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Looking at Orlando from Jerusalem


Recently I visited with Christian friends from Orlando in Jerusalem. We connected some time ago and became immediate friends, sharing our respective faiths, reverence for God, and love for Israel. They are frequent visitors, know Israel well, and we are in touch often.

We’ve been planning an Israel solidarity event together and spent some time discussing details of date, timing, format, and how to involve both Jews and Christians. We also spoke about our respective families, ministries, and current events in Israel and the U.S.

The week they left, our respective communities were jarred with the awareness that we share much more in common than we would like. The Tel Aviv and Orlando terror attacks were unwanted wakeup calls. Some nonsensical people commented after the Tel Aviv attack - leaving four dead and dozens wounded - that it was due to the “occupation.” This is absurd and provides a justification that any perceived wrong of Moslem extremist sensibilities (whether in Tel Aviv recently, or Paris a year and a half ago) terror is somehow OK or to be expected. I am still looking for that absurd justification for the Orlando terror attack. Maybe Mickey Mouse is nefariously occupying the Bat Cave.

Later, I was interviewed by a journalist who is delving into the root of what motivates Christian support for Israel. I explained that there were many factors but, simply, it is rooted in the biblical obligation to bless Israel. The fact that as this phenomena has grown in parallel to the rebirth and revival of Israel, fulfilling biblical prophecy, coupled with threats against Jews and Christians and overall western (but not exclusively) civilization, underscore the imperative for solidarity. It is a blessing indeed and exactly what God wants, that two parallel but interrelated phenomena of the upsurge in Christians blessing Israel and increased solidarity between Jews and Christians has expanded, and continues to do so.

Unfortunately, the Tel Aviv terror attack and the Orlando attack underscore that need all the more.

After Orlando, my son and I were talking and he asked why it was that nobody stopped it? How could it be that nobody inside the club attempted to disarm the terrorist? Why was it that there was nobody armed inside? How was it that fear overcame bravery? From an Israeli perspective, as horrible as terror attacks are when they happen here, and they happen too often, at least we know that in most cases, the terrorist will be stopped and killed or captured in short order. My son didn’t understand what seemed like an impotent response inside, coupled with what seemed like an unprepared police response outside, allowing the terrorist to go on and on, posting to Facebook, and taunting emergency services with calls to 911.

Security camera footage of the Tel Aviv attack showed one of the miraculous occurrences, tremendous bravery and selflessness amid the shooting. While restaurant patrons scurried for the exit and to take cover, an unarmed man rushed the one of the terrorists and knocked a gun from his hand. Doing so gave patrons more time to flee, and certainly saved more lives.

I don’t own a gun but I always think of getting one. One of the motivating factors to do so is a terror attack that took place in Jerusalem in 2008. A Palestinian Arab terrorist, using the tractor that he was driving freely through Jerusalem for work, decided to attack and try to overturn a school bus filled with kids. That summer there were a few such attacks where terrorists used their construction equipment as weapons. At this one, an armed bystander climbed atop the tractor and shot the terrorist, disabling him and preventing any further harm to the children, or anyone else. Honestly, I’d love to be in a situation where I am able to stop a terrorist like that, and hope that if put to the test, armed or not, I’d respond with similar bravery and selflessness.

Coming back to Orlando, a few years ago I was checking into the Orlando airport for a domestic U.S. flight. I have become accustomed to the long lines and delays as the TSA undertakes at least perfunctory precautions to prevent a terrorist from getting onto or near a plane. I remember going through security and being told I had been selected for a random additional security screening. I let the TSA staff do what they needed to do, but told them I came from Israel, and not are they only wasting time stopping me randomly, but they are stopping someone from the one Middle Eastern country they can trust and which understands security precautions. I was polite, but told them firmly that they need to be profiling the terrorists, not stopping people randomly.

And it seems that if the FBI or others had taken the threat more seriously and profiled or investigated the terrorist in Orlando more thoroughly, they could have stopped him. Of course critics will charge that profiling is not PC. But if it’s between PC and survival, I pick survival.

A friend posted something on his social media in the wake of Orlando that was especially poignant and to which I replied. We got into a chat about it and he said how the U.S. has to learn so much more from Israel about how to respond to terrorist threats, and prevent attacks. I replied that we are meant to be Light unto the Nations, but I don’t think this is what God had in mind. However, to the extent that in this way we can be, because of the common threat, the common enemy, and the necessary solidarity especially between Jews and Christians, I pray to the same extent that the world is threatened by Islamic terror as a common enemy, that if we can be a Light unto the Nations in this way too, so be it.

One thing I have learned living in Israel, is that while God promised the Jewish people the Land of Israel as a timeless inheritance, He never promised that it would be easy or without its challenges. We live with and accept it, and no matter the challenges, we will overcome them because He continues to grant us His protection.

I pray that God will change the hearts of the terrorists who are the enemies of Jews and Christians so that, together, we may worship Him according to our traditions, and continue to build on the growing trend of solidarity, not because of fear but because of simple biblical imperative.

Jonathan Feldstein was born and educated in the U.S. and immigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. He has a three-decade career in nonprofit fundraising and marketing and throughout his life and career, he has become a respected bridge between Jews and Christians. He writes regularly on major Christian web sites about Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He can be reached at FirstPersonIsrael@gmail.com.


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