M ike Pence’s speech in the Knesset was heartwarming, and his professed love and admiration for the Jewish People and the Land of Israel is surely sincere. But Evangelicals have a long-term vision, and Jewish sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael is one step before the “end”

America’s Vice President Mike Pence stirred many hearts with his warm words of friendship on his visit to Israel last week. His speech before the Knesset was certainly impressive, with its unequivocal message of love and admiration for the Jewish People and the State of Israel. Yes, it was a pleasure to hear such words from a representative of the White House — and in Biblical language, in the language of the Prophets, which is rarely heard in the Knesset. There is no doubt that for many Jews in Israel and around the world, it was heartwarming to hear a foreign leader speak so positively about the return of Am Yisrael to its ancient homeland — salt on the wounds of Palestinians and their Jewish sympathizers on the left.

In fact, Jews in the latter category tend to break out in a rash when verses from the Tanach are quoted in a political speech, especially if they are quoted in support of Jewish settlements in Eretz Yisrael. The rash is accompanied by nausea when speeches like these come from anyone representing the Trump administration, which they utterly abominate. But their feelings don’t particularly concern me. What matters is that we are seeing a historical milestone: recognition from the nations of the world of the Jewish return to Eretz Yisrael.

But for those of us who shepped nachas from Pence’s speech, my advice is not to get too cozy in the warmth of his words. First of all, let us keep in mind that the vice president is a devout Evangelist. His love of the Jewish People, while sincere, could be interpreted as ahavah hateluyah b’davar — perhaps there are strings attached. Mike Pence has been to Israel four times already, and it’s obvious that he sincerely loves the Holy Land and the Jews who have returned to it. But it might be prudent to remember that the sect of Christianity he adheres to requires its faithful to support the return of the Jews to the Holy Land and their establishment of a sovereign state there — all as a preparation for their own take on the coming of the Messiah: the so-called Second Coming of oso ha’ish. When that happens, according to their doctrine, the Jews will have to accept Christianity, chalilah, or face the wrath of G-d. (The Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, a flagship of Israel-loving Christian Zionists, qualifies that Evangelism is a big tent movement with different views on end-time prophecy).

But if that is indeed one aspect of the love Mike Pence and his fellow Evangelists are showering upon us, why should it even concern us? We’re not really worried about the risks of the Second Coming actually taking place. Let them believe whatever they want, and if it means they support us, all the better. However, many poskim of the previous generation forbade taking any benefit from the donations of Evangelist organizations. Although they don’t engage in classic missionary tactics, preaching to us that we should convert to their religion, when all is said and done, their faith is still considered avodah zarah. And since Mike Pence is a practicing Evangelist, it’s possible that he, too, had that Messianic vision in mind when he poured out his sincere words of admiration for the Jewish People. Could this outpouring of love be a step in setting a honey trap for Israel?

One of President Trump’s avowed commitments is to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a resolution. He is determined to succeed where all his predecessors have failed in solving this insoluble problem. And as a shrewd businessman with a cold, cynical approach to the art of the deal, he knows a thing or two about negotiation. One thing he surely knows is that in order to please the Palestinians, Israel will have to put some hard currency on the table — perhaps some very hard currency.

Surely Trump is also aware that the Israeli government, especially Bibi Netanyahu’s right-wing government, will not readily make the kind of concessions it will be asked to make in order to put through his peace plan, whatever its terms might be. It’s possible that he is making a great show of friendship for Israel — which, I believe, he truly admires — in order to set the scene for when the bill will be presented. This tactical approach began with his famous declaration that America recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The next step is to lay down a concrete plan for moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the capital city.

But both the declaration and the move, if it actually takes place, are only of symbolic significance and will make no difference to the status of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The visit of the Vice President, who scattered smiles in all directions and made a speech devoid of all content other than a hearty demonstration of friendship, was the next step. These stout declarations all seem to carry the same theme — that the US is dropping all political restraint and raising the pro-Israel banner sky-high — and they’re beginning to look a bit exaggerated.

At the end of this process, if the Palestinians will finally be brought back to the negotiating table, will no bill be presented to Israel on a discreetly covered salver? Clearly, after all this psychological prepping, it will be hard for Israel to refuse any request from its big, powerful friend, and any refusal on Israel’s part could so easily be framed as a betrayal. The psychological pressure will be huge. And vague hints in this direction already seem to be coming from various quarters in Washington. Is this scenario really so far-fetched?

EVERY DAY SINCE the passing of Rav Aharon Yehudah Leib Steinman ztz”l, more rays from the setting sun of his presence are appearing on the horizon to show us the beauty of what we’ve lost. Here is one little anecdote I heard last week:

A grandson (or perhaps a great-grandson) of Rav Steinman’s became engaged to a girl from Jerusalem. When family members came to bring him the good news, they also mentioned that the engagement would be celebrated in Bnei Brak, to save him the trouble of traveling to Jerusalem for the simchah at his advanced age.

Upon hearing that, Rav Aharon Leib said, “You mean to tell me that the kallah’s friends won’t be there at her simchah? That is out of the question!” And he informed the family that he would, indeed, make the trip to Jerusalem to take part in the engagement seudah.

Once again, Rav Aharon Leib showed his sensitivity toward the feelings of a young bride, who would surely feel bad if her friends would not be with her to celebrate her engagement. (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 696)