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Here’s the latest in the list of mistargeted religious solicitations I’ve gotten in the mail. As you can see, the back of the envelope contains an endorsement from Pat Boone (this Pat Boone), which probably gives you a good idea of what demographic this group was aiming at:

Inside was a lengthy letter, which I’ll quote some selected passages from:

Dear Christian Friend,

My name is Yechiel Eckstein. I’m an orthodox rabbi who’s been working with thousands of Christians across America to help rescue Jews and fulfill biblical prophecy.

…I’m sure it will come as a shock to know that thousands of elderly people in Israel like Haya are hungry and desperate today. Coming to the Promised Land fulfilled a lifetime dream for these survivors… but the dream has been shattered by the nightmare of life in Israel today. Suicide bombers have killed and crippled thousands.

…I thank God for Christians like you who care about Israel, and who have responded to the Lord’s call… However, the situation for elderly Jews in Israel is so desperate today, I’m praying for your very special help.

…While most of the world has turned its back on Israel and the Jews, I know that true Christians in America have not forgotten them. I believe God will bless you for your support of the Israeli people, for as He promised Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you…” (Genesis 12:3).

While I have no objection to feeding the elderly poor, this letter puts extreme and strange emphasis on the fact that these are Jews in Israel. Coupled with its stress on “fulfil[ing] biblical prophecy”, you get the unmistakable feeling that this was pitched to an audience of Christians who wouldn’t help out of simple compassion, but who might donate because they think it would help realize their apocalyptic vision of world events (i.e., the evangelical belief that Israel needs to be supported so that it can continue to exist until the End Times, when God will slaughter most of its population).

Also, the reference to “thousands” of bombing victims seems to be a significant exaggeration. The Wikipedia page counting deaths from suicide bombings lists only 804 civilian casualties for all attacks between 1989 and 2008. And even if the total number of wounded were much higher, Israel is a wealthy, developed country. The implication that the costs of caring for bombing victims have beggared the nation is obviously false. If there’s anything that truly imperils Israeli society, it’s more likely the rapidly growing ultra-Orthodox demographic, most of whom don’t work and expect state support for a lifetime of religious study.

Lastly, there’s the reference to a world “turning its back on Israel and the Jews”. If this is happening, I’d suggest, it’s because Israel is an increasingly right-wing-dominated society whose elected leaders no longer seem to have any serious interest in peace. Instead, they’re acting as if Israel’s strategic position can be maintained indefinitely through sufficiently ruthless bombing of the Palestinians. Worse, they’re giving a free hand to violent, radical settlers who believe the Jews have an absolute right to occupy a huge swath of the Middle East.

I wouldn’t say that the poor of any country deserve to suffer for the bad decisions of their leaders, but it’s nevertheless true that Israel’s isolation and sense of being under siege is caused in part by decisions it’s made for itself. Appealing to religion as a way to shirk its obligations toward peace and good relations with its neighbors, assuming that rich Christians will always support them no matter what, is an especially cynical strategy.

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DAYLIGHT ATHEISM Adam Lee is an atheist author and speaker from New York City. His previously published books include "Daylight Atheism," "Meta: On God, the Big Questions, and the Just City," and most...