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October 29, 2010

Pledging Our Troth

As even your editorial (“An Unworthy Oath,” October 22) concedes, Israel’s self-definition as a Jewish state is hardly a new development. Israelis disagree as to whether that self-definition is a matter of religion, nationality or some combination of the two — but that’s not exactly breaking news, either. So why all the fuss about the proposed change in Israel’s citizenship oath?

No doubt some naturalized Israelis would prefer for Israel to define itself as a state of all its citizens rather than as a Jewish state, just as there are probably some naturalized Canadians who would prefer for Canada to be a republic rather than a constitutional monarchy. As citizens of democratic polities, they have the right to advocate such changes in national self-definition and to attempt to persuade their fellow citizens to go along. In the meantime, however, citizens owe allegiance to their countries as they are, and there is no reason that citizenship oaths should not reflect those countries’ current self-definitions.

Douglas D. Aronin
Forest Hills, N.Y.

Welcome, Friends

David Shneer’s October 15 op-ed, “Allies Who Come With a Cost,” argues against Jews and Israel accepting the friendship of some evangelical Christians, like John Hagee, who believe in a particular version of an impending Armageddon. Shneer invites us to consider what Theodor Herzl would have said about Jews accepting the support of such friends as Hagee. I accept that invitation, but it leads me to a conclusion very different from Shneer’s.

To be sure, Herzl understood that persecution would continue if Jews did not have their own state as a place of refuge, but in the 1890s, could he have ever imagined a Holocaust? Could Herzl have then foreseen that when a State of Israel finally arose on the ashes of 6 million people — many of whom witnessed, but were powerless to stop, the murder of their own spouses and children — such a state would be singled out and maligned by a chorus from academia and international media for attempting to protect its own daughters and sons? Would Herzl have rejected Hagee’s open hand after seeing news outlets and university lecture halls selectively placing Israel’s actions to protect its citizens under a microscope, while paying little to no attention to female infanticide on the Indian subcontinent, genocide in Sudan, stoning as a form of punishment in Saudi Arabia and the pervasive repression of human rights in North Korea and China?

No, I do not believe, if Herzl were alive today, he would recommend we turn away any supporters of Israel based upon differing beliefs as to what may occur, if and when the world as we know it comes to an end.

Allen A. David
Brooklyn, N.Y.

This provocative article argues that End Days theology should lead Jews to reject Christian support for Israel.

Several points are missing from this analysis. Frankly, I don’t suspect Jesus is coming anytime soon to correct my theology. And I’m fairly certain that Shneer would fail to apply similar theological screening as a criterion for Muslim-Jewish cooperation.

More important, the piece misses the basis for Jewish-Christian collaboration. The vast majority of Christians that are members of Christians United for Israel believe that the Jewish covenant with God is still alive and active. Meanwhile, a wide swath of Christians who have adopted less favorable views of Israel see our covenant as eclipsed by their relatively new one. As history has made plain, the implications of a canceled covenant are, potentially, murderous.

I would rather be in a room filled with Christians who think my covenant is still active than in a room with more liberal Christians who think it is canceled.

Bruce A. Birnberg
East Brunswick, N.J.


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