Sen. Ted Cruz, the son of an evangelical minister, used his knowledge of Jewish history and the Jewish calendar to wow Jews attending the annual Zionist Organization of America dinner in New York in late November.
Referring to the miracle of Hanukkah, which celebrates the victory of the undermanned Maccabees over the Greek empire, Cruz mentioned that the night he was speaking was the beginning of the Hebrew month of Kislev, and continued, “The month of Hanukkah, a month of miracles. The few defeated the many. The righteous defeated the unrighteous.”
Many Jews attending the event showed delight that Cruz referenced Kislev and knew Jewish history. The Dallas Morning News wrote, “A few jaws went slightly agape. This Cuban-American tea partier, son of an evangelical minister — he knows from Kislev and the Festival of Lights?” Many in the crowd chanted, “Run, Ted! Run!”
Len Getz, a Philadelphia accountant, said, “He’s aligned with the Jewish people. He’s aligned with the Jewish calendar. He understands Jewish history. He understands that Jews, even though they have small numbers, persevere and are victorious. Because God is on Israel’s side. He understands that.”
ZOA board member Harvey Friedman said, “This is a stand-up guy. There aren’t a lot of politicians you can say that about. He isn’t wishy-washy.” Gene Shusman, another board member, echoed that he wanted Cruz for president “because I love my children and my grandchildren and I want America to be restored to its former greatness.” He quoted the Bible, saying, “‘Those who bless Israel, I will bless.’ And Obama and the Democrats have stuck their fingers in the eye of God. And He’s watching. Do you think Santa Claus watches Dec. 25? You wait till we get up there [to heaven]. They’re not going to get up there.”
Cruz had already gained a reputation as a fierce defender of the state of Israel; in September he appeared at an Arab Christian event and bluntly said:
ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and their state sponsors like Syria and Iran, are all engaged in a vicious genocidal campaign to destroy religious minorities in the Middle East. Sometimes we are told not to lump these groups together, but we have to understand their so-called nuances and differences… In 1948 Jews throughout the Middle East faced murder and extermination and fled to the nation of Israel. And today Christians have no better ally than the Jewish state.
As some in the crowd began to boo, Cruz undeterred, continued,
Let me say this: those who hate Israel hate America. And those who hate Jews hate Christians.” The booing increased, prompting Cruz to add that his heart “weeps that the men and women here will not stand in solidarity with Jews and Christians alike who are persecuted by radicals who seek to murder them… I am saddened to see some here, not everyone, but some here are so consumed with hate… If you will not stand with Israel and Jews, then I will not stand with you. Thank you and God bless you.
Then he walked out.
During the Israel-Hamas war, when the Federal Aviation Administration banned air travel to Tel Aviv, Cruz ripped the Obama Administration for crippling Israel at a terrible juncture. He said, “President Obama has just used a federal regulatory agency to launch an economic boycott on Israel, in order to try to force our ally to comply with his foreign-policy demands.” Noting that tourism brings in $11 million annually to Israel, he continued:
This FAA flight ban may well represent a crippling blow to a key economic sector [in Israel] through both security concerns and worries that additional bans will down more flights and strand more passengers. It hardly matters if or when the ban is lifted. At this point, the damage may already be done. If the FAA’s decision was based on airline safety, why was Israel singled out, when flights are still permitted into Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen?