Thursday, May 3, 2007

Christians and Jews together on Israel

The Forward has a biting piece tomorrow about the newfound friendship between "John Hagee, the firebrand evangelical Christian minister from San Antonio, Texas," who stole the show at Aipac's convention in March, and a growing number of Jewish federations:

“If you search through Jewish stories around the U.S., a lot of us have pieces of personal memory where non-Jews were there for us — not because they had a hidden agenda, but because they believed it was the right thing to do,” said Michal Kohane, the Israeli-born executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Sacramento Region. “There is a strong aspect of CUFI in which they are the descendants of that ideological concept.”

Just as liberals have criticized Aipac for giving Hagee the dais, they are now speaking out against the pastor’s grass-roots fundraising dinners. Most recently, a Democratic congresswoman from Minnesota, Betty McCollum, declined an invitation to attend an April 29 “Night To Honor Israel” in Brooklyn Park, a suburb of Minneapolis, citing what she called “Hagee’s extremism, bigotry and intolerance.”

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.”

Evangelicals and Jews have had an unusual alliance over Israel for years -- from the Israel-Christian Nexus, which I encountered at the Israel Independence Day Festival at Woodley Park last Sunday, to the Jerusalem Prayer Banquet being held in Beverly Hills on May 17, which will bring together Pat Boone and Ehud Danoch, among others.

This morning, one of my colleagues asked me why some Christians fervently support Israel. Last November, the New York Times attempted to answer that question under the headline, For Evangelicals, Supporting Israel Is ‘God’s Foreign Policy’.

In short, Christians with a certain reading of the book of Revelation -- theologians call them premillennialists -- believe Christ's 1,000-year reign on Earth, before he takes his children home, will not occur until Israel has been restored to the Jews. (This was a premise of the "Left Behind" book series.)

1 comment:

karim said...

It may be true that opposition to gay marriage, abortion and immigration is squarely at odds with the liberal views of most American Jews, but support for Israeli radical right-wing policies, support for the 40-years old occupation, support for the inhumane treatment of the occupied Palestinians is also squarely at ods with LIBERAL thinking.

It is easy to blame the evangelicals while ignoring radical AIPAC supporters.