Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who served as a Christian Pastor in Germany during the 1930s, once said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.”
Bonhoeffer’s courageous actions later breathed existence into his words, as he tenaciously fought alongside other opponents of the Nazi regime to save Jewish families during the horrors of the Holocaust.
As a Christian, I have spent most of my life in pursuit of strengthening my faith. Yet I never understood for years how critical of a role standing with the Jewish people and their indigenous homeland played in this journey.
This realization only came to me during my sophomore year at the University of Florida, when an anti-Semitic speaker came to my campus to spread hatred and lies that aimed to demonize the Jewish people and other minority groups.
The aftermath of this event left my campus united as a community, but still deeply hurt by the repugnant views shared. As a way to shed light and inspire hope during this fragile time, I joined other students in hosting Irving Roth, a Holocaust survivor, on campus.
Through sharing his testimony of surviving Auschwitz and dedicating the rest of his life to educating others on the hatred that made the Holocaust possible, Roth brought an audience of 500 students to tears.
“My crime was a very simple one,” he said. “I was a 14-year-old Jew. My parents were Jewish. My grandparents were Jewish.”
The most disheartening part of Roth’s speech for me to hear as a Christian, was when he shared how non-Jews failed to speak up for him and his family when they were shipped away in trains to die in concentration camps.
“That’s what made the next possible; the support of the people,” he said.
It was during this time that I decided to start Christians United for Israel at UF, which serves to ensure that the Jewish students on campus are never alienated again by the Christian community.
A few months after hosting Roth at the University of Florida, I was given the opportunity to travel to Israel for the first time with CUFI on Campus. Having no Jewish background, I did not have any idea what to expect from this country. I was concerned about whether I would truly be welcomed in the Jewish State.
To write that I was astonished would be an understatement. Not only did I witness the immense kindness Jewish men and women in Israel demonstrated toward Christians, but I also saw how
much religious and ethnic diversity thrived peacefully within the country.
Because of Israel’s existence and the hospitality of the country’s citizens, my group of roughly 40 Christian students was able to pray at the Western Wall, visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and walk through the Garden of Gethsemane, which are each some of the holiest sites for Christians.
Without Israel and the determination of the Jewish people to protect this land, I would not have been able to freely visit these places and feel safe in doing so. This is because, unlike other countries throughout the Middle East, Israel provides equal access to holy sites to Muslims, Christians and Jews.
Upon returning from my trip to Israel, I decided to further my pro-Israel advocacy by becoming a Fellow for CAMERA on Campus. Through this fellowship, I have been given the opportunity to write opinion pieces on Israel, learn about international media trends from renowned journalists and receive briefings on conflicts throughout the Middle East.
Through serving as a CAMERA Fellow, I was able to attend the organization’s annual conference in Boston, where I was welcomed by Jewish and Christians alike. What we all shared was a deep-rooted desire to ensure Israel was portrayed accurately on our campus and Jewish students were supported.
I have come to realize how Israel also exists as a safe haven for Christians throughout the Middle East who are persecuted, beaten and put to death in their own countries for simply practicing their faith. While many Christians in America regard going to church as a hassle at times, Christians in the Middle East risk losing their lives to worship their Creator.
Although it is illegal for Christians to preach in Iran and radical Islamic groups in Yemen put to death followers of Christ who refuse to denounce their faith, Israel allows Christians to hold services and pray at some of the holiest churches in the world.
While living in the United States, it can be difficult to fully comprehend just how critical it is for Christians to support Israel and the Jewish people. To do so, we must fully understand that no group has been targeted, harassed and terrorized to the extent that the Jewish people have and has still remained hospitable and open to ensuring other minorities do not experience the same treatment.
We as Christians owe the roots of our faith to the Jewish people. We owe our ability to worship in the Holy Land to their resilience to defend it.
It is time for Christians to fully cherish the Jewish people and, just as Bonhoeffer realized nearly a century ago, join them in speaking out for what is right.