As I was driving home from meeting a group in Har Bracha this evening, I heard an interesting news item on Israeli radio. Walmart, the giant American department store chain, was selling costumes for Halloween last week, including a costume of an Israeli paratrooper. When pro-Palestinian customers got wind of this, they initiated a huge protest. In response, pro-Israel fans expressed support for the costume. In the end, the Palestinian side won out. Their claims that Israeli soldiers represent forces of oppression and racism convinced Walmart and the costumes were removed from the shelves.
I was in the US last week and the week before on a speaking tour for CFOIC Heartland. When listening to the news on US radio, as I was driving through Virginia, I experienced a sort of disconnect. Reporting the news on Israel, the newscaster stated that Israeli security forces had gunned down a Palestinian in the course of violence. Not a word about the fact that the Palestinian was a knife-wielding terrorist on a stabbing rampage in one of Israel’s cities. And to top it off, the US State Department issued a response calling on both sides to show restraint.
I kept asking myself as I continued to hear similar reports throughout my stay in the US, what sort of restraint is Israel expected to exercise. Imagine standing at a bus stop, with your backpack or your shopping bags, and suddenly a young man swinging a knife comes at you. He stabs the man standing next to you and you run for your life. But then your life is saved because another concerned citizen, or perhaps a nearby policeman, chases the terrorist and shoots him or tackles him to the ground. He may have injured him or he may have killed him, but one thing is certain. He has saved your life. If that policeman were to exercise restraint, you would no longer be alive to tell the tale. Is that what the US State Department is expecting of Israel?
As I traveled through the US, speaking to Christian audiences, it was heartwarming to hear the strong support coming from these audiences. Unlike the news broadcasts, my audiences understood intuitively that the terrorists need to be deterred and that Israeli security forces are acting with utmost restraint, given the circumstances. Despite the dire news coming from Israel, people expressed eagerness to travel to Israel and experience the land in its full glory. In fact, although the reports sound scary, in reality every-day life goes on. And there is little risk for tourists. The knife-wielding terrorists are chasing people at bus stops. Tourists, traveling in tour buses, are not targets, nor are they standing in vulnerable spots where terrorists can attack.
But the more I travel and meet Christian audiences, both in Israel and abroad, the more I have come to appreciate our Christian friends. There was a time when we assumed most ordinary people thought clearly and were guided by common sense and moral sensibility. There was a time when we would have assumed a consensus around the notion that when someone is attacked he has every right to defend himself and that bystanders have a right to protect him from injury. No more. Once the Palestinians are labeled the oppressed and the targets of racist and apartheid policies, the Jews can do no right. Jewish lives are no longer worth much and Palestinian activity, no matter how reprehensible and immoral is “understood” as a legitimate response to ongoing “oppression.”
It is the rare commentator who questions the extent to which the Palestinian terrorist has been truly oppressed. When one of the recent terrorists was a university student, no one bothered to question whether the oppression theory still held water. And when children and teenagers wield the knives, no one questions what sort of brainwashing they must be subject to, producing terrorists at such a young age.
But when I meet Christian audiences, I find a healthy sense of reality coupled with unabashed expressions of moral judgments. People stabbing innocents are called terrorists, they are evil and they need to be stopped. And my Christian friends understand my frustration at the media — they feel the same frustration. I believe my Christian friends are standing with Israel not only because it is Biblically right but because Israel represents the values that were once part of the mainstream but have since been buried under an avalanche of political correctness.
Your friendship and the friendship of others like you is a bright spot on the Israeli horizon. I have no idea how much longer this spurt of violence will last. I was just thinking today that things had gotten quieter when I heard on the news that another terrorist had gone on a stabbing spree in Rishon LeZion, a city just south of Tel Aviv. But regardless of how long this spate of violence continues, it is clear that Israel needs your help today, more than ever before.
We need you to come to Israel and then to return home, bearing witness before your family and friends that the people of Israel are kind people who hold human life sacred. You need to visit Israeli hospitals and universities and see the multitude of Arab doctors, patients and students. You need to visit the Biblical heartland and experience the kindness and spirituality that is the basis of our existence here.
Today, more than ever before, when Israel is once again under attack, we need you here, with us, in Israel. I hope you will consider joining our March tour. I hope you will take whatever opportunity you have to come. We are eager to welcome you to Israel!
Sondra Baras Director, Israel Office CFOIC Heartland