Photo: Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday
There are plenty of reasons for Christians to engage with Israel. Some do so loudly and publicly, others only in closed conversations, and some know how to express their support between the lines, so to speak.
To stand by Israel’s side unconditionally and without restrictions is exhausting, complicated and often risky. Recently, however, something exciting and new has been developing in those Christian circles that support Israel. Many of these Christians now find themselves antagonized by Israel itself. It seems they now have a bit of a problem on their hands.
There are Christians who condemn Israel because it allegedly discriminates against Palestinians.
There are Christians who condemn Israel because it promotes the controversial settlement policy in the biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria.
There are Christians who condemn Israel because Jews deny Jesus as Messiah.
There are Christians who condemn Israel because they think they are the chosen people and not the Jews through a process known as Replacement Theology.
There are Christians who condemn Israel because they see the Jews as being arrogant.
There are Christians who condemn Israel because they believe Jews control the banks and media of the world.
There are Christians who condemn Israel because Jewish orthodoxy persecutes Messianic Jews.
And now there are also Christians who condemn Israel because, from their point of view, Israel is pursuing an unnecessary vaccination policy that is leading the nation to ruin.
These Christians turn everything upside down because Israel is not behaving the way they want Israel and the Jews to behave. Most of them will no longer travel to Israel as long as entry is dependent on vaccination. That is their right, and Israel’s Ministry of Tourism will need to accept this and possibly rethink its policy. But this attitude is similar to that of Christians who won’t visit the Holy Land because they believe Israel to be an “apartheid” state.
I’m not going to rehash all of the accusations that have been leveled at Israel over the past year. We’ve written on that before. But it does certainly seem that “unconditional love” has its limits, even among Israel’s Christian friends. It’s not that one can’t criticize Israel. We Israelis criticize Israel more than anyone else. But people need to learn to accept Israel for what it is.
Different people have different perceptions about what Israel should be or do. Israel should be more merciful to the Palestinians, collectively Jesus should be recognized as the Messiah (wouldn’t that be the hit of the millennium), and if only Israel had resisted the Pfizer vaccine.
In the past year a lot has become clearer to me and that includes the Christian relationship with the people of Israel. People who come into contact with Israel have always walked away feeling wounded, because Israel has always been “offensive” in its behavior. To really love Israel unconditionally is probably only possible by the power of the Almighty and not through human endeavor.