Photo Credit: Jewish Press files
Ron Jager

On the final day of the recent annual Christians United For Israel (CUFI) Washington Summit, thousands of CUFI activists took to Capitol Hill to lobby their congressman to stand with Israel and to support the Taylor Force Act, which would end funding to the Palestinian Authority, which for years has been making monthly stipends to convicted and imprisoned terrorists and their families – a kind of social security payment for Palestinian murderers.

These Christian supporters of Israel made their voices heard, showing that Heartland America stands with Israel.

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The two groups in the U.S. that most ardently support Israel are Jews and evangelical/fundamentalist Christians. Jewish support is easy to explain, but why should so many Christians, most of them politically quite conservative, be so devoted to Israel?

There is a second puzzle: Despite their staunch support for Israel, evangelical and fundamentalist Christians are disliked by many American Jews.

The evidence concerning evangelical attitudes is abundant. In 2006, a Pew survey found that evangelical Christians were more favorable toward Israel than the average American – and much more sympathetic than either mainline Protestants or secularists.

In another survey, evangelical Christians proved much likelier than Catholics, mainline or liberal Protestants, and secular types to back Israeli control of Jerusalem, to endorse Israeli settlements on the West Bank, and to take Israel’s side in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Among every Christian group, those who are the most traditional are the most supportive of Israel.

Evangelical Christians have a high opinion not just of the Jewish state but of Jews as people. That Jewish voters are overwhelmingly liberal doesn’t seem to bother evangelicals, despite their own conservative politics. Yet Jews definitely don’t return the favor: in one Pew survey, 42 percent of Jewish respondents expressed hostility toward evangelicals and fundamentalists.

So what is it about Christians who support Israel so strongly that makes some Jews so uneasy?

I suppose many Jews – especially liberal Jews – are nervous about evangelicals’ conservative values, their uncompromising stance on the Middle East “peace process,” and the theological roots of their support for Israel.

Christians love Israel unconditionally, and express love for Jews unconditionally. Yes, you might say there is something almost non-Jewish about it. Jews usually do not talk about unconditional love. We are more into debating, questioning, challenging, and rattling the cage.

Even so, why do we find such muted expression of unconditional love among Jews? Is it because we confuse love with supporting official governmental policy? That is, if we disagree with Israel’s policies, do we find it difficult – even impossible – to express unconditional love for Israel?

How many Israel supporters who disagree with Israel’s policies can honestly say their love for Israel is, in fact, unconditional?

When one considers the worldwide movement in recent years to delegitimize Israel, one sees that the enemies of Israel are not looking for a debate. Their aim is not to engage or interact – it is to undermine and demonize. Their opposition is not open to reason or good will. In short, their hatred is unconditional.

That being the current geo-strategic reality challenging Israel, why should Jews be made uneasy by evangelical Christians’ unconditional love toward Israel – even if they differ with evangelicals on social issues?

How better to fight unconditional hatred than with unconditional love? What better weapon against the forces working to delegitimize Israel than tens of millions of passionate and committed people who unequivocally express their love of Israel?

Of course, we Jews should never stop doing what we do best – the arguing, debating, challenging, and kvetching mentioned above. However, this must be conducted under an ironclad consensus that Israel remain the strong and secure national homeland of the Jewish people.

We can’t love the process more than we love Israel itself. For Israel supporters, unconditional love is the emotion that ought to trump all others; the emotion that fuels and gives meaning to our actions.

I can challenge my child and rebuke him, but I can never forget to show him unconditional love. Many of our debates about Israel have become coarse and divisive. One reason is that in our zeal to express critical love, we have forgotten about pure love – the unconditional love so common among our Christian supporters throughout the United States.

We have much to learn from our Christian friends and allies and how they express their unconditional love for Israel. It is this unconditional love that can bind us together –Christians and Jews – in our undivided support for Israel and send a strong message of deterrence to Israel’s enemies.

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Ron Jager, a 25-year veteran of the IDF, served as a field mental health officer and commander of the Central Psychiatric Military Clinic for Reserve Soldiers at Tel-Hashomer. Retired from active duty, he provides consultancy services to NGOs implementing psychotrauma and psychoeducation programs to communities in Israel. He is also a strategic adviser at the Office of the Chief Foreign Envoy of Judea and Samaria.