Jew for Jesus preached in Palin's church two weeks agoMonday morning's JPost includes an analysis from Herb Keinon in which he claims that Sarah Palin's nomination to be Vice President will have little effect on the US Presidential votes of Israel's supporters one way or the other.
Some of the same qualities that make Palin so attractive to the Evangelicals and the blue collar workers - her anti-abortion stand, her National Rifle Association credentials, her members in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes - will make many Jews nervous. The question is whether it will make many of those who vote primarily on the Israel issue, a minority of Jewish votes but a significant population in a key state like Florida, nervous enough to take a fresh look at Obama.Keinon is not exaggerating when he talks about how unknown Palin is in Israel. On Sunday, Israel Radio interviewed Danny Ayalon, until recently our ambassador to the US. Ayalon said he has never been to Alaska, never met Palin and barely heard of her until she was selected. Maybe Danny should read my blog.
Palin's detractors have already floated the little tidbit that she wore a Pat Buchanan button when he made a presidential campaign stop to Wasilla, Alaska, in 1999, where she was mayor, a tidbit that won't make Jews happy, but may seem less toxic than Obama's longtime affiliation and friendship with his own former pastor, Jeremiah Wright.
While US Jews struggle to figure out who exactly Palin is, some may look to Israel for cues, but they will look in vain, because Jerusalem won't oblige; officials are smart enough to realize that it would be extremely counterproductive for Israel to even hint at a favorite in this close and riveting presidential race.
Besides, Jerusalem couldn't give any cues on Palin, because it has little clue itself about the candidate. If Palin was relatively unknown in the US before being plucked from obscurity and placed on the Republican ticket, in Israel she is completely unknown, her name failing to register not only with regular folks who have other things to worry about, but also even Foreign Ministry officials who pay attention to these matters.
But Palin's obscurity, her lack of any record on Israel, or even statements on Israel issues, has not changed the overall sentiment in Jerusalem toward the race, and a lack of public endorsement of a ticket doesn't mean a lack of preference. Privately, the prevalent feeling in Jerusalem's corridors of power is that in the Obama-McCain race, "more of the same," the epithet Obama is throwing at McCain, is not that bad.
When it comes to the Middle East, Jerusalem - or at least the current government - is not only unafraid of more of the same, but would actually embrace it from the next White House. The government likes what has come from the Bush administration over the last number of years and is in no hurry to see any change there.
Almost nothing of Palin is known in Jerusalem beyond what has been written in the press over the last few days. But at least in the initial blush following the stunning announcement, that unfamiliarity has not changed Jerusalem's overall comfort level with the man who has deemed that Palin is indeed of vice-presidential caliber.
But Daled Amos presents visual evidence that Palin is pro-Israel (Hat Tip: Soccer Dad). The evidence consists of a TV broadcast from her office in Anchorage in which an Israeli flag is seen next to her window and another is seen on her lapel. Significantly, the video was shot in February 2008 - long before her name had been mentioned as a possible candidate for the national ticket.
Free Republic points to Palin's church's web site. The church web site has several sermons online. I clicked on one - a Word document called The Jerusalem Dilemma. It turns out to come from a guest preacher - one David Brickner who is a member of Jews for Jesus. Here's part of it.
Israelis don’t even know how to say Jesus’ name in Hebrew, which is Yeshua, but they call Him ‘Yeshu.’ And Yeshu...it’s a name that...it’s not really a name. It’s a name that was given to Jesus by medieval rabbis who wanted to actually pronounce a malediction, a curse, on Him. And so ‘Yeshu’ is actually an acrostic for “Yimach Sh'mo V'zichro,” from the Psalms, a malediction that says “May his name and memory be blotted out.” And so there is a great deal of controversy about this person. And yet, in the midst of this, there is no greater openness in any Jewish community than that which is going on in the land of Israel. I call this the Jerusalem Dilemma.Am I thrilled about this? No. Is this worse than Jeremiah Wright? In its own way, it's not better. Jews don't proselytize and don't want to be proselytized by others. But Brickner is a guest preacher and not the regular preacher. Do I expect Sarah Palin to start proselytizing Jews for Jesus? No. Do I expect Barack Hussein Obama to be influenced by his Muslim upbringing and his Jew-hating Israel-hating preacher? Yes. So are we better off with Obama? Sorry Bob Wexler, but no.
You know, the first time I ever went to Israel—my parents actually live there now; they live in Jerusalem—but the first time I went I was part of “The Liberated Wailing Wall,” my wife and I. Now, I know that’s a strange name for a group, but we sing Jewish gospel music. It’s kind of a cross between Israeli folk and “Fiddler on the Roof.” It’s great stuff, and we went there to minister. And we were out on the streets in Tel Aviv, and in Haifa, and in Jerusalem. And one particular occasion I was standing at the top of the Hamashbir...in front of the Hamashbir on Ben Yehuda Street, which is...Hamashbir is kind of like the Sears & Roebuck of Israel. And Ben Yehuda Street is a pedestrian walkway. And we were singing, and a crowd of Israelis had gathered.
Now, most Israelis are secular. And they were drawn by the music, and we had t-shirts on that said “Yehudim L'man Yeshua” (Jews for Jesus), so they knew who we were; but that was ok. They were enjoying the music; some were clapping. There were some that were even dancing off to the side. I thought to myself, “Boy, this is great! We’re preachin’ the gospel right here on the streets of Jerusalem.”
Then I noticed, right out of the corner of my eye, five yeshiva buchers. Now, that’s the ultra-orthodox young seminary students. Maybe you’ve seen the pictures, you know, with the black hats and the black coats, and the side curls, you know. And they were walking towards us with a look of grim determination on their faces, and I knew we were in trouble. And sure enough, these guys got up right in front of us, and they started screaming and yelling. And then one of them reached out to grab my wife Patty...now Patty’s playing the violin, so this guy’s gonna grab the bow of the violin to wrench it out of her hand. And I’m thinkin’, “That’s it. We’re gonna get martyred right here on the streets of Jerusalem.” And then up walked this Israeli—I mean, he was a big guy. He was about six-four, 260 pounds, completely bald; he looked like Jesse Ventura, you know. And he gets up in their faces and he says to them, “You touch them, and I’ll touch you.” These guys backed off, and we were able to continue ministry that day. And I thought to myself, “Praise God!” The Bible says the Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, to deliver them from harm. I just never knew he looked like Jesse Ventura.
But that illustrates this issue of the Jerusalem Dilemma. Here is this city that represents a people, that represents a move of God; the name itself—Ir Shalom—means ‘City of Peace.’ And yet, what irony that there has been no peace, and there is no peace in the city of peace. In fact, over 132 separate wars have been fought over the city of Jerusalem, more than any other territory or city in human history. This is a city that’s divided, and representing as it does the hope of humanity in the promises of scripture, it is at the forefront of the conflict that rages in our world today. How do we understand the Jerusalem Dilemma? How does it help us to understand what’s going on in the world and, yes, even in our own lives?
What does Palin have to do to convince Israelis and Jews to vote for herself and McCain? Let's start with disowning that sermon by Brickner, which took place just two weeks ago. Let's continue with hearing more specifics about where she stands on Israel and other issues that are important to Jews. We're listening.
UPDATE 10:22 AM
The name David Brickner rang a bell, and I wanted to go back and update you as to who he is. David Brickner is the Executive Director of Jews for Jesus in Jerusalem. I'm not going to get into a theological discussion on this blog, but one cannot hold core Christian beliefs and still be Jewish.
Palin could not have pressed a hotter button with the Jewish community.