BY JOSH AHRENS
By a Student from Christians United for Israel on Campus
The Torch Magazine, July 2011
In 1896, Reverend William Hechler unexpectedly knocked on Theodor Herzl’s front door. Herzl had never met this bearded man, who frankly announced, “Here I am…Now I am going to help you.” Herzl, the quizzical and secular Jewish journalist and Hechler, the eccentric and well-connected Christian theologian went on to form a relationship through which Herzl gained the recognition needed to promote his idea of a Jewish state.
This improbable contact is considered by many as the beginning of the Zionist relationship with Christianity, and essential in the subsequent recognition of a Jewish state. It has grown from these two men to hundreds of thousands of men and women.
When you meet with students, advisors, faculty, and when you speak up in class, you are participating in this history of unlikely individuals who felt a strong connection with the state of Israel and its citizens, and chose to act accordingly. You are a messenger with potential to impact the future of Israel in a similar way to Reverend Hechler.
I love asking fellow CUFI on Campus members how they heard about CUFI. Nearly every story is of a messenger who arrived unannounced and invited them into this growing, living relationship. To explain the importance of this relationship, consider the effects of the Goldstone Report. After Israel retaliated in 2008-09 against Hamas’ rocket attacks from Gaza, The U.N. Human Rights Council investigated the conflict and charged Israel with launching a, “deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population.”
It has since been shown to be a false accusation. This charge was repeated day after day in the headlines of the most respected newspapers in the world. Justice Richard Goldstone recently wrote in the Washington Post, “We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Commission… If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”
Yet for over a year in our class discussions about Israel, students accepted the Goldstone Report with a stunning lack of curiosity, and dismissed Israelis as war criminals. It fit so perfectly into their presuppositions about Israel because it was a product of the same environment—an environment virtually absent of Christians properly equipped with the knowledge and courage to counter it. No value system other than Judeo-Christian can reasonably be expected to counter such attacks.
I remember a moment in class when I asked the students to put themselves in the place of Israelis who endured Hamas’ rocket attacks on their communities. Several of them laughed in my face. Everyone else was silent, including the professor. Those who compiled the Goldstone Report could confidently (yet based only on pure, biased speculation) accuse Israelis of deliberately killing innocent Palestinian civilians because they developed their attitudes and perceptions of Israel in this environment.
They have never apologized. Palestinians and Israelis truly suffered because of this failure to distinguish between terrorism and legitimate defensive action. These laughing students will go on to teach your children, write your news, your legislation, your history, and no doubt more documents as flawed as the Goldstone Report.
How has this happened? The answer is very simple; documents like the Goldstone Report are products of this academic climate, which are then ingested by new generations of students who go out into the world and allow this attitude about Israel to color their work, which makes its way back into the classroom, insulated from moral or factual challenges.
This is all changing. There are millions of Christians who are potential Israel advocates on campus, and we in CUFI on Campus are at ground level of unlocking that potential. Anti-Semitism does not stand a chance in the American University against us, if we for once realize the urgency of the problem.
It relies on our inaction. With each event and personal conversation, we are focusing the lens through which srael is viewed for future Goldstones, members of the U.N. Human Rights Council, teachers, pastors and voters. These may be the only chances students and professors have for someone to challenge false images of Israel. With your presence, warmth, and knowledge on campus you play nothing less than a direct and essential role in the survival of a vibrant and secure Jewish state.
This is a moment in history I can’t wait to tell my future children and grandchildren about when I take them to walk the streets of Jerusalem, bicycle in the Negev, and stand on the shores of the Galilee, under the very same flag that flies in Israel today.
Josh Ahrens is a senior at Portland State University studying History and Judaic Studies and President and founding member of Portland State’s CUFI on Campus chapter. He plans to do graduate work in Biblical History and Near Eastern Culture and go on to teach courses and write books that articulate Christianity’s Jewish heritage and Its relation to Christian support for the State of Israel.