June 7, 2016

Spotlight on Israel: Pastor Kevin Brennan

Aryeh Lande ‘18

This year, The Flame has explored a variety of approaches within the Jewish community to the topic of Israel. Through our “Spotlight on Israel” section, we have learned about Israel through the eyes of Ilana Rossoff and her work with left wing organizations. Additionally, we have heard the story of Aviela Deitch, her attachment to the land of Israel and the lifestyle of settlers on land that draws international attention. In this issue, we will understand Israel through a new perspective: the eyes of a non-Jew.
Often we may feel as if the Israeli struggles are only discussed within the Jewish community, but they are debated across the spectrum of religion. Enter Pastor Kevin Brennan, a retired Evangelical pastor who lives in Mountainside, N.J. Pastor Brennan grew up in Queens, N.Y. in the early 1960s in an Irish-Catholic home. By the time he was of college age, Brennan had made the decision to dedicate his life to the service of G-d and enrolled at Evangel University, earning a B.A. in Biblical Studies, as well as a minor in Biblical Languages and Philosophy.
Brennan’s interest in Israel stretches far back to his childhood. In his youth, he listened intently to his father’s stories of serving as a British Officer in what was then Palestine during the British Mandate. Stationed out of Afula, Palestine, Brennan’s father helped to dismantle the Mandate and oversaw the transition to the Jewish state.
Brennan is very proud of his father’s role in establishing the modern state of Israel. His connection to Israel deepened during his time in the seminary, as he was awarded a scholarship to study Archaeology by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. There, he immersed himself in Jerusalem’s history, living in the Old City for about a month. This solidified his appreciation of Israel and drew him closer to the land.
Pastor Brennan shares that, in the New Testament, the Jewish People are likened to an olive tree rooted in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In that belief, gentiles who believe in the Jewish Messiah are likened to wild olive shoots grafted into that olive tree. Through this teaching, Brennan believes in Israel as a homeland for the Jews. It was G-d’s intention to give the Jews the land and so he feels obligated to uphold God’s teaching.
Compelled by piety, Brennan is driven to lead trips to Israel and to show his coreligionists the Holy Land. Over the past 27 years, he has led a remarkable figure of 250 people to Israel. Christians, like Brennan, are drawn to Israel, as it is the place where the Hebrew Bible begins and ends. In Genesis, G-d promises Abraham land in Canaan and the final Prophets envision a time when Jerusalem will be the capital of the earth. Brennan feels Christians can only truly understand the Bible if they travel to the places mentioned within. According to Brennan, only through experiencing the surroundings and feeling a part of history can they gain the crucial understanding of the Bible.
Brennan’s admiration of Israel has spilled over into his life, transforming him into an active advocate for Israel. He admires Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ability to cope with the many issues within his nation and he respects and even demands Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, as it was Divinely-mandated.
He supports Israel’s claim to the land and believes that peace will only be achieved with the Palestinians if they recognize Israel’s right to exist. His love of Israel has also turned into a defence of the Jews at home and abroad. He is horrified that anti-Semitism could exist within our own borders after the tragedy of the Holocaust and is incensed that so many people are jumping to blind hatred. He believes that anti-Semitism is a relentless force of pure evil and darkness and we should be prepared to combat it with equal potency. It will be an enduring fight, but we must have faith.
Pastor Brennan truly exemplifies that Israel is not just a Jewish issue, but rather it is a multi-religious issue. There are many layers and the conversation on Israel must include all sides and religions, if we want a lasting peace in the region. Brennan has dedicated his life to serving G-d and, through his devout humility, he has felt a love for the land and people of Israel.

By turning to G-d, Brennan found an unconditional love for Israel that he radiates passionately onto others.

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