Loving Us to Death
Shevat 9, 5767, 28 January 07 04:58
by Ellen W. Horowitz
(IsraelNN.com) When it comes to Israel's flourishing relationship
with Christian Zionist and Evangelical groups, many of us across
the Jewish religious spectrum - in both Israel and the Diaspora -
continue to grapple with feelings of uncertainty and suspicion.
It's an alliance which offers promise and, at the same time,
arouses complex and ambiguous feelings.
Indeed, it would seem that the Talmud sanctions such hesitation by
suggesting that the proper approach to a relationship where the
motives remain unclear would be to employ the formula of "respect
them and suspect them."
I believe the reservations we Jews have vis a vis
charitable intentions and expressions of support transcend
theological differences, historical angst, an aversion to
End-of-Days fervor, or fears of missionary activity and hidden
agendas. In fact, I am quite certain that all of the aforementioned
very real concerns pale in comparison to what's truly haunting us -
and it has little to do with the foundations of Christianity. This
is an exclusively - and deeply rooted - Jewish problem.
Could it be that our reliance on Christian support, and the
relatively easy money we receive from a variety of non-Jewish
groups for our charitable institutions, has caused our thinkers,
activists and fundraisers to become lazy and subsequently alienate
and abandon what was, for many years, a fervent and devoted Jewish
Zionist sector? Based on a piece he penned last month, Michael
appears to encourage this unsettling development: "Like
it or not, the future of the relationship between Israel and the US
might very well hinge far less on America's Jews than on its
Christians." ("In Praise of Christian Zionists", December 21, 2006,
Jews in the Diaspora may be a harder sell, as more time and effort
may need to be exerted before they come forth with the funds, but
this is hardly due to a lack of generous spirit on the part of the
Our unconditional acceptance of the outpouring of "unconditional"
love and devotion showered upon us by the Christian Zionist
community has quelled the innate Jewish desire to connect to,
inspire and support Am Yisrael
. It has stifled our ability
to effectively plead for and pray for our people within our own
camp. This lack, and rejection, of challenge has dulled all of
Tugging at heartstrings in order to loosen purse strings is part
and parcel of a process that is almost obligatory for Jews, and it
used to be second nature (that is, until we opted out of the
struggle and embraced an easier path). This push-pull process has
little to do with being miserly. Pulling the teeth of our brethren
in order to secure a donation or gift serves a profound purpose and
is, in fact, a form of prayer.
This approach to Jewish philanthropy may appear at odds with the
unconditional, no-questions-asked Christian take on charity. But I
suggest that the Jewish methodology is downright Biblical in a very
Our sages tell us that the reason the Biblical matriarchs were
barren or conceived with great difficulty was because G-d loved and
treasured their tears, prayers and pleas for children. They needed
to cry, and He needed to hear it, before He delivered the
This formula works on a microcosmic level, too, and it's how we
emulate a Divine process.
My mother, a Reform Jew and staunch Zionist - with an operatic
voice - would pick up the phone come United Jewish Appeal campaign
season, and she would have to croon an obligatory and heartrending
tune before the party on the other end would up their pledge and
deliver. I can still recall how she'd be sitting on a bed strewn
with UJA pledge cards when I left for school in the morning. I'd
return home to find her still in her pajamas, on the phone, and
pleading for her people and the land of Israel. She always got her
man and she knew she wouldn't fail, but she nevertheless agonized
over each call.
The ability to articulate, hear, and respond to a song, which will
penetrate hearts, doesn't come easily, but it's something we Jews
have always strived for - until we lost our voice and ability to
communicate with our own people. This was the common denominator or
unifying link that, in a crisis, bridged the gap between Reform,
Conservative and Orthodox Jews, across the political spectrum, in
both Israel and the Diaspora. And this is possibly the highest,
simplest, and most powerful and direct form of prayer. It's the "Oh
G-d, please heal her!" that Moses uttered on behalf of Miriam.
Continuing to develop and nurture Israel's relationship with those
Christian groups that take a moral and Biblical stand on behalf of
the Jewish state may be a worthwhile endeavor. But one shouldn't
forget that, more often than not, "Yaakov remains alone." And our
commentators suggest that, prior to engaging in a momentous
struggle and crossing over into Eretz Yisrael
returned to his camp to see if he had forgotten anything of value.
Perhaps, we Jews need to take a hint from our patriarch and return
to ourselves, to the Jewish Zionist camp, to see if we've left
anything or anyone behind.
I imagine the debate will continue over the merits and
complications of soliciting Christian support. Until the verdict's
in, I'll continue to exert my energies in a more difficult, but
perhaps more rewarding direction: pleading for my people, through