Christian Evangelical support for Israel is even older than the country itself. Almost all Christian denominations through history who have focused on the authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures, have eventually reached a form of Zionism. Or at the very least, some sort of conclusion regarding the Jewish people that resembles Zionism, long before that term existed. Charles Haddon Spurgeon famously said as early as 1864: “You cannot read the Bible without seeing clearly that there is to be an actual restoration of the Children of Israel.”
Today, most Evangelicals will rush to defend Israel against BDS and whoever opposes Israeli policies. We see Evangelicals supporting Israel’s settlement policies, defense strategy and other issues. For many Israelis this is a great comfort. Knowing that we are not alone and isolated in the world. It is not always “Israel against the anti-Semitic world.” We can always count on the Evangelicals to have our back, and for that we are very thankful.
However, there are those who object to this unilateral support. Some complain that Evangelicals turn a blind side to Israel’s less rosy sides. Some problematic issues that might come up are mistreatment of Palestinians, racism and inequality of Israel’s Arab citizens, liberal abortion laws, persecution of missionaries, and more.
Although these objections might have a point, they fail in three important aspects:
First, loving Israel does not mean loving everything that the Israeli government does. Just as an Evangelical American can love the USA and wave flags on July 4, it doesn’t mean that he is in favor of everything the US government does. In the same way, you can love and support Israel while not agreeing to everything its government does.
Second, the Bible shows us that God, although being harsh in his judgements against Israel, always loved them and described them as the “apple of his eye.” It didn’t matter how much Israel turned their backs to him – he never gave up on them. In Jeremiah 31 he confirms that he will abandon Israel only when the sun stops shining. If Evangelicals want to be like Christ, they need to do the same. We need not turn a blind eye to the problems, but we need to realize that God’s promises are unilateral, and the physical restoration of Israel is an important part in God’s plan. Some Israelis are sceptic about Evangelical support and suspect that it’s all a ploy to convert them to Christianity. It’s important to prove them wrong. Support Israel, no matter what. Not because you hope they shall be saved. Not because you think it will hasten the second coming. Not because you have a selfish desire to be blessed because “blessed are those who bless you.” No. Bless Israel because it’s the right thing to do. Because God said so.
Third, the Evangelicals should also remember that we Israelis are regular people with moral failings, just like everyone else. We might be the chosen people, but unfortunately God didn’t give us any superpowers. It is not fair to expect Israel to have a higher moral standard than the rest of the world. We try, of course, but human problems and failings will always be a part of any human society. Many Israelis feel that westerners are being hypocrites when they point out problems with racism and discrimination against Arab citizens within Israeli society. Racism against black people is well documented in the US, yet they accuse us? Anyone who has lived in Israel for any period of time and dealt with Israeli bureaucracy knows that our government functions are flawed and problematic, and will disproportionally discriminate against minorities. This is a problem that many countries deal with, and we are unfortunately no better.
We Messianic Jews of Israel are among the most devoted and Zionist citizens, and almost all of us serve or have served in the IDF. At any given point there are hundreds of Messianic soldiers taking part in defending our homeland. Still, we also see the problems mentioned, and many more. We see our Christian Arab brothers suffer. We are skipped over when we win national Bible contests. We hurt when we see how many babies are killed every year in Israel. Our Messianic congregations sometimes have to fight in court to receive the same rights as synagogues under the law. We seldom get permits to build our own independent places of worship (most congregations will share the same premise, renting from one another, having meetings at different hours). Our Jewish brethren outside of Israel may not make Aliyah under the law of return, some Messianic Jews have lost their job because of their faith, and some have been victims of slander campaigns and physical attacks.
Whenever we raise our voices about these issues and try to do something about them, we don’t do it out of hatred against Israel, but out of love and concern. We believe in God’s promises, and we want Israel to fulfill its God-given destiny.
Evangelicals can do the same. Problematic issues can be addressed and criticized out of love and concern rather than hatred. But there is a way to do that.
For example, the treatment of the Palestinians. I was deeply concerned when I read some testimonies of how some Israeli soldiers treat Palestinians in Hebron and at checkpoints, etc. Honestly, I wasn’t that surprised. Israel puts young 18- and 19-year-old soldiers with guns and far too much power in front of a civilian population. You don’t have to be a genius to understand that some of them will abuse that power. A BDS activist will see this and scream “occupation” and leave it at that. Zero change will happen. Israel will dismiss it as anti-Semitic anti-Zionist rhetoric. But if an Evangelical who supports the settlements and has a biblical pro-Israel agenda also raises this question – that can make things change. Even just some simple measures of checks and balances to avoid abuses of power would make a meaningful change and a better life for many Palestinians.
As for the marginalization of Messianic Jews in Israel, that is an issue that pro-Israel Evangelicals also can do something about. Bring it up. Ask about it. Again, not as a condition for your support. Not out of hatred or anti-Semitism. Do it out of love and concern. If you love Israel, you will also want Israel to be a free democracy that treats everyone as equal citizens. If you love Israel, you will want it to allow all Jews to make Aliyah, including the Messianic Jews. If you love Israel, you will want Israeli babies to be born and not aborted.
Can you criticize Israel without being anti-Semitic? Yes you can. All you need to do is to always support Israel – no matter what.