Thursday, March 27, 2014

HONORING MENACHEM BEGIN'S FRIENDSHIP WITH CHRISTIAN EVANGELICALS

I was delighted to attend a March 26 evening at the Begin Center here in Jerusalem dedicated to Prime Minister Menachem Begin's friendship with Evangelical Christians.

It was an evening hosted by the savvy and gracious David Parsons, media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

The Begin Center is marking the 100th Anniversary since Begin's birth with a series of events.

This one dedicated to Begin and Christian Zionists.

The guest speaker was Dr. Daniel Gordis of the Shalem College and author of Menachem Begin: The Struggle for Israel's Soul.

I have not had the chance to read it yet, but is definitely on my list.

According to Parsons: "Of all the successive prime ministers of Israel following the nation's re-birth in 1948, Begin stands out as the first premier to publicly welcome Christian Zionist support and to seek to harness it in defense of the Jewish state. 

"Others before him may have had connections to individual Christian figures, but the story of the Israel-Evangelical partnership as we know it today starts with Begin."

Parsons notes that David Ben-Gurion had encounters with Christian Zionists including Southern Baptist leader Dr. W. A. Criswell.  

And Rev. Pat Robertson sought to reach out to Yitzhak Rabin.

"But Menachem Begin holds the unique distinction of being the first Israeli prime minister to warmly embrace Christian Zionist support in an open manner," says Parsons.






What made Begin different?   

Gordis -- who is an engaging speaker --  made the point that it took Begin, a genuine liberal -- not in the "left" v "right" sense -- but in the classical sense of dedication to individual liberty and tolerance, and Begin the Biblical Jew -- in the sense of someone who lived the Bible to value Christian support.

David Ben Gurion had a solid grasp of Scripture but Begin lived it, said Gordis.

Begin understood that Christians truly know their bible. They know that those who bless Israel will be blessed, said Gordis.

Begin knew that Christian believers appreciated that the Jews dwell alone, and that as a leader of Israel he would sometimes be isolated.

Like Christian believers, Begin understood Jewish destiny in the long biblical sense.

When during the Camp David talks with Anwar Sadat, Jimmy Carter told him this is the "last opportunity" for peace, Begin thought that absurd, said Gordis.

For an ancient people that has thousands of years of history and thousands of years of destiny ahead the idea that Carter could talk of "last chances" was ridiculous.

Begin was not "Orthodox" in the common sense of the term, but he was the most deeply Jewish PM, said Gordis.

It was Begin who recited Psalms as IAF bombers were dispatched to take out Saddam Hussein's Iraqi nuclear plant.  

Parsons adds that Begin surrounded himself with advisers like Harry Hurwitz who also valued Christian support.

It was Hurwitz who encouraged Begin to support the founding of a Christian Embassy in Jerusalem in 1980, according to Parsons.

Begin sought, welcomed and received the support of Christian leaders such as Rev. Jerry Falwell 





and Ed McAteer.

Begin addressed Christian audiences with warmth and friendship, said Parsons.

I am grateful to the Christian Embassy for its important work -- may they go from strength to strength.


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