Violence and aggression in the Israeli conflict in Gaza have reached a frightening level. We hear so much from the media as the death tolls rise, but in actuality we have little to no idea how terrifying living in Israel, Gaza, and the surrounding regions can be at times.
The National Press Club hosted a conference gathering the most prominent members of the Jewish community on Monday, July 28. The “National Leadership Assembly for Israel,” organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, saw many notable speakers, including Speaker of the House John Boehner.
Rev. Dr. Paul de Vries also headlined the long list of speakers. Dr. de Vries serves as President of New York Divinity School, a member of the board of the National Association of Evangelicals, and Public Philosopher for the Christian Post. In his many roles in Christian leadership and higher education, Dr. de Vries has always found a way to incorporate deep thinking into his work for the kingdom of God.
Dr. de Vries shared some of his personal story during his brief remarks, especially as it related to the nation of Israel. He said he was “raised in a family, as were by far most Christians” where he was taught “to respect Israel and to take a deep interest in the land that God personally gave to wonderful people.”
He then shared a simple question posed to him by a rabbi in New York: “Why do you love Israel?” He passionately responded, “I can’t begin to name the reasons that Christians love Israel. To see a group of people that restored themselves after two thousand years of being dispersed in every direction, to see a desert place made into a garden, to see a democracy, that is the only democracy in the whole region, to recognize the only country where Christians are free to worship in safety and liberty throughout the Middle East; only Israel! We can never thank you enough!”
Dr. de Vries also expressed love for Israel over their possession and protection of the holy ground upon which the heroes of the Christian faith walked. While he lamented and condemned the actions of Hamas during his brief address, he also lamented the actions of “the twin sister of Hamas, ISIS,” particularly their destruction of the tombs of Jonah and Daniel. Ultimately, one of the reasons that Dr. de Vries sees as most significant to support Israel is the fulfillment of prophecy found in Hebrew Scripture.
Turning to current events, Dr. de Vries sees the current actions of Hamas as “malignant evil.” Rather than projecting an Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he instead contended, “The enemy of the Palestinian people is Hamas! Christians in Gaza are constantly abused, ministers are murdered, Christians’ homes are burned.” He expressed great disgust at the fact that Hamas has been hijacking hospitals, schools, and houses of worship for destructive purposes, namely the storage of missiles, and even greater disgust at the UN for allowing these things to happen under their noses. According to Dr. de Vries, Hamas has misused 600,000 tons of cement – enough to construct six skyscrapers – to build the infamous tunnels rather than apartment buildings, hospitals, and schools – the purposes for which the resources were originally given.
Dr. de Vries finished by comparing the respective peace plans for Israel and Hamas, respectively: “The peace plan for Israel is to demilitarize Gaza and provide humanitarian aid so there can be a thriving society. The peace plan for Hamas is to kill Jews and Christians and we need to stop it by every means. Let us stop it, for God’s sake.”
De Vries’ comments seem to reflect the increasingly pro-Israel mindset of the American people. According to a Pew Research survey completed on Monday, more Americans would be more likely to blame Hamas for the current violence rather than Israel. Even certain demographic groups from which you would not expect such an answer show a growing trend of support for Israel.
Whatever the cause, whomever the instigator, we pray for the violence in Israel and Gaza to cease, for just resolution to conflict, and for the beginnings of reconciliation among groups of people who have harbored hatred and bitterness for generations.
May justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:24)
Soli Deo Gloria
For a full video of the event, click here.