Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has reiterated that he won’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and he’s claiming support for that position from an unlikely quarter: former U.S. President Harry Truman. But a closer look reveals that Truman’s words are being misrepresented.
In a Feb. 3 interview with the New York Times, Abbas was asked about recognizing Israel as a Jewish state—something both the Israeli government and President Barack Obama have said the Palestinian Authority needs to do.
“This is out of the question,” Abbas said.
To justify that position, Abbas handed the Times interviewer a packet of documents, the first of which was a statement by Truman from 1948 in which the words “Jewish state” were crossed out and replaced by “state of Israel.”
Someone who didn’t know better might think Abbas had scored a point. But in fact, the document in question does not provide evidence of American opposition to a Jewish state.
Here’s how that cross-out came about.
On May 15, 1948, just before David Ben-Gurion announced the establishment of the state of Israel, Truman decided he would extend U.S. recognition to the state as soon as it was proclaimed. A senior aide to the president, Clark Clifford, telephoned Eliahu Epstein (Elath), who was the state-to-be’s chief representative in Washington. Clifford told Elath to submit a formal request for recognition as soon as possible.
Elath wrote up the request during the minutes before the state was proclaimed. He did not yet know what its name would be. So he typed “the Jewish state.” He gave the document to his assistant, Zvi Zinder, who ran outside to get a taxi to the White House.
Moments after Zinder left, Elath’s secretary rushed in to say she had just heard on their shortwave radio that the state had been declared, and it would be called the state of Israel. Elath sent his secretary after Zinder and caught up to him at the gates to the White House.
Elath didn’t want to delay recognition by having Zinder return and retype the letter. So he had instructed his secretary to make the correction by hand. Hence the famous cross-out to which Abbas referred. It was not a political or ideological statement; it was the equivalent of a typographical correction.
But none of this is a secret. Ambassador Elath described it in his book The Struggle for Statehood: Washington 1945-1948, which was published back in 1979, and it has appeared in other books since then. It’s required reading for scholars and diplomats who have a serious interest in America-Israel relations. It’s difficult to believe that Abbas and the PA aides who helped assemble his packet of clippings are unfamiliar with these well-known facts.
On the other hand, history has never been Mr. Abbas’ strong suit.
Last year, he told a Lebanese television station that David Ben-Gurion and the Zionist movement collaborated with the Nazis.
“I challenge anyone to deny the relationship between Zionism and Nazism before World War II,” he said. He claimed to have authored 70 books on the topic.
So far, only one of those 70 books has been published. That 1983 book, based on Abbas’ Ph.D. dissertation at Moscow’s Oriental College, argued that fewer than 1 million Jews were killed by the Nazis—and that those Jews were the victims of a secret partnership that Ben-Gurion and other Zionist leaders formed with the Nazis in order to have a basis for demanding a state.
“Since Zionism was not a fighting partner, it had no escape but to offer up human beings, under any name, to raise the number of victims, which they could then boast of at the moment of accounting,” Abbas wrote. “Having more victims meant greater rights and stronger privilege to join the negotiation table for dividing the spoils of war once it was over.”
The historical record can play an important role in addressing the conflicting claims by Arabs and Israelis about territories, refugees and other issues. But that record is ill-served when Holocaust history and American history are twisted into political cannon fodder by those who are less interested in the facts than in scoring points against Israel.
Dr. Rafael Medoff is director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies in Washington, D.C., and co-author, with Chaim I. Waxman, of the Historical Dictionary of Zionism.
Nowhere is the relationship between G-d’s family, as Jews and Gentile believers, more clearly seen in Scripture than in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). For a moment, let us reflect upon it, with G-d being the father and the two sons being Jew and Gentile, in order to help us see the changes that we need to make in these times.
Sometimes, when looking at this story, it is hard for us in the church to see ourselves as the older brother, because Israel is the one who came first. However, except for the apostles and many of the first Jewish believers who helped to establish the church in the first century, the rest of the Jewish people have still to come into the New Covenant. This is one of the reasons Jesus said, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matt. 20:16).
We must be clear here to hold onto G-d’s Word, as salvation only comes through faith in Yeshua (Rom. 11:23). That means apart from the Jewish remnant, Israel is still to experience redemption through Messiah alone. As a result, what was once completely Jewish before the New Covenant was given has been handed over to Gentile believers, who now run and operate our Father’s house. So when we read the story of the prodigal son, we can understand how the faithful brother feels. He thought he was being obedient, he did everything he was supposed to do, and part of him was probably happy because he knew he would end up in control. After all, it was his inheritance, and he had worked for it for years.
Now faced with his brother’s return, he does not respond like his father, who is full of compassion and mercy, but rather with anger, hostility and jealousy. How dare he even think about returning here! he thinks to himself. His brother, who went his own way, who squandered everything he had and then realized the error of his ways, being truly humbled by life, returned home in the hope he could become one of his father’s servants.
On the other hand, the father’s response is completely different from that of the elder brother. After all, he was a loving father who stood in the gap for his lost son. He was faithful to love him, despite his rejection. He was grieved and heartbroken that his son walked away from him in the first place, and he never stopped feeling the pain of this separation—he wept and he mourned. But he never lost hope while waiting patiently for his son to return, as he knew it was only a matter of time.
Time as we know it seems endless, but the father said, “I will never give up. I will never surrender until my lost son is properly restored.” Then all of a sudden, an incredible thing happens and the fullness of joy sweeps over the father’s heart and the love of G-d consumes his soul like a river flowing at springtime. Suddenly, from his rocking chair on his front porch, he can see his lost son at a distance down the path leading up to the front of the house. He immediately knows and understands what has happened, except now his heart is filled with compassion as tears of joy are running down his face as he cries, “My son! My son! My son!”
Full of overwhelming excitement, he runs down the path to greet his son. When they meet, he throws his arms around him and hugs him like a bear, kissing him all over his face. His son humbles himself and seeks his father’s forgiveness, even asking to become like one of his servants. Yet none of that seemed to matter now, because today, his son who was lost, his son who was dead has been found and is alive again. His son, whom he never stopped waiting for, whom he never stopped praying for, has returned. Immediately, and without question, the father restored him to his rightful place as an heir along with the obedient son.
The son’s loving father is filled with compassion, his heart filled with mercy and grace. He lovingly embraces him and immediately restores him to his place in his family—something the older brother cannot even fathom or understand, as he asks, “How could you do this to me?”
Yet we know our Father in heaven is full of mercy and grace, and His gospel is the same. He is able to wash away all of our sins, even as He has already done, so we could come into the kingdom in the first place, all as a result of His great love for us. Didn’t the veil of sin also blind us before His grace supernaturally lifted it from our souls?
Spoken Prophetically to Gentile Believers
The Father says to the Gentile believers: “For I have promised to restore Israel. I have given My word, I have covenanted with him in the same way I have covenanted with you. And all I have already belongs to you. I am willing to forgive him, the same way I am willing to forgive you. For just as he was unfaithful to Me by rejecting Me, so you have been unfaithful to Me by rejecting them.”
So who should we be like in the church? We should be like our Father in heaven. But in reality we are often not, instead having been like the elder brother in this story. It has been impossible for the church to love the Jews in our own humanity without the supernatural love of G-d. Yet they are elected as a result of the patriarchs (Rom. 11:28), which has been a dichotomy for the church.
But because our Father loves Israel and has chosen them, just like He has chosen His other children, He is able to look on them with compassion. Even in their disobedience and resistance, and even in their blindness and deafness, He still loves them because they are His children. And His Word and covenants must be accomplished through them because of His own integrity as a holy and righteous G-d. Look how they have suffered as a result.
And remember, by the time he came home, the prodigal son had truly learned his lesson. It is only in the Father’s love that we could even come close to moving in this. However, this is exactly what it will take to get this job done and nothing else short of it will work. So what are we to do? And how should we act to move in this direction, if we believe it to be G-d’s Word and call for us?
Search Your Heart
First, we need to be honest with our own hearts and to the Holy Spirit, as well as become honest with the prior actions of our families in past generations that may have affected us without our knowing. Have we felt like the brother in the prodigal story feels toward Israel and the Jews? Have we lacked G-d’s mercy toward them? Have we been anti-Semitic toward them? Have we been indifferent or cold, or are we jealous of them? Does the thought of their restoration make us angry or even insecure?
You may be a lover and supporter of Israel, but you know that something is still not right. You may understand Israel in your mind because of the Word of G-d, but your heart still needs to be cleansed because of the past. We also need to come to terms with how the church has sinned against our Jewish brethren from the past. Ultimately, Israel needs to come to terms with its past as well. As already mentioned, cleansing is needed all around (both Jew and Gentile), but it must start with us first! Does not judgment begin in the house?
The moment we confess, the moment we renounce, the moment we repent, G-d is more than able to purify us so that we can receive His heart. I truly believe that the Holy Spirit is waiting eagerly for us to get this right and allow His cleansing healing touch to wash away any past influences. This is so that His unconditional love can pour through us, that He would open our spirits as well as our minds to move into the fullness of His direction and plans in these last days. It would be to fulfill the unique role He has given to us as His other sheep in His spiritual family, to help breathe spiritual life back into them through prayer and intercession. And this is all in order that Israel may fulfill its own unique role in the earth to glorify G-d in fulfilling His Word so that the kingdom can come. For in our Father’s end time sovereign plan we are intricately linked and must begin to see ourselves as such, so the end may actually come.
Receiving the Father’s Heart
As already discussed, it is simply not possible to fully love the Jewish people in our own strength in light of their continued rejection of Jesus. Without a doubt, G-d’s supernatural love is needed to flow through us for this to happen. I call this the Father’s heart, and our receiving it is one of the main reasons for me writing The Ezekiel Generation. I believe His heart for His spiritual family will truly change us and give us what we need to help Him achieve His plans through us in order to redeem Israel and restore His kingdom.
I also believe this calling of the end-time generations of the church have a unique and distinct role to play to assist G-d to rebirth Israel spiritually, which is why we must not be ignorant about this mystery. We have a major part to play in it, which, up to this point, we have not seen too clearly, with corrections needed in our theology, because the ancestral acts of our lineage, most of which has not even been repented of, have blinded us to G-d’s end-time plan. In good conscience how could G-d give the church the fullness of His end-time plans theologically regarding Israel and the church, when our ancestry who was called to love them despite their rejection, fell for some despicable plans of the enemy to help persecute and destroy them. Don’t we need to fully break off the past first, so we can get it right?
And, as discussed in previous articles, while we may actually love Israel, the bloodline still needs to be cleaned to rid it of any current influence the enemy may still have over us. So breaking of Generational anti-Semitism and receiving G-d’s heart are vital to our spiritual health and well being concerning Israel and the church and the last days, and it is time for us to address these areas and reconnect as a spiritual family as Jew and Gentile, to help be the catalyst in G-d end time mercy plan to redeem his first born son and our first born brother, so our L-rd can finally return and take dominion of the earth. That is what is at stake here! What an honor G-d is actually bestowing on His end-time church, to help give life back to Israel spiritually (Ezek. 37:9-11).
For all of the prayers to receive the Father’s heart to help you reconnect spiritually with Israel, please go to pages 146-154 in the Ezekiel Generation.
Grant Berryis a Jewish believer in Yeshua/Jesus and author of The New Covenant Prophecy and The Ezekiel Generation. He has founded Reconnecting Ministries with the specific focus to help the church reconnect spiritually to Israel and considers it vital to the kingdom of G-d in the last days. His message focuses on the unity, love and healing that the Father wants to bring between Jew and Gentile yet clearly points out the differences and misunderstandings between the two groups. Now is the time to look more carefully into this mystery to make way for healing and reconnection in the Spirit. For more information, please visit reconnectingministries.org.
Imagine that this week, Jews got angry and hundreds attacked Palestinian Arabs with rocks at the holiest Muslim site in the world. Imagine that this violence came after a handful of Muslims came to pray peacefully at the site and that even though hundreds of Jews attacked police officers, only seven were arrested.
Can anyone imagine the endless news stories and media reports that would emanate as a result? The New York Timeswould have three front-page stories; there would be countless United Nations and European Union condemnations, and CNN’s Christiane Amanpour would be on site. Media coverage would be nonstop.
In reality, Arabs attacked Jews repeatedly over the last few days at the Temple Mount, the holiest site for Jews, so it is barely a news story. Palestinian Arab violence against Jews is a regular occurrence, and as the media seemingly expects the Arabs to throw rocks, they don’t afford it much media coverage.
A few weeks ago, Stockwell Day, who served as Canada’s minister of public safety between 2006 and 2008, visited the area and was refused admittance by Muslims. On the Temple Mount, Jewish religious artifacts and symbols are not permitted and visitors report being strip-searched before being allowed admittance.
Imagine if, in the Vatican, people weren’t permitted to bring religious artifacts. World media would jump all over themselves to cover the story. But since it is Jews being attacked, the world’s media is silent.
The Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site and the location of the two holy temples of Jerusalem, the latter of which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. Despite the fact that this area is the holiest place on earth for the Jews, Jewish visitation is restricted.
Pretend there was an area in Washington, D.C., that had important political or religious significance to America. Could anyone envision a scenario where Americans were kept out and police officers were attacked regularly at the site?
Of course, if the Israeli police were to adopt the position of the American border patrol police that says they “consider rock-throwing to be deadly force which sometimes demands the same in response,” then the world headlines would criticize Israel for shooting at unarmed young protestors. Ignoring the fact that rocks kill people, the media would describe it as “tit for tat violence” if Israel responded. Talk about a no-win situation.
Israel, it seems, is simply always wrong and can do no right for the world’s media. This bias leads to Jews being killed and is simply despicable.
Ronn Torossian is one of America’s most prolific and respected public relations experts. Torossian is the founder, president and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the 25 largest independent American PR firms.
One of the fascinating things about parenting is that as much as parents are supposed to teach their kids, often I find myself learning from mine. Kids are always interesting, and it’s always fascinating to look at things from a kid’s perspective, often seeing things through a prism that’s simpler and less encumbered by the bias we grow to incorporate in how we see things as adults.
Being the parent of six kids ages 8 to 20, I often consider that I have nearly 100 years of collective parenting experience and have certainly done my share of learning. Maybe one day I’ll actually perfect it, just in time to be a grandfather.
Early Saturday mornings are one of my favorite times of the week. Most of my kids are sleeping so the house is quiet, and there’s hardly any noise outside except for birds waking up. Living in what is largely an Orthodox Jewish community, no cars are heard, no lawnmowers and no TV. Just quiet. It’s one of the most restful points in the week, a time to read, think, pray, get ready for my weekly Shabbat observance, including synagogue worship, and family time and fellowship with friends.
Often on Saturday mornings I wake up first and have the house to myself. It’s a time of serenity I relish. Usually I am joined by my 8-year-old son, though sometimes he wakes up first. He plays or reads quietly, and I read and have coffee quietly.
Every now and then, we find ourselves in conversation on any number of things—Torah and religion, soccer, current events. He certainly may not know as much as I do, but sometimes he teaches me things all the same.
A recent Shabbat morning, out of nowhere, he asked me why all the rooms in our house have windows. I have no idea what made him think of this, but it’s almost as if he was leading up to the next question.
“Why do we have a window in the milkat [bomb shelter]? It’s not safe if a terrorist were to get out there and try to hurt us.”
First of all, yes, we have a bomb shelter in the house. Actually, we have two. It’s part of standard construction in Israel since the Gulf War in the early 1990s, when Iraq fired dozens of missiles at Israel because they were fighting a war in the Gulf. Go figure.
Then there are public communal bomb shelters that are standard in most communities, but because of the treat of WMD (another story as to where they went), Israelis were issued gas masks and outfitted “sealed rooms” to prevent deadly gas from doing what a direct hit from a scud missile would have done.
Today, homes and buildings built before the early 1990s are having bomb shelters attached to their homes, especially those on or near the front line, in range of rocket fire from any of our Arab neighbors who are prone to send them flying. Sadly, there are far too many such experiences, and the need has not diminished. And sadly, we are all in range.
Now, back to my son. I told him that although our bomb shelter has a window, there’s also an outer steel window that we can close in a case of emergency, making us safe inside, if needed. Of course, he never noticed this, so he had to check. In pajamas, he went outside to see for himself. Satisfied, that was the end of the conversation.
But I kept thinking about it. I was glad that he knew what the bomb shelter was for. I am glad that he is aware that there are threats we face that others don’t, in order to be ready, just in case. I’m also glad, I think, that he’s not aware that the need behind our bomb shelters is not a terrorist in the backyard but bombs. Or, more accurately, rockets in the front yard.
Living across a valley from Bethlehem, controlled by the Palestinian Authority, which has been less than warm toward the idea of making peace and living side by side with Israel as a Jewish state, we don’t think about the risk every day, but the risk is out there, literally, in our front yard.
None of my kids know what Israelis went through during the Gulf War, when air raid sirens were commonplace. For weeks, families lived in close proximity to their sealed rooms, gas masks ready to be put on at a moment’s notice. And when out of the house, gas masks were in tow with them, wherever they went.
Decades later, Israelis still suffer post-traumatic stress from the sound of air raid sirens, even when we know that it’s just a test. In sharing this video, produced to expose some of the risks we face living here, with friends who went through the Gulf War, it brought back fears and memories that they’d rather have not remembered.
Oh, and yes, we have gas masks in our bomb shelter too, small, medium and large. Just like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, sort of.
Hopefully my kids will grow up and be aware of the global threats against us—all of us. To be naïve is to be ill-prepared. While our neighborhood may be safe for now, other kids their age know the sound of air raid sirens and the anxiety this produces regularly. All their lives, this is all they’ve known.
But hopefully we will live to see a day that these threats are no longer, that our bomb shelters are just extra rooms with thicker doors and strange windows, a place for a computer, extra bed and storage, and that the only thing unusual about our bomb shelters will be that they have different windows.
Maybe one day a grandchild will ask me why that is without knowing the threats we faced in the past and still today.
Jonathan Feldsteinis the director of Heart to Heart, a unique virtual blood donation program to bless Israel and save lives in Israel. Born and educated in the U.S., Feldstein emigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. Throughout his life and career, he has been blessed by the calling to fellowship with Christian supporters of Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He writes a regular column for Charisma’s Standing With Israel. You can contact Jonathan email@example.com.
A retired Army general and former high-ranking official in the Obama administration recently spoke at a well-known American university. During the questions following his remarks, he was asked by a student why 25 percent of U.S. foreign aid goes to Israel.
The general stumbled around and gave no real answer other than, “It’s complicated.”
What he did not say was that the premise of the question was wrong to start with because the percentage of U.S. foreign aid to Israel is nowhere near 25 percent. He also failed to list the numerous reasons that America’s financial assistance to Israel is important not only to Israel, but to the USA. As a result of his lack of response, the students left the auditorium thinking that 25 percent of U.S. foreign aid goes to Israel and that there is no good explanation for it.
Whether the general’s less-than-positive response was deliberate or not, this exchange is a perfect example of the effect of misinformation. One student in attendance was deeply troubled by the exchange and the reality that he, too, did not know how to adequately answer the question. He immediately began preparing himself to be able to explain the importance of American support for Israel in the future.
The fact is that only 6 percent of U.S. foreign aid goes to Israel. By law, 75 percent of that money is spent in the United States, thus creating jobs and boosting America’s defense industry.
In return for the remaining foreign aid that is not spent in the U.S., one could argue that the United States’ military, intelligence and homeland defense benefit in substantial ways. Israeli battlefield innovations have helped the United States dramatically improve both its equipment and tactics. Increasingly, U.S. homeland security and military agencies are turning to Israeli technology to solve some of their most vexing technical problems. Israel has also provided invaluable intelligence and training to U.S. forces in the region.
A Stable Ally in a Turbulent Region
Some skeptics might ask why Israel has this special relationship with the U.S. and not some other country in the Middle East. The answer is simple: No other country in the Middle East advances America’s interests like Israel. While the rest of the Middle East vacillates between dictatorships and revolution, Israel has proven to be our most stable and vital ally in the region.
Though America clearly faces a tough budgetary environment, America’s foreign aid to Israel helps us to confront major threats abroad. It is vital in helping Israel meet the growing challenges of a region in turmoil, a potential nuclear Iran, Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza, and a resurgent Hezbollah in Lebanon armed with more than 55,000 rockets and missiles. These growing challenges are also threats to the United States, another sworn enemy of the radical elements seeking Israel’s destruction.
America also supports Israel because of the two nations’ shared values. Commitment to democracy and human rights, the rule of law, freedom of religion, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly are all fundamental values shared by the two countries. Like the United States, Israel has an independent judicial system that safeguards the rights of individuals. No other Middle Eastern country has that degree of democracy and freedom.
And last but not least, the people of Israel love and support the United States. They weep with us when we weep, and they celebrate our achievements. This stands in strong contrast to the rejoicing that took place in many Arab streets on 9/11 and the pronouncements of judgment on America as the “big Satan” when disasters strike.
The case for American support for Israel is strong. But it does not stop with geopolitical arguments.
When God initiated His plan of world redemption, the first thing He did was to establish a people through whom He would carry out His plan and through whom He would bless “all the families” of the world. This nation was created miraculously, as Sarah was well beyond childbearing years, and would be His special people, chosen to be the vehicle of His redemptive plan.
For that reason, God promised Abraham that He would bless those who blessed this chosen people. He knew that if we blessed the people of Israel, we were siding with God and His plan.
To oppose them was to oppose God Himself.
We can be certain that the United States has been blessed because of its financial assistance and close partnership with Israel. This blessing is at risk, due to some actions and policies by the current American administration. But the real challenge is how the next generation of American leaders will come to understand the strategic, financial and spiritual benefits of our support of Israel, given the misinformation on many college campuses.
It will only happen if someone gives them the answer before the question is asked.
Israel Defense Forces Lt. Aviel Perry is one of the heroic soldiers who performs acts of courage and strength in time of danger. Lt. Perry serves as the commander of an Iron Dome battery unit, which intercepted five Gaza rockets last week.
The IDF blog reports that at 1:00 a.m., Lt. Perry was on duty in an Iron Dome battery near Ashkelon in southern Israel. The battery’s last interception was two months ago, according to the blog, and “Lt. Perry and his soldiers always remain alert for the possibility of a rocket attack from Gaza.”
“We have prepared soldiers to react to an incident at any moment,” Perry said. “We must always remain vigilant and alert, even when we think that an upcoming shift will be normal and uneventful.”
When five rockets from Gaza went flying toward Israel, soldiers in the Iron Dome battery had only seconds to react. Realizing that the rockets would strike populated areas, they made a quick decision to activate the battery. Despite the extraordinary pressure under which they operated, their swift actions resulted in the interception of all five rockets.
Israel National News shares that after stopping the rocket attack, Perry was filled with pride and satisfaction.
“You cannot describe the feeling of stopping a rocket that could hurt, injure or kill civilians,” he said. “This is what we prepare for all the time—to be there at the right time and do the right thing.”
“The environment in the battery is warm and like family,” he added. “Events like these increase the motivation of soldiers, and we prove that above all we are fighters who save lives.”
Iron Dome is a mobile all-weather air-defense system designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and artillery shells fired from distances of 4 to 70 kilometers away.There has been a significant increase in the number of rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel in December and January. There have been 12 attacks since the beginning of December, as opposed to six in October and November 2013. Rocket attacks from Gaza have increased in recent days, and the Israeli Air Force (IAF) has been retaliating with air strikes on terrorism sites in the Hamas-controlled region.Many of the rockets being fired upon Israel are intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. Three rockets fired by Gaza-based terrorists exploded late Monday night in the Eshkol Regional Council.
The Ashkelon municipality on Monday morning canceled classes in all schools that are not fortified against rockets, fearing an escalation in attacks on the city a day after the IAF targeted a terror suspect in the Gaza Strip.
“Palestinian terrorists are exploiting the area west of the border to attack soldiers and Israeli civilians,” an Israeli army spokeswoman said. “The IDF takes a grave view of this,” the Jerusalem Post reported today, in news about the ongoing attacks.
Additionally, the Post has reported that security forces are still searching for Grad rockets that were fired at Eilat on Monday evening. Residents heard two loud blasts in the Red Sea city, and police and IDF have spent hours searching for rocket remnants fired from Sinai, so far with no success.Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned on Sunday that the IDF would hit hard and fast against terror targets each time Israel is attacked.“The IDF on Sunday morning targeted a terror cell that was responsible for firing rockets at Israel last week, when rockets were fired at Ashkelon,” Ya’alon said.
“We will not accept the targeting by terrorists of Israel, and we will act to cause damage to anyone that threatens the security of our citizens,” he stated.
I was interested to read an article recently in theJerusalem Post opposing the construction of a 100-foot statue of Jesus in Nazareth. I am neither a reverend nor a rabbi, but even as an Orthodox Israeli Jew, I differ with this view.
I am not as familiar with the Gospels as the writer and was interested in the notion (with references from John and Mark) that Jesus “refused power and condemned the desecration of the Temple for commercial purposes” in what seemed to show a great sense of humility. However, I also know that the miracles with which Jesus is credited were not done alone, and it seems very much that he did not shy away from his public persona. So maybe a statue proclaiming his ministry is exactly what he’d want.
While acknowledging that the thesis “all architecture is political” that’s central to this argument is “unrelated,” the writer nevertheless relates examples that make his case, specifically highlighting examples in Israel over the centuries. Yet there are other architectural cases that lay the foundation for exactly the phenomena today of Christians in Israel asserting their rights (the only place in the Middle East in which they are free to do so), and even Christian Israeli Arabs actively affirming their loyalty to Israel, which are related.
Some examples that are overlooked paint a very different picture. One is the case that went to the Israeli courts of Muslims in Nazareth seeking to build a mosque next to the Church of the Basilica, taller than the church, as if to assert Islamic domination over Christianity.
That issue was settled in the Israeli courts, but a decades-long concerted effort to drive out local Christians, and out-populate the rest, still festers. Some of my Christian Israeli Arab friends have shown me and other guests how this is clear. A variation of the “architecture as politics” formula pervades, but rather than building things, Muslims drive out Christians, taking over their properties as squatters, to erase the presence of Christians and Christianity from Galilee.
Even if only 50 percent of what I have seen is accurate, the situation is grave. It’s not only fair but also proper for Christians to assert themselves, and to do so with the support of Jews and the state of Israel. After all, it’s the same strain of Islam driving out Christians from the birthplace of Christianity as that which denies the very existence of the temple and any Jewish connection to the land of Israel.
These are facts on the ground to which the writer alludes as being a catalyst for the construction of the Jesus statue to begin with. Building a 100-foot statue of Jesus is not mutually exclusive to anyone or to his idea that Christians ought to be “peacemakers rather than engage in interfaith competition and triumphalism.”
Affirming the rights of Christians to build a statue of Jesus does not take away from the rights of others to live and worship with full freedom according to their tradition, just as all Israelis do. Where any rights may conflict, we have courts for that. Citing the Jesus statue and Solomon’s and Herod’s temples as being merely political is an affront. Indeed, to be able to build things that sanctify God according to one’s tradition and that do not impose it on or take away from another’s is perfectly appropriate.
Rather than making the proposed Jesus statue political, regardless of what its leading Christian Arab proponent may have said as being part of the catalyst, building a 100-foot Jesus statue in Nazareth, the place where Jesus spent most of his life, should be looked at as a celebration of the birthplace of Christianity, and an affirmation of that.
That today’s Nazareth is 70 percent Muslim is irrelevant. A statue of Jesus would not diminish their ability to live and practice as Muslims, unless of course they deny the reality of Judaism and Christianity being central to Israel, in fact having more roots here than Islam itself. Should Christians diminish their public presence because they are a minority or embrace it and celebrate it to preserve and celebrate their identity?
If all architecture is political, then let’s look at the prevalence of Jewish museums and memorials around the world, commemorating Jewish history and explaining Jewish tradition in places where Jews may have once thrived during 2,000 years of our dispersion but where there are today a relative handful of Jews, if any. Some are memorials in places where Jews were slaughtered. I’m hard pressed to imagine that those behind these places sought to express Jewish triumphalism over anyone or anything.
While there is something perverse in paying to go see the places in which Jews may have once lived or were slaughtered and discriminated against over the centuries, even though these places have little, if any, religious or historical significance other than Jews may have once lived there, does the lack of Jews today mean that these places shouldn’t exist?
Several friends, many of them pastors, shared with me their feeling and appreciation that while I am right, that Christians should have the opportunity to celebrate their faith in Israel as they like as long as it doesn’t infringe on others, for many, a statue of Jesus or any other physical depiction is not their thing. In fact, it runs against the grain of their beliefs. Regarding being a minority among Muslims, one observed that even Islam holds that Jesus was a prophet, and therefore celebration of Jesus need not be mutually exclusive to Muslims.
Another wrote that, as an observant Jew, Jesus well knew prohibitions of graven images in the Second Commandment and that this is something he would not have wanted. That’s an excellent point and one, had it been presented as a reason why not to build such a statue, would make abundant sense.
Another argument against construction of a 100-foot Jesus statue is that it is commercializing Jesus, like a similar statue in Rio. Having visited Rio, it’s hard to imagine that the huge statue of Jesus there would attract many more people than are already going for the beaches, culture and nightlife anyway. Yet it certainly may be a tourist attraction for those who are already there. Nor would such a statue suddenly be the magnet drawing Christians to visit Israel.
If I’m wrong and millions flock to Israel to see a 100-foot statue of Jesus, attracting Christian pilgrims from around the world, connecting them with the land and people of Israel and the roots of their faith, infusing money into the local economy and supporting local Christians rather than looking from afar and bemoaning Christians becoming an endangered species in the Middle East, is that a bad thing?
One might even suggest it’d be a little miraculous.
Jonathan Feldsteinis the director of Heart to Heart, a unique virtual blood donation program to bless Israel and save lives in Israel. Born and educated in the U.S., Feldstein emigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. Throughout his life and career, he has been blessed by the calling to fellowship with Christian supporters of Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He writes a column for Charisma’s Standing With Israel. You can contact Jonathan firstname.lastname@example.org.