I would like to thank all the people who took the time to reply to the article I posted yesterday, “A concoction of distortions, half-truths and emotionally-potent oversimplifications of scripture is Christian Zionism.” I would like to clear up some points that I probably did not make clear in the initial article.
My statement that Orthodox Jews do not believe that the exile is over refers to Orthodox Jews that are believers in the Torah. It seems that term “Orthodox Jew” can also be used for Jewish people who observe the lifestyle of Orthodoxy while not being believers, i.e. agnostics or even atheists. My usage of the term did not include these and so my comments were not very clear on this point. For this I apologise. As far as all my own research has gone, plus conversations with every Orthodox religious Jew that I could find, religious Orthodox Jews do not believe that the exile is over. As for the religious Jews in the settlements in the West Bank, I guess I did not really consider them as Orthodox. I think that they represent a minority of religious Jews and so my statement would be better put as “the vast majority of religious Orthodox, believing Jews do not believe the exile is over.” I think this statement is far more accurate.
It is not my intent to delegitimize the conversion experience of anyone. My comment about the coming and going of spiritual fads in the church in no way devalues anyone’s conversion experience. I have been involved in some of these fads myself and my involvement in them in no way affects the validity of my conversion experience and anyone else’s involvement in these fads does not invalidate their experience either. A valid conversion experience in no way guarantees that a believer will not take on views that stray or even contradict the ideas and values that the believer started with. What even constitutes a valid conversion experience is not obvious either. I do not agree that my statements about fads in the church imply that I invalidate the religious experiences of anyone in the Christian church or anyone of any faith regardless of the existence of these fads or who has been involved in them.
As far as the Oaths of the Talmud are concerned, I think that while they hold very little significance for many Jews today, they did have far greater importance for Jewish people in the past. The habit of dismissing anti-Zionist religious Jews as nuts and fanatics is unfair. I think that the rejection of Zionism by the vast majority of believing religious Orthodox Jews in the latter part of the 19th century went far deeper than the simple fact that the Zionists were secular. I think Professor Rabkin’s book clears this point up quite well.
Regarding the point I made about the Old Testament’s teaching about the conditionality of the Jewish people’s occupation of Canaan, I stand by what I said. I think this teaching is abundantly clear. If a person considers the Old Testament to be a flawed book of human origin, well that is his/her right, but that does not change what I feel is a fairly plain teaching of the Bible. If the Jewish people do not accept that particular interpretation of the Bible or choose to ignore the Torah completely then their decision to do so must be respected. The point of my article was to show that the Christian Zionist teaching that Christians must unconditionally support the State of Israel does not hold water Biblically even given the sort of presuppositions that they themselves hold to about the scriptures. I do not believe that the Israel-Palestine conflict is a religious one at all. The Christian Zionist doctrine that attempts to legitimise the Zionist state of Israel on religious grounds is completely unjustified and in the end is extremely unhelpful.
The Christian Zionist movement has, in my opinion, only fanned the flames of this conflict. My understanding of Christian Zionist teaching comes from not only reading mountains of their literature, but by being lectured by them for hour upon hour as to why I should be supporting the state of Israel unconditionally rather than being concerned with Palestinian calls for justice and human rights in the land of their birth.
I do not believe that the survival of the Jewish people is dependent upon the existence of the Zionist state of Israel. If it did, then I would be compelled to support the Israeli state like the many Jewish people who do indeed think that the Jewish people will perish if Israel does not exist in the form it does today. The Jewish people (thankfully) survived the Holocaust, without the Zionist state. I believe that they will endure as a people come what may, as they have done for thousands of years. Many times it has occurred to me that the Zionist state of Israel has not created a better world for the Jewish people, despite its lofty aims.
In the end I believe that the ethical traditions of Judaism are an inspiration to all who seek justice and equality in our world. That reality is a far greater reason to celebrate than the existence of the Zionist state of Israel.