Virtual Talmud

Virtual Talmud

Strange Bedfellows

Of the many strange bedfellows that politics breeds, one of the strangest in recent memory is the alliance between evangelical Christians, largely in the United States, and the Israeli governments of Netanyahu, Barak, Sharon, and now Ehud Olmert. The reasons for the alliance make a certain amount of political sense–evangelicals gain prestige with their own constituents and with the Israeli government, and Israel gets money and political support, particularly in the current administration where evangelicals’ concerns carry so much weight.

Just below the surface of this alliance, however, lies an implacable conflict. Israel, after all, wants to promote a Jewish state, a homeland for Jews throughout the world–the only place where the language, culture, holidays, and rhythms are distinctively Jewish. Evangelicals, on the other hand, see Israel as a central player in their eschaton–their understanding of the rapidly-approaching end of days. According to evangelical eschatology based on their reading of the Book of Revelation, the return of the Jews to their Land signals the advent of the End Times–the final cataclysmic battle that will lead to the millennial reign of Jesus Christ. In practical terms, this means that evangelicals are working to gain a foothold in Israel through building Christian institutions and through a campaign aimed at converting Jews, most recently with an evangelical television channel (including Jews-for-Jesus programming) that would become a part of Israel’s YES cable network.


Successive Israeli governments have been only too happy to welcome both Christian tourists and Christian dollars and have been building attractions for that particular market, such as a Holy Land theme park in the Galilee backed, among others, by Jerry Falwell. But as the Talmud says, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. The more Israel comes to count on evangelical money and influence in Washington–and it is clear Israel needs the evangelicals far more than the evangelicals need Israel–the harder it becomes for Israel to resist evangelicals’ demands for access, for particular policies, for special treatment.

Evangelical leaders claim not to have any ulterior motives in helping Israel, that their largesse simply reflects their affection and concern for God’s chosen people. But the truth is that evangelicals aren’t interested in Israel’s wellbeing except insofar as it serves their own eschatological agenda. And recent developments suggest that Israel better be wary if it wishes to remain the Jewish homeland and not simply the crown jewel in the evangelicals’ holdings. If evangelical influence continues to grow in Israel as it has to now, the government will be selling out our homeland for 30 pieces of silver.


The Other Virtual Talmud Rabbis Say:

  • Jews and Israelis Should Embrace and Befriend Evangelicals
  • It Makes Me Nervous When Israel’s Supporters Also Try to Convert Us Christianity
  • Advertisement
    Comments read comments(13)
    post a comment
    John W Bowman

    posted July 20, 2006 at 5:38 pm

    I am a Christian who intercedes daily to the Lord for the protection of Israel and supports the Nation financially. I have no agenda but to answer the call of the GOD of Abraham,Isaac and Jacob.

    report abuse

    Sharon Woodling

    posted July 20, 2006 at 6:44 pm

    I, too, am a Christian and I have and always will support Israel. Doesn’t the Old Testamant say that those who bless Israel will also be blessed?

    report abuse


    posted July 21, 2006 at 9:07 pm

    John and Sharon, Sincere thanks for your open-minded support for no other reason than you seem to feel it’s the right thing to do. I’m grateful.

    report abuse

    The Pomfret

    posted July 27, 2006 at 2:20 pm

    Israel is so holy a place and a people. It is one of the constants that runs through every religion there is. The promises and prophecies of those religions all point to a promised day and Israel is at the center of it, in a place of honor. There is absolutely nothing in scripture that I have found that says Christianity or Islam will overtake or supplant Israel, or that any mass conversion of Jews to Christianity will ever take place. Any Christian who thinks some savior will fall (or shall we say drift in) from the sky and deliver the world, much less Israel, into their hands is reading their Bible with their outer eye, that is, through the lens of materialism. The “end days” are abundant in imagery that can only be read as a spiritual and not a material reality. Students of the Book of the Revelation of St.John know that it proclaims the return of the Jews to their homeland. The Bible also says that Jesus will come with a new name and be known by his Spirit, not his decomposed material reality or his Aramaic name. We are in for something new! In short, Jesus told his followers to seek him, not to convert him. It would have been so easy for the hatemongers to have utterly destroyed the Jews in the last century. Why didn’t they succeed? Not everything is in the hands of men, but it is all in God’s. There’s a reason for Israel, and it’s not to provide the last major race to be converted to Christianity or destroyed by Islam. Yes, Jews are different, and yes, Israel is different. They are doing a work that only Jews can do. They are protecting the land God gave them from the beginning.

    report abuse

    Betty Morton

    posted July 27, 2006 at 5:22 pm

    Coming from an evangelistic background i can tell you that many evangelicals in the day do not want to convert Jews, but to love and financially support them. Christians should be caring for Israel. They should send financial support. I know of whole congregations that send money to non-Christian organizations, but to purely Jewish institutions for the sake of blessing Israel. Aren’t the nations supposed to end up in Israel and to worship there? Are we not to love and honor you and your G-d? Don’t hate us because some may be mis-guided. Messiah will teach us all. Jew and non-Jew. We all have a lot to learn from Him.

    report abuse

    Jonathan Freeman

    posted July 27, 2006 at 6:25 pm

    For many Christians, love and support of Israel in natural and unaffected. I don’t think the endtimes argument is very strong – after all doesn’t G-d decide when Messiah comes?

    report abuse

    Barry Kahn

    posted July 27, 2006 at 6:45 pm

    If Rabbis Grossman and Stern are concerned about contact between evangelicals and Jews, the Jewish community is not doing a good enough job of educating our own. I applaud the togetherness of the 2 faiths. We should focus on our similarities. As long as Christians are not trying to kill us for our faith, the interchange of ideas is great! Let’s continue to work together to support Israel.

    report abuse


    posted July 27, 2006 at 7:11 pm

    I am a Christian and I can say that I have no motives at all concerning Israel or the Jewish beliefs when I made a choice to support them during this time. I currently support what Israel is doing now because I feel that they are right. Everyone has a right to protect their people and I admire Israel for their efforts to do so. The children of Israel have suffered too much and continue to suffer. If a time came where they were doing something I feel in my spirit to be wrong, my views would change accordingly.

    report abuse


    posted July 27, 2006 at 10:12 pm

    Well thanks for letting me know why I am a supporter of Israel; I didn’t realize I was so underhanded! Man, arrogant hardly seems an adequate description of the good Rabbi. As a Christian, I support Israel and the Jewish people who live there because its their land. It always has been and it always will be. Its God’s choice for His people. In my opinion Christians, and anyone else who is there, are there by the good graces of the landowners – the Jews. But Jews, and Jews alone, have the right to claim any and all of the Holy Land as their own. And I thank them for allowing my fellow Christians who are wealthy enough to visit, the opportunity to do so. Furthermore, we don’t try to convert people. We neither convert nor convict; we convey. The Holy Spirit is responsible for the other two. Don’t worry though, a lot of Christians are mixed up about that too.

    report abuse

    T Williams

    posted July 27, 2006 at 10:54 pm

    No matter how many times I encounter the accusation that Christians only “cozy up” to Israel because it fits into some eschatological game plan, it always takes me by surprise. This miscalculation of motives seems as alien to me as would having to get up one morning and suddenly start wearing a skirt instead of pants. Both the Rabbi’s characterization and the imagined scenario of a dress code of skirts for men provoke in me a similar bewilderment, defensiveness and a distinct feeling of violation. With all due respect to the Rabbi, I find the suggestion that my support of Israel is laced with an ulterior motivation to be insulting. The suggestion that I extend a friendship that benefits me at the cost of another’s safety or happiness is patronizing almost as if the lack of a kippah call into question whether I am capable of being a moral man of good will. It also demeans my faith, which embraces (at least in theory) a morality that emphasizes preferring others to one’s self. (You know, that whole no great love than this, that a man lay down his life for a friend thing demonstrated so succinctly by Jesus.) I suppose that the sort of xenophobia reflected in claims similar to those written by the Rabbi – while unfortunate – is a perfectly natural response to Christian aggression against Jews throughout the near whole of our mutual history. I can neither excuse, explain nor condone these offenses which range from indignities to atrocities. I realize that suspicion is the first response; I m just not sure that it is the best response. That said, I am sure that the good Rabbi would prefer me to refrain from the presumption of pontificating on why Chasidim sport payess while a reconstructionist does not, just as I take no pleasure in seeing him tell me what I believe and why. There is no joy for either of us in seeing our deeply-held convictions trivialized by an outside observer painting carelessly with such a broad brush. Are there Christians that are guilty of the things suggested by the Rabbi? Sure. But we are no more autonomous a group that any other. Not all Jews keep kashrut and not all Christians carry guns. Don t sweep all Christians away with a foul stereotype or miscalculated generalization. As for me, my support of Israel is like my love of the color blue. The Rabbi and I could sit down and try to dissect it, explain it and codify it, but in the end it all comes back to that ethereal pleasure of an affection that is unconnected to anything other than the joy it provokes in me. It may seem foolish or naive, but I support Israel and the Jews simply because it gives me pleasure to do so. I was taught that G-d s blessing surely rests upon them both It is that land and those people which served as the foundation and source of everything that I cherish about my own faith. To dismiss the love and loyalty Christians feel towards Israel and the Jews is to diminish us both.

    report abuse


    posted July 28, 2006 at 9:51 pm

    I am a Christian. I love Israel and the people G-d gave the land to. I pray to G-d for His people and His land. My only motive is to bless Israel and G-d’s people.

    report abuse


    posted August 1, 2006 at 5:12 am

    The God of Abraham and David is my God. His word teaches us that we as beleivers should at all times lift-up Israel and defend her as well as our own country. My church teaches the same. No Agendas, our Lord has spoken to us about our part to help Israel.

    report abuse


    posted August 1, 2006 at 5:16 am

    addition: I also send money to help the people in Israel not to convert them but to help.

    report abuse

    Post a Comment

    By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

    Previous Posts

    The Task Is Never Finished
    It has been heartwarming to read the warm responses to Rabbi Waxman's post asking Beliefnet to reconsider its decision to cancel Virtual Talmud. Virtual Talmud offered an alternative model for internet communications: civil discourse pursued in ...

    posted 12:31:46pm Apr. 03, 2008 | read full post »

    Some Parting Reflections
    Well, loyal readers, all good things must come to an end and we’ve been informed that this particular experiment in blogging as a forum for creating wide-ranging discussion on topics of interest to contemporary Jews has run its course. Maybe ...

    posted 1:00:29pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

    Obama's Lesson and The Jewish Community
    There are few times in this blog’s history when I have felt that Rabbi Grossman was one hundred percent correct in her criticisms of my ideas. However, a few weeks ago she called me out for citing a few crack websites on Barak Obama’s ...

    posted 12:09:08pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

    The Future of Race Relations
    As a post-baby boomer, it is interesting to me to see how much of today’s conversation about racial relations is still rooted in the 1960s experience and rhetoric of the civil rights struggle, and the disenchantment that followed. Many in the ...

    posted 4:04:41pm Mar. 25, 2008 | read full post »

    Wright and Wrong of Race and Jews
    Years ago, as a rabbinical student, I was one of a group of rabbinical students who visited an African American seminary in Atlanta. My fellow rabbinical students and I expected an uplifting weekend of interfaith sharing like we had experienced ...

    posted 12:50:11pm Mar. 24, 2008 | read full post »


    Report as Inappropriate

    You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

    All reported content is logged for investigation.