It was my first trip to Texas. I did not know what to expect.
It was in 2014 during Operation Protective Edge. During the trip, my contact was mostly with the Jewish community, and I did not get to see much of the general population in Texas.
When I arrived at the airport and came to the TSA security check, I was shocked to be asked by the security official a question I had not expected. “How are the people in Israel?” he wanted to know. His friend joined in the conversation and told me that in his church, they follow the news and pray for the people in Israel.
Once we got to the boarding area, as an Orthodox Jew who prays thrice daily, I found myself a quiet corner to pray before boarding the plane. As I stood with closed eyes facing Jerusalem, I suddenly heard the playful voices of children who rushed to the formerly empty and quiet area in which I was standing and praying.
I heard the hushing of a man with great urgency in his voice. When the children expressed surprise at what had just happened, I heard a whisper from the man, who was apparently the children’s father, telling the kids: “I will explain to you later.” Never before have I displayed my religion so publicly just to feel such a strong sense of respect for it.
Christian/conservative Amer- ica has shown the Jewish people unprecedented and unparalleled tolerance, favor, grace and sympathy. We should not take this for granted. With many Jewish groups making it their explicit objective to oppose what many Christian conservatives support, it is important to make sure that differences of opinion on matters of policy do not become personal.
We have all seen the mistake of people who dump their old friends or family for the sake of new ones and then discover that their new friends are no longer there for them. We should not make this mistake.
American religious and political conservatives have been friends of the Jewish people in ways that are beyond what any of our forefathers in Europe, Arabia or anywhere else could have imagined. They’ve been so despite the evident gap of many political and religious differences, and that is something for us to remember.
Regardless of our — possibly expanding — political divides, we must remember our friends. No matter how vast the ocean of differences of opinions between us and some of the Christian right, gratitude, friendship and respect should dominate our conversation with them and about them. They have given it to us; they deserve no less in return.
Rabbi Elchanan Poupko is president of EITAN-The American-Israeli Jewish Network.