In the past month, the United States and Israel have been reminded of the brutal consequences of religious bigotry and terrorism.
In late October, a white supremacist opened fire on a community of Jews praying in their synagogue in Pittsburgh, murdering 11 people. Two weeks later, Hamas terrorists rained down more than 500 rockets on innocent civilians living near Israel’s southern border.
Christians worldwide continue to face unthinkable acts of violence and terror as well. On November 2, a number of buses carrying Coptic Christians near a monastery in Egypt were gunned down, and seven innocent Christians lost their lives.
In Psalm 34:14 we read, “Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” This verse is considered one of the Bible’s strongest statements against committing acts of violence.
Sometimes, when there is so much pain, it can feel like these words of the Bible are simply being ignored. Rather, this Thanksgiving, we can be thankful that while every act of terror is tragic and painful, such events are isolated. Jews and Christians can be thankful for the ties that bind us, including that we “turn away from evil” and stand together against terrorism.
More importantly, we join together to “do good.” As Jews and Christians, we both acknowledge that the Bible is the source of all good, and Thanksgiving reminds us of our shared heritage.
When the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620 and gave thanks for their survival and successes, they looked intently at the Bible for inspiration and established the Book of Books as the foundation for the New World.
The pilgrims were fleeing religious oppression in Europe. They looked to the Bible for hope and even studied Biblical Hebrew in order to read it in its original.
The pilgrims saw themselves as the chosen people fleeing from the brutal King James I, whom they referred to as Pharaoh, thereby casting off their yoke of bondage and oppression. They referred to their voyage on the Mayflower as passing through the Red Sea into the wilderness and when they arrived in what they referred to as the “Promised Land,” they offered thanks and prayer to God, like the biblical Feast of Tabernacles.
Since that time, the Bible has been the foundation for American values, intertwined with the American people’s ethos and way of life.
At the first presidential inauguration in 1789, George Washington held up the procedures until a Bible was found. He insisted on having one as he took his oath of office, a tradition that has continued to this day when U.S. President Donald Trump used the Bible his mother gave him for his ninth birthday. Every American president has referred to the Hebrew Bible in his inauguration address, often comparing his generation to Israel in the wilderness, confronted with challenges, yet on the verge of the promised land.
The Jewish people has always claimed the Bible as the source of universal values, such as peace, freedom and hope. Unfortunately, for centuries, while many Christians read the same book and believed in these same values, the Bible served as the number one source of division between Jews and Christians.
However, this long and complex relationship between Jews and Christians is shifting. Against all odds, this Thanksgiving we can celebrate the golden age of Christian-Jewish relations, with the Bible becoming the number one source of unity.
We pray this is only the beginning. Perhaps this unlikely story of bitter enemies eventually becoming allies will serve as a catalyst for greater harmony amongst people of every religion, race, and creed.
About Rabbi Tuly Weisz
Rabbi Tuly Weisz is the editor of The Israel Bible, the first study Bible edited by Jews for Christians and dedicated to highlighting the land and the people of Israel, a #1 New Release in both Jewish and Christian Bible categories on Amazon.
Through his popular Israel365 websites and emails, which reach hundreds of thousands of readers each day, Rabbi Weisz is dedicated to spreading love for Israel, primarily to non-Jews all over the world.
About Pastor Jentezen Franklin
Pastor Jentezen Franklin is the Senior Pastor of Free Chapel, a multi-campus church. Each week his television program Kingdom Connection is broadcast on major networks all over the world. A New York Times best-selling author, Jentezen has written nine books including his most recent, Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt.