Yes, Rev. Pat Robertson has apologized, but one question remains: why were Israeli officials so incensed at him for suggesting that Sharon has been punished because he willingly surrendered part of the Holy land to its enemies. Granted, the timing of his statement was unfortunate, but does that justify Israel’s angry response to cut off its agreement with him to help build a Christian center in the Galil?
It is not that I like the idea of Israel aiding and abetting Christian projects that do nothing to strengthen Jewish heritage, and have the potential of doing just the reverse. Even if such projects bring in millions of Christian tourists, one wonders if the spiritual price we ultimately pay is worth it – even though the evangelicals are our best friends today.
But I am puzzled by the intensity of Israel’s reaction to this one statement. Is it that Robertson claims to have entrée into the mind of God? I happen to agree that no mortal should claim knowledge of why the Immortal One does this or does not do that – but surely this is not the first time that Robertson has said such things. Any good evangelical thinks this way. Nor is he alone. Many Israeli rabbis have donned the mantle of omniscience as well, ascribing various tragedies to lack of Jewish observance. This kind of presumptuousness on Robertson’s part does not of itself warrant the rage of the Israeli government. There must be more to it.
Is it because it is unseemly to point to a person who has been struck down and to tell him that this occurred because he is a sinner? It is true that this kind of behavior is condemned by Jewish tradition. It is called ona-at devarim ( Talmud Bava Metzia 58b). But as improper as such behavior is on the part of Robertson, this too does not give grounds for the fierce reaction of the government. A statement objecting to the inappropriate behavior of the good reverend would have sufficed.
Certainly it is not because Robertson is indirectly chastising Israel for the disengagement. Israel has grown accustomed to criticism from around the world. A stray remark by an evangelical minister known to be our friend could not have ignited the explosion.
All this leads to one conclusion: the Israeli government is enraged because Robertson ascribed the Sharon illness to none other than God. Could it be that he touched a sensitive secular nerve by even suggesting that God has an interest in what happens to His Land? In response, the Israel government seemed to be saying, By all means, let us all pray for the PM’s recovery, but please don’t bring religion into this. What we do , how we behave, how we conduct our affairs, is our business. It has nothing to do with God. We are a sovereign state, and by our might and by our power did we build it up. What chutzpah – even to suggest that God plays a role in the affairs of the Land of Israel!
Of course, no one can know for sure what transpires in the minds of government bureaucrats, but if in fact they were offended by the mere suggestion of a divine interest in Israel’s affairs, then that is good news. A Jewish soul that responds so vigorously to external stimuli is not totally dead, and we can hold out hope for a full spiritual recovery some day in the future.