For years, based on their imaginative premillenial eschatology, American evangelicals have thrown political and financial support at the modern nation of Israel. It's support Israel has welcomed, of course, and the coalition of evangelicals and American Jews has been a major player in Republican foreign policy for at least a generation. This successful--albeit theologically questionable--alliance is facing a growing rift over a holiday celebration:
Israeli rabbinic authorities have abruptly called on Jews to shun a major Christian tourism event, baffling and upsetting evangelical groups that traditionally have been big supporters of the Jewish state.
More than 6,000 Christians from more than 90 nations are expected to arrive in Jerusalem this week to take part in the 28th annual Christian celebration of the weeklong Jewish holiday of Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles, according to the event's organizers, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.
Thousands of Christians take part in the celebration annually, as do Israeli lawmakers, government representatives and ordinary Israelis. Rabbi Shlomo Goren, a former chief rabbi, personally welcomed participants one year.
But this year the chief rabbinate urged Jews to stay away from the event, saying some of the groups want to convert them to Christianity. Proselytizing is illegal in Israel.
"According to information that has reached the chief rabbinate, there are participants in this conference who convert Jews to Christianity and perform missionary activity throughout the year," said Rabbi Simcha Hacohen Kook, the chief rabbi of Rehovot, who took part in committee discussions of the matter. "This is against the law, so the chief rabbinate is calling upon Jews not to take part in the conference."
Okay, the first question is, what are these self-identified Christians doing celebrating a Jewish holiday? Was Galatians somehow removed from their Bibles?
The second question is, what did these Jewish leaders think they were getting with all of this evangelical support? Although their conception of the return of Jesus and the kingdom itself is completely wrong, they still do believe that Jesus is the Messiah (well, at least I think so, even though they're celebrating Jewish holidays). Paul, a Jew, went to the synagogues for the express purpose of demonstrating to his fellow Jews that Jesus (a Jew) was the Messiah that God had promised would come to the world through (you guessed it!) the Jews!
Somehow I'm not feeling sorry for either party here.