In 1973, when a coalition of Arab armies launched a surprise attack on Yom Kippur, the State of Israel found itself in a state of shock and in desperate need of weapons. The Rev. Billy Graham, who passed away last week at the age of 99, picked up the phone and convinced his friend President Richard Nixon to assist his other friend Prime Minister Golda Meir.
The Rev. Graham’s call helped persuade the U.S. to provide an emergency airlift of essential arms that rescued the Jewish state from the overwhelming Arab onslaught.
Over the course of Billy Graham’s long life, he topped lists of admired men and became America’s most influential religious leader. Despite growing up in a deeply anti-Semitic environment, Graham used his tremendous influence as "pastor to presidents" and preacher to millions to assist Israel and the Jewish people and has been eulogized by Jewish leaders this past week.
More than half a century ago, as a friend and counselor to President Dwight Eisenhower, Billy Graham went on his first visit to Israel.
Graham’s description of his 1960 trip is significant, "When I first took a preaching tour of Israel, I stayed with Mrs. Golda Meir, who was then foreign secretary, and promised her that I was not there to proselytize. Rather, I was there to thank the Jewish people for proselytizing me."
Graham was one of the first Christian leaders to publicly acknowledge the debt of gratitude owed toward Judaism and to move Evangelicals away from evangelizing Jews.
Graham will be buried on Friday, on the same day Jerusalem celebrates the holiday of Purim, otherwise known as the Feast of Lots, when the Jewish people read the Scroll of Esther.
Esther tells the story of the Jews who were living in Persia in the 5th century BCE. Following the devastating destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem, the Jewish community once again found itself threatened with annihilation.
An anti-Semitic adviser to King Achashverosh concocted a plot to destroy the Jews, yet God subverted the evil plan. Achashverosh married a woman named Esther, who was secretly Jewish. The new queen managed to replace the evil adviser Haman with a righteous one, Mordechai, thus saving her people.
The central lesson of the "Scroll of Esther" is that God orchestrates events behind the scenes — his name does not appear even once throughout Esther’s 10 chapters — to deliver his people from danger to deliverance. Jews celebrate on Purim to this day by wearing costumes and drinking wine to acknowledge the topsy-turvy nature of our complex world.
Especially when it comes to politics and the fate of the Jewish people, current events often appear chaotic and frightening, yet God’s reassuring hand guides us through life’s ups and downs.
There is a curious line toward the end of the Scroll of Esther.
After the main narrative is over and the Jews are no longer in grave danger, it says, "And in every province and in every city, when the king’s command and decree arrived, there was gladness and joy among the Jews ("Yehudim"), a feast and a holiday. And many of the people of the land were “mityahadim” for the fear of the Jews had fallen on them." (Esther 8:17, "The Israel Bible")
Bible commentators debate the meaning of “mityahadim,” which comes from the same Hebrew word “Yehudim,” referring to the Jews. Some explain that the local people developed fondness towards the Jews. The despised Jewish nation had earned the reverence of the people and the culture which had once been anti-Semitic had become friendly to the Jewish people by the end of the story.
The basis for the Hebrew word ‘mityahadim’ means to give thanks. The Jewish people must always show our thanksgiving for those who assist us. As such, the state of Israel and Jews in America must show appreciation for those who God sends to support Israel and assist the Jewish people, starting with Billy Graham.
Rabbi Tuly Weisz is the director of Israel365, which connects 2 million people to Israel every month. He founded the I365 newsletter, is publisher of Breaking Israel News, and editor of The Israel Bible. He lives with his family in Ramat Beit Shemesh. To read more of his reports, Click Here Now.
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