I've become fairly interested in "Christian Zionism," "replacement theology," and related topics recently and the description and title of "A Match Made in Heaven" made this sound like a good place to go to find out more. Turns out it wasn't quite what I was expecting, but it was still an interesting, well-written, and surprisingly entertaining view of what exactly is happening, and what is at stake, in the question of Jewish-Evangelical relations.
What I was particularly not expecting to find was the author's energetic defense of the passionate support American Evangelicals show for the State of Israel. While "A Match Made in Heaven" lacks any theological investigation or defense of "Christian Zionism," the author makes a strong pragmatic case. As he explained to a New York Jewish woman aghast at the revelation Chafets voted for George W. Bush in 2004 (although a long-time resident of Israel he retains his American citizenship), "why wouldn't I as an Israeli Jew support the most pro-Israel, pro-Jewish president in US history?" As he relates stories of Iraqi Scud missiles falling on his family's Tel Aviv neighborhood, it's not hard to understand why Chafets is willing to accept the Evangelicals' well-demonstrated support for Israel almost regardless of what motivates it.
While I tend to accept Chafets' analysis, I couldn't help but think as I read it that he and his book are probably getting savaged by "the Jewish establishment" he so disparages, as well as by myriad other critics of Israel, Bush, and/or evangelical Christianity (there's a Venn diagram I'd like to see). What I'd hope is less open to criticism is Chafets' skill as an observant and entertaining writer.
I particularly enjoyed his description of a tour of Israel by a group of Evangelicals that he accompanied as, to use his chapter title, "a fly on the wailing wall." My wife and I were (as one participant put it) blessed by a similar tour earlier this year -- remarkably similar, in fact. Not only did we receive communion at the so-called "Garden Tomb" and renew our baptism in the Jordan River at Kibbutz Kinneret ("whose Eastern European socialist-atheist founders would have been amazed by the vast gift store of Christian knickknacks being hawked by their grandchildren" [p. 104]), as did members of Chafets' group, but even visited George Nisan's "religious supermarket" on the Mount of Olives, where Nisan "caused a stir" for us as for them by reciting the Lord's Prayer in Aramaic.
Despite the laughs, though, this is at heart a very serious book and one that's sure to stir deep feelings on all sides. The other side's position is amply documented, and as Chafets notes, Evangelicals themselves seem to take the line "I support Israel because the Bible tells me to, and that's good enough." Not many people are coming to the debate enunciating Zev Chafets' perspective, and I think that's a shame. I imagine all sides, and all parts of the Venn diagram above, could find something useful and even eye-opening in the pages of this worthwhile book.