“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying: ‘Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD, the God of heaven, given me; and He hath charged me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whosoever there is among you of all His people–the LORD his God be with him–let him go up.’” (2 Chronicles 36:22-23)
Rabbi Eliezer Melamed of the Har Bracha Yeshiva recently praised Zionist Christians, saying, “Their moral stature is higher and more exalted than that of Coresh [Persian King Cyrus], who assisted the Return to Zion.”
In mid-June, Melamed wrote in his weekly column in the influential Besheva Magazine of Israel’s Zionist Orthodox community, criticizing the community’s tendency to reject Evangelist support for Israel. Responding to claims that Christian Zionist financial support came with strings attached and was the result of efforts to proselytize within Israel’s Jewish community, Melamed said, “It is hard to understand where such a libelous claim sprang from.”
Melamed did take issue with what he saw as a misrepresentation on the part of fundraisers from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), presenting Israel as a poverty-stricken country, but ultimately noted the good their contribution does, adding NIS 36 million (about $10.5 million) to the Ministry of Education’s NIS 260 million (about $75 million) allocated for children’s summer camps.
“After the Evangelists donated their money with kindness of heart and with love for the people of Israel, unconditionally and with no involvement in where the money goes, they must not be insulted by throwing their contribution back in their faces, while accusing them of trying to proselytize Jews,” he explained.
“As for the claim that this contribution could cause the Jewish masses in Israel to view Evangelists – who are Christians who love Israel – favorably, there is no fault in this, because they deserve recognition for their support for us. We must battle missionaries, not moral Christians who respect our religion and support us.”
The rabbi goes even further and says: “It appears that we can say that the American Evangelists are the most important and meaningful group supporting Israel nowadays. These are about 70 million citizens of the largest superpower in the world, who believe that the words of the Bible hold true today, and that the nation of Israel needs to return to its land and follow its Torah and Mitzvot. Their moral stature is higher and more exalted than that of Coresh [Persian King Cyrus], who assisted the Return to Zion.”
This is not the first or last column Melamed has written in favor of Zionist Christians and their support of Israel. The following week, he expanded upon his position in the same column.
Melamed acknowledges the historical tensions between the Jewish and Christian communities, as well as the halachic (Jewish-legal) complications in their relationship.
“There are two fundamental problems in Christianity: 1) their position that the Jewish nation, who was chosen by God to be His Chosen People, was replaced by the Christian church, and must now be humiliated. This position was the basis for their hatred of Jews. 2) Their position that anyone belonging to the Christian church no longer had to fulfill the commandments in the Torah, and was no longer responsible for practically correcting his wrongdoings.”
Yet, he explains, these issues can be resolved. “Nevertheless, when Christians return to believe that [the children of] Israel are the Chosen People and all the words of the Torah remain firm and binding, and they pray for Israel’s redemption as the word of God through His prophets, and they even assist in the in-gathering of the exiles and the building of the Land – the serious allegations against such Christians are annulled. They deserve to be praised for their fine deeds and good thoughts about Israel.”
Israel cannot afford to rebuff Zionist Christians. “Israel does not have many friends in the world who understand the justice of our difficult struggle against the Muslim world, and give us unconditional support. But Evangelical Christians stand like a brick wall in our defense, ranging from supporting the vision of the Return to Zion, backing the settlement of the Land in all its expanses, and strengthening the State of Israel against the Arab enemy.”
Melamed goes on to cite two examples of great Christian supporters of Israel, Russia’s Vladimir Solovyov, a 19th-century philosopher and theologian, and Lord Balfour of the Balfour Declaration. He notes that Rabbi Avraham Kook and his son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, both admired Solovyov as a “righteous gentile”, despite a general stance against Christianity.
Ultimately, Melamed notes, “Today, we can clearly see how, as a result of our return to the Land of Israel and engaging in settling and building the country as stated in the Torah and the Prophets, we are privileged to inform the nations that ‘God is great and His Name is most exalted’, and this has led to a significant change in the views of many people among the nations, who are continuously rising to the level of becoming Righteous Gentiles. There is still a long road ahead of us; we do not agree on all issues. May it be His will that by way of our continued adherence to Torah and mitzvoth [Biblical commandments], we will merit complete Redemption, speedily in our days.”