Sunday, October 28, 2018

Waiting for Taxis: A Call to Move beyond Weeping to Standing with our Jewish friends

By Bunni Pounds

Yesterday, we experienced the "deadliest single attack on the Jewish community in the history of the U.S." when a madman shouted anti-Jewish slurs while storming into a synagogue in Pittsburgh with three pistols and a semiautomatic rifle.

Today, the police released the names of the fathers, the mothers, the grandfathers, and the grandmothers who will be missed by their families and their friends. We are mourning the victims and we are reflecting on antisemitism in our nation that most people didn't believe existed anymore.

How can this be after the Holocaust? How can this be in the 21st century?

Several years ago I was asked to speak on a panel at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington DC about our families’ love for the Jewish people and our activism to make sure the relationship between America and the nation of Israel remained strong. Speaking as a Christian leader leading a congregation with my husband and also as a political activist working in politics, it was a life-changing event for me being in DC with over 14,000 pro-Israel community leaders that year from all over the United States - most of them, Jewish. It is an experience that I have repeated many years since, but something happened in my heart on that first trip that has never left me and in a roundabout way I felt I needed to share it today.
Speaking at the AIPAC policy conference in 2015

My husband and I were standing outside in the taxi line, surrounded with hundreds of Jews, Orthodox Jews from New York, some reformed Jews from Dallas or California and Jewish young people from campuses all over the US.

Security is always really heavy for these conferences because AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, invites the Prime Minister of Israel, the President or Vice President of the United States, Senators and Members of Congress, and key policy leaders on the subject of Israel. It is the largest gathering of the Pro-Israel community in our nation every year.

Unfortunately, and this was where my eyes were open in 2015, the most important reason for high security are the people who stand outside the convention center yelling and screaming about the “Occupiers”, “the hateful Israelis”, and those “horrible Jews who want to destroy the Middle East".

I know we don’t believe these people still exist in our world, but they do and they are loud, disrespectful, and outright wrong. I have witnessed them with my own eyes and ears and I have had them track me on Twitter or Facebook posting nasty things about me after I simply post a picture with a caption #IstandwithIsrael.

Before I go on with my story, this is what you need to know about our family's history.

Our firstborn son who is almost 22 now is named ISRAEL because we love the Jewish people. It was a choice on our part to name our firstborn son after the people who protected the scriptures for us, the nation who was the light to the nations, and the people who Jesus, our Messiah, chose to come to in the form of a baby and then a man.

When we were a young couple, Tim and I had a love for the Jewish roots of our faith, my husband studied Hebrew, and we even had a “Jewish-style" wedding under a Chuppah - the traditional beautiful cloth covering held up by four poles symbolizing the Jewish home and its hospitality to the world around them. I was fascinated with the richness of Jewish culture and how it opened up the Bible to me in a whole new way.

Tim, my husband, went to Israel twice before we were married and I wanted to go as well, but every time we planned a tentative trip, I got pregnant. I never made it to Israel during the years of raising our young family or growing our small businesses, but from the moment I got involved in politics, pro-Israel politics was something very important in my life.

Surprised in 2014, I received an invitation because of my political activism, to the nation that I had loved for so long. I never stopped crying on those nine days as we went from one border to another.
In Independence Hall in Tel Aviv where Israel became a nation in 1948

Now back to the taxi line story......

I had just shared on this panel of Christian leaders at the Policy Conference about our family's understanding and love for the Jewish people as Christians. During the Q&A segment, an Orthodox rabbi told me in front of everyone that he came into the session with a lot of doubts about us Christians, but that “he saw love in my eyes” and that he was deeply moved. Of course, tears ran down my face.

Then came the impactful moment waiting for our taxis, when these crazy people outside the convention center were yelling and protesting the “Occupiers” and “the Jews who were destroying the world". They were looking at Tim and I and screaming at us as well. We were part of the crowd. We were part of the Pro-Israel community. They didn't know we were Gentiles. They didn't see us as any different than the people we were standing next to.

Tim turned to me and said this statement that I will never forget: “This is one of the proudest moments of my life. This is a privilege to experience this together with them.”

What he was referring to in the word “this” was persecution. We were standing side by side next to our Jewish brothers and sisters and no one knew the difference. In that moment waiting for our taxis together, we were ONE.

Meeting a mother on the border of Gaza who always had to worry about rockets coming down on their town and their children. A month after we left in 2014 - attacks started happening again. 

In our family for years, we talked to our sons about prejudice, cultural fears, and history. We have read the stories of Corrie Ten Boom and Dietrich Boenhoffer. We have asked our teenagers the hard questions like - What if the Jewish people were persecuted again like they were in World War II and they were running, hiding, and knocking on our front door? Would you open the door for them knowing that you might be endangering your own life? Do you have the courage to be a “Righteous Gentile”?

Some days I felt a little crazy talking about these things with our kids growing up. Surely this would never be a problem again in our modern world?

But then there are days like yesterday when our worst collective nightmare happens. A crazy anti-Semitic man goes into a synagogue in Pittsburgh and starts shooting people leaving 11 people dead and many more wounded.

My people, my friends were hurt yesterday. God’s people were hurt yesterday. I weep with them today and will weep with them into the future.

We should all weep as Americans and as citizens of the world, but our responsibility doesn’t stop with weeping. Our responsibility in America is to "experience THIS together" as my husband said in that taxi line. The experience we need is to stand arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder with our Jewish brethren until the haters can’t tell the difference between us and them.

In reality, we are all Americans and anyone who wants to get through to them with hate and anger should have to go through us first. We must be ONE people. We must be Americans.

My prayer for my own life and my family today is that the Jewish people will always see love in our eyes, because that is how it should be. I look forward to many more years of waiting in taxi lines together with them till no one sees the difference between us.

You cannot imagine what these simple words unleash on social media. Please copy and share. Let's be bold!

To read more about AIPAC and how you can get involved politically with the Jewish people to make sure America stands firm beside our great democratic ally in the Middle East, read here and pray about coming to Policy Conference in March 2019. You will never be the same as you stand beside our Jewish brothers and sisters in a cause that matters for the world. 

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