Sunday, August 21, 2011

An open letter to Glenn Beck


 You have come to Israel to hold a rally, “Restoring Courage”, on Wednesday, August 24, 2011. I believe you plan to hold this rally at the Southern Wall excavations, the Davidson Center, Jerusalem, though of course I understand that the final venue could be different. You have invited, among many, the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel, several prominent Jewish and Christian clergy, and both politicians and diplomats from around the world.  You have asked Americans to join you, to show the world that, despite the cost of travel and lodging, they are willing to stand with Israel.

Mr. Beck, you have revealed on your now-cancelled American TV program that you must spend more than a million dollars a year on personal security. Clearly, you understand the cost to defend Israel. Your willingness to pay such a price to be steadfast is stunning.  Considering the hatred that we (and now you) face, your continued defense of our beleaguered country represents for many Jews an act of courage that few are willing to take. Indeed, many here believe that your TV program was cancelled precisely because you chose not only to stand up for Israel, but also because you counter-attacked those whom you believe support the demonization of Israel and/or the destruction of the Jewish people. For many Jews, you appear to be a true Gentile hero. I think it proper to say, ‘thank you’, for the courage you have shown.

But now, Mr Beck, you face a challenge. As you await your moment to stand—perhaps before thousands-- in Israel’s lime-light, you have already asked American Jews to join with their Christian friends to talk about Israel and to stand together for Israel; you have asked that synagogues and churches should interface, to solidify behind Israel;  you have spoken as a Christian to your Israeli friends, recalling the words of the Biblical Ruth, ‘Your G-d is my G-d’; you have declared your commitment to your deity on American TV; and, after all of this, you have  identified this rally as ‘non-denominational’. Your challenge, Mr Beck, is to confront the contradictions of Christian-Jewish relations.

You see, Mr Beck, many believe that some Christians see friendship with Jews as a means to missionize Jews. Even today, as you prepare to stand up for Courage, some Jews in Israel are talking about a certain Jewish citizen of Hebron who had recently spoken in support of a ‘Christian friend’, who had come to Israel to work side-by-side with Jewish families. But it turns out that the ‘Christian friend’ might see his friendship with Jews as a way to missionize them-- something, apparently, he may have discussed on his website but not revealed to his friend in Hebron.

For us, Mr. Beck, it does not matter if this current Hebron story is true or not, because history teaches us that the Christian hand of friendship too often means something other than pure friendship. So as you prepare to speak in Israel, please note that we do appreciate the hand that you hold out to us. Today, before you have spoken publicly, we accept your hand.  We accept your love and we celebrate your courage on our behalf. But do not become a pseudo- ‘Christian friend’. Do not disappoint us. Instead, respect our religion. Be mindful of the history of those Christians who have held out their hand—with less than honest intent. Be sensitive. Do not invoke your deity’s name before our public. Ask other Christian speakers to share your sensitivity.  By all means, call for Christians to support Israel. But do not ask Jews to hold hands with their Christians friends, for the history of such hand-holding has proven painful to the Jewish people.  By all means, tell Christians they must fight evil and stand up for good—but do not ask Jews to join their Christian neighbors to pray together. Such prayer has led to unhappy outcomes for a Jewish community.

Christian-Jewish history has brought pain to us, Mr. Beck. As our friend, do not bring more pain.

Some Christians demonize Israel.  Some believe that Israel is not simply an ‘occupier’ of Palestinian land, but that we have been occupiers since our modern State’s creation—1948-- which means that our very existence is vile and repulsive to them. Mr. Beck, you have stood against these Christians. Your courage and your words have inspired both Christian and Jew.  Now, on August 24,  you are scheduled to ascend a unique bully-pulpit. How will you use that platform? You have the opportunity to speak to all, including Christians, about Israel, G-d, courage—and the survival of Western ideals. You will be challenged not only to find the proper words, but also to speak with proper respect—because from this unique place the world will see if you are one who understands the lessons of Christian-Jewish history.

Be careful, Mr Beck. Use your moment in this spotlight wisely. Be sensitive. Honor the soil upon which you stand. Honor your friends. Do not disappoint us.

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