Christians and Jews: United we stand

Let our unconditional alliance be mutual
Shelly Neese, THE JERUSALEM POST Jul. 17, 2007

‘It’s a new day in America. The sleeping giant of Christian Zionism has awakened!” Pastor John Hagee announced in his booming voice to thunderous applause at the AIPAC Annual Policy Conference last March. What Hagee humbly omitted is that Christians United for Israel (CUFI), a group he formed just over a year ago, deserves much of the credit for arousing the sleepy 50-million-man giant.

To be sure, Zionist Christians are no recent phenomena. Neither is their communal work on behalf of Israel. For the past century, there have been Christian groups supporting Israel through their pocketbooks, prayer, and political power. What changed with CUFI is the visibility and consolidation of the Christian Zionist network. CUFI’s stated purpose is to “provide a national association through which every pro-Israel church, para-church organization, ministry or individual in America can speak and act with one voice in support of Israel in matters related to Biblical issues.”

CUFI, in a short period of time, has become one of the most important Christian grassroots organizations in America. Hesitant to call itself a lobby, preferring the term “national association,” CUFI is often described as a Christian parallel to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

With the goal of educating and mobilizing Christian support for Israel, CUFI’s signature event is the annual Washington Israel Summit in July. At last year’s Summit, 3,500 Christians convened on Washington to lobby their senators and congressmen on pro-Israel legislation. For this year’s Summit, which took place yesterday, there were twice as many.

For those who couldn’t make it to DC, CUFI’s volunteer regional directors organize Nights to Honor Israel which are held year-round all over the country. CUFI’s goal is for “Nights to Honor Israel” to be held in every major US city. Thus far there have been over 50 well-attended “Nights to Honor Israel” which have raised over $10 million for charitable causes in Israel.

In forming CUFI, Pastor Hagee envisioned a united evangelical-Jewish alliance standing in defense of Israel. In his words, Congress must know “that the matter of Israel is no longer just a Jewish issue; it is a Christian-Jewish issue.”

For an interfaith alliance to take hold there must be enough Jews who are willing to take CUFI’s hand in friendship. While Christian love of Israel may be unconditional, an alliance must be mutual.

THE RESPONSE to Pastor Hagee and the rise of CUFI among Jews has been mixed, predictably divided along liberal/conservative lines. Rabbis and Jewish community leaders who see CUFI as a negative development are generally more liberal in their domestic and foreign policy agendas. Those Jewish voices to the Right are extremely optimistic about the surge in Christian support.

CUFI’s greatest moment of acceptance by the Jewish community was Pastor Hagee’s invitation to speak at AIPAC’s national convention. AIPAC broke policy by having Hagee come for a primetime slot. His impassioned speech brought standing ovations and ended with Hagee leading the crowd in a chorus of “Israel Lives!”

The speech was widely covered in the press and repeatedly downloaded via the Internet. It brought an enthusiastic response from Jews and Israelis that extended far beyond the walls of AIPAC. Bloggers in Israel sat by their computers crying as they heard Hagee’s words. They realized Israelis actually did have friends in the world. Jews in the US said they needed more leaders in their own communities with half the ardor of Hagee and his Christian Zionists.

Not all those in the Jewish community, however, have seen Hagee’s newfound popularity as a good thing. Rabbi James Rudin from the American Jewish Committee criticized AIPAC for “being so focused on the tactical support [Hagee] offers” and ignoring his apocalyptic claims. Daniel Sokatch with the Progressive Jewish Alliance warned, “To get in bed with the hard Christian right on Israel is a dangerous path.”

Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism wrote a critical article for the Forward entitled “When we Let John Hagee Speak For Us.” Yoffie claims the closer the organized Jewish community becomes to Christian Zionists, the further away they push younger, more liberal, Jews.

The acceptance of right-wing Christian leaders like Hagee might alienate those Jews who are more moderate on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Yoffie says Jewish organizations should rethink their embrace of Hagee and the supportive role they play in CUFI’s “Nights to Honor Israel.”

For most Jewish critics of CUFI there is a deep-seated fear that accepting Christian support for Israel means condoning Evangelicals’ opposing religious and political beliefs.

CUFI executive director David Brog, himself Jewish, claims that CUFI is a one-issue organization. For Jews and Christians to be partners in the coalition they need only agree on the point of collaboration – Israel.

While debate rages in liberal Jewish circles, there is a notable absence of discussion in the Christian Zionist community. A knee-jerk reaction would be for pastoral circles to ask whether it is in Christian interest to forge an alliance with Jews who have divergent beliefs and agendas. But such a question is irrelevant. Christian Zionists are following a biblical command to love and support the Jewish people and the state of Israel. That love is unconditional.

The new beginning for Jewish-Christian relations is still burdened by 2,000 years of baggage. Rabbi Irving Greenburg in his book For the Sake of Heaven and Earth said “the rearticulation of Christian attitudes toward Judaism and the determination to end the teaching of contempt toward the Jewish religion already constitute one of the great moral cleansing revolutions of all time – in any religion.” Christianity underwent great pains to make things right, breaking with so much history and tradition to purify itself from the evils of anti-Semitism.

If some Jews remain uncomfortable with robust Christianity it is understandable. Christian Zionists must be patient, bearing out consistent genuineness and unconditional love until the wounds are healed. The Christian hand of friendship must remain outstretched to God’s chosen as long as some, or even one, grab hold.

The writer is the managing editor of a DC-based pro-Israel Christian publication called The Jerusalem Connection.

July 17, 2007 | 6 Comments »

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6 Comments / 6 Comments

  1. Renee,

    Your words are most moving. The gratitude I expressed in my post above for Pastor Hagee and Evangelical and Christian Zionists is an expression of sincere gratitude to you personally.

  2. Renee

    Your post has moved me to tears.

    Please let me know if there is ever anything I can do in return for all that you have said and done on behalf of the Jewish people.

    This Jew thanks you from the bottom of my heart.

  3. I love you Renee. I don’t think that’s the first time I said that.

    Renee is a long time fan of Israpundit. She was frustrated that she couldn’t make a contribution to the cause of Israel and then she found CUFI and announced she had found her home. She often writes to me to keep me updated on CUFI or to commiserate.

    We have different theology but we have the same values.

    And as you know, its the values that count. While there undoubtedly are Jews who are against accepting your support, the vast majority of us welcome it and are thankful for it.

    One of the things I love about Renee is that she isn’t daunted or offended by the odd attack on Christians or by differences of opinion on any matter. She is open minded and can handle criticism. This allows us to speak our mind without worrying about saying the wrong thing. Friends can have differences of opinion. So can enemies. That’s what debate is all about. It can only be good. Renee is a great person or as we say in Yiddish, a mensch.

    Thank you.

  4. I just returned home tonight from the CUFI Summit for Israel in Washington DC. It was one of the best experiences of my life. Most of the speakers were Jewish. It was an honor to hear them speak. They were there to teach us and equip us to go forward into battle for Israel armed with the TRUTH. Our purpose in going to Washington was to send a loud voice that we are solidly behind Israel and her right to exist. Every state in the union was represented. Every participant was given an appointment to meet with their congressmen and senators. Our talking points were specific STOP IRAN at all cost from acquiring weapons to use against Israel, STOP pressuring Israel to negotiate with terrorists, Divest pension funds from companies supporting Iran, Renew and Increase the 10 Year funding for Israeli Aid. The talking points were given to us by David Brog who is Jewish. We are getting our direction and instructions on how to help Israel FROM the Jewish community. The Night to Honor Israel was held last night, the event was televised here in the US as well as Israel. It was a very emotional night.
    Honestly, I debated whether or not I should go to this conference. It was costly, time away from home, etc. I chose to go and this is why. First, It is only money, Jews are sacrificing their lives for the sake of Israel, the least I can do is go to Washington and be counted. Numbers matter. I felt it was important to have as many people there as possible to send a strong message. Not only to the politicians but to the Jewish community that we care. Secondly, There is a new Hitler in Iran who is threatening Israel’s survival. I have asked myself if I were alive at the time in Germany, what would I have done? Would I have kept quite and looked the other way? It is easy to say no, if you were not there.
    I feel I was given this opportunity to prove it. I went for the sole purpose of standing up and saying to my congressman and senators NEVER AGAIN. I will stand with the Jews no matter if they want me or not. Even if they hate me, I will still stand and say not on my watch. I will stand on the rail road tracks alone if need be. But, I am not alone, and you are not alone, there are 50 million who feel just as passionately as I, who stand beside me and say NEVER AGAIN. We will not be silent. We will stand because it is right. Not to win the favor of the Jews. We are not trying to convert anyone. We embrace, lift up and encourage you as Jews. We have different theology but we have the same values. We are trying to Stop a genocide in the making. There are 14 million Jews, if you add our voice we are 64 million strong. We support you. We love you unconditionally. We ask for nothing. It is our biblical mandate to bless you. I personally apologize for every evil that has been perpetrated against you in the name of Christianity. I ask for your forgiveness. I cannot change the past, but I can do everything in my power to make the future a better place for both of us.

  5. Ovrr 20 yrs. ago Meir Kahanne recognized the potential support and it value toJews in general and Israel in particular. They ;if utilized correctly would form such a strong Israel support group in America that no leader(Political) would ever consider trying to impose policies which were not in Israels interests. This large advocacy group in a democratic society such as America would be or can be an ideological wall protecting Israel from the narrow interests of corporate America and Saudi Influence.

    What would happen for example if a major American Corp. that produces a product or service would be targeted by 40-50 million Americans. Say Buy Shell Gas and Not stroEXXON for example this advocacy sector is also a consumer sector.

    I HIGHLY RECCOMEND THE BOOK ” A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN ” by Zev Chafets. He makes an excellent case with great researched insight, into this phenom.

    That Israels leaders avoid this connection like the plague is due most to their arrogance and the uncompromising views re: their belief in rel Jewish values and Jews mission and place in the world, Israel for them becomes the center and catalyst for the return of Jesus. I can live with that and when and If Jesus returns I will evaluate my position and beliefs then ; but not until.

    It has been said that their mission is to convert the Jews but in reality more Jews convert to Buddism, than to any branch in Christianity.

    They shame us in their beliefs and their comitment to Zion not Gush Dan but all of Biblical Israel. I for one see our relationship with these great people – A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN.

  6. Pastor John Hagee’s full address delivered March 11th, 2007 before AIPAC can be found at the One Nation under Israel site:

    What is noteworthy is that AIPAC is generally supportive of the Bush administration’s efforts to push Israel into supporting and strengthening Abbas/Fatah in the West Bank and moving towards making a deal with them that will see an independent Palestinian state arise with the West Bank and Gaza, which state would have to have contiguity, meaning that Israel would have to thereby become divided geographically to accomplish that.

    Given that AIPAC supports Israel trading land for peace and Pastor Hagee is against that, it is perplexing that Hagee brought down the AIPAC house to rousing cheers and applause. Is there some small sign in AIPAC’s cheering Pastor Hagee for his views that AIPAC is about to change theirs to be more in accord with the notion that Israel has already given too much, that there is no more to give and the Palestinians will have to leave the West Bank and Gaza for it is in Israel’s best interests and in fulfillment of its ancestral and biblical rights to have all the areas comprise the State of Israel.

    There is talk of a tunnel under Israel joining Gaza to the West Bank to make it contiguous. One would have thought that the word and even idea of a Palestinian tunnel would have been denounced straight away for the negative connotations that word has when Jews and Israelis think of the Palestinian tunnels built to smuggle arms into Gaza and to capture Cpl. Galit.

    I am one who advocates that Jews and Israel must be appreciative of the support and help of Pastor Hagee and his Chrisitan evangelicals and Zionists.

    It matters not a twit to me that Pastor Hagee may believe that at the end of days if that is what Christians call it, that Jesus will come again and then Jews will accept Christ.

    If Christian prophecy never is fulfilled, Jesus will not return and Jews will not be called on to accept Jesus as their lord and saviour. If the prophecy is fulfilled and Jesus does come back, I can’t imagine Jews and any other non-Christian not running to accept Jesus.

    We have far more to worry about today and that includes not only is keeping Israel from dying the death of a thousand cuts, but Jews themselves need to keep from dying that same death.

    All the help Israel and Jews can get to ensure their survival now is all that is important. Without that help, there might not be a tomorrow for Israel and Jews. Without a tomorrow there certainly would not be any worry about prosletyzing efforts by Christians to convert Jews or the possibility of whether Jesus will come again to convert the Jews. In such case there would be no Jews left to convert.

    So, thank you to Pastor Hagee and all his Evangelical Christian Zionist followers for you multifaceted support and help to Israel and Jews. I for one would be proud and grateful to have you stand with me in the face of the enemies of Israel and all the Jewish people.

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