OP-ED Not a day goes by that Ted Cruz doesn’t think about the Jews and Israel

Ted Cruz speaking to workers at a manufacturing plant in Dane, Wis.,March 24, 2016. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Nick Muzin (Courtesy of Muzin)
Nick Muzin (Courtesy of Muzin)

SILVER SPRING, Md. (JTA) —  King Solomon tells us in Proverbs: “The heavens are for the heights, and the earth is for the depths, and the hearts of kings no one can ponder.”

It is impossible to know what kings and leaders of nations have in their hearts. With myriad pressures and responsibilities, what truly motivates them? How will they behave toward the Jewish people once they attain power?

I want to tell you about the person I have worked with closely for the past two years. Sen. Ted Cruz is not just my boss, but has become my mentor and my friend. We have traveled the country together; I have seen him in good times and bad. We have worked side by side on some of the biggest issues facing America and the world. I have watched him speak in synagogues in Los Angeles, Miami and New York; spend Passover in Texas and California; listen to the shofar, bake matzah, read the Megillah and light the menorah.

There is no greater friend of the Jewish people and of Israel.

We started together in the summer of 2014, a very bitter and difficult summer, with a war raging between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Early that summer three innocent Israeli teenagers were kidnapped in the West Bank. Senator Cruz took to the Senate floor and spoke passionately about the boys – Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah – in order to humanize them in the eyes of the world. He called upon Hamas to release them immediately. When they were subsequently found murdered, the senator sponsored legislation to offer a $5 million reward for information leading to the capture of the killers.

A few weeks later, a Hamas rocket landed a mile from Ben Gurion Airport and the Federal Aviation Administration banned all commercial flights into Israel. Senator Cruz again took to the Senate floor and demanded to know why the FAA had launched what amounted to an economic boycott of Israel while it was fighting a war in Gaza. He questioned why the ban coincided with Secretary of State John Kerry’s arrival in Israel to try and force a cease-fire. What’s more, the senator announced he would put a hold on all State Department appointees until his questions were answered.

The very next day the FAA lifted the flight ban.

That September, Senator Cruz was scheduled to speak at a dinner in Washington hosted by a group called In Defense of Christians, whose goal was to bring attention to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East by radical Islamic terrorists. As an evangelical Christian, the senator considered this an issue of deep concern.

However, on the morning of his speech, we got word that there were pro-Hezbollah speakers at the conference and that many in the crowd seemed anti-Israel. All day our office struggled with the decision of whether or not the senator should cancel his speech. Finally, the senator said: “I’m going to go and speak the truth, no matter the consequences.”

As he began his remarks, Cruz said: “Christians have no greater ally then the Jewish state. Those who hate Israel, hate America; and those who hate Jews, hate Christians.”

At that point there were boos and catcalls from the crowd. The senator continued: “If you hate the Jewish people, you are not reflecting the teachings of Christ.”

The boos worsened, and I actually became afraid for the senator’s personal safety in the hostile crowd.

Cruz then said: “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you.”

And with that he walked off the stage.

Not a day goes by that Senator Cruz does not think about the Jewish people and Israel. Whether it is putting together a coalition of evangelicals, national security experts and conservative Tea Party groups to oppose the Iran deal; working with Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to condemn Hamas for acts of terror; or fighting against the BDS movement, discriminatory labeling of products from the West Bank and global anti-Semitism, Senator Cruz has shown he is a true friend and champion of the Jewish people.

People often ask me why the senator focuses so much on these issues. I believe he relates to the struggles and hopes of the Jewish people because his father also fled oppression in a foreign country and came to America seeking freedom and opportunity. While he would never compare what his father went through to what the Jews suffered in the Holocaust, he always quotes his father as saying: “When I fled Cuba, at least we had somewhere to go. If we lose America, where do we go?” The senator believes that Israel, like America, is an important beacon for hope and freedom.

On a personal level, I have never seen Cruz lose his temper. I have seen the respect with which he treats everyone around him – whether it is his wife and daughters, his staff or a taxi driver on the street. His respect for religion enables me to thrive as an Orthodox Jew on his staff, and he makes a personal effort to ensure I get home in time for Shabbos and have kosher food wherever we travel. After a long day on the road, I will pull out my Gemarah to study, and he never fails to ask me what that day’s daf is about.

I have three young children, and I think a lot about what kind of country I want them to grow up in and who I want them to look up to as president of the United States during their most impressionable years.

America is at a crossroads. Like in 1980, when Americans rejected the failed foreign and domestic policies of Jimmy Carter and elected Ronald Reagan, we have an opportunity in this election to restore America’s leadership in the world, grow our economy and create jobs, and return our country to constitutional principles, including religious liberty.

For the first time in many years, New York is a battleground in the Republican primary. The Jewish community can play a significant role in electing Ted Cruz as the next president of the United States.

I am not a rabbinic authority and am still working on semicha, but I believe with all my heart that it is a great and important mitzvah for each and every Jew who can vote in the Republican primary to get to the polls on Tuesday and vote for the next president of the United States and my friend, Ted Cruz.

(Nick Muzin, M.D., J.D., is senior adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz. He is a graduate of Yeshiva University, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Yale Law School, and lives in Silver Spring with his three children.)