Alabama may be the most pro-Israel state in the country

Richard Friedman
Richard Friedman

Today’s guest columnist is Richard Friedman.

During my long tenure as Executive Director of the Birmingham Jewish Federation, an Israeli Consul General told me something I’ve never forgotten. “You know,” he said. “We consider Alabama the most pro-Israel state in the country.”

There are reasons — ranging from religious ties, to admiration for Israel as a democracy, to the country’s determination not only to survive but also to thrive, to its accomplishments as a fountain of innovation.

Alabama is heavily Christian and the ties between the Christian community, especially the Evangelical community, and Israel that have flourished over the decades have been heartening. They believe the Bible affirms the inextricable link between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel and know that the roots of Judaism and Christianity converge in this tiny, holy piece of land 6,500 miles away.

There are Christian groups in Alabama doing remarkable work for Israel; aiding its citizens, advocating in Montgomery and Washington, DC, donating dollars and praying daily for the well-being of the Jewish state.

Alabama officials at every level of government — from the U.S. Congress to the governor’s office to the state legislature to local mayors and town councils — have supported Israel; issuing proclamations, taking legislative action, promoting ties between the two countries and visiting Israel multiple times.

They admire Israel’s willingness to stand up to terror and understand that Israel faces security challenges no other country encounters. They marvel at the fortitude it takes for Israelis to go about their day to day lives in the face of a nuclear threat from Iran and missiles from Hamas and Hezbollah.

They also know that Israel is an outpost of democracy and America’s best ally in one of the world’s most turbulent and strategically important regions. Yes, Israel’s democracy goes through spasms, just like our country and other democracies.  Yet, it endures and retains its vibrancy.

Alabama first state to call for the establishment of Israel

Alabama’s support for Israel has important roots. In 1943, as the Jews of Europe were being murdered by Hitler’s Nazis and desperately seeking refuge in their Biblical homeland, Alabama, through a unanimous vote by the Legislature, became the first state to call for the establishment of a Jewish country in the Biblical homeland of the Jewish people.

For decades, organizations, such as the Birmingham Jewish Federation, have reached out to the broader community, explaining why Israel is an asset to the U.S. and encouraging Alabamians to visit Israel.  The Levite Jewish Community Center’s recent Jewish Food and Culture Fest, which was coupled with a celebration of the 75th anniversary of Israel’s rebirth as a modern Jewish state, drew 2000 people, many of them not Jewish.

During my work as Jewish Federation director, part of my job was to educate about Israel. I appeared many times on call-in radio, spoke widely to churches and civic groups and wrote extensively in the Birmingham News and on Al.Com. No matter the forum, people were hungry for information, wanting to learn more.

Thanks in part to the support Israel has received from our state over the decades – and from the American people overall – this tiny country has flourished.  Now, as Israel celebrates its 75th anniversary, its achievements are a miracle.

This country of 9 million people – a population slightly larger than Alabama and Mississippi’s combined — has become a world leader in technology, medicine, agriculture, defense, cybersecurity, water management and other important fields. Its know-how and relationships with companies, universities and communities throughout our state have benefited Alabamians.

Returning after a 2022 trip to Israel for HBCU presidents, Dr. Charlotte Morris, president of Tuskegee University, told Southern Jewish Life magazine, “The trip gave me an opportunity to explore collaborations between some of the things we are doing here at Tuskegee and institutions in Israel. Israel has super expertise in advanced technology, agriculture and the sciences. I wanted to make sure we explored these areas.”

Being in Israel also affected the Tuskegee president as a Christian. “I am a Bible scholar. I don’t know any other way to describe seeing places I had studied in the Bible other than ‘Wow!’” she said.

As Israel continues to celebrate its 75th anniversary, I say Todah Rabah – “Thank You” in Hebrew — to my fellow Alabamians. I think that Consul General, who believed Alabama was the most supportive state in the union, may have been right.

And that makes me proud.

 Richard Friedman is the retired executive director of the Birmingham Jewish Federation. He is currently associate editor of Southern Jewish Life and Israel InSight magazines.

David Sher is the founder and publisher of ComebackTown.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

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15 thoughts on “Alabama may be the most pro-Israel state in the country”

    1. Those Jews who vote Democratic do so because the GOP seeks to impose Christianity on all of us including Jews.

  1. I do not support Israel. I oppose any US military aid to Israel. Israel’s defense is Israel’s problem.

    1. Mr. Dewees: You are entitled to your own opinion as I am. I do support Israel and am grateful for US military aid to Israel….because Israel’s ability to keep from being overrun by millions of its anti-Semitic neighbors mostly depend on assistance from other world
      democracies. Israel is our first line of defense against those who would destroy AMERICA’S democracy and its citizens inalienable rights. Historically speaking, US isolationist policies did little initially to slow the rise of the Third Reich and Adolph Hitler… until it reached our shores in Pearl Harbor. Doesn’t the slaughter of six million Jews and others by that mad-man beg us today to be pro-active and ever-watchful in stopping such atrocities against humanity? On this MEMORIAL DAY we remember and thank the sacrifices of our many Heroes who for 250 years have protected our democracy.

      1. Mr. Leader, you make some good points. But how is Israel our “first line of defense”? How do America’s democracy and its citizens’ rights depend on Israel?

        1. Mr. Gemberling, thank you. My “first line of defense “ comment alludes to the fact that Israel is AMERICA’s staunch ally in a volatile hemisphere that is home to despots with little or no regard for the USA. Israel provides us with a critical base of military operations in their midst if the need arises.

          1. I don’t think the US really benefits from that anymore. If we don’t find some resolution of the Palestinian issue the Middle East is going to continue to be an open wound. Unconditional support for Israel from the United States makes that harder.

  2. I fully support American funding to Israel and other Middle Eastern countries that want to have Democratic elections!! For now Israel still has elections and is the only Middle Eastern country that does such.! Global business matters to American Based employers and employees ,

  3. This is a very interesting and informative column. Thank you for writing it, and thank David Sher for posting it.

    1. Absolutely on point is Robert Stewart!!
      The vestiges from the American Civil War on Alabama and other CSA are alive and well in 2023.
      Of course each day I see many people in the state of all races working together to eliminate poverty!!

  4. It does not surprise me that the Evangelical community in Alabama strongly supports Israel, and I’m sure they are eager to travel there to see firsthand Holy Land sites. My Southern Baptist mother made it a point to visit there after her retirement. (Alabama fundamentalists are likely unaware or choose to ignore Israel’s liberal abortion laws, as well as American Jews’ overwhelmingly pro choice stance.) Now flip the destinations. What sites would Alabamians show Israeli tourists to the state? A tour leader might show them around UAB, US Space and Rocket Center, and perhaps a military base such as Maxwell Air Force Base, all of which reflect Israel’s own medical, scientific, and military prowess. (I applaud Israel’s contributions in those areas and support its right to self-defense from hostile Middle Eastern regimes.) But if I was the tour guide, I’d also take them to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and an isolated, poor Black Belt community such as Gee’s Bend or Hayneville. After my tour they would return to Israel with both an appreciation of the historical struggles—and achievements—of Black Alabamians and an awareness of the lingering effects of segregation and economic disparities today. But hopefully they would also return with an understanding of the damage done to both sides of a community divided by segregation and greater empathy for the plight of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

      1. It all about capitalism world wide.
        Christians and Muslims are still part of the consuming society which makes up the market place! Alabama is doing business with both either directly or indirectly!

  5. Israel and Alabama have and continue to face serious struggles. They are different, but difficult.
    I am very happy to have read how Alabama has been such a good supporter of Israel. There is absolutely no reasonable idea to think otherwise, and certainly not if you are Christian.
    Also, if you do not know about them, learn about Messianic Judaism. That should be encouraged also.

  6. Odd stuff indeed.

    I fail to see the relevance of the status and future of the PEOPLE of The State of Alabama, USA, with that of the people of the nation of most other small foreign NATIONS. The nation of Israel is an ally of our nation viz foreign policy. That State of Alabama is not engaged in defining or implementing the foreign policy of the USA. Oh well.

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