Hatred in Israel - February 3, 1995
They killed Jewish children in the Holocaust. I had always known that, always. I can still remember learning the name Anne Frank for the first time. I was in fourth grade and my Hebrew School teacher was telling us about a man named Hitler. "He killed Jews," my teacher told us. I know it is twelve years later, but I can still remember vividly waking from a nightmare that night. They wanted to kill me because I was Jewish.
Going to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, was as real as that nightmare. If you ever go, you will see that they have a separate building just to memorialize the children who perished. They were not victims of a plague, nor of a natural disaster; they were murdered - consciously - by people who desired their extermination; because they were Jewish.
I grew up always knowing that people desired to harm me. Because of this, I also grew up knowing that it was one of the worst things you could do to hate someone just because of their religion. My mother taught me to never never never form my opinions about someone based their background: Jewish, Muslim, Black, White, or anything else for that matter. I always knew that I was victimized against by that type of prejudice.
Do you hate me? You might. You see, I am a Jew. I am short, skinny; I have dark features, and I am a Jew. Do you hate me?
I celebrate Hanukkah, and I do my best to love my God, and those who share his creation with me. But I also believe that Jesus is the Savior of Jews and Gentiles alike. I believe in the Bible and I believe that the New Testament records the words of Jewish writers about a Jewish Rabbi who was nailed to a tree for our sins. Yes, I do believe in Jesus Christ.
Please stay with me. Let me tell you what happened in Haifa. Haifa is a city in Israel to the north and to the west. It is on the Mediterranean sea.
I was one of twelve students in the United States who won a scholarship to go to Israel over break. We were in Haifa one day and we were wearing "Jews for Jesus" jackets. You see, I think it is fine to disagree with our message, but as my mother taught me, "never never never hate someone because of their religion."
My pal Mike is from Santa Barbara California. He is a wonderful guy. He's 21 years old. He plays the guitar and writes his own songs. He's very talented. And he is a very good friend of mine. That day in Haifa, something happened to him that changed both of us. Please let me tell you about it.
I was hanging out at a small island in the middle of an intersection in the road. I saw a bunch of people from my group running towards me. "Just run!" they yelled.
Was this a joke? They looked serious. "Is this a joke!?" I yelled as they ran by.
We were forced to hide in a parking garage and wait and count our group members as they showed up. "What is going on?" I asked. I tried to be calm, but my nerves were getting on edge. "What is going on!?"
"Someone attacked Mike," I was told. "What do you mean 'attacked'?" I said.
I learned later that my friend was attacked from behind, thrown to the ground, and kicked because he wore the name of Jesus. And here's where it gets amazing: he was attacked by an orthodox rabbi. I know it sounds impossible, but it is true. An orthodox Jewish rabbi attacked this 21 year old kid from the back and threw him to the ground and kicked him. Mike did not hit back, he merely yelled 'mish-ter-ah!' which means 'policeman' in Hebrew. The police did not show. Mike was rescued by a shopkeeper.
There were many little kids with the rabbi looking on at their rabbi mishandling this friend of mine. What were they being taught? From Holocaust to Haifa; the hatred moves on. We were hated because we were Christians. Why? This is not a rhetorical question. I want to know: WHY?
I do not hate this rabbi for hitting my friend. And I certainly do not hate Jewish people, so please don't interpret this letter as anti-Semitic in any way. I went to Israel because I have a great love for my people. Mike took the beating without hitting back because he loved the rabbi who was punishing him. He knew that perhaps in some way he could show him God's love by holding back his retaliation.
I learned in the streets of Haifa exactly what I learned at the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. I learned that people are often cruel. I learned that as human beings, we have the capacity to hate, and to act on that hate. I learned that we are able to commit horrible atrocities. And when we think we are above it and that they are of the past, they happen again today. What did the boot of the rabbi feel like in the side of my young friend from Santa Barbara?
You know, Jesus taught that humans were imperfect. He taught that we were somehow morally depraved. This experience in Israel really taught me how true that is. The Bible teaches that Jesus came not just to come, but because we have a need for him; and we still do today. The reason I am a Christian is because I need to be. I am a Christian because I recognize how much pain there is in the world and I wish to avoid eternal pain and separation from God.
Hate is real. I'm sorry to report that but it is true. A 21 year old kid was kicked by a rabbi. Can you imagine? I just pray that Jesus will come back soon and that you will accept him as Savior before he does. There is a need for Jesus in Germany, in Israel, in Haifa, and in Durham, NH. There is a need wherever there is hate, and I have learned that there is hate everywhere. From Holocaust to Haifa; the hate moves on. But Jesus still calls people to be faithful to him. Do you think he is calling you? Slow down, sit, rest; now listen.