Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest players in basketball history, died yesterday in a helicopter crash along with his thirteen-year-old daughter Gianna.
Bryant played twenty seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers, winning five NBA titles. He was forty-one years old. For more, see my website article, “The death of Kobe Bryant and the urgency of legacy.”
As the sports world follows this terrible tragedy, the world’s attention is focused on another tragedy of global significance.
Why do so many people hate the Jews?
Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The United Nations General Assembly designated January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, as this annual day of commemoration.
Today is the seventy-fifth anniversary of that liberation. More than 1.1 million men, women, and children lost their lives at Auschwitz-Birkenau. However, this was just one of more than forty-four thousand incarceration sites operated by the Third Reich.
The Jewish people comprise only 0.2 percent of the global population. Despite their tiny demographic size, they have been the victims of systemic persecution and oppression for millennia, beginning with their enslavement in Egypt (Exodus 1:12–15) and continuing today.
The UN urged every member state not only to honor the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and millions of other victims of Nazism, but also to develop educational programs to prevent future genocides.
In that context, I’d like to ask today: Why do so many people hate the Jews? Let’s consider three factors.
Jealousy, fear, and greed
In Genesis 26, Isaac is in conflict with the Philistines. The heart of the dispute was that “he had possessions of flocks and herds and many servants, so that the Philistines envied him” (v. 14). As a result, they stopped his water wells, threatening his future, and urged him to abandon land he had cultivated (vv. 15–16).
From then to today, jealousy of Jewish achievements has been a tragic factor in anti-Semitism.
The Jews’ passion for literacy, centered in their love for the Torah and commitment to teach it to their children (Deuteronomy 6:4–7), made them unique across centuries when literacy was in decline and positioned them for success in business and commerce. And their commitments to family and to family traditions and values have enabled them to survive and thrive in the most challenging of times and places.
Today, 44 percent of Jewish households in America have an income exceeding $100,000. This is 50 percent higher than the US average. Though Jews constitute only 2.1 percent of America’s population, they comprise 37 percent of our Nobel laureates.
Jealousy contributes to a second factor: fear of Jewish uniqueness and success.
The Egyptians were afraid the Jews would “join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land” (Exodus 1:10). The Nazis were not the first—or last—to blame the Jews for their own failures and challenges. From the Egyptians to the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Muslims, and British, global empires have been frustrated by the Jews’ refusal to compromise their religion and values to the majority culture of the day (cf. Esther 3:8).
A third factor behind historic anti-Semitism is greed, the desire to steal what the Jews have achieved.
Haman issued an order in Persia “to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children . . . and to plunder their goods” (Esther 3:13). A database lists over twenty-five thousand objects known to have been stolen by the Nazis, though the actual number is believed to be much higher. For instance, the Louvre learned this month that ten of its works had been confiscated from a Jewish lawyer and sold at auction in 1942.
An incredible untold story
I have written previously on this issue, urging us to love the Jewish people as God does and to seek their salvation in Christ. I have described the need to support the State of Israel while working for peace with the Palestinians and showing Jews the love of their Messiah.
Today, let’s focus on the countercultural courage required to do so.
Many Jews object to our evangelistic intercession and ministry; many in America oppose the State of Israel. Loving the Jews and their nation enough to share Christ with them requires a commitment our culture resists.
In this context, remember the Lord’s word to Joshua as he was leading his people into their Promised Land: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). From then to today, serving God and his chosen people requires courage grounded in faith.
For example, consider the courage of Witold Pilecki. A new book tells the untold story of this remarkable hero.
Pilecki was a Polish resistance fighter who volunteered to go to Auschwitz to start a resistance movement there. He allowed himself to be arrested and sent to this notorious concentration camp, where he endured horrific brutality. There he formed an underground network comprising nearly a thousand inmates. They stole and distributed food and clothing, sabotaged Nazi plans, and hid injured and sick prisoners.
Realizing that the camp needed outside help, Pilecki escaped and returned to Warsaw. He continued writing about what he witnessed. He later joined the Polish resistance against the Communists. He was arrested in 1947, tortured repeatedly, and executed.
What price will you pay to support the Jewish people with your prayers and ministry today?