Luke Schroeder, columnist
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is a simply breathtaking building. Located in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, the church contains what many believe are the sites of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial – it is a deeply holy site for millions of Christians all over the world.
When I travelled through Israel last summer, this was one of the places I visited. As I walked out of the church into its courtyard, my ears were met by the Islamic call to prayer, broadcast from the minaret of a nearby mosque. On an adjacent rooftop, a flag bearing the star of David waved in the wind.
In the course of only a few seconds, I had walked out of a Christian holy site and heard the Muslim call to prayer, all while standing in the Jewish state. Incredible.
For me, this moment is a perfect microcosm for the complexity that engulfs domestic Israeli politics. Three major religions trace their roots back to this holy land and each, to some degree, feel that it is their rightful home. This simple fact produces great conflict, and makes Israel’s situation one of the most complicated in the world.
In addition to struggles faced at home, Israel must also face external actors that aspire to bring about their destruction. Iran, for example, has long threatened to wipe Israel off of the map. Terrorist organizations such as ISIL, Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and others share Iran’s goal.
Despite what Israel faces, despite the repeated instances of persecution and genocide the Jewish people have suffered throughout history, some in America still do not support the state of Israel. This is wrong.
For anyone reading these words that holds a negative opinion on Israel, or for anyone who has not yet formed their opinion, you must know this: Israel is a moral nation, a nation fully deserving of your support.
When I stood atop a mountain in the Golan Heights, I looked across the border into Syria. To my right, UN observers kept watch of the border – they are meant to serve as a first warning system in the event of attack. The conflict I had read about back home was suddenly just a few miles away.
Since 2011, Syria has been ravaged by civil war. The human suffering caused by this war is immeasurable, and heartbreaking – combatants and innocent civilians alike are being killed and wounded in alarming numbers.
As the war has dragged on, doctors, medical facilities, medical supplies and food have become harder to access – this has led to a humanitarian crisis. Luckily, Israel is doing something about it.
Through a recently declassified program called Operation Good Neighbor, The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have provided much needed food and medical aid to suffering Syrians. In 2016 alone, Israel sent over 350 tons of food into Syria. They have also brought more than 4,000 Syrians, including hundreds of children, into Israel to receive top-notch medical treatment.
This is only one example of the many ways Israel and its military are helping those in need in the Middle East – Israel has a long history of acting on its moral conscience. Clearly, those who paint Israel as evil are misguided.
Israel is also a critical American ally – they deserve the United States’ full economic and military support.
It is no secret that the Middle East is a violent and often unstable region. The United States largely relies on Israeli military strength and intelligence gathering capabilities to aid in our own efforts there. Without Israel, the United States would be forced into a higher level of direct involvement in the Middle East – something that very few Americans want.
I spent one of my last evenings in Jerusalem with a Jewish family in their home, where we shared a traditional Shabbat dinner. The family was wonderfully kind and welcoming, and spoke with me on what it was like to call Israel home.
Many facets of their everyday lives are the same as ours: school, work, sports, spending time with friends and family. However, the news of shootings, stabbings and other terrorist attacks are far too common – constant reminders of the danger they and their nation face.
The oldest child in the house, just 16, shared with me his goal of becoming a pilot in the Israeli Air Force. Here lies one big difference between the U.S. and Israel – at the age when many American children start thinking about college, Israeli children start choosing which military unit they would like to serve in.
For this young man, and for every other Jew in Israel, mandatory years of military service follow high school.
Israelis know what is necessary to ensure their national security, and for every member of the IDF I spoke with, they were proud of their service and fully supportive of their nation’s conscription policy.
Israel and its people are doing their part in international efforts to secure the Middle East – America must continue to support them in this endeavor.
Israel is a nation every American should support. They are the freest democracy in the Middle East – if we wish for the region to someday stabilize, we must continue to stand resolutely on their side.