Rabbi Shlomo Aviner (b. 1943) is head of the Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva, and is among the more important leaders of the religious Zionist movement. Whatever he says, therefore, carries considerable weight among his many adherents. And his recent article "Christians Who Love Israel: The World's Largest Scam" comes in the form of question and answer, which adds extra religious weight to it.
Aviner is concerned by increasing Christian financial support for Israel. He asks how Israelis should relate to Christian organizations like HaYovel, which sends Christian volunteers from around the world to help Jewish farmers in the West Bank. In Aviner's mind, all forms of Christian assistance to Jews have but one purpose: "Erasing Israel in one way or another." Therefore, he concludes, "we shouldn't be lured by statements of love, hugs and kisses."
Aviner divides the Christian world to three groups: Catholics, liberal Christians and Evangelicals, whom he sees as the most dangerous group.
Catholics, he says, see Israel as "the greatest disaster in history" because Catholics are the true Israel (Verus Israel).
Liberal Christians, who don't care much for Catholics, are opposed to Israel under the pretense of championing human rights and equality.
Evangelicals, who send the most missionaries, support Israel, but see the Jewish state merely as a stepping stone to the coming of Jesus. That's why they "encourage Jews to come to Israel, live in Jerusalem and even build the Temple." Aviner insists that Evangelicals believe that "after nearly all the Jews are killed, the remnant will convert to Christianity and peace will come … this is why they shower us with love and money."
Love and money softens the traditional Jewish resistance to Christianity and makes it a legitimate option for Jews. As an example of this new, more effective tactic, Aviner points to the Christian Embassy, asking: "What's more effective for spreading the Gospel, distributing leaflets or building a bomb shelter?"
But with all his antipathy for Christians, Aviner's real problem is with Jews who value money above all else. "There's no greater disgrace than receiving financial gifts from Christians," he concludes. "May we all fully repent."
Aviner's broad brush should rightly offend countless Christians who seek no reward for helping Israel. One wishes for a day when Jews realize that many millions of Christians love Israel simply because God loves Israel.
At the same time, can Aviner's suspicions be dismissed as wholly unfounded?
PHOTO: Rabbi Shlomo Chaim haKohen Aviner, head of the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva in Jerusalem. He is considered one of the spiritual leaders of the religious Zionist movement. Photo by Yossi Zamir/Flash90