Living in the epicenter of Gush Etzion, I frequently come in contact with visitors to the region: political and religious leaders, Congressmen, and the curious. The curious and the religious come to see the Derech Avot, the Paths of the Forefathers, some innocently expecting to see camels ridden by turbaned and tanned individuals stepping out of a Bible story. That does exist, but romanticized visions come at a cost, and the imagined life of three millennia ago thrives at tourist sites toward the Dead Sea.
There are the religious or political leaders: elected officials from the state and national level, even the occasional European representative; religious leaders generally from various Christian Protestant denominations. These leaders often are policy makers or have enough clout to effect policy. They tend almost unanimously, exclusive of the rare EU representative, to be devout and devoted friends of Israel. Sometimes the “devout” comes with an unacceptable agenda: the intention of spreading their religious view among the People of the Covenant, the Jews. These evangelical types generously, devotedly support Jews and Israel in the present, but their long-term goal is dubious. They smile toothy smiles today but face future disappointment when the Jews of Israel and the Diaspora reject their agenda.
The political leaders break down into two groups, American and European. The Europeans visit Palestinians. About a mile down the road from my home is a large UNRWA installation receiving many foreign visitors. Other Europeans follow up on numerous illegal EU-funded building projects paid for by European taxpayers’ money. Rarely do these representatives interact with local Jews or Israeli citizens. Their opinions are hardened long before they arrive in Israel. Nothing can be said or done to sway their viewpoint; others and I have tried.
American (and the rare European) politicians are different. They generally believe in G-d and are religious. Study after study shows that America is by far the most religious country of all the Western democracies. Fortunately for Israel, much of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives is G-d-fearing and are true friends to Israel and the Jewish people. My friend and colleague, Elie Pieprz, director of external affairs for the Yesha Council, who introduced me to the thriving chareidi community of Immanuel, invites me to join and participate when he is leading groups through my backyard of Gush Etzion. Previously, my family hosted a group from South Carolina; last week I joined a pair of Congressmen, Dennis Ross (R-FL), who serves as senior deputy majority whip in the House and Robert Pittenger (R-NC), just after they landed at Ben Gurion and just before they met with Prime Minister Netanyahu, at a local eatery to exchange views on the present “State of the Nations” — the U.S.-Israeli relationship.
These Congressmen are unabashedly pro-Israel. Yes, they are religious, but evince no agenda. They have each been to Israel previously and recognize Israel as the land of the Jews. When they say they “unwaveringly support Israel” the words ring true, as opposed to when President Obama offers them to deflect his true agenda. The Congressmen view the U.S.-Israel relationship in the most “selfish” terms: Israel is America’s best and most dependable ally and incalculably benefits America. And they aren’t afraid to share their views — LOUDLY!
Pittenger opened the meeting, stating, “We are here to pay tribute to this great country.” Congressman Ross, not to be outdone, said: “Our greatest ally, Israel, seems to have been cast out to sea with the Iran issue,” and “It’s unfortunate that President Obama is casting a blind eye to the Israeli-American relationship.”
Congressman Pittenger, chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, said Israel’s PM Netanyahu is the “Churchill of our generation” and lamented, “Regretfully, our president is the Neville Chamberlain of our day — he doesn’t know how to handle evil.” Pittenger, in his capacity as Congress’ point man on terror, has met with Netanyahu several times and other Middle East leaders, and confided that regional Muslim-Arab leaders paradoxically view the Iranian threat similarly to Israel, in contrast to the White House position.
The support and concern of the Congressmen was more than words; it was palpable. Each is in a position to effect change and influence policy, each is a devoted friend, recognizing the fears of the nation. Ross compared Israel to the proverbial canary in a coal mine, warning, “as Israel goes, so does the U.S.”
Each Congressman offered up a small prayer. Ross implored, “I can only ask President Obama to be a leader who unites us together and not against each other” while Pittenger reassured us, “You are not alone.”
It is an established law of history that societies that bless Israel, and honor and respect Jews, thrive; conversely, nations that reject, persecute and violate Jews and Israel, suffer. Those that bless Israel, shall be blessed; those that curse Israel, shall be cursed. May the words of commitment spoken by the Congressmen serve as blessings and may their House of Representatives — and the Senate and the White House — be blessed as well for being true friends of the Jewish people and of Israel. n
Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst, and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at msolomon@Hamodia.com.