CHOSEN

Fundamentalist Christians have the reputation for carte blanche support of everything Israel. Many citizens of Israel hold dual citizenship inside the United States. The third director of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, is a dual citizen.

It’s not unusual. The current acting director, Elaine Duke, is the grandchild of Sicilian immigrants. Everyone in America comes from somewhere. Divided loyalties are as American as gluten-free apple pie. 

I mention it because since 2006 when George W. Bush was president, the Secretary of Homeland Security joined those in the line of succession. The line of succession is now seventeen names long. None are Democrats. Not right now. A few are independents like General Mattis, the Secretary of Defense. 

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke. She is last in line to be president.

The Homeland Security Director is dead last on the list. The current acting director, Elaine Duke, is (in my humble opinion) the only person in the group who is actually qualified to be president. The list includes names like Steven Mnuchin, Betsy DeVos, and Ben Carson. Some on the list form a kind of rogue’s gallery of characters that could conceivably populate the cast of the classic, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. 

The USA’s crazy-Christian, comb-over president leads the list; he directs the country; he is on the top of the world. Like 81% of the fundamentalists who elected him, he is all-in for Israel. Whoever robs and kills in defense of Israel is fine with fundamentalists. They never criticize Israel, even in love. It doesn’t happen. 

The president says that he is moving our embassy to Jerusalem. He lies a lot, so who knows? According to him, Jerusalem is now the exclusive capital of Israel; it is no longer shared with Palestine—no matter what modern history and world opinion have to say.

The USA has the power to make truth and justice on the ground whatever it wants it to be. No need for negotiation. No reason to compromise. And by the way, settlements built on land confiscated from losers are just fine, no problems. Come on. Moral qualms? You’re kidding, right? 

Never mind that the Old City center of Jerusalem is segregated into quarters controlled and lived in by Armenians, Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Never mind that the modern city is much larger; that nearly 40% of the population is Arab; that holy sites of all faiths abound.

The borders of biblical Israel and all the territories within are going to be re-established, just as they were three thousand years ago by God Himself. There is nothing to negotiate. No compromises will be necessary. Thank you very much. 

Christians support Israel, because they believe God has a covenant with modern-day Israel validated by words written in the book of Exodus thousands of years ago. The United States and Israel are joined at the hip like Siamese twins on this one. Israel might as well be added to the collection of fifty states that make the USA.

The reality, though, is that Israel is more like Washington DC. It’s not really a state—it’s a country, obviously—but it has influence on America beyond its size by half. What goes on in Israel affects the United States in big ways (or bigly, as the president likes to say).

Israel is the size of Chicago and its suburbs and has about the same population. Right? Its grip on the United States is vice-like. It rides the U.S. shark like a remora fish. Without its shark for protection, the remora fish gets eaten, like any other small fish in a big ocean. It must be protected.

I’m totally on board. Israel has enemies. The generation that parented the Jewish people who live in Israel today were nearly exterminated by Hitler. The post World War refusal of the west to take in refugees added to their determination to go home to their ancestral lands.

The problem was that people already lived in Israel and had for centuries. Despite the good faith efforts of the nations to broker peace and safety, every Arab neighbor attacked Israel on the day of its rebirth.

Israel won the military contest and occupied lands that international agreements said they had no right to hold. Refugees who had crossed the Jordan River to escape the conflict couldn’t come back. Israel locked them out. It now had a Palestinian problem that would never be solved.

Trust on both sides evaporated. The world today lives with the dangers, resentments, and hatreds that erupted from a failure to love one another during the years when it mattered most.

The Dome of the Rock is controversial within Israel and Palestine. Eighty kilograms of gold leaf cover the dome. At today’s close, the gold’s value is $3,600,307.60. The former King Hussein of Jordan sold one of his London homes in 1993 to raise the money. He died on February 7, 1999 at age 63 from complications of cancer. 

The world owes the Jewish people a safe place to live. They have suffered enough. In the meantime, we need to build a fairer world. Jews, despite the horrors they have endured, do not have a monopoly on suffering. Many people, including Palestinians, have gotten a raw deal. It’s time to set things right.

I don’t see fundamentalist Christians as being helpful. I’m not feeling the love. I’m not seeing an effort to understand that God loves people who are everywhere. People who God loves are sprinkled like salt among the Palestinians and the Jews of Israel.

These are the people that Christ Jesus gave his life to save. I’m not feeling the respect for Christ’s vision from the fundamentalists who right now have an opportunity to comfort the fearful and dispossessed on all sides. All sides. Believe it.

For Jewish people the stakes are particularly high given a history that repeatedly shows that when they don’t have safe haven, haters attack them. The United States and France can be safe places for the most part, but Israel is special. Israel is an established safe haven for Jews, period. They need one. The world, through the United Nations, established it. A lot of history backs the decision to help, some of it recorded in the Bible.

That said, no follower of Christ Jesus, no one who has read the Bible—New Testament, the Torah, the Prophets—believes that Israel was chosen by God to rule the world. I don’t have to quote the Bible. People know what the Lord requires. He asks people to love mercy, act justly, and walk humbly with their Creator. Does anyone believe it? 

Jesus didn’t immolate himself on a Roman cross because people are good, but because they are wicked. People chosen by Jesus don’t rule; they give up everything they have to serve and love others. It’s simple, really.

It’s not easy. Some say it’s impossible apart from the kind of love that was shown to us by a messiah who suffered.

When I studied Hebrew at a local Hillel school many years ago, a girl in the class actually said that Jews were chosen by God to rule the world. Israel would save the earth and bring light to dark. The rabbi nodded his assent. I asked what she thought about the concept of forgiveness. The rabbi waved his hand, and the group moved on.  

After class, the teacher pulled me aside. Grace is a Christian concept, he told me. Grace has no place in Judaism. 

The instructor locked eyes with me and explained in no uncertain terms that a fundamental tenet of my faith was crap. He intended to make an impression, and he succeeded.   

At about the same time a geneticist and his wife came from Israel to America to study at a nearby university. They had young kids the same age as mine. Somehow we met and liked each other. They became close friends. We visited their apartment from time to time. I noticed that they read the Bible to their children, so I asked about it. It’s our history, Yossi explained. We are atheists. But our children must learn who they are. 

A few months later we attended a summer dinner at a kiva on campus where a Jewish writer gave a short talk on Israel. We dressed-up and took the kids. Yossi, his family, and mine walked together on the pathway that led to the building.

I was surprised to learn that to get into the event we had to make our way past a line of about a hundred Palestinian demonstrators. It was like walking a gauntlet.

The protestors held signs, but the odd thing was they didn’t speak. They stayed quiet. It was eerie. More than a few wore ski-masks. They stared through eye-holes in silence. No smiles. I felt afraid. My stomach churned. I smelled fear in my nostrils, but Yossi seemed unfazed. I reached for my children and held their hands.

Weeks later, Yossi brought his family to visit at my place. To make polite conversation I asked Yehudith, his wife, about life in Israel. What was it like living there? She said that she didn’t want to go back. The air-raid sirens in Israel frightened her. When they wailed during the day they triggered panic attacks.

Yehudith and her husband were Sabras—native born Israelis. Born and raised in Jerusalem, they didn’t travel, because they had no money.

They knew no other life. I too was poor then. I was raising two children by myself and living in a small house. It was a thousand-square-feet with an unfinished basement. When Yossi and Yehudith first visited they said it must be a mansion. Yehudith marveled at its size and amenities.

She couldn’t believe how well-off we were. She marveled at how much stuff we had. She gasped at the size of our yard. In Jerusalem people didn’t have yards.

Yes, we did have a big yard. No one nearby had one that came close. It was lush and green. Its size was an accident of good fortune—the result of bad planning by developers.

I decided not to tell Yehudith that we were poor. I didn’t have it in me to make her feel worse. She wasn’t going to believe it anyway. 

Billy Lee