Author, Lecturer, Ethicist

Israel and the Holy Land Are Two Very Different Places

                 Pastor Robert Jeffress                                           Rev. John  C. Hagee

                Pastor Robert Jeffress                                           Rev. John  C. Hagee

Ten weeks ago (March 13 to be precise), I posted an op-ed entitled The House at 18 Rehov Agron. Readers may recall that the essay dealt with the then-upcoming dedication of the American Embassy in Jerusalem, and the various political and diplomatic challenges it presented to America's leadership in the Middle East peace process and the two state solution, as well as the widening rift taking place in the American Jewish community.  Not surprisingly, I received a lot of comments accusing me of being naive, gullible and dumber than dirt, not to mention a self-hating Jewish anti-Semite. Invariably, these notes spoke of former President Obama and the overwhelming majority of elected Democrats in the most vile of terms while lauding '45 as the best friend the Jewish State has ever had. Fortunately, I also managed to receive a handful of notes from people who agreed with me that being a staunch Zionist doesn't require unquestioning acceptance of every move, step or policy promulgated by the Israeli government or America's current Republican administration. Indeed, the one sentence which got '45's Jewish supporters the most maniacally hypertensive stated " . . . so absolutely central is Israel to the politics of Trump's Jewish supporters that they are more than willing to overlook '45's questionable ethics, personal boorishness and relationship with the truth in exchange for what they perceive as his unfaltering support for the Jewish State."

One might reasonably hope that now that the American Embassy dedication is fait accompli, those who have been rhetorically knee-capping anyone and everyone who  continues to disagree with '45 and his army of Holy Land pilgrims would cease and desist.  Hey guys . . . at least for now, you've won, so say thanks and shut up.  But no, listening and reading what's coming out of Trump camp - especially from its Jewish and Evangelical supporters - one would think that nothing has changed. As but one example, a profoundly angry email being circulated by a Jewish Trumpeter from Boca Raton, Florida blathers "For American Jews of the Democrat political persuasion, yesterday's opening of our new Embassy in Jerusalem should have been a wakeup call. In fact, the alarms bells should have gone off big time to the fact that not one, not one, Democrat-Jewish elected official turned up at the scene. Not one real time or former senator, congressperson, governor or dogcatcher flew over there to be part of the festivities that were over 2000 years in the making. It's time for American Jewish rank and file Democrats to wake up. The handwriting is on the wall. The Democrat party and its Jewish leaders, both elected and run of the mill community leaders have turned the corner on Israel and on the fight for Jewish survival in our own country. . . . Chuck Schumer did not attend. He uttered a tongue in cheek congratulatory comment to President Trump but this camera hugger did not travel to Jerusalem because he really didn't want to stand with Israel.  Remember, this guy [is] fiercely pro-Iran when it comes to giving that nation the nuclear and ballistic missile technology to wipe Israel off the map. On that topic [he and his like are] freely act and speak their minds. They are JINO's [Jews in Name Only]. Jewish Democrats had better wake up before it's too late. They assume that by shedding their 'Jewish' image they will be accepted by the radical Left that basically despises them but uses them for their own purposes. Time is running out . . . "

It is absolutely true that not a single elected Democratic office holder attended the embassy dedicated . . . but for a rather simple reason: the President did not invite a single Democrat from Congress to be part of the American delegation.  Following the snub, former Congressman Ron Klein, President of the Jewish Democratic Council of America criticized the president: "Not only does Trump invite an anti-Semitic pastor to the opening of the U.S. Embassy, but he makes it a partisan event by refusing to invite even one Democrat. Israel should never be a partisan tool.  It needs friends on all sides.  Shame on you, Mr. President.

 

Former Rep. Klein is absolutely correct that Israel should never be "a partisan tool." Unfortunately, such is not the case. Among the dignitaries who played central roles in the Embassy dedication ceremony were Pastor Robert Jeffress, Pastor of Dallas' First Baptist Church (who gave the event's invocation) and Rev. John Hagee, senior pastor of San Antonio's Cornerstone Church, who  gave the closing benediction. The two hold and preach beliefs which are far out of the mainstream:

Pastor Robert Jeffress:

  • Has repeatedly warned “you can’t be saved by being a Jew,” and that Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Mormonism lead followers to an eternity in hell.  
  • Believed that President Obama paved the way for the anti-Christ: "For the first time in history a president of our country has openly proposed altering one of society’s (not to mention God’s) most fundamental laws: that marriage should be between a man and a woman. While I am not suggesting that President Obama is the Antichrist, the fact that he was able to propose such a sweeping change in God’s law and still win reelection by a comfortable margin illustrates how a future world leader will be able to oppose God’s laws without any repercussions."
  • Believes that contemporary American Christians face similar challenges to Jews in pre-war Germany: “We’re not having our heads chopped off like Christians in the Middle East by ISIS, but you’ve heard me say before, I think when you look at what happened in Germany, look the Nazis didn’t take the Jews to the crematorium immediately. They wouldn’t have been allowed to do that by the German citizens. What the Nazis did was a program of making the Jews the object of ridicule and contempt in the eyes of the  German people, and only once they had marginalized them, were they able to take away their rights." 

Rev. John Hagee:

 

  • Has said the Holocaust happened because God’s “top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel,” a prelude to the Second Coming."
  • Claimed that the confirmed cases of ebola in the United States (at the time there were 3), were the result of a vengeful God angered by attempts by President Barack Obama to "divide Jerusalem."
  • "Christians don't steal or lie. They don't get divorced or have abortions." (Actually, Hagee divorced his first wife, Martha Downing, in 1975).

 

Then too, the chief Sephardic rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef, also addressed the assembled dignataries, which included the president's daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, both of whom are Orthdox Jews. Rabbi Yosef, who has been known to make controversial comments about women's dress, was criticized in March for using the term "kushi" a derogatory Hebrew word for black people, and comparing them to monkeys.  From photos taken at the event, neither Ivanka nor Jared were particularly pleased. 

Rabbi Yosef's office said that he was quoting from the Talmud, but the Anti-Defamation League in the U.S. called the remarks "unacceptable."

Over the past decade or so, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has depended more and more on the support of Evangelical Christians, even at the risk of turning off a majority of American Jews, who may be troubled by evangelicals' denegration of their faith. To evangelicals, the apocalypse (for them, the "second coming") must first be preceded by the ingathering of all Jews back to "the Holy Land," where they may all die in the final war between the forces of good and evil.  Those who have accepted Jesus will go to heaven - no matter what sins they may have engaged in prior to their conversion.  Those who have not accepted Jesus - even those who have lived  lives of moral clarity, generosity and pious humility - will be condemned to Hell.  One prominent Republican - and devout Mormon -  who took umbrage at the words and thoughts of Jeffress and Hagee was former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate (and current Utah Senate candidate) Mitt Romney who tweeted "Robert Jeffress says “you can’t be saved by being a Jew,“ and “Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell.” He’s said the same about Islam. Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem."

To my Jewish brothers and sisters who continue ragging on me and others like me for not understanding that Donald J. Trump is the greatest friend Israel ever had, I say this: take a long, hard look in the mirror.  The image that is reflecting back to you  has yet to learn that there is a world of difference - both historically, religiously, politically and theologically -  between מדינת ישראל (midinat yisrael), "the State of Israel" and ארץ הקדושה (eretz ha-k'dusha) "the Holy Land."

I anxiously await the responses of those of all those who know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I haven't got the slightest idea what I'm talking about . .

!למעשה, ידידי, אני באמת עושה . . . which is Hebrew for  "Actually, my friends, I really do . . .!"

487 days down, 985 days to go.

Copyright©2018 Kurt F. Stone