Unlike some members of the Jewish community, author Zev Chafets has no qualms about accepting the support of evangelical Christians when it comes to Israel.
“I usually feel positive about Zionists, Christian or Jewish. I don’t involve myself in the theology of other people,” he told NJ Jewish News in a telephone interview from his home in Pelham, NY. “I don’t even involve myself in my own theology.”
Chafets will deliver that message when he appears at Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston on Wednesday, Nov. 4.
His talk on pro-Israel Christians is being sponsored by the Community Relations Committee of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ and AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
“I think the Jewish community has a hard time understanding evangelical Christians, not so much for theological reasons but for political and cultural reasons,” said Chafets, author of A Match Made in Heaven: American Jews, Christian Zionists, and One Man’s Exploration of the Weird and Wonderful Judeo-Christian Alliance, published in 2007 by Harper Collins. “These Christians are Republicans and the Jews are Democrats. The Christians believe in God and the Jews believe in whatever they believe.”
And yet in some ways, he said, Christians are often more forthright in their Zionism than many Jews.
“I wish I was convinced the American-Jewish community loved Israel as much as these Christians,” he said. “Evangelicals do not have hang-ups about dual loyalty. They’re just pro-Israel. I remember a time when the American-Jewish community was mostly like that. We got farther away from the Six-Day War and farther away from the Holocaust and closer to a less muscular view of how business is conducted in the world, especially the liberal community, where most American Jews are.”
Chafets, born in 1947, was part of a wavelet of young American Jews who moved to Israel in the wake of that 1967 war, making aliya after graduating from the University of Michigan.
He was brought up in a Reform temple in Pontiac, Mich. “I’ve lived most of my life in Israel on the secular side of town,” he said. “I don’t see myself as a religious guy.”
From 1977 to 1982, Chafets was director of the Israeli Government Press Office under Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
He was a founding editor of the Jerusalem Report magazine and has written books on Israel, his native Detroit, and baseball.
Skeptical of peace
Chafets currently spends more time in the United States than in the house he owns in Tel Aviv.
“I consider myself an Israeli first, if I have to have a first and a second,” he said. “But I was born here and I feel very much an American.” He votes in Israel, not in the United States.
Surprisingly for a writer whose views tilt to the right of center, Chafets said, “I didn’t vote for Obama, but I could have. I thought McCain ran a terrible campaign and I probably would have liked to have taken part in the historical act of electing an African-American.”
But Chafets has become skeptical of the president’s intention to broker an accord between the Israelis and Palestinians.
“I am going to be real honest and say achieving peace isn’t one of my top priorities.”
Instead, the writer said, he would prefer that the Israeli government devote its energies “to continue to grow the country, to continue to grow the economy, to expand the population, to improve living conditions, and to deal with the Iranian issue.”
He sees Iran’s nuclear ambitions as the most pressing issue facing Israel.
“The Palestinian thing is a manageable problem, and Israel has managed it going on 60 years,” he said. “But the Iranian situation is another kettle of fish. I think probably we have to do something. Ideally I would like the world to disarm Iran, but if they don’t, I think Israel might have to try to do that.”
Does that mean bombing?
“I’m not a fan of bombing,” he said. “But if the alternative is to sit there and wait for the Iranians to develop nuclear weapons, I don’t think we’re in a position to do that.”