This week, a photo of Americans in cowboy hats flying to volunteer in Israel went viral. Jews all over the world responded by the thousands with comments like “This means so much – we’re not alone!” and “God bless these incredible Christians!”
The cowboys flew to Israel to volunteer with HaYovel, an extraordinary Christian group based in the settlement of Har Bracha that brings Christians to Israel to volunteer and help Israeli farmers in Judea and Samaria. With so many Israeli workers currently called up to serve as reservists in the Israel Defense Forces, these Christian volunteers are needed now more than ever.
Some of you may be thinking: “I’m also pro-Israel, and I pray that Israel will soon defeat Hamas. But why would Christians from Arkansas and Texas fly to a war zone to volunteer? Isn’t it going a bit too far? Why are they doing this?”
The answer to this question is found in the Bible – and is more important than you might think.
“An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of Hashem; even the tenth generation shall never enter the assembly of the Lord. Because they did not greet you with bread and water on the way, when you left Egypt…” (Deuteronomy 23:4-5)
The nations of Moab and Ammon descend from Lot, the nephew of Abraham. These nations are the cousins of the people of Israel. Why are they forbidden from converting to Judaism? What is so terrible about not greeting the people of Israel with bread and water?
To make the question even stronger, consider the Bible’s approach to other nations. Many other nations actively attacked the people of Israel – but accepting converts from these nations was not forbidden. The Egyptians treated the Israelites far more terribly than the Ammonites and Moabites ever did, but an Egyptian is permitted to convert and join the nation of Israel.
Why is an Egyptian permitted to convert to Judaism, but not an Ammonite or Moabite?
Although the Ammonites and Moabites are the children of Lot, we must remember that Lot spent many years living in the evil city of Sodom. Sodom was notorious for its complete indifference to the suffering of others. They were arrogant people, overconfident in their self-sufficiency and their contempt for others.
The Ammonites and Moabites, as relatives of Israel, should have embraced the legacy of Abraham. Instead, they followed in the path of Sodom and Gomorrah and failed to show mercy to the people of Israel as they traveled through the wilderness. Although they did not initiate wars against Israel, they were guilty of the terrible crime of indifference – and for this reason, they are forever banned from joining the people of Israel.
“Therefore, as I live-says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel-for Moab shall be like Sodom, and the children of Ammon like Gomorrah; a rattling of nettles, and a salt mine, and desolation forever. The remnant of My people shall plunder them, and the remnant of My nation shall inherit them.” (Zephaniah 2:9)
The tragic story of Moab and Ammon is an essential lesson for all of mankind, but particularly for Christians. Christianity was founded by a Jew, and Christians and Jews both believe in the Hebrew Bible and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Like Moab and Ammon, Christians are spiritual “relatives” of the people of Israel. And when your family is in need, when your relatives are hurting, you have an obligation to act. At moments like these, neutrality and passivity is an unforgivable sin.
To all the extraordinary Christians who have stood up to actively support the people of Israel at this painful time: please know how much it means to us, and that we will be forever grateful for your love.
And to all those who support Israel but are still standing passively on the sidelines: please, rise up and stand with us! We need you now more than ever before! Do not be indifferent, do not close your eyes to the pain of the Jewish people. This is a moment that calls for action – and God is watching.
Rabbi Elie Mischel is the Director of Education at Israel365.