Standing With Israel
"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 I will be buried." This famous pledge by Ruth, a young Moabite widow, to her Israelite mother-in-law Naomi is such a moving declaration of loyalty that it is frequently cited in marriage ceremonies.
It was also frequently repeated at the three-day (July 18-20) Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Summit in Washington D.C. When Glenn Beck, the keynote speaker at the culminating Summit banquet, quoted that biblical pledge of friendship, five thousand Christians leapt to their feet in praise and affirmation, and I, a Jew, a child of Holocaust survivors, was moved to tears by this army of unshakeable friends.
It was my third CUFI Summit and there were many changes in an organization which has grown to over 700,000 in its short six years of existence. In addition to the larger halls, greater number of students (over 500), and more lobbying appointments with Congress, there was a deepened message of commitment to Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people. The other Summits also had biblical themes including "And I will bless those that bless you [Israel] and curse the one who curses you. "Book of Genesis, Chapter 12, Verse 1-3. The passage challenges individual Christians and the nation as a whole to be a blessing to Israel if the United States is to continue as the most blessed country for another 200 years and warns that the day America abandons Israel, America will begin its descent. There are clear rewards for supporting Israel.
There is no reward, in this life or the next, expected in Ruth's pledge to her mother-in-law. In fact, Ruth knew full well that what she was doing posed risks, yet she was firm in her determination to follow her mother-in-law and cling to the faith she had adopted. The Christians who assembled at the Summit and made their heartfelt pledge to protect and stand with Israel did so out of unconditional love and with no expectations of rewards.
They acknowledge what so many refuse to see: Jews and Christians face the same enemies and their destinies are bound today as never before. What begins with the Jews doesn't end with the Jews. Today I read about Yousef Nadarkhani, a 32 year-old Iranian evangelical pastor, who had been commanded by the Iranian regime to renounce his Christian faith or face execution. Nadarkhani's dooming sentencing is only the latest occurrence in the Islamic Republic's aggressive and heightened attack on the Christian population. It is not just Iran. USA Today reports that "The single most dangerous thing in the world to be, right now, is a Christian in a Muslim country."
Those who are attempting to erase Jewish history from the land of Israel are also bent on eliminating the Christian presence. In1995. Bethlehem, the most identifiably Christian town, had a Christian population of 80 percent. Today with a population of under 30 percent Christians, Bethlehem has, for the first time in over two thousand years, lost its Christian majority. The same changes have taken place in two other famously Christian towns, Nazareth and Jerusalem.
The story's the same in Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere in the Mideast. The only place in the region where the Christian population is growing is in Israel.
Just as Ruth, Christians United for Israel pledge their loyalty clear-eyed about the realities of the hostilities they can encounter and expecti no rewards for their act of love. However, the story of Ruth and Naomi does not end with a declaration of loyalty. With Naomi's guidance, Ruth remarries and has a son. Naomi goes from feeling isolated to the joy of holding a grandchild in her arms. And Ruth's son Oved becomes the father of Jesse, whose youngest son is David, the beloved king of all the Jewish people. Years later Jesus, a descendant of David, is born in Bethlehem.
Without Ruth, Jewish history could not continue. And Christian history could not begin. CUFI stands with Israel in an ultimate pledge of loyalty, and without that pledge, Jewish and Christian destinies would be more vulnerable.
Peggy Shapiro is Chicago Community Coordinator for StandWithUs