CAN WE DO ANYTHING TO STOP ANTISEMITISM?
This article was written by staff member Olivier Melnick who serves in the Dallas area and reported live on location in Colleyville.
We can easily answer this question in the negative, and yet, there are several things that people of goodwill in general and Christians, in particular, can do to help in the fight against “the oldest hatred.”
RECENT ANTISEMITIC EVENTS
On Saturday, January 15, 2022, a hostage situation unraveled in Colleyville, Texas near Fort Worth. Pakistani UK citizen, Malik Faisal Akram entered Congregation Beth Israel during a live-streamed Sabbath service and took the rabbi and three congregants hostage. The man claimed to be the brother of extremely dangerous terrorist, Aalia Siddiqui, who is serving an eighty-six-year sentence in a nearby Fort Worth prison. He repeatedly requested her immediate release. It turned out that they were not related after all. By the end of the day, after one of the hostages had already been released, the rabbi, who had previously received FBI training, helped the other two hostages escape shortly before the authorities raided the facility and shot Malik Faisal Akram.
This hostage story is one of the few that ended well for all hostages, and we ought to praise God for how swiftly the SWAT team intervened. Unfortunately, these do not always result in a happy ending. Many will remember the 2015 “I Am Charlie” terrorist attack on French soil, culminating in the death of four Jewish hostages at the Paris Kosher Supermarket. Closer to home, we remember the 2018 deadly Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue shooting that killed eleven and wounded six (the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in America.) Then there was the Poway Chabad Synagogue in Southern California in 2019. One person was killed and three were injured.
It is important to look back and learn from the past, but as we all look forward, the questions remain. Can these tragedies happen again, and if yes, can anything be done to prevent them from happening?
There should be no doubt in our minds that we are just one antisemitic person away from the next tragedy. So, yes, we will most likely experience more of the same in the future, but this should not deter us from being involved in the fight against antisemitism. Three aspects of this fight need to be discussed: education, prayer, and involvement.
EDUCATING ABOUT ANTISEMITISM
Most news outlets, commentators, and even scholars usually comment on antisemitism from a secular viewpoint. The different vantage points from which to approach the Jewish hatred are too often crippled by political correctness. Why was it so hard for the FBI representative in Colleyville to admit that a hostage situation in a synagogue on the Sabbath, to free antisemitic terrorist Aalia Sidiqqui, was indeed an act of antisemitism? He said, “The issue was not specifically related to the Jewish community.” Eventually, the FBI had to back-pedal and admit that this was a clear case of antisemitism. The FBI director finally admitted that it was “an act of terrorism targeting the Jewish community.”
Proper education is key here. Anytime we lean toward a biased narrative, our judgment becomes blurred, and our decisions are no longer based on facts, but on either the culture or a certain political agenda. That is dangerous. The fact that the Colleyville incident was not clearly labeled as an act of antisemitism shows that, as a society, our values are shifting. For Christians, it should be clear that the culture should never dictate the gospel, but rather the gospel should punctuate the culture while being contextualized, but without compromise.
Jewish people, today more than ever, need to know that Christians have their backs. The past 2,000 years of antisemitism, many times by people that the Jewish community believed to be Christians, is a lot of baggage for evangelicals today. Unfortunately, this is a history we cannot ignore or minimize, even though it might not be yours personally. If you are a Christian, the Jewish community has connected it with you. We must study this baggage and understand it if we want to be able to relate to our Jewish friends and earn the right to speak. Only then can we tell them what it means to be a Bible-believing follower of the Jewish Messiah.
Alongside education comes prayer. Prayer needs to be the foundation of all we do as believers. Praying for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6) is important, but this ought not to be the only prayer for Israel and the Jewish people. We need to remember to pray for the safety of our Jewish friends and families, but also for their salvation (Romans 10:1.) Additionally, as believers, the Messiah even challenged us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44.)
We must also remember that the hatred for Israel and the Jewish people is not politically, geographically, culturally, or even economically driven. It is a spiritual battle against Satan and those he chooses to use to hurt God by hurting the apple of His eye (Psalm 83:5; Zechariah 2:8b). Satan is the creator of antisemitism and we should never underestimate his drive to destroy the chosen people.
So, we learn, we pray, and then we speak up, though not necessarily always in that order. Learning is a continual effort; prayer is as often as necessary, and speaking up occurs whenever there is a reason to voice our support. Speaking up will go a long way in rebuilding bridges between Christians and Jews that have been burned over the last 2,000 years.
A simple phone call or email to your local synagogue or Jewish community center to voice your support of the Jewish community will mean a lot in times of trouble. Christians might even consider volunteering to repair or clean up damages on Jewish property because of acts of antisemitic vandalism. The Jewish community might decline, but the offer will never go unnoticed.
For churches that have an outside marquee, it is very easy and quite effective to show support for the Jewish community relating to a tragedy such as a hostage situation or even a killing. Even outside of a reaction to a tragedy, churches can always display a “Happy New Year to our Jewish friends” or “Happy Passover” or “Happy Hanukkah” at the appropriate time. This too, as simple as you think it is, will go a long way. If the Jewish community organizes a rally in support of Israel or to fight antisemitism, now is the time for Christians to participate and show their support.
Education, prayer, and involvement are not that complicated, but they take time, the right attitude of the heart, and a desire to make a difference for God’s kingdom. Once we earn the trust of our Jewish friends, we have also earned the right to speak, and the gospel can move forward.
Let us not wait for the next Pittsburgh, Poway, or Colleyville to react. Rather, let us be proactive and educate ourselves, pray, and speak today! Antisemitism might never completely disappear on this side of eternity, but that should not discourage any of us from getting involved in fighting it, because when it comes to loving Israel and the Jewish people, we are on God’s side!