I was not blessed with the opportunity of being born into a Jewish home, so I will never fully understand what it means to be Jewish or to be Israeli. I acknowledge I will never be able to walk that path.
But where I grew up, the rabbi, a Holocaust survivor, opened the synagogue to people of all faiths. He taught classes for non-Jews so we could learn the Torah and Jewish history from a source he could trust - himself. We had the opportunity of being good Christians and yet learning the Law and Prophets from those who have preserved it.
In return, the doors of Christian churches opened to their Jewish neighbors. We attended important events in each others' lives, regardless of differences. We danced at each others' dances and wept at each others' funerals. And when the rabbi's home was threatened, armed Christians guarded it. He did not ask; they chose to protect their neighbor.
Never to my knowledge did anyone attempt to convert anyone to any religious path other than the one they were already on. We walked our separate paths, but we walked together, hand-in-hand, helping each other along our separate but united ways.
As a young adult I ventured into the world and discovered the world was not like the city of my youth. Suspicion, mistrust, misinformation, and a non-forgiving of past un-Christian and un-Jewish acts had closed doors to houses of worship. Raised in a community of Equals, I was shocked to be turned away from a 'community dance' because I was not Jewish.
When I was eight years old I made a childhood promise to visit Israel - to walk the paths of the great Patriarchs and Kings; to see the places Jesus taught; to see the country built up by a modern people led by my childhood heroes David Ben Gurion and Golda Meir. My father's advice was to read and learn the history of each place so I would know what I was looking at when I got there.
Thirty-five years later, as a member of the U.S. Air Force, I twice found myself working alongside members of the Israeli Defense Force in joint military exercises - and touring the country on our off-duty time. My father's advice served me well as I was even able to teach some of the Israelis about the places we saw. One of the most sacred moments was looking up at the Mount of Olives while reading the words of the prophet Zechariah concerning the coming of the Messiah. There was no arguing; only a friendly challenge to meet when the Messiah came to see who was right all along.
So - what am I getting at?
I am a Christian who loves and respects a Book, a People, and a Country - something taught to me from birth. I know I will always be an outsider, but I will still be there - writing letters to the leaders of my country and chastising them when they aren't good to Israel; publicly defending Israel in political debates and Judaism in religious debates; and taking my place in public rallies in the defense of Israel and my friends. And standing guard if a neighboring rabbi's home is threatened.
And this is more than many American Jews are willing to do! This is more than some Israelis are willing to do!
So imagine my surprise when I read the writings of a rising star in the Israeli political sky, only to discover I am no better than a Nazi because the Almighty chose to have me born into a Christian home. Imagine my shock to discover how many people agree with this man!
There is no denying the ugly fact that there has been much persecution of Jews at the hands of Christians. But I am not one of them, and neither is my father or my father's father. I will not accept this burden on behalf of all Christianity; nor will I have it put upon me.
My people helped establish Rhode Island as the first U.S. colony with religious freedom, and they helped build the first synagogue on this continent.
My people helped a Jewish colony in the western U.S. learn farming as they had all been city folk before moving west. My people sang in choirs for the Holy Days as there weren't enough Jews to make the choir their rabbi hoped for.
The persecution of Jews at the hands of Christians - past or present - is someone else's burden; not mine. I have been taught better by too many generations of Christian ancestors.
There are Christians who don't think Jewish prayers are heard by G-d, but I am not one of them - I have seen and felt the results of the prayers of my Jewish friends on my behalf.
There are Christians who feel they must convert all Jews to their religion, but I am not one of them. The Torah makes it clear the Jewish People have a significant role to play in the future of this world - a role they could not carry out if they were all suddenly Christian. I am convinced the Almighty has a reason for both Jews and Christians to be carrying out some portion of His plan. I also believe He would like to see us working together in doing so.
I wish I could go back to the city of my birth and visit the rabbi who opened his arms to his Christian neighbors and single-handedly made equals out of everyone. I wonder if he would consider the Christians who guarded his house at night to be no better than the Nazis who guarded the barracks of his youth? But I know what the rabbi would say, because he is the one who showed me that when Jesus taught the "Two Great Commandments", that of loving G-d and loving our neighbor, he was merely quoting the Torah.
I will never be able to walk the path of a good Jewish life. But I know our separate paths can run parallel and very close to each other - close enough that we can walk together as friends and supporters. And most of all - as Equals. I miss the days when we did this.
Bruce T. Forbes is a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force as a Communications Specialist and currently works for Qwest Communications. He is an award-winning author of poetry, lyrics, and children's short stories, has been a Christian children's Sunday School teacher for 18 years and currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. - email@example.com
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