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July 21, 2011 11:07 am

Surrounded by Christians Who Love Israel

avatar by Shmuley Boteach

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The impassioned crowd at CUFI's 'night to honor Israel.' Photo: Maxine Dovere.

The Christians United for Israel dinner in Washington, DC was an experience I won’t quickly forget. Until you sit in a room with five thousand Christian lovers of Israel and absorb their enthusiasm for the Jewish state and the Jewish people you would be hard pressed to think it possible. But there I was, surrounded by Christians from all over the nation waving Israeli and American flags, pledging eternal love and support to the most vilified country on earth. The speeches came fast and furious. The statements bold and unapologetic. Israel must never trade land for peace. Every attempt to do so has led to terror bases for Hamas and Hezbollah. Israel is one of the freest and most democratic nations on earth. President Obama better stop pressuring Israel or pay for it at the polls. Iran is an existential threat to both Israel and the United States. Those who treat the Jews poorly are abandoned by G0d, as history has shown time and again. The American University campus has become a hub of anti-Israel hatred. We’re deploying our legions to fight it.

Sheesh. I could scarcely sit down. Nearly every line deserved an ovation.

The crowd was anything but monolithic. The head of CUFI’s campus operations is a  young African-American student who pledged his life to fighting for Israel. Shades of all colors were to be found in the audience with a smattering of yarmulkes dotting the landscape as well. Glenn Beck, the keynote speaker, is a Mormon even though the vast majority of participants were evangelical Christians who are often suspicious of Mormonism. An orthodox Rabbi gave the opening benediction. My friend Dennis Prager addressed the crowd the night before the banquet, and my friend Michael Oren, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, gave a moving historical account of Christians over the last century who were moved to support Israel based on Biblical teaching. Israeli music filled the room, sung by Christians from Texas whom I could swear sounded indistinguishable from musical acts from Tel Aviv. “I am an Israeli,” declared CUFI founder Pastor John Hagee, swearing to forever defend Israel against attack at the risk of life and limb. “It’s not only the support we offer Israel,” said Beck, “that matters. The reason for doing so is also important. We can’t do this because we think it will bring final salvation or for any other reason. Rather, it’s about love. Why did Ruth declare to Naomi, “Where you go I’ll go. You’re God is my God. Where you die I’ll die, and there I’ll be buried. Because she loved her. This has to be about love.” His words directly addressed the discomfort some Jews feel with Christian support for Israel as being based on end-of-days prophecy and a necessary precursor for the return of their saviour.

I sat there thinking, if only the Jewish community could offer such unequivocal support for Israel…

Evangelical Christians have emerged as Israel’s most stalwart backers. They have been at the forefront of calling out President Obama for his pressure on Israel to make concessions while requiring little if anything of the Palestinians. While many Jews made peace with President Obama’s reference to Israel’s 1967 borders, evangelicals have refused to give an inch.

In December of this year I will G-d willing be publishing my book, “Kosher Jesus,” through Gefen Publishers in Israel. It has been a project of more than six years of research and writing. The book seeks to offer to Jews and Christians the real story of Jesus, a wholly observant, Pharisaic Rabbi who fought Roman paganism and oppression and was killed for it. While many Christians will be confused by its assertion that Jesus never claimed divinity and not only did not abrogate the Torah but observed every letter of the Law, they will find comfort in my tracing most of Jesus’ principal teachings back to Jewish sources, this before he was stripped of his Jewishness by later writers who sought to portray him as an enemy of his people. This is especially true of Jesus’ most famous oration, the Sermon on the Mount, which is a reformulation of the Torah he studied and to which he was committed. A small sampling:

Jesus: (Matt 5:5) Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Hebrew Bible: (Psalms 37) The meek shall inherit the earth, and delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

Jesus: (Matt 5:8) Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see G-d.

Hebrew Bible: (Psalms 24) Who shall ascend the mount of the Lord – the pure-hearted.

Jesus: (Matt 5:39) But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Hebrew Bible: (Lamentations 3:30) Let him offer his cheek to him who smites him….

Jesus: (Matt 6:33) But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.

Hebrew Bible: (Psalms 37:4) Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Jesus: (Matt 7:7) Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.

Hebrew Bible: (Jer 29:13) When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.

Jesus: (Matt 7:23) Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.”

Hebrew Bible: (Psalms 6:9) Depart from me, all you workers of evil…

But the book is also for Jews who remain deeply uncomfortable with Jesus because of the Church’s long history of anti-Semitism, the deification of Jesus, and the Jewish rejection of any Messiah who has not fulfilled the Messianic prophecies. We Jews will forever reject the divinity of any man, the single most emphatic prohibition of our Bible. And we can never accept the Messiahship of any personality, however noble or well-intended, who died without ushering in the age of physical redemption. But as Christians and Jews now come together to love and support the majestic and humane Jewish state, it’s time that Christians rediscover the deep Jewishness and religious Jewish commitment of Jesus, while Jews reexamine a lost son who was murdered by a brutal Roman state who sought to impose Roman culture and rule upon a tiny yet stubborn nation who will never be severed from their eternal covenant with the G-d of Israel.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, founder of This World: The Values Network, was the London Times Preacher of the Year at the Millennium and is winner of the American Jewish Press Association’s Highest Award for Excellence in Commentary. The best-selling author of 25 books, Newsweek calls him ‘the most famous Rabbi in America.’ Follow him Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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  • MFT

    You are making a devils bargain. We can get the votes we need from the Evangelicals, but they have sinister designs on us. Their theology states that the Jews will be saved refers ONLY to the Jews who have accepted Jesus. They want to keep the holy land open so that Jews will move there and then eventually the entire nation will convert.

    They don’t like Jews, they are just keeping Israel open fro their so-called “New Jerusalem”.

  • telson

    The coming of the Messiah is an interesting issue to which many prophecies are connected.
    Below, we are going to examine this area, that is, the prophecies connected with the coming of the Messiah. The purpose is to go through especially what has been told in the Scriptures – the Books of Moses, psalms and prophets – about the coming of the Messiah, the point of time of His coming, His life, His origins and whether or not these prophecies have already been fulfilled. In other words, the purpose is to find out how these things actually came true.
    However, we will not only be restricted to the writings of the Bible, but also use old commentaries of the rabbis (Midrash, Targum, Zohar, Talmud, etc.) as assistance, because they are valued very much amongst Jews. What is surprising is that from these old sources – especially from the oldest – can be found a powerful expectation of the Messiah and a description of His supernatural characteristics, presented in a way which very much resembles the message of the New Testament. An example of this expectation of the Messiah is what Talmud has said on the following lines. They indicate that prophets prophesied only for the days of the Messiah:

  • PissedOffAmerican

    It is truly scary seeing such archaic displays of religious fanaticism still being openly expressed. Haven’t you damned fools learned by now that religious bias and bigotry has been a scourge on mankind since he drew his first breath? Dumping white phosphorous on women and children pretty much exposes your religious pretensions for what they are. You are a small minded bunch; throwbacks that will drive us back to another dark age.

    Begone. Give mankind a rest from your bloody hatreds, will ya?

    • Michael

      Judging by the hateful tone of your own reply, you’re not much better. Until you become aware of the depredations against which Israel is defending itself from the moment that Jewish settlers arrived on their *LEGALLY PURCHASED* property, bought from Muslim landowners who laughed all the way to the bank.

      There would be peace tomorrow if Muslims would just accept the right of Israel to exist and stop waging war on her.

      If you want to reduce religious fanaticism, you’re talking to the wrong crowd.

    • In the Book of Genesis, Chapter 12, Verse 1-3, we see what God says about His response to how people treat Israel: And I will bless those that bless you and curse the one who curses you. And in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.?
      In the Book of Numbers, where the Bible is telling us about the Nation of Israel that God delivers out of bondage in Egypt, it tells us:

      He crouched. He lay down as a lion, and as a great lion. Who shall stir him up? Blessed is he who blesses you, and cursed is he who curses you.?

  • Robert Smith

    Boteach’s previous article about how America saved the world during WW2 was, I thought, about as irritating as he could possibly get, but he has outdone himself with this latest twaddle about Jesus and the evil Roman empire. As a non-believer raised as a Christian all I can say is this: the only Christians left in the world now are the fundamentalists. The whole point of their religion is about taking every word in the bible literally. That being the case please take the time to read the New Testament. Taken literally, it bears absolutely no relation to the fantasy proposed here by Boteach. Boteach is hands down the most insufferably patronising and irritating writer I’ve ever had the misfortune to read. Arrghh

  • I should add that the fact that sources for Jesus’ teachings can be found in the Tanach proves nothing. By the same argument you could prove Anselm or Calvin were good Jews. All Jewish heretics, unless they are peculiarly thick, can bring proof-texts for their opinion. This applies to Sadducees, Karaites and Reform no less than Christians, so your argument is pure non-sequitor.

    The question is not whether Jesus was capable of taking pesukim form NaCH out of context and weaving them into a religious philosophy, the question is whether he interpreted them in an authentically Jewish manner according to Torah sheb’alpel.

  • The ‘Kosher Jesus’ hypothesis is based on the following assertion. The overwhelming majority of Jews and Christians, totalling billions of people, were for two millenia completely wrong about Jesus’s teachings about ethics, religion, g-d and, indeed, himself. Then a bunch of people on the 20th century who knew nothing about either Christianity or Judaism proved them wrong. Then Rabbi Boteach sealed the deal.

    It’s the height of arrogance and hubris and performs the outstanding feat of being offensive to both Jews and Christians, whilst seeking to reconcile them. It contradicts clear statements in the Talmud, by he Rambam and in myriad other Jewish sources. It defames the Jewish Court that sentenced him to death. Finally, it leads the ignorant and credulous into bizarre syncretic cults and belief systems that fail to be either Judaism of Christianity successfully and so leave their adherents in serious trouble whichever side turns out to be right.

    Jesus was either mad, bad or the son of G-d. What he most certainly not was a good Jew or, indeed, a good person. Jews and Christians should treat each other with the real respect that involved frankly acknowledging how utterly different and reconcilable our two faiths are. They should be free to believe him the only begotten eternal son of G-d, second person of the trinity and incarnate etc. and we should be free to believe he was a heretic and traitor and both of us shouldn’t have to put up with patronising so and sos telling us he was actually a great Jew.

    • Wildan

      To refer to him as a ‘heretic’ is a fallacy of thinking since there was no established Jewish canon in the 1st century A.D, thus making heresy impossible. In fact, there were dozens of Jewish sects (or interpretations)during the late 2nd temple era, the Jesus movement being only one of many. However, of all those branches only two, the Jesus (Christianity) and the Pharisee sects (Rabbinical Judaism), survived into mordern times –both evolving into differing branches themselves.

      • It is a historical fact that there were many sects in 1st century Israel and that no particular sect had total dominance. In that we are agreed.

        However, that does not proclude the possibility that one of these sects was actually the authentic inheritor of biblical religion and the others were perversions. This is a theological question, not a historical one, so the judgement as to which by definition cannot be anachronistic.

        To label any particular judgement anachronistic is to take it as a given that the judgement in question is historical, which is to assume that biblical religion is not a product of divine revelation, but a historical construct subject to the same historicising relativisation of values as anything else. You are entitled to take such a view, of course, but you are not entitled to label my view anachronistic simply because I dissent from it.

  • Wildan

    Ironically, I just recently glossed over a book written by the widely respected Rabbi Jacob Neusner, titled “A Rabbi Argues with Jesus”, in which he argues the polar opposite position on JC –that he was totally wrong on the Torah. Perhaps these two Rabbis could have a debate.
    The proposals made by Boteach I find difficult to digest. Jesus claimed to be one with God as revealed in the Gospels, and he did reassert the Torah but only by spiritualizing it rather than taking it literally (this was what got him into so much trouble). Albeit, Boteach may argue the Gospels aren’t exceptable and attempt to go with the ‘historical Jesus’ model –but there is scant evidence of this outside the Gospels –insufficient to make any claims about him. Moreover, the oldest record of Jesus come from St. Paul, who not only was an expert of the Torah but most emphatically believed in Jesus’s messiahship.

  • Chaim F

    I’m surprised. JC was certainly not a good Jew. He rebelled against the Rabbis and encouraged other Jews to do so as well. He is not highly regarded by the Talmud and in his name Jews have been slaughtered and persecuted for centuries. Koshering him will remove one of the important arguments against the conversion of Jews to Christianity.

    • abebird

      JC was a devoted Pharisaic Rabbi that was crucified by the Romans, as they have done to tens of thausands Jews and gentile all around their empire. Jesus was a Rabbi of a small Pharisaic cult that leter, years after JC dead, they have turned to be called Christian Jews. As Judaism met with gentiles, many of them wanted to get closed the monotheism. This Chriatian Jewish cult did the best job in persuading gentiles to adopt. Until the end of the first century A.D. they have turned to be solely Christians confronting and battling against the Jews.

  • And there are more of us out here ready to hammer any attempts to pressure Israel to give up G_D’s land. I look forward to reading your book; keep me posted.

    • Thank you Kimberly for the first sane and relevant response on this thread. CUFI is the largest political organization in America, with 720,000 members and over 500,000 Facebook likes. They are forming alliances with Hispanic evangelicals and rapidly forming university groups. It will become obvious that all the antisemitic and antizionist enemies of Israel in America are no more than noisy little chihuahuas.