with its singular fixation: the death of Israel. The Palestinian leaders pay stipends to terrorists and their families who kill Israelis, financed in part by the Israel-hating and America-hating regime of Iran.
Modern Israel has mainly been surrounded by enemies who do not recognize its right to exist and openly vow to annihilate it. These nations occupy a land mass of more than 5 million square miles. Tiny Israel occupies a land mass of almost 9,000 square miles.
In some parts of Israel, herding one’s family to a bomb shelter is an almost routine experience. But when Israelis take the tough but necessary measures to defend themselves, they are slammed by world censure by the likes of the United Nations.
The problem seems to be that many in the West won’t admit that Israel is in a fight for its very survival. Yet the story of the Jews is not over yet.
In spite of overwhelming odds and seemingly insurmountable challenges, the Jewish people have maintained Israel’s position as the only true democracy in the Middle East and the epicenter of progress in their region of the world.
As Professor Amnon Rubinstein has noted, Israel “has turned itself from a poor, rural country to an industrial and post-industrial powerhouse. . . . It has reduced social, educational and health gaps . . . between Arabs and Jews. Some of its achievements are unprecedented: Israeli Arabs have a higher life expectancy than European whites.”
My hope is that world leaders today will change their tune and will extend the same goodwill that George Washington sought for the Jewish people centuries ago.