The Righteous Among Nations
One of the greatest mysteries of the Shoah, or Holocaust, is how millions of non-Jewish inhabitants of Nazi Germany and its occupied lands were indifferent, or worse, complicit in the face of genocide. It is likely that there were many who internally desired to “do the right thing” yet failed to resist the barbarism out of fear for their lives, but what about the countless others who agreed with Adolf Hitler -- that Europe, indeed the world, would be far better off without the “scourge” of the Jewish people? The anti-Semitic bloodlust of a lone madman is one thing, it is wholly another when essentially an entire nation signs on to an agenda of race-driven persecution, and later, mass-extermination.
In a twisted universe where brother was pitted against brother and non-compliance was punishable by death, the righteous of Nazi Germany and occupied Europe faced enormous odds in their attempts to simply be good human beings and do what was right. It is perhaps for this reason more than any other that they have been carved out such a sacred place in Jewish history and culture.
Today, Yad Vashem, the Israeli national remembrance authority for the Holocaust, has bestowed honors on at least 24,355 Righteous Gentiles (and these are only the cases documented by Yad Vashem) who unflinchingly laid their lives on the line to save Jews from certain extinction in the Nazi death camps.
The phrase "Righteous Gentiles," or "Righteous Among Nations," finds origin in a rabbinic term used to describe non-Jews who abide by the Seven Laws of Noah. More specifically in the modern-day vernacular, the term is used as an honorific for Christians who made great sacrifices to provide shelter, sustenance, and ultimately life-saving aid to Jews during the Holocaust. They demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice their own well-being in order to act in accordance with his or her own personal convictions. Of course, there were unlikely heroes during the Holocaust as well, such as Oskar Schindler, who only evolved into a hero later on in the course of his journey.
Regardless of how each Righteous Gentile found his or her own respective path, one thing is certain: Without them, the blight of the Holocaust would have been darker still, and an entire community of Jewish souls would have never been afforded the opportunity to come into this world.
Consider that between 1,000 to 1,200 Schindlerjuden (Jews saved from extinction by Schindler) alone, produced over 7,000 descendants, all of whom were given the gift of life -- the gift of carrying on their family legacies.
Every action counts. Or, in the spirit of anti-Nazi pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, every inaction counts -- and in no small amount.
Once the dust had settled after the Allied victory in World War II and the devastation of the Holocaust could be truly assessed, the world stood in dismay. There have been few chapters in human history ever wrought in as much suffering and degradation, or that ever captured the depth of evil for which mankind is capable. Conversely, manifest in the deeds of the Righteous Among Nations, were also testaments to all that is good in the human condition.
It reaffirmed the biblical belief for many Christians and Jews that a light can shine from the darkness.
“Never again” became the battle cry all the days thereafter. “Never again” would the Jewish people be led like sheep to the slaughter. They vowed it. The world vowed it. Yet today, while Nazis may have been ostracized and relegated to the darkest corners of society’s fringe, the leader of Iran is allowed to stand before the United Nations – the body that aided in the creation of Jewish State in the first place – and denigrate Israel, deny the Holocaust and go on speaking engagements at prestigious American universities where he mirrors Hitler’s sentiments.
Currently, an Israel-hostile regime has gained a foothold in Egypt, a country with which the Jewish State had at least shared a cold peace, Iran is being allowed to pursue its nuclear weapons program unchecked and its proxies Hamas and Hezbollah continue to lob rockets into Israel at will.
Across the world’s college campuses, Israel has been doggedly pursued and vilified as an “apartheid state” and “oppressor of the Palestinian people” (despite opponents bearing no evidence to support their claims). Meanwhile, in Israel, a battle for Jerusalem is underway as Palestinians scramble frantically to scrub Judaism's historical footprint from the Jewish capital. The method to their madness is simple: To erase Israel's past, is to erase Israel's future.
Adding to the adversity, the Jewish State has also been the target of a concerted Boycott and Divestment campaign (or BDS movement) in countries around the globe. It is worth noting that one of the first measures enacted by the Nazis was a boycott of all Jewish-owned businesses.
This leaves many asking: What happened to “never again?”
Thus far, the attacks against Israel have continued unencumbered by any meaningful resistance from a contingent of those who vowed, “never again” -- except for perhaps a select few, including Christian Zionists.
Christians United for Israel
In a day and age where doing what is right and standing up for Israel is becoming as unpopular as it was in 1938, the righteous of today, too, have their work cut out for them. That has not deterred Christian Zionists, however, who gathered this week for the seventh annual Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Summit in Washington, D.C.
More than 5,600 pro-Israel Christians from around the country gathered to discuss matters important the Jewish State and lobby congress on Israel’s behalf. For those not familiar, CUFI was founded by Pastor John Hagee and is led by Executive Director, David Brog. The organization boasts more than one million members and is active in at least 96 college campuses around the country through its initiative, CUFI on Campus.
The summit and its gala event, “A Night to Honor Israel,” featured a dynamic array of speakers including Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Senator Joseph Lieberman, former White House Press Secretary for George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer, Blaze contributor Erick Stakelbeck, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who appeared via satellite.
"You stand with us when we stand against Iran and its proxies Hezbollah and Hamas," acknowledged Netanyahu during his speech. "When rockets are fired. When we refused to accept one of the greatest lies -- that we are the occupiers of Judea and Samaria."
"We will not be intimidated by any person, by any group of people when Israel is on the line,” Pastor Hagee declared to a resounding round of applause.
"The covenant that God made with Abraham is eternal, and it cannot be repealed by the president of the United States, by the president of the United Nations."
"God created the world and as the owner of the world he entered into a contract with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants forever and gave them the land...Christianity cannot explain its existence without Judaism. We are the Judeo-Christians."
His remarks reflect Christians' belief that Israel not only has legitimate political standing in the modern-day, but a deeply spiritual, biblical tie to the land of Israel.
While the event's speakers each affirmed their support for the Jewish State, one of the most profound aspects of the summit was its attendees, who traveled from all over the country and in many cases, at great personal expense, to show their solidarity and take direct action on Israel's behalf. While this might not turn heads at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, witnessing the enthusiasm and dedication of over 5,000 friends of the Jewish State rally, speak, petition and lobby for a people and nation they care deeply about, confirms for many a belief that CUFI members are the modern-day embodiment of the Righteous Gentiles.
Christian and Jewish leaders from around the country, along with advocates of all age-groups attended the summit to show their support.
"Christian Zionism is tremendously important because now we're in the midst of a religious war," said Rabbi Shlomo Riskin founder of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation.
"There are 1 billion-plus Muslims and there are 2 billion-plus Christians. For us, Christian friendship is critical."
With choirs, prayer sessions, a camp for children, Israeli dancing, entertainment, educational sessions and a mock university Campus exhibit intended to educate people about the challenges facing pro-Israel students today, it would take volumes to describe the sheer magnitude and reach of the CUFI Summit. And somehow, while other organizations let their day-to-day operations fall to the wayside when organizing a large-scale event such as this, CUFI, through its chapters around the country, leads its other pro-Israel initiatives on a daily basis and with great success.
Present and future-day Israel advocates
The attacks leveled against Israel today are subtler than those of yesteryear. While film and media bias is a pervasive force, one of the greatest threats facing the Jewish State can actually be found in the halls of American academia, where an all-out propaganda campaign vilifying Israel is underway.
CUFI on Campus provides pro-Israel students with the tools needed to effectively advocate on behalf of Israel and counter the near-constant barrage from professors and student activists who are successfully indoctrinating an entire generation into believing that Israel is a "colonialist," aggressor state bent on the destruction of the Palestinian people.
Unfortunately, the subversive tactics employed at college campuses across America are working. During one of the summit's break out sessions, CUFI Executive Director David Brog pointed out the sobering fact that more than 60 percent of Americans are sympathetic to Israel, whereas just over 30 percent of college students view Israel in a positive light. The effects will be hard-hitting, even perilous, when only one-third of tomorrow's leaders believe Israel is worth existing, and worth defending. Millennials are, after all, the largest generational demographic to date.
In addition to providing support to students experiencing anti-Semitism on campus, CUFI offers scholarships to its annual summit and even subsidizes a two-week, annual advocacy mission to Israel where students can learn about the nation's historical conflicts from political and military leaders.
During the summit, student leaders spoke about how CUFI has helped them deal with anti-Semitism and anti-Israel attacks on their respective campuses, turning these negative experiences into positive opportunities to advocate for Israel.
Those who attend college face great pressure from their peers and mentors. Often, impressionable students absorb their surroundings and the teachings of their professors like a sponge. It is at this point that they either fall prey to anti-Israel indoctrination, or are intimidated into silence where their Israel advocacy is concerned. CUFI's student-driven initiatives are of vital import at this formative stage in a young adult's life. Without it, a future where far less than 30 percent of the population supports Israel is an entirely possible reality.
Challenges ahead for Christian Zionists
The Evangelical community is diverse and surprisingly not all of its members support CUFI's mission. As past presidential elections indicate, there is a small but growing contingent of left-wing Evangelicals (roughly 26 percent voted for Barack Obama in 2008) resistant to embracing Israel. According to Brog, the Left is aggressively targeting churches around the country, ramping up its own propaganda campaign by holding lectures critical of the pro-Israel movement and promoting films like "With God on Our Side," which paints an unsavory picture of Christian Zionism.
According to CUFI field representatives active in the faith community, churches, particularly ones servicing the African American community and in economically distressed areas, are falling prey to liberal activists who seek to undermine the Christian-Israel relationship.
Educating the under-informed, and misinformed is another task CUFI representatives take on with fervor. The history of the Jewish people in the land of Israel, particularly with regard to its modern-day conflicts, is long and complex. Often, trouble arises when people seek to focus on only one aspect of this 3,800 year history.
"We have to come in and teach history," said Brog, who explained CUFI's two-fold method for teaching based not only on the Bible, but on current political affairs affecting Israel.
Another challenge faced by Christian Zionists, interestingly, comes from members of the Jewish community who are suspect of the motivations behind such support. Ironically, the impetus is found in biblical principles many Jewish people themselves subscribe to: Those who bless Israel will be blessed, while those who curse Israel will be cursed. But is important to note that Evangelicals aren't a monolith, and their desire to support Israel does not only stem from their adherence to biblical teachings. Rather, they support Israel in the way the Righteous Gentiles extended their hands of support to the Jewish people during the Holocaust -- because they believe it is the right path, and the right thing to do.
Brog's answer to Jewish skeptics is simple: "Christians are going be involved [in Israel advocacy]" regardless, and slandering Christian supporters of Israel is something that will no longer be tolerated.
"All we have ever asked is that people come and see what we are all about," Brog told a panel of reporters during the second day of the conference. Many of the stereotypes would be swiftly shattered.
Try as they might, the naysayers cannot discount the historic, biblical, ancestral links of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, their birthplace. Eretz Israel has been the one constant in Judaism -- its North Star -- since time immemorial. On the flip side, modern-day Israel is a country in its own right, founded legally and which has legitimately prevailed in every war of aggression waged against it since 1948. It is the only true democracy in the Middle East, America's staunchest ally, and has every right to defend its land and its people against the sea of enemies which surrounds it.
From fighting legislation detrimental to Israeli interests, to lobbying Congress on stopping Iran's nuclear ambitions; from raising millions of dollars to fund humanitarian efforts throughout the Jewish State, to fighting media bias, campus hostility and helping to foster a new generation of pro-Israel advocates, CUFI and its members are proving to be Israel's truest friend.
With the approach of Glenn Beck's Restoring Love, an event focused on celebrating the attributes that were inherent in the Righteous Gentiles and all those who have done what was right even in the face of great adversity, CUFI reaffirms that there are still people who seek a righteous path and who believe in keeping their promises.
Below is a clip featuring the last hour of a "Night to Honor Israel" and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's poignant remarks: