You'd better believe that a major determinant of how my vote is cast in the November election will be based on the candidates' policies regarding the State of Israel, not only because of what it says about the related threat of Iran's nuclear weapons capabilities, but purely whether or not the future president of the United States stands with Israel as a like-minded democracy filled with a highly moral people, beloved of God, and deserving of the right to exist without threat of extermination. As a Mormon (and hence, from the "House of Israel"), I not only celebrate the Jews as my literal kinsmen, but I recognize the parallels of their struggle to exist as an organized, independent group with our own struggle.
First, the undeniable call to gather to eastern "Zion" began just as soon as Orson Hyde's dedication of the Holy Land for the return of the Jews in 1841. As palpable as the zeal of converts in the British Isles to gather to the Rocky Mountains in the 1850's or of so many of us to search out the names of our ancestors thanks to the Spirit of Elijah, or of Columbus to "sail across the ocean blue" in 1492 , I can truly understand how the Spirit can ignite a people as far-spread as the Jews and inspire them to stake out a small corner of their ancestral homeland, no matter the cost.
According to reports, once the Jewish people began settling in the vicinity of Jerusalem in the latter half of the 19th century and into the 20th, it was evident that the desert began to "blossom as a rose." When Winston Churchill paid the area a visit in 1921 he was impressed that wherever the Jews were "he [saw] green, he [saw] industry, development, literature, civilization...; where the Arabs [were] he [saw] brown, barrenness, nothing, no advance." This, to me, sounds like what the Mormon pioneers faced in every new location from the frontiers of Kirtland and Missouri to the swamps of Nauvoo all the way to the barren desert of Utah. Especially in the case of Nauvoo, they were tasked with turning an almost uninhabitable tract of land into something a less-industrious set of people would come to covet. What is interesting is that the Arab population in Palestine more than doubled with the Jewish settlement there because they were attracted to the higher standard of living the transplanted Jews created and the higher wages paid by Jewish employers.
The early Mormon Saints would be able to sympathize with the fact that the State of Israel has known nothing but the continual breathing out of demands for their annihilation spoken by their neighbors on every side. A poignant statement by former Prime Minister Golda Meir, I think, shows remarkable maturity: “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us”.
How do all the major candidates stack up in their support for Israel? I was pleased to see Senator Ted Cruz standing and applauding the appeals of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a joint session of Congress last year. Bernie Sanders refused to attend the historic address. It sounds like Donald Trump favors Obama/Clinton-like negotiotions between Israel and the Arabs. Marco Rubio, astutely, recognizes that "There is no peace deal possible with the Palestinians at this moment." Sanders' neutral stance is puzzling, given that his father is a Jewish immigrant from Poland whose family was killed by the Nazis. Even Hillary Clinton, in a related vein, calls his views on Iran "naive." I was saddened to hear that Ted Cruz, who has travelled to Israel several times, was booed off the stage during a speech at a summit in Washington D.C. for his unapologetic support of Israel. Senator Cruz co-sponsored legislation to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and sent a bicameral letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging the closing of the Palestinian Liberation Organization's office in Washington D.C. I WONDER if you can guess who has won my heart when it comes to championing Israel.
As I have spent time learning about the history of this dispensation's gathering of the Jews to their promised homeland, it becomes apparent that God is working on their side in miraculous ways. I want to be on that side - the side that, despite atrocities and continual violence, values life, no matter whose. Is it as important to my fellow Latter-day Saints to choose leaders that are friends to the Jews? Has the time come when Ephraim no longer envies Judah and Judah ceases to vex Ephraim?
What say ye?