Christian Zionism

I have stayed away from this topic this summer, but you know how sometimes you go looking for stuff on the internet that you just know is going to make you mad. Well, I did that today – and it all began when I accidentally ran across the picture on the right from this CBN page, entitled: “Pitching Tents in the Holy City.” Wow. A good Evangelical Christian, worshipping her God and Creator, all the while praying for Israel with the huge flag superimposed behind her. Ridiculous.

And then I kept looking around and ran across these pages, that just make me pretty ticked when I read through their sites: Christian Friends of Israel, Why Israel?, Israel My Beloved and Bridges for Peace. Why do I get mad when I read these sites, let me give you a few examples:

  • “We’re here to pray and comfort the Jews in the midst of all the problems and conflicts in their land, and to assure them that they, and the nation of Israel, have a glorious future awaiting them…” (link): I am all about comforting and praying for the Jews, but I wonder how many of these ‘evangelical’ Christians who make the trek to Jerusalem cross a checkpoint, go to a refugee camp or spend much, if any, time in the West Bank or Gaza?
  • “In the face of Intifada, suicide bombings, and wrangling over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the “wall” or “security fence,” in this land of conflict and bloodshed, Christians here pray and hold on to the shining hope of Israel” (link): Wow. Talk about getting one side of the story.
  • “Palestinian suicide terrorists have been ripping Israeli families apart at an accelerated pace since September 2000,killing mothers, fathers, babies and granparents, and leaving the survivors to cope with a hellish new reality” (link): Sure, but this is a Christian Zionist site, in fact, the website of the International Christian Zionist Center, so, be sure not to mention how the political policies and military orders have been ripping apart Palestinian families for over 50 years; let’s not talk about that.
  • “Every time Israel’s neighbors have risen up to eliminate Israel from the planet, God has caused Israel to prevail. One more time this will happen, with results far, far more astounding than before. The world will be thoroughly astounded, then thoroughly enraged, at the outcome when Israel is once again forced to go to war against the Arabs. A fitting summary is found in another translation of the verse: “Their enemies will be torn to shreds, with no one to save them.” (Micah 5:8b CEV)” (link): Wow. Let’s just talk about some real shitty exegesis to begin with. How do people come to believe this stuff? These are the people that there is no arguing with. None.

Why is it that America and a vast majority of evangelical Christians have almost total support for Israel? Why is it that you so rarely hear about churches taking trips to visit Palestinians and hear about their plight? Why are these Christian Zionist organizations so interesting in “caring” and “letting the Jewish people know we have solidarity with them in their struggle” when there are so many atrocities happening because of the Israeli government? Why can’t anyone challenge Israel without being condemned as an Anti-Semite?

Refuseniks

I wonder how many of you have heard of the refuseniks. It is a movement, now around 635 soldiers strong, within the Israeli Defense Forces. It is a movement of soldiers who say that would die to fight for and protect Israel, but who will no longer do so within the Occupied Territories. It is a movement of soldiers who are choosing time in jail, as opposed to serving in the Occupied Territories. Captain David Zonshein and Lieutenant Yaniv Itzkovits are the two founders of this movement (here is the basic story of how the movement began), and it came about after a particularly horrific service of duty within the Gaza Strip. When they returned, they drafted a letter that would become known as “The Combatants Letter” – here is the text of the letter:

We, reserve combat officers and soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, who were raised upon the principles of Zionism, self-sacrifice and
giving to the people of Israel and to the State of Israel, who have always served in the front lines, and who were the first to carry out any mission in order to protect the State of Israel and strengthen it.

We, combat officers and soldiers who have served the State of Israel for long weeks every year, in spite of the dear cost to our personal lives, have been on reserve duty in the Occupied Territories, and were issued commands and directives that had nothing to do with the security of our country, and that had the sole purpose of perpetuating our control over the Palestinian people.

We, whose eyes have seen the bloody toll this Occupation exacts from both sides,

We, who sensed how the commands issued to us in the Occupied Territories destroy all the values that we were raised upon,

We, who understand now that the price of Occupation is the loss of IDF’s human character and the corruption of the entire Israeli society,

We, who know that the Territories are not a part of Israel, and that all settlements are bound to be evacuated,

We hereby declare that we shall not continue to fight this War of the Settlements.

We shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people.

We hereby declare that we shall continue serving the Israel Defense Force in any mission that serves Israel’s defense.

The missions of occupation and oppression do not serve this purpose – and we shall take no part in them.

60 Minutes did a special on them, entitled “Hell No, We Won’t Go” and you can find the segment online here; it’s very good and about 10 minutes long – I encourage you to watch it. Also, the Refuseniks have an official website here.

I find it interesting that it’s not just people like me who are getting “one side” of this issue during the summer, and it’s not just crazy, whacko international peace activists, and Palestinians who see the real evils of this Occupation – but it is the soldiers in the IDF who have seen and taken part in the violations that have occurred, and it is the soldiers, some of them now, who are finally stepping forward and saying, “Hell no, we won’t go. We won’t go fight within the Occupied Territories – this is an illegal occupation, and it’s wrong!” Here is a personal letter written by refusenik Itai Swirski.

I was talking with one of my Palestinian friends online, and she was telling me a bit more about this house demolition, and about how the director of our program was punched and pushed, and when I asked if it was bad, she replied with “blood came out.” But what was even more interesting was when she told me that she saw a soldier crying.

It’s not hard to know that what is happening here is wrong. You don’t have to be educated at all to know that demolishing someone’s house for no reason is a denial of basic human rights. Anyone can see that this is wrong – anyone with any sense of right and wrong in this world would be able to see that something like this is wrong; sorry, no grey area here, it’s just wrong. And to know that a soldier, who was involved in the demolition, would be crying…and would know that something is wrong…that is huge.

To be a tourist, or…

Sometimes I think I’m a pretty bad tourist. Hell, I don’t even like to be a ‘tourist’ but sometimes, you just have to call it like you see it, and frankly, sometimes, I am a tourist. But, a bad one. I was supposed to go to Nazareth today, which was poor planning on my part anyway, because, well, I’m in Israel now, and…hello, can you say Shabbat? Sabbath? So, it makes it a little harder because the buses aren’t running.

A woman was going to give me a ride today to another town, where I could take a taxi to Nazareth. We finally arranged it so it would cost 120NIS roundtrip (which I guess is a pretty good deal on Shabbat, but still…we’re talking $25. So around the time that she was supposed to take me, she realized her car wasn’t working, which delayed us more, and soon it was about 1.30pm. Now, there is a choir concert tonight in Abuna Chacour’s church that I really want to go to at 6pm. But I will want a shower before then, and it will take about 1.5hrs driving time to and from Nazareth. So that would have given me about 2.5-3hrs to spend time in Nazareth. And I would have seen the Basilica of the Annunciation (believed to be built over Mary’s home) and gone to Nazareth Village (there is a nice little article on Nazareth Village by the Christian Broadcasting Network here), an extremely touristy location, which is a recreation of a first-century village and farm, to give you the feel of what it felt like to walk around in Jesus’ time.

So, I decided it just wasn’t worth it. I would have spent close to $40-50 to see all of this, and I couldn’t justify it for the short amount of time, especially. I have a hard time spending money to see some of the really touristy stuff. And, maybe I should be thinking about this from a pastoral perspective. If I had gone to Nazareth Village, I would have had a lot of photos that I could use in some sermon someday about the “Life and Times of Jesus” or something. I would have been able to say, “Yah…you bet I’ve been to Jesus’ hometown!” I don’t know. They would end up as about 30-40 digital images stuck in the photo gallery for this summer, which I may look at from time to time, but that would be it…

Am I missing something here about being a tourist? So does all of this make me a smart traveler? Or just a bad tourist?