To the State of Israel and all its inhabitants,
Two thousand years ago, in this land, there was a meaningful discussion between two Jews, one was anonymous and the other was a man called Yeshua (Jesus), who became the most famous Jew, if not the most famous person, in the history of the world. The anonymous asked Jesus: “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” According to the Rabbinic tradition, Jesus replied with a question: “What is written in the Torah?” The Anonymous knew about the great law of the Torah and said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus agreed with him, those who live according to these laws, will win eternal life, so he said: “You have answered correctly, do this and you will live”. The anonymous person felt that something in this law is too general and not comprehensive, therefore he insisted to know: “Who is my neighbor?” This question Jesus answered with an allegory: there was a man who fell as a victim to violent robbers, they hit him and then left him at the side of the road to die. Two passers-by saw him but didn’t even stop, and eventually a man who was “full of mercy” did everything in his power to help, including saving his life and giving him all necessary medical assistance. The twist in the plot is that the one who saved the man on the ground is the enemy’s victim. An enemy from different nationality and different religion. When Jesus asked: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The answer was clear: “The one who had mercy on him” (Luke 10).
This is today's dilemma. In principle, we want to know that when we need life-saving help, in a hospital, there will be no discrimination based on race, gender, religion or any other characteristic. At a critical moment of saving life, wherever we are in the world, we hope that compassion, love and empathy overcome tribalism, nationalism and religious exclusivity. Nevertheless, in normal times, we stay loyal to the family, national and religious tribe, in preference to others. Nowadays we are in the middle of a struggle over the character of the country, about its Jewish identity and its democratic identity. And maybe, the struggle is about the degree of willingness to adopt universal values.
The radical lesson of Jesus' parable is not only that in the commandment, "Love your neighbor as yourself," one must love both the stranger and the enemy, but the hero of the story, the one who fulfills the commandment that grants him an eternal life, is the enemy himself. The ultimate righteous person in this story is not a Jew, nor a disciple of Jesus or anyone who can be considered a Christian. Throughout history, Christians have not always excelled at internalizing this lesson, therefore, we must act modestly when purporting to preach morality. But therefore, perhaps together we can find those universal values that will form the foundation for living together with awakened dignity, mutual appreciation and compassion.
Daniel Kopp, is the Israeli-born Pastor of the Baptist congregation on Narkis Street, in Jerusalem. He is also Chairman of the Evangelical Association in Israel.