I have a guilty secret. I am a Philosemite married to an Arab. Two things that can never be… if you assume that like the Capulets and the Montagues, some groups must be enemies from birth.
My propensity toward things Jewish has some historical precedent. The term Philosemite (Jew Lover) was a perjorative in Germany under Hitler. I blame my tendencies on the Bible. When I say that I am a Philosemite, it means that I grew up with the “Israelites” alive and present in my imagination from Bible stories, and somehow assuming that their spiritual and material fate mirrored my own. That can happen when a preacher proclaims the Old Testament from the pulpit, and applies the lessons directly to your life. When “The Ten Commandments” movie with Charleton Heston aired on TV every year, I just assumed it was Easter fare for Christians. The Jews and Passover never entered my mind. The story after all, was about us.
This brand of spiritual dyslexia can be somewhat comical. Last time I was in Israel, we kept bumping into a self-appointed preacher who informed us that God had sent him to Israel to convert the Jewish people. Religious Jews tend to dislike those who come to proselytize. Hence, every time we met this man, he had a story of getting beaten up while out witnessing. He was beaten up by the Wailing Wall, manhandled in the garden of Gethsemane, shoved and spat upon in Eilat, and knocked around in Gennesaret. He handed us his Go Fund Me info on a tourist bus. He thought getting beaten up for his religious zeal was part of the big plan. His identification with the Jewish people is a sentiment harboured by many Christians. When you go to Israel, they sell tourist T-shirts quoting from the book of Ruth, “Your people shall be my people”. There are apparently enough of us out there to comprise an actual tourist market.
The Jewish Old Testament lives and breathes the physical intervention of God in the Promised Land story. As Gentiles, we inherit that hope. Even in the famous Song of Mary, she references how God is faithful BECAUSE he led the children of Israel out of the desert and delivered them from slavery. Christians adopt that narrative as a spiritual metaphor because we are descendants of the same Abrahamic promise. (“And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots”). We Gentiles share the yearning for the Messiah and hope of salvation, from the same book.
And so I lived in Israel for a year, on a kibbutz. I made some friends, achieved some passable Hebrew, and a view to what a unique country it is. Your experience is more nuanced if you were not born into the political situation over there. You have the luxury of not really having to take sides even though everyone there wants you to.
After a lot of thinking and reading on the Middle East problem, I came to this conclusion: I am on the side of justice, and I believe God is just. I am perplexed by human evil, and of the opinion that people will answer for what they do. I am equally convinced that whatever is going on in the Middle East, God will have the last word. Everyone thirsting for justice, will find their prayers answered. Is that an equivocation? I think not. It’s correct Bible reading, if we are to assume that the real estate God is truly interested in the end is your soul, and that everything else will pass away. The writers of the book of Hebrews understood that, as “Pilgrims searching for a city, whose architect and builder is God.”
I came by my own Holy Land history honestly. Many years ago I first fell in love with a Jewish Israeli girl, but now am married to a Christian Arab. It’s an arc that makes some weird kind of sense as part of my own spiritual journey. My Arabic has far surpassed the level of my former Hebrew which I have largely forgotten, and in the realm of politics, I have learned that it is wrong and foolish to pick up someone else’s quarrel. If anything, the strange and unpredictable history of modern Israel tells us that the plan rests in God’s hands. It’s a matter of faith. “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.”
And so I keep an eye on events in the Holy Land. I am sure that the situation on the ground is but a chapter in salvation history, and what happens will ultimately equal justice. I am for all those people of faith, who will find their way to the good end of the Promised Land equation. After all, it is promised, and we are part of that promise.
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