Gage Skidmore / Flickr mike pence...
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Mike Pence’s visit to Jerusalem was an unqualified disaster. First he made a speech at the Knesset last Monday that was characterized as a “tent revival sermon” by the Israeli press, and Pence himself was called “Horseman of the Trumpocalypse.” He was accused of not being in touch with the basic nature of where he was really at, instead living in his own fantasy of where he thought he was at. The head of an Israeli non governmental organization said, “The Jerusalem that Pence visited does not exist, but rather [Pence visited] an ‘end-of-days’ Biblical theme park.”

To this mess, add the fact that Pence, ever the evangelical, committed yet another faux pas on International Holocaust Remembrance Day by sending a twitter greeting characterizing the Holocaust in “Christ imagery’ terms. Haaretz:

“Angry replies to his tweet charged that Pence, an evangelical Christian, imposed – consciously or unconsciously – a Christian religious narrative on the tragedy that was disrespectful to the Jews who perished. Critics described it as ‘shameful’ and ’tone-deaf.’

”One wrote: “Are you referring to my Jewish relatives who died or survived in the Holocaust or did we become embroiled into some sort of Jesus analogy?” Another called Pence’s use of the term resurrection “a Christian-tinged euphemism as the word is rarely used out of that specific context” and accused him of “glossing over the fact that they were murdered by saying they were resurrected, just like the Jesus he claims to believe in.“

The “Christianization,” more accurately, “Pence-ization” of the Holocaust struck the wrong chord. “Three years” was taken as an analogy to the three days between Christ’s death and resurrection.

“Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust did not ‘resurrect themselves.’ They are all dead and most of them not even buried. Mr. Pence should have left out the term ‘resurrect,’ which offended many Jews,” said Rabbi Ron Kronish, an expert on interreligious relations and a library fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.

Kronish added that Pence’s “reference to a Jewish future was very vague and unclear. If he meant that the Holocaust led to the foundation of the Jewish State of Israel, this is blasphemy since it somehow justifies the Holocaust.”

The fact that “many Israeli politicians” often commit this sin themselves, he said, doesn’t make it right. “It would have been better for him to have said nothing about the Holocaust on this occasion if he or his advisers can’t figure out a sensitive and serious way to say it,” concluded Kronish.

Jerusalem has long been described as the “volcanic core” of the Middle East, a locale where competing and seemingly irreconcilable religious and historic narratives vie for supremacy and where Jews, Muslims and Christians co-exist side by side in a never ending struggle for survival. It is a place where angels most likely fear to tread but this fool rushed right in and gave offense. Rabbi Kronish is right, probably more than he knows. If Mike Pence, or other members of the Trump administration don’t have the depth of knowledge about a given situation to make an informed comment, then it would be best if they remain silent rather than throw gasoline onto situations which are already inflamed. 

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