Intelligence allows for a change. That is why I am re-thinking my long-held reluctance to solicit, or even accept, moral, political and financial assistance from Evangelical Christians.
For years - dating back to my tenure as rabbi in Dallas, Texas, deep in the Bible Belt - I have been aware of the passionate feelings which "born-again" Christians have for Israel. I have watched them on TV selling tours to the Holy Land, attended their rallies, even served as keynote speaker at their annual "Salute to Israel" evening, which raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Jewish State and culminated in a rousing rendition of "Hatikva." It may have been the most Zionist experience of my life.
Yet at the same time, I have stayed at arms-length from these people, deeply suspicious of their motives, aware that many of them have a "hidden agenda."
Clearly, at least among some of their theologians, the support for Israel is directly linked to a belief that all Jews need to be gathered in one place - Israel - so that Jesus can eventually convert all of us en masse to Christianity. This, they reckon, will undo the great stigma that has forever stained Christianity: obstinate Jewish refusal to accept Jesus - himself a Jew - as the Messiah, son of God.
But several recent events have led me to a re-think. These events include massive financial support for Israel, including the funding of aliyah from the USA & Russia, and emergency assistance to terror victims; continued Christian tourism to the Holy Land even in the face of Palestinian violence - I have been on sold-out planes to Israel recently that could not even scrape up a minyan of Jews! - and marches on Washington to urge President Bush to maintain firm support for Israel despite intense international pressure to take up the Palestinian cause.
It is this kind of pro-Israel fervor that makes it so hard to turn away the Christian hand being extended to us at a time when so many others - including so-called "friends and allies" - have abandoned us in our moment of need, swallowing whole the lies and mistruths being maliciously spread about us.
While I am still nervous about seeing crosses intertwined with Jewish stars, and still "get the willies" when I hear Gospel choirs singing "Jerusalem of Gold," I may not have the luxury of being so particular when it comes to choosing friends.
Last week there was a massive "Prayer Summit" held in Dallas marking the 35th anniversary of Jerusalem's reunification. More than 4,000 Christians turned out to pray for Israel, to donate to terror victims, and to wildly cheer Mayor Ehud Olmert as he pledged to keep Jerusalem united, and to "win the war" against terror.
The evening was sponsored by one Michael Evans, director of the "Jerusalem Prayer Team" that claims to have 280 churches reciting regular prayers for Israel. This is the same Michael Evans who I debated back in 1978 in Texas, when he was a small-time, self-proclaimed evangelical "minister," seeking to convert our people to Christianity, where they could become "completed Jews."
I have no illusions that, in his heart of hearts, he still believes that only a Jew who accepts Jesus will "merit the kingdom of Heaven." But whatever his motives may be, he is trying to rally one million Christians to pray for Jerusalem and express support for Israel with both mouth and money. He, and others like him, are among the few non-Jews taking an outspoken stance in our favor, at a time when affinity to the Jewish State is hardly in vogue.
I'll watch my soul, and I suggest you watch yours. Meanwhile, I'll take all the friends I can get.The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra'anana.
©2002 - Jerusalem Post