by Doug Ward

SEPTEMBER, 2006-Despite opposition from much of the rest of the world, the United States remains steadfast in its support-both individual and corporate-for the modern state of Israel. The reasons for this support go much deeper than any perceived economic or strategic interests. Ultimately, American friendship with Israel is based on shared values, including a mutual love of the Hebrew Scriptures. Many of the early European settlers in North America were Puritans and Pietists, Christians with strong philosemitic convictions, and these convictions remain foundational to American culture.


The motives of American Christian supporters of Israel have been called into question at times. In particular, dispensationalists are sometimes suspected of being interested in Israel mainly because the Jewish state's existence fits neatly into their detailed prophetic scenarios-scenarios that also happen to predict great suffering for Jews. However, there is no doubt that many American Christians have an unconditional love for the Jewish people, the people from whom Jesus and his original disciples stemmed. These Christians are simply grateful to be able to partake of the blessings that accompany being "grafted in" to the olive tree of Israel. (See Paul's olive tree analogy in the eleventh chapter of his epistle to the Romans.)


In southwestern Ohio, one person especially known for her love of Israel is Judith Classen. For many years, Classen has communicated that love in Bible classes at her church in Cincinnati and carried out that love through the activities of her ministry, "For Zion's Sake." On September 2, 2006, Classen shared some of her experiences in a presentation at the Church of the Messiah in Xenia, Ohio.


Classen recalled that when she was four years old, she saw graphic photographs from the Nazi death camps that had appeared in Life magazine in 1945. Although she did not yet completely comprehend what the Holocaust was about, she understood that it was the "Bible people" who had endured such suffering. She began to pray for these people and was filled with a desire to help and protect them.


As she grew up, Classen's desire to serve the Jewish people grew stronger. In 1980, she finally had the opportunity to visit Israel as a delegate to a Christian women's conference. She and some friends hoped that when they were in Israel, they would have the opportunity to visit some people in prison as a way of carrying out Jesus' words in Matt. 25:34-40. With the help of a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., they were able to arrange such a visit. They talked with three prisoners-an Arab Christian, an Arab Muslim, and a Jew-and presented gifts to each of them.


This turned out to be the first of many trips to Israel for Judi Classen. Later in the 1980s, her desire to help the Jewish people also took her to the Soviet Union, where Jews who had unsuccessfully attempted to emigrate to Israel (the "refuseniks") were subject to severe government persecution. On behalf of the Cincinnati Jewish community, she traveled to the Soviet Union with aid for Soviet Jews. One family to whom she was able to bring aid was a family for whom she had been praying for some time.


Classen's presentation was very inspiring. It encouraged us to renew our efforts in prayer and assistance for the people of Israel.


Issue 22


File translated from TEX by TTH, version 3.66.
04 Sep 2006, 15:04.