Brog's Blog

November 2, 2009

The Friendships That Sustain Us

Filed under: All Posts — brogsblog @ 8:03 pm

Last week, Pastor Hagee’s Cornerstone Church held its 28th annual Night to Honor Israel.  It was a spectacular event.  The orchestra and choir performed rousing songs in impressive Hebrew.  The audience waved Israeli flags and cheered themselves hoarse.  Pastor Hagee gave a stem winding speech.
One of the highlights of the evening, and actually of my lifetime, was the keynote address given by Elie Wiesel.  For those who don’t know him, Elie Wiesel is the most famous Holocaust survivor alive today.  He shared his experiences in the hell of Auschwitz in a number of important books, most notably his memoir Night.  And he turned his anguish in that place into a deep pool of comapassion for all who suffer genocide and opppression.  Elie Wiesel has devoted his life to combating genocide and atrocity across the globe.  And for these efforts he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.
The Cornerstone crowd greeted Wiesel with a sustained standing ovation.  And he quickly returned the favor.  “Life is not made of years but of moments,” Wiesel observed, “and tonight I had to come here to live a privileged moment, to be with you.”  Referring to the massive Christian crowd gathered to stand in solidarity with Israel, Wiesel noted, “Never in the history of my people have we witnessed an event such as this.”
As Mr. Wiesel was leaving the church that night, we introduced him to another friend of CUFI, a Holocaust survivor named Irving Roth.  Mr. Roth greeted Mr. Wiesel and reminded him that they had actually met once before.  When Wiesel asked where it was that they had met, Roth responded, “Block 66, in Auschwitz.”  Over 60 years earlier, these two men had lived in the same barracks in the same death camp, and survived the same hell.  They were finally reunited in San Antonio, in the Cornerstone Church, at a Night to Honor Israel.
The fact that these and so many other Holocaust survivors regularly come to CUFI events and embrace our work might strike some as surprising.  Wouldn’t these Jews who suffered so terribly at the hands of gentiles be the most wary of them?  But we typically see the exact opposite reaction.  These men who have experienced the darkest of nights have become much more sensitive to the light.  They are able to discern the brightness where others cannot.  And they see much light, and great hope, in our work.
More specifically, these survivors understand that the Holocaust was possible precisely because too many Christians were silent when the Jews of Europe were being taken away and slaughtered.  When they meet Christians who recognize this failure, who ask forgiveness for it, and who are determined never again to repeat it, they respond in the healthiest of fashions – they return the embrace.
These survivors have seen enough evil in their lifetimes.  They know the craggy contours of its face.  They do not need to invent it or imagine it where it does not exist.  And they see in our efforts not evil, but its antithesis.  As one Holocaust survivor put it after a recent Night to Honor Israel, “If only Christians had embraced us like this back in Europe, there would not have been a Holocaust.”
At times our work in CUFI can be discouraging.  Standing up for Israel is not easy.  And too often, people who know nothing about us jump to the ugliest of conclusions.  They ignore our words and actions while ceaselessly searching for the obscure quote that might be manipulated to support their darkest fantasies and conspiracy theories.
Such small souls could learn much from our friends.  When Elie Wiesel met Irving Roth, they expressed no surprise at the context of their reunion.  They abandoned their fantasies about humanity long ago.  And with deep realism, and eternal hope, they recognize friends when they see them.
There is enough honor in the friendship of men such as these to sustain us in our work for a lifetime.

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