Right of reply: Beware theological red lines
The evangelicals are Israel's best friends. Period. Full stop. No questions asked. After having accumulated thousands of years of epic experience under our belts, one would think our cognitive approach would have advanced beyond that of a threeyear old child.
It is both immature and reckless to unconditionally accept the current outpouring of unconditional love and good faith, being showered upon us by Christian groups, without having established a uniform and accountable framework with which to monitor the relationship on an ethical, political, spiritual, financial, and legislative level.
This is not a simple friend or foe issue, as evangelicals are hardly a monolithic group. The immediate advantages do not negate the fact that various Christian communities are wielding a double-edged sword which challenges us politically, culturally, theologically and existentially.
Isi Leibler's June 12, op-ed, "The chief rabbinate is wrong about Evangelicals" misrepresented the Chief Rabbinate's decision to ban Jewish participation in a biblically inspired Christian women's conference. He oversimplified the grounds for the ruling and diminished the thorough decision-making process involved in that judgment.
To use a twisted rendering of the late Rav Joseph Soloveichik's position as a means to undermine the legitimacy of the Rabbinate's decision was especially inappropriate, misleading, and unfair to the Post readers.
In fact, it was "the Rav's" very comprehensive and widely accepted treatise on the subject of interfaith relationships which was employed by the rabbinical subcommittee as a grounds for rejecting the lengthy appeal.
Key Jewish organizational figures did not rebuff the ruling as Leibler claims, rather they honored the decision and opted out of the conference.
Leibler's cursory treatment of a complicated problem is an affront to the exhaustive introspective approach which was the Rav's hallmark, and remains the prototype which distinguished scholars and rabbis employ when confronting complex contemporary issues. It is the key to Jewish survival.
IT MUST BE known that some of same evangelical bodies that are praising, praying for, and generously contributing to Israel are simultaneously pumping significant funds towards maintaining and promoting the over 100 churches, institutions, ministries, congregations and seminaries that service an estimated 15,000 Hebrew Christians ("Messianic Jews") - many of whom have no qualms about proselytizing.
Some of the same evangelical organizations which actively lobby the US government on Israel's behalf haven't hesitated to use that same lobbying power to pressure Israel into recalling proposed antimissionary legislation. These groups evoke the right to religious freedom with the intent of protecting what they deem to be the minority rights of missionaries and "Jewish believers in Jesus."
The anti-missionary pledge that Bridges for Peace and others painstakingly formulated - in lieu of Knesset anti- missionary legislation - was conceived with a major loophole. While some evangelical churches and ministries have agreed not to engage "in activities which have as their intention to alienate them [the Jewish People] from their tradition and community..." they find it perfectly kosher to fund and encourage "Jewish believers in Jesus" - because they "remain Jews" and are therefore not alienated from their community.
Although Pastor John Hagee has been meticulous and outspoken in his opposition to missionary activity in Israel, he is, nevertheless, promoting a passionate Judeo-Christian agenda heavily infused with a gospel which theologically fuses Jews and Christians together in manner which has never been sanctioned by those entrusted with protecting the Jewish faith and maintaining Israel as an independent single faith community.
We Jews are on forbidden ground when we're drawn to Christian leaders who declare that "The battle for Jerusalem has begun, and it is time for believers in Christ to support our Jewish brethren," or that "we are one" and "our roots are Jewish." AFTER CONSULTING with those closest to and most familiar with Rav Soloveichik's convictions, I feel comfortable offering the following synopsis:
While the Rav recognized the validity of "a Judeo-HellenisticChristian tradition within the framework of Western civilization," he noted that "people confuse two concepts when they speak of a common tradition uniting two faith communities such as the Christian and the Judaic." He called it "absurd" to speak of the "commensurability of two faith communities which are individual entities."
We are not to relate to any other faith community as "brethren" even though "separated." Any spiritually inspired endeavors with the Christian community should not take place on a theological level, but rather on a mundane, secular, and humanistic plane.
Rather than try and build a relationship on common denominators, we should build with an understanding and respect for differences. And it is instinctual and necessary for us Jews "to recoil and retrace our steps" when we feel uncomfortably close to losing our status as a totally independent faith community.
Evangelical Christians are inspired by a theological mission to save the Jewish people spiritually and/or physically. That being the case, we Jews have a mission too.
We are obligated to transform any Jewish-Christian union into an honest, proper and permissible alliance - complete with uniform guidelines and legislation. Our emphasis should be placed on justice and morality without the theological trappings. A relationship between the Jewish people and righteous gentiles is an endeavor worthy of our efforts.
The writer is the author of The Oslo Years: A Mother's Journal (Gefen Publishing)