One night this past week, I was travelling to Jerusalem with a friend and her two teenaged children. We were on our way for a sunrise walk at the Western Wall, where the boys’ eighty-five-year-old grandfather would be filmed sharing his unique life experiences.
On the way, the boys wanted to understand why we were doing this. I told them that we wanted to share their grandfather’s fascinating life story and his words of wisdom with Christians around the world. While the car was silent, I could almost hear the wheels turning in their brains as they tried to wrap their heads around what I had just said.
“Why would Christians around the world care about us Jews living here in Israel?” the boys wanted to know.
I was taken back to a time when I would have asked the same exact question. I had grown up in America, but never had any meaningful interaction with the Christian community. I didn’t have a single Christian friend at that time. Like many Jews, I was suspicious of Christians, sure that they either wanted to convert us or harm us. I bought into the longstanding belief shared by many Jews that if Christians are helping Israel it’s because they want all Jews in Israel so that we would all be killed upon the coming of the messiah.
Ironically, it was only once I moved to Israel that I came to discover and marvel at the amazing and genuine friendship that so many Christians have extended to Israel and the Jewish people. It was here that I made my first Christian friends and found my place at The Fellowship, an incredible opportunity to do incredible work for which I thank God every day. As I came to know more and more Christians, I was amazed at how much we have in common and how powerful we can be when we work together.
I shared with those boys how Christians around the world really do care about Jews and Israel. I told them that so many Christians hold true to the words of the Bible in Genesis 12:3, that “those who bless you will be blessed.” I told them how so many of our friends not only support our right to live in Israel but fight for that right and speak out on our behalf. I dumbfounded them with how much has been donated to Israeli and Jewish causes by Christians simply because they love us and believe in us.
I am so grateful that I got the chance to tell these kids – soon to be Israeli soldiers and then future leaders of Israel – the truth about our Christian friends. It is important that Israelis know that there are Christians who support us for several reasons.
Firstly, it’s encouraging. After centuries of persecution, it’s nice to know that we’ve got some friends. As these boys and my own sons prepare to defend our country, I hope they will be strengthened by the knowledge that they have supporters around the world. Don’t get me wrong – we Jews long ago recognized that our only true support is God Almighty. It is on Him alone who we rely. But knowing that there are Gentiles who have our backs and who champion our cause means so much to a country that often feels isolated and alone.
Secondly, Jews and Israelis need to know about Christian support so that we can work together. How many lives have been saved because Fellowship founder Rabbi Eckstein persevered in reaching out to Christian friends and building relationships? How much good have our two faith communities brought to the world because we were willing to work together and support one another? We can only build these friendships if we know that friends are there to be found.
The third reason is one I cannot even put into words. Recently, I shared a Sabbath meal with a group of visiting Christians. It was an extremely moving evening where meaningful connections were made, stereotypes demolished, and breakthroughs in understanding came about. At the end of the evening I turned to the pastor leading the group and told him that while I didn’t know quite how to explain what had happened, I knew that it was bigger than any of us alone.
The work that we are doing together is part of God’s larger plan. The connections being made are bridging gaps that span millennia. Something is being repaired in the fabric of the cosmos. My prayer is that Jews and Christians continue to work together – stronger, bolder, and with ever growing respect for one another.