3 Jun 2019

Advocating in Efrat

I remain convinced that most people are unaware of just how deep the hatred for Israel goes among American Christian elites. Specifically evangelicals.

(As an aside, check out a recent editorial in Christianity Today, from Mark Galli, regarding his scolding of “Christian Nationalism,” while ignoring the existential threat of Islam. Progressive evangelicals, or whatever one calls them, are unusually undiscerning.)

In the Israeli community of Efrat, south of Jerusalem, my friend Ardie Geldman hosts these hostile groups, who believe Israel is the problem in the Middle East. As they come back from Hebron to Jerusalem, they often stop by Efrat, in order to see an “illegal settlement.”

The superb writer, Barbara Sofer, has written about Ardie and his work, in the Jerusalem Post. The American-born Geldman is particularly discerning when it comes to reaching students and ministry leaders that demonize Israel:

“We cerebral Jews, with some exceptions, attempt mainly to immediately win over people’s minds with facts, figures, history lectures and the like, but that doesn’t compete with emotional and spiritual experiences.”

There is also this:

“The Palestinian Authority has reportedly invested in helping families (mostly Christian) to expand their homes into bed-and-breakfast facilities to host student groups. The hosts often invite the visitors to family gatherings and celebrations. They fill them in on the Palestinian narrative – how, for instance, the Israelis are to blame for the exodus of Christians from Bethlehem.

“’It’s not a matter of their minds being made up,’ says Geldman. ‘Their hearts are made up.’”

This is a real key. In all my years of advocating for Israel, I slowly began to realize it did little good to use statistics and facts. That doesn’t penetrate hearts. Although it’s not really part of what Ardie does, I would also add that the sanitization of Bible prophecy teaching in American churches has aggressively aggravated the problem. If people do not understand who the Jews are, from Scripture, they won’t be moved by reports of bus bombings and other terror attacks.

A key feature of student visits to Efrat is spending Shabbat with an Israeli family. I enjoyed a meal with Ardie’s wonderful family a few years ago, and it remains one of my most precious memories.

Ardie keeps student evaluations of their time in Efrat. One particular entry struck me:

“Before I came to Efrat I was trying to listen to Israeli points of view with an open mind – but I wasn’t really succeeding. Now I feel as though my mind and also my heart have been opened. I still believe the Palestinians about their hurts and injustices – I’m still ‘on their side.’ But I’m on your side, too – I feel as though my heart is big enough to love you both.”

This is a student from America initially influenced by the likes of Gary Burge and Shane Claiborne, whose bitterness toward Israel is off the charts. But you can see that it is possible to influence people, especially young people, to feel differently about Israel and Jews.

There are two tracks here, of course: political and religious. If you want to change someone’s perspective about Israeli and Zionist politics, you have to address religious concerns.

It’s a topic for another time, but the use of Bible prophecy must also come into play.

It’s long time past time to re-think how we advocate for Israel.

Begin by picking up your Bible.





27 May 2019

Foot, Shoot Thyself

The Palestinians are at it again, just as they have been for a hundred years. A lifeline from the West has been thrown into the churning sea that is Arab society and stands ready to help put the Palestinians in a better environment. An economic summit hosted by the U.S. and Bahrain is scheduled for June. The theme is “Peace to Prosperity,” and the overall goal is to lend yet another hand to the Palestinians. According to a report:

“Expected attendees are treasury ministers and businessmen from the Middle East and around the globe. The objective of the workshop is to encourage potential investment in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip that would lead to Palestinian and regional prosperity, which could be made possible by a peace agreement.

“Later, the Americans are planning to release the political aspects of the ‘deal of the century,’ which will concern the unresolved core issues between Israel and the Palestinians.”

And, right on cue, the corrupt Palestinian Authority has denounced the conference:

“Senior Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah figures rushed to announce their unreserved rejection of the economic workshop in Bahrain, despite the severe economic difficulties facing the PA. They stressed that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict demanded a

political resolution, whose consequence would be the economic issue. According to Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh, the components of the political solution are the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with the 1967 borders and Jerusalem as its capital, and the ‘right of return’ of the Palestinian refugees (Note: The ‘right of return’ means the destruction of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.) So far PA

chairman Mahmoud Abbas has not yet officially responded to the proposed economic workshop but his unconditional rejection can be expected because it is part of the ‘deal of the century,’ which Mahmoud Abbas rejects out of hand.”

I’ve driven through the Jordan Valley and seen firsthand the poverty average Palestinians live in, literally right next to luxurious villas built by and for the PA “leaders.” It’s unconscionable, but so long as the PA and Hamas control the population, this is what you’ll get.

Notice too the fascinating element to this story: Bahrain is a co-host! This is akin to the Saudis also cozying up to the Israelis and Americans. I’m skeptical that these kinds of relationships are genuine on the part of the Arabs, but so long as Iran’s mullahs exist, these partnerships will also exist and even flourish.

Hamas is denouncing the conference partly on the grounds that it promotes “normalization”(!) with Israel. Wow. Imagine that! Imagine some Muslims in the Middle East strolling into the 21st century, from their 7th century perch.

The Saudis and the UAE will also participate in the conference, further sidelining the maniacs in Gaza and the Territories. One can hardly imagine people more evil than Mahmoud Abbas and the Henchmen of Hamas. They shove their own people into a meat-grinder and then sit back by their pools and churn-out more anti-Semitism.

Bashar al-Masri, a Palestinian businessman, has also denounced the conference (no doubt with a gun to the heads of his family members), saying with a straight face that the Palestinians can see themselves to economic prosperity and don’t need foreign intervention! Holy moly. They couldn’t “economic” their way out of a paper bag.

As Christians who support Israel and place a priority on her security, we should also regularly pray for rank-and-file Palestinians who are abused by their own leadership.

Much is at stake.