Is it the End of the World?

One of the aspects of Israel’s richness as a global, cultural marvel is that the jewel of the Middle East attracts a diverse community dedicated to her eternal health.

Influential people around the world do their individual bits to accomplish that goal, and Colette Phillips is one who shines in her chosen role.

The native of Antigua, now a successful CEO of a boutique public relations and marketing firm in Boston, is a passionate champion for Israel. It’s in her blood.

As the only African-American member of the board for the American Jewish Congress, Colette speaks before groups on behalf of Israel. A recent topic is her trip there in the spring, hosted by the America-Israel Friendship League (AIFL). Her personal experiences and philosophical journey are a rich tapestry.

“I grew up in a very pro Israel family in the Caribbean; my dad was a Zionist in the sense that he considered Israel his spiritual homeland as a person who was devoutly religious and whose life was built on Judeo Christian principles.

“For me, being pro Israel was quite easy; I grew up with a belief of tithing to your spiritual community—where you’re spiritually fed. We all have a spark of the divinity in us.”

Colette easily sees the relatedness between Judaism and the faith of her family, Christianity.

“It’s the whole aspect of Tikkun Olam [“Repairing the world”]. In the Christian faith it is to whom much is given, much is expected.”

Her parents have driven much of their daughter’s success, through the example of their own integrity and willingness to help others.

“My parents were very successful entrepreneurs, generous and giving in their activities and helped many people through their philanthropy. When I came to this country, traditions don’t die with you; you don’t check your beliefs and habits at the airport. You bring them with you.”

As she navigated a new country, with all its myriad opportunities and challenges, Colette eventually linked to the Jewish community.

“Right in middle of the First Intifada, and as Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait, I began noticing the ADL and other communities. My father said Israel is like a drop of blood surrounded by sharks. My parents had a very good view, a worldview of maps and a history that showed us Israel was surrounded by Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and Jordan, and all four countries were not necessarily friendly to Israel.

In sunny Tel Aviv!

In sunny Tel Aviv!

“I didn’t have a full understanding of that until I went to Israel. I drove to the northern side of the country and by the Jordan River, and the Sea of Galilee. I stayed at a kibbutz and you could literally see Lebanon. I had quite a revelation of how particularly challenging the citizens of Israel live in a mode of survival. They were very vulnerable. And I don’t think people quite get that.”

In the intervening years, Colette has stuck close, never drifting very far from the marvel of the Jewish state. Her recent trip with the AIFL reflects that.

“To see the growth and evolution over 27 years…to see the innovation, and steely sort of resolve. What I admire in Israelis is their sense of resilience.”

Whether it’s the cosmopolitan cafes in Tel Aviv, or the religious sites in Jerusalem, Colette is aware that the Israelis share one remarkable trait, for sure.

“Even though they are vulnerable to internal and external terrorism, they do not allow their lives to be determined by fear. We went to the Temple Mount with a friend. That in itself was quite remarkable. And our guide is involved with bringing kids to see the Golan. I had asked, Is it safe to be here?”

Even dispensing with a general unease in visiting the Palestinian areas was a revelation.

“A friend wanted to take me to Abu Gosh, and again I asked, “Is it a safe place?” He said, “Oh yes, you will love it!”

“I went to Abu Gosh and was telling some friends that one of the absolute wonderful things for me was the fact that while I was there and one of the things I observed (my friend is like 6’4” Australian Jewish, and I’m black 5’4”)…I went into this restaurant on Shabbat that was packed and 90 percent of the patrons were Jewish. In America people stare at an interracial couple, but here nobody looked at me! Nobody stopped what they were doing. That was sort of a defining moment for me.”

She also couldn’t help but wonder at another thing Israel is known widely for achieving in only a few decades.

“The innovation! Israel’s national service could become a model for America and other countries. I personally think young people [she came to college at 17] would benefit.

Colette’s parents told her she couldn’t come back—Maybe you’re not mature enough to be on your own so, give it a couple months and if you don’t like it you can come back home.

“In their wisdom, I did stay two weeks and forged very strong friendships. My parents then called the dean because they didn’t hear from me! I had immersed myself in school and America. In Israel I love the fact of national service; not just being in the IDF. I could see young urban kids who see a lot of violence among young people in America—I think they lack a sense of purpose. I think the national service in Israel helps young people to mature, to have a sense in pride in country, teamwork.”

An inevitable outcome of the Israel experience, too, is awareness of the threats. Colette is uniquely positioned to deal with several of those in her advocacy work.

“It’s hard to speak of Israel and not talk of the wave of anti-Israel advocacy like BDS. It is to me distressing, because I find it egregious and intellectually dishonest and so completely untrue and unfair. It’s almost like Israel has become a victim of its own success, in 70 years. It has evolved in a way that is beyond comprehension. Today they are the leading startup. A beacon of democratic principles and values in the Middle East. To hear people make comparisons to South Africa…it is being perpetrated and falsely. As a teenager I marched in Antigua; every year in May was ‘March for South Africa.’ I know the apartheid system is a regulated policy based on race; in Israel Arabs and Jews move and live peaceably.”

She sees the obvious hypocrisy inherent to the BDS movement and anti-Zionist movements.

“How about Burma, or Boko Haram? Nigeria? China—that we do a lot of trade with
—and they are persecuting the Muslims? And they have brutalized the Tibetans. Russia’s annexation of Chechnea and Crimea also comes to mind.

“When you single out one country…and you look at all the other countries around the world…one has to ask the question: Why Israel? The answer is the demonization and delegitimization of Israel.”

For her personally, Colette draws on her own experiences.

“My role is—beyond being an advocate—I consider myself a character witness for Israel. Racism and anti-Semitism are the twin towers of hate. Often where there is racism, you’ll find anti-Semitism.

“There has to be a coming together for allies and community. If I can be a facilitator and a connector of that, so be it. Jews and blacks have to work together. For a lot of black people who are Christians, Israel holds a special place for them, because if you are rooted in your religion, you know Christianity has its roots in Israel. Jews and blacks have a shared history of persecution.”

Thriving on the heels of initial doubt and dislocation fuels everything this remarkable friend of Israel does. Colette Phillips has been a woman of influence for quite some time. Happily for Israel, she will always embrace the role.

“…I entered the city officially at noon, 11 December, with a few of my staff, the commanders of the French and Italian detachments, the heads of the political missions, and the Military Attaches of France, Italy, and America… The procession was all afoot, and at Jaffa gate I was received by the guards representing England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Australia, New Zealand, India, France and Italy. The population received me well…”

He dismounted and walked regally through Jaffa Gate, on the western side of Jerusalem’s Old City.

The British enter Jerusalem

The British enter Jerusalem

Britain’s Field Marshal Edmund Henry Hynman Allenby had defeated the Ottoman Turks, thus ending hundreds of years of Muslim rule in Palestine.

One hundred years ago today.

With Europe ensnared in World War I, the strategic and geopolitical value of the Middle East was also up for grabs. Though Allenby was careful to respect Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, his army’s actions paved the way for the Jewish state to be established a generation later.

Lord Allenby

Lord Allenby

It is interesting to note that 50 years after British forces liberated Jerusalem, the Israel Defense Forces liberated the city from Jordanian rule. And this past week, after another half century, President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This is a momentous event, as it changes the equation between the Israelis and Palestinians. To now, the Oslo model has placed Israel on the defensive, as continuous Palestinian violence has been tolerated by Western diplomats and political leaders.

The truth is, no one knows exactly when the U.S. embassy will move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and the legitimate question can be asked: Will it be moved?

What we do know is that the status of Jerusalem will become a monumental question for the nations. Even though this is a curious thought, read the Bible’s book of Zechariah, chapters 12-14.

The monument at Beersheba (photo by Moshe Milner, courtesy of the Israel Government Press Office)

The monument at Beersheba (photo by Moshe Milner, courtesy of the Israel Government Press Office)

It is clear the dusty British general a century ago set something in motion that will prove to be pivotal in human history.

One of the great New Testament declarations can be found in Matthew 24:14.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations…

Jesus was clear that some would be tasked with proclaiming the Good News (“The Gospel”) locally, and some globally. Think of your local opportunities, then think of Billy Graham. In God’s economy, one is not “better” than the other, and those of us who identify as Christian would do well to remember that.

In some rare cases, people can perhaps do both!

One of the great contemporary stories in Christendom is found in a small town in northwest Arkansas, Berryville. A place that Norman Rockwell might have found to his liking, Berryville is home to the usual suspects: local characters, local character, high school football, Christmas parades, and a lot more.

It is also the home base for Kerusso, the world’s largest Christian apparel company. In fact, “Kerusso” is Greek for “preach.” It is an apt name for the 30-year-old company, founded by Vic Kennett.

Here at Christmas, Kerusso’s team, producing t-shirts and other product bearing Scripture, helps locals such as Grace Baptist Church in nearby Rogers provide gifts to children who otherwise would not have an opportunity to give presents.
Arlene Clark, director of Children’s Ministries and Missions, and director of A Christmas to Remember at Grace, is beyond pleased with the program’s 11-year history.

“Each year, thousands in our community struggle to provide Christmas gifts for their families. ‘A Christmas to Remember’ helps to relieve this burden for hundreds of families in our community.”

“We must rely on the compassion and support of organizations, vendors and individuals to help fill the need. Items for men, women, teens, children and babies are needed…as well as stocking stuffers, snack items, wrapping paper and gift bags/boxes.”

"A Christmas to Remember" is a real gift to so many!

“A Christmas to Remember” is a real gift to so many!

This year, Kerusso donated 144 youth shirts to the program.
“We are thrilled to again be partnering with Grace Baptist Church and their ‘Christmas to Remember’ program,” Kennett says. “We hope our shirts will be meaningful gifts for kids to give their families this season!”

It’s a program anyone can be part of, and like the Samaritan’s Purse program that places gift packages for children around the world, the Christmas to Remember program at Grace does enormous good.

That’s not nearly the only impact the good folks at Kerusso are doing.

John Rankin is a retired missionary who operated a successful Christian bookstore and ministry on the South Pacific island of Samoa. It’s really a remarkable story and as Providence would have it, Kerusso plays a part here, as well.

In the Rankin family’s two decades on Samoa, Kerusso product was distributed to islanders, who proudly wear the shirts, thus proclaiming the Gospel and fulfilling in a really cool way Matthew 24:14.

The Rankins' store on Samoa, featuring Christmas displays.

The Rankins’ store on Samoa, featuring Christmas displays.

(The London Missionary Society began proclaiming the Gospel on Samoa in 1830.)

Vic Kennett is humbled to operate a global company that proclaims Jesus near and far.

“The Rankins’ story from Samoa really blesses us! The whole team at Kerusso is happy to hear that our shirts and product met their needs, and that the Gospel was spread in such a far-off spot. Whether we are shipping orders a couple hours away, or to the South Pacific, our goal is to honor God.”
They do that, helping to sustain a mandate given 2,000 years ago.

He is the Reason for the Season!

Television is still good for something, and recently I watched an offering from Netflix: “The Eichmann Show.” Based on a true story—the trial of the SS beast Adolf Eichmann, tasked with a key role in implementing the Nazis’ “final solution” to murder Europe’s Jews—the 2015 movie was exactly like the trial itself: you couldn’t stop watching.

Martin Freeman (British version of “The Office” and Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit film trilogy) delivers a bravura performance as American television producer Milton Fruchtman. Anthony LaPaglia, as blacklisted film director Leo Hurwitz, is equally brilliant. Vaidotas Martinaitis, as Eichmann, is as chilling as one would expect from such a role.

Eichmann in Jerusalem (courtesy of Israel Government)

Eichmann in Jerusalem (courtesy of Israel Government)

The real Eichmann, a lieutenant colonel in the SS, was responsible for the deportation of Jews to extermination camps. He fled Germany at the end of World War 2, like many top-ranked Nazis, and found his way to Austria, and then South America. In Argentina in 1960, a famous Mossad operation ended his freedom and Eichmann was taken to Israel. His subsequent trial and 1962 execution by hanging brought the horrors of the Holocaust to global consciousness. Fruchtman’s hiring of Hurwitz to film the Eichmann trial forced viewers not to look away.

Behind bulletproof glass, Eichmann sat impassively day after day, with his lips slightly twisted. Hannah Arendt, who wrote Eichmann in Jerusalem, coined the famous phrase, “the banality of evil,” in describing Eichmann’s demeanor during the trial, which included footage of the camps.

A fascinating subplot of “The Eichmann Show” was the inability of Hurwitz to understand Eichmann. His near-obsession with turning the cameras on the SS beast led to clashes with Fruchtman. Hurwitz, as many people do, seemed not to understand that humans choose evil and practice it as the devil intended. Eichmann was a fiend, and it’s as simple as that.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inspects items related to Eichmann's trial (courtesy of Israel Government)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inspects items related to Eichmann’s trial (courtesy of the Israel Government)

A 1938 letter from Eichmann to a colleague reveals some of his loathing of Jews. In the letter, he is discussing issues related to his recent role in taking control of Jewish life in Austria:

Tomorrow I will again check on the offices of the Jewish Community and the Zionists. I do that at least once every week. They are completely in my hands here, they dare not take a step without checking with me first. That is the way it should be, because it gives better possibilities of control. We can save ourselves the creation of a fourth Jewish roof-organization similar to the Hilfsverein. I have instructed the Jewish Community to establish a central emigration office within the Community for all countries apart from Palestine. The preparatory work for this has already been set in motion. Just in quite basic lines the situation is now as follows: according to the Decree, Gauleiter Buerckel will deal with Aryanization, Jews in the economy, etc. The far more difficult business of getting the Jews to emigrate is the task of the SD. Now that the Jewish Community and the Jewish Association in Austria have been reorganized, their work is also aimed at emigration. I hope that with this I have put you in the picture again briefly….

Regards to all the comrades on II 112, your old Adolf.

The letter was sent to Herbert Hagen, Eichmann’s colleague in the Gestapo Department of Jewish Affairs.

That Eichmann was tried and convicted and sentenced in Jerusalem, by an Israeli court, is sublime and reveals, I think, God at work in the world. We often cannot understand how and why evil operates, but it seems hardly coincidental that a character like Eichmann would attempt to destroy whole communities of Jews, but end up being hanged in Israel! It is an echo from the Bible’s book of Esther, with Haman playing the Eichmann role, as it were.

In any event, director Paul Andrew Williams and his terrific cast make “The Eichmann Show” a must-see. They depict an important worldview: humans can be evil, and we are responsible for our actions.