This summer I had the opportunity to meet Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater at the Passadena Jewish Temple and Center. As I listened to him talk about the differences between biblical and rabbinic Judaism I thought: This guy is like the “Rob Bell” of Jewish Rabbi’s. Not only is he ridiculously smart, fairly young and hip; but he has the heart of an activist. He serves as the chair of the Abrahamic Faiths Peacemaking Initiative.
While he was fielding my groups’ questions, the conversation about supporting National Israel came up. He went on to talk about his feelings toward fundamentalist Christian Zionism and its marriage to the far Right. His belief is that such an ally actually functions as a nemesis for the cause of peace for his people. He went on to explain why this is and to mention an article that he had just finished writing.
You may or may not have heard that Glen Beck has partnered with Christian Zionist Pastor John Hagee, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, and others to promote the unwavering support that Americans ought to have for the nation of Israel. Linking religion to politics in this way leads many Christians to believe that we always must support Israel. Before we get to Rabbi Grater’s ideas and some of my thoughts, lets watch a short promo video from Beck’s website.
You would think that a Jewish Rabbi would love any support that his people can get. In Rabbi Grater’s recent article for the Jewish Journal, he begins by saying:
Glenn Beck is a fundamentalist-extremist. His upcoming rally, on Aug. 24, “Restoring Courage” in Jerusalem is nothing more than a media-driven, money-making, self-serving, end-of-times messianic-lunacy circus show, and that is the very last thing Jerusalem and Israel need at this moment. I wish that I could dismiss Beck’s rally as not worthy of comment, but with so many Americans — including, to my sheer amazement, some Jews — following Beck’s entertainment programs, coupled with his multimillion-dollar wealth, unfortunately Beck has to be taken seriously. Not as a thinker, but as a political phenomenon whose words influence others and thus have real consequences.
Here we have an “insider” saying that the kind of support that Beck and the Religious Right bring to the table are detrimental. Not only so, many might contend that writing about this issue gives Beck and others too much press; but as Rabbi Grater says “I wish that I could dismiss Beck’s rally as not worthy of comment… [but because of his mass influence] unfortunately Beck has to be taken seriously.” I agree, which is why I’m willing to bring Beck up from time to time.
Rabbi Grater goes on to say:
Beck will “stand with Israel” by preaching that the two-state solution will be the death of Israel… Jerusalem is a tinderbox, and pulling stunts like this can only lead to an explosion.
Rabbi Grater then points to what many believe the best possible path to peace in the Middle East, a two-state solution:
The two-state solution, and President Barack Obama’s attempts to revitalize negotiations based on the same set of principles all presidents, prime ministers and negotiators in the Middle East have used for decades, is the only hope for Israel’s survival as a Jewish and democratic state. But Beck doesn’t care about that because the messianic vision of the “end times” actually involves the destruction of Jerusalem, which paves the way for the Second Coming. This is why Beck and the whole Christians United for Israel movement is actually a false front of “support for Israel,” which, sadly, many Jews have bought into as true support. In the interfaith work that I do, though, Muslim, Jewish and, especially, Christian colleagues of mine all agree: Glenn Beck is bringing nothing positive with regard to the healing of our fractured world.
While I am no expert on the Middle East, based on what I do know, I agree with Rabbi Grater. I agree that Israel ought to be quite suspicious of any partnership that does not pave the way toward peace and equality between Jews and Palestinians. We Christians have for too long allowed fanciful views of Zionist-bent Dispensational theology (the belief that God has two distinct peoples: the Jews and the Church, and that a future rapture will inaugurate the so-called end times) dictate harmful political stances in the Middle East. Not only so, but Zionist political views (that many assume are God’s views) have led to the suffering and murder of many Palestinian Christians. There’s no biblical justification for this. We need to imagine a better way forward rather than being known as the people who blindly support Israel over-against the Palestinians.
Just in case you think I am basing this on poltical opinions, those who believe that the promises to Abraham still stand for a Nation called Israel, consider these two articles:
Does God Have Two People’s In His Story?
God’s Chosen People and God’s Chosen Politics