For Rep. Michele Bachmann, staunch support for Israel is a personal matter: Teenage Bachmann spent a summer working on a kibbutz in Israel.
The 55-year-old Minnesota Republican, founder of the House Tea Party Caucus and a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012, went to Israel in 1974, immediately after graduating from high school. Her mission was sponsored by Young Life, a Christian ministry.
“I always had this love and appreciation for Israel because I was a Christian,” Bachmann, who was raised as a Lutheran, said in an interview with Matthew Continetti, opinion editor of The Weekly Standard. “It’s the foundation of our faith. All of the Bible is about Israel.”
The Israel she found in 1974 was “pretty grubby,” she recalled — brutal heat, soldiers with guns at the airport, customs officers at card tables on the tarmac, chickens everywhere.
The youth housing where Bachmann — then Michele Amble — lived on the kibbutz was called the ghetto. Lizards climbed the walls. She rose at 4 a.m. and rode to work on a flatbed truck pulled by an old diesel tractor. Her job: pulling weeds from cotton fields.
Soldiers escorted the workers everywhere, searching for mines. “You’re hoping at 4 o’clock in the morning that they see everything,” she told Continetti.
The experience has never left Bachmann’s mind. “If you consider what it was like in 1948,” she said, “and literally watch flowers bloom in a desert over time — I don’t know if any nation has paralleled the rise of Israel since 1948.”
Today, Bachmann is a member of Christians United for Israel and one of Israel’s strongest supporters in Congress. She has visited the Jewish state several times since taking office.
One Jewish Minnesota Republican has told Continetti of speeches at local Republican Jewish Coalition events where Bachmann has brought cheering audiences to their feet.
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