“All these Jews need to die!” screamed the gunman as he opened fire in a synagogue. On Shabbat, 27th October 2018, a crazed Anti-Semite burst into in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. He murdered eleven Jewish people and shot six others who had come to worship, including some who had survived the Holocaust only to be mown down by the same evil hatred decades later.
We pray for all the families and the community left devastated by such hatred, cruelty and wickedness, and remember the names of those who had their lives stolen from them:
Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal and his brother David Rosenthal, Bernice and Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax, and Irving Younger.
May their memories be a blessing.
Anti-Semitism, the oldest hatred?
Anti-Semitism has never been constrained by time or religion – it has continued throughout history at the hands of atheists, Christians, Muslims and pagans alike. Whether Jewish people have assimilated into the culture or kept themselves to themselves in their own communities, they have been hated and persecuted wherever they go, and whatever they do. Whether in exile or in their own land, in Babylon or in Egypt, in Christian Europe, Atheist Russia or the Muslim Middle East, whether they’re following God or in rebellion against him, the attacks do not stop.
British lawmaker, Jenny Tonge, a member of the House of Lords, blamed Israel for the Pittsburgh massacre. “Absolutely appalling and a criminal act”, she wrote on Facebook, “but does it ever occur to Bibi and the present Israeli government that it’s [sic] actions against Palestinians may be reigniting anti-Semitism?” She outrageously suggested that Israel’s policies were to blame for the mass murder of Jews in Pittsburgh – an absolutely appalling act of anti-Semitism on her own part.
But anti-Semitism goes back long before the troubles of the modern State of Israel ever existed. It was not the ‘occupation’ that was bothering Adolf Hitler… or the Spanish Inquisitors, or the perpetrators of the violent pogroms and Crusades that destroyed Jewish lives throughout the centuries in Europe and Russia. We can be confident it was not the settlements or checkpoints that got Haman’s goat in the story of Esther, or put the Amalekites’ nose out of joint to the degree that they tried to kill off the entire people group just after the Exodus.
It is not that the State of Israel causes racism against the Jewish people, but rather, racism against the Jews that demonstrates the need for a Jewish state.
As long as there has been a people of God, chosen for His purposes, the attacks and annihilation attempts have been relentless. It is ludicrous to suggest that the State of Israel is to blame for violence perpetrated against the Jewish people.
The irrational prejudice against Jewish people is often called the “ancient hatred”. There seems to be no logical explanation that fits the fury spewed out from every corner of the earth, throughout all time, with no apparent common denominator. It is purely and simply because Jewish people are Jewish. Whether they are rich or poor, whether they look the same as those around them, dress the same, think the same – or not – nothing prevents the attacks from coming.
The true object of hatred: the God of Israel
What makes Jewish people Jewish? The God who called the nation into being for His own purposes. It was God who created the people of Israel. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel and ordained that his twelve sons would become the twelve tribes of Israel. His people. They were a people chosen by God, led by God, instructed by God, and precious to God. And they are called by His name.
“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” (Deuteronomy 7:6)
Not only did they identify themselves with Him, but God identified Himself with them. He is, and always will be, the God of Israel. He refers to Himself in Scripture hundreds of times as the God of Israel. The God who delivered Israel from Egypt. One day, we learn from Jeremiah 16:14 and 23:7-8, we will know Him as the God who regathered Israel. Whichever way you look at it, God is inextricably linked to Israel, and always will be. This irks a lot of people. Some are bitter about the fact that God chose a particular nation at all, or the fact that Israel (like all of humanity) has always been so undeserving of God’s grace, or that God is the one in charge and gets to make such choices without consulting anyone.
“Anti-Semitism stems from the inherently rebellious hearts of humans. As the people of God, the Jews are associated with God, and thus Jew hatred is sometimes subliminal but always due to an unregenerate heart.”
Dr. Richard Bookers says in a similar vein that Jew hatred is God hatred because the Jews remind the world they are accountable to God for their lives and they don’t want to be reminded.
The enemy of our souls hates the Jewish people with a special hatred because God has chosen them to play an important part in God’s redemptive plan for the world – past, present and future. And Satan doesn’t have to look far to find willing individuals who will cooperate and become agents in his quest to destroy and defame the people of Israel as much as possible. The evidence is sadly strewn throughout history – the murdered worshipers in Pittsburgh just the latest victims of this ongoing onslaught.
How can Gentiles stand against anti-Semitism?
“You cannot love God”, warned Corrie Ten Boom, “without loving the Jewish people”. It is shocking that this even needs to be pointed out, yet Church history makes extremely uncomfortable reading when it comes to the treatment of the Jews. But what can Christians do to stand against anti-Semitism today?
We cannot underestimate the impact of our prayers. Let’s pray for the bereaved, for the frightened Jewish communities facing anti-Semitism in the US, in France, in the UK, and all over the world. We must also pray for their enemies. Pray for those trapped in webs of bitterness and lies. Pray for Christians who are blinded to the truth about God’s heart for His people. You can be sure that your prayers will be reaching the Father’s heart, and we know that if we pray in accordance with His will, He hears, and He will answer.
You could also send a letter to a synagogue near you to let them know that you are praying for them, standing with them, and that you care.
2. Publicly stand up for the truth and denounce lies
There are so many falsehoods defaming Israel and the Jewish people in circulation. It is simply not true that Israel is an Apartheid state, or that they are committing genocide. There are no Jewish plots in progress to take over the world, or even the Middle East. Israel will do everything it can to avoid killing civilians, especially children, and the lies that are perpetrated on these matters fuel the fires of anti-Semitic hatred. It’s important to investigate for yourself what is true and what is not, rather than believing one side or the other, but when you find solid facts, make them known.
Whether it manifests as Alt-Right racism or Far-Left hatred of Israel, anti-Semitism is fueled by conspiracy stories. Behind them lies the peddler of falsehoods and the spreader of fear: the father of lies himself.
We can help combat anti-Semitism by uncovering and proclaiming the truth.
3. Remind people that Jesus IS Jewish – present tense!
As Russell Moore put it so well in his piece in the Washington Post, “If you hate the Jews, you hate Jesus too”:
“I will often hear Christians say, “Remember that Jesus was Jewish.” That’s true enough, but the past tense makes it sound as though Jesus’ Jewishness were something he sloughed off at the resurrection. Jesus is alive now, enthroned in heaven. He is transfigured and glorified, yes, but he is still Jesus. This means he is still, and always will be, human. He is still, and always will be, the son of Mary. He is, and always will be, a Galilean. When Jesus appeared before Saul of Tarsus on the Road to Damascus, the resurrected Christ introduced himself as “Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 22:8). Jesus is Jewish, present tense… He is of the tribe of Judah. He is of the House of David… As Christians, we are, all of us, adopted into a Jewish family, into an Israelite story.” 1
Too many Christians have misunderstood the New Testament and think that Jesus was against the Jewish people as a whole. But not only is Jesus Jewish, his entire family, all his disciples, and most of the early church were Jewish too. Remind Christian friends that the Bible teaches God is not done with Israel, and will never forsake the Jewish people (Romans 9-11).
4. Identify with the people of Israel
It is important to stand with the Jewish people especially in times like this – to identify with the people of Israel as they are under attack. During the Holocaust when the Nazis were making Jews wear a yellow star, the Danish king is said to have suggested to his finance minister, Vilhelm Buhl, “perhaps we should all wear it.”2 Such an act would completely negate the attempt to isolate and victimize the Jewish people. Similarly, when a brick came through the window of a Jewish family at Hanukkah time, the entire town of Billings, Montana, decided to put Jewish Hanukkiahs in their windows in solidarity.3 The attacks by the KKK soon stopped. It took courage for people to stand with their Jewish neighbors, knowing that they are making themselves a target too, but it’s a powerful thing to do.
For Gentile believers in Yeshua, identification with Israel is not a mere gesture, but an expression of reality – of the deep truth that you are grafted into the commonwealth of Israel. Ruth’s courageous love for Naomi’s people and their God did not go unnoticed, and neither will yours.
“Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” (Ruth 1:16-17)
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- Washington Post, If you hate Jews, you hate Jesus, too, Russell Moore, October 31, 2018
- US Holocaust Memorial Museum website, Jewish Badge: During the Nazi Era
- Facing History – the “Not in Our Town” movement
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash