Eva Fleischner, "The Religious Significance of Israel: A Christian Perspective," New Catholic World 217 (January-February 1974) 18-23

Abstract by Jerry Darring


Christian theologians start from scratch, as far as their own tradition is concerned, in exploring the religious significance of Israel, and they have to scrap their traditional teaching about Judaism, which allows no room for a contemporary Israel. For the Jew, Israel has great significance, for the Jewish people survived over 1,900 years on the basis of a dream of returning to Jerusalem. All the time while Christians were developing their "teaching of contempt," the Jews were creating new and viable forms of life and worship. Hopefully, the rebirth of a Jewish state has put an end to the teaching of contempt and will help Christians re-examine the meaning and destiny of the Jewish people. It will help us understand that God is faithful, not repenting of the promises once made. On the other hand, the teaching of contempt forms part of the historical background against which the state of Israel must be seen because of its role in energizing Theodor Herzl, the founder of the state of Israel. The immediate historical backdrop, of course, for the state of Israel is the Holocaust. No Christian can understand the state of Israel without first trying to penetrate at least the outskirts of the Holocaust.

These are some elements that might go into a new Christian perspective concerning the state of Israel. 1) We must endorse Israel's right to exist. After Auschwitz, the Jews need the land so as to keep faith in God and in humanity. 2) Our support does not have to be blind or uncritical. 3) We must do all we can to foster a climate of trust, in which we may have the freedom to be critical and Jews will feel free to voice self-criticism. 4) While it would be antisemitic to give all-out support to the Palestinians, it would be dangerous to absolutize Israel. 5) We cannot expect Israel to keep its hands clean in the dirty game of politics, when no other nation has ever managed to do so. 6) "The state of Israel is the Jewish people's answer to Auschwitz, testifying to the continued viability of the exodus event as the normative experience of Judaism, testifying to God's continuing presence in history, because his people--even after the Holocaust, still survive" (23).