This has been festering in me for the past week or so. I couldn’t decide whether to write it or not; I know it will bother some people. But I have to get it out – and probably post. Whoever is upset, well, that’s their problem.
Last week I attended, for the second time, CUFI, that is, Christians United for Israel
, in Washington, DC. My friend Mike, from Amarillo, Texas, invited me to join him, and I took him up on the offer. As it was two years ago, so too this year. An amazing experience.
Somewhere in the vicinity of 5,500 people, including a group of Jews, mostly orthodox, as well as a contingent from Israel, congregated at the Washington Convention Center for three days. People from all over the world. That’s a lot of people. And a lot of money. The personal investment, paying for registration, hotels, food, for three days. Many of those attending are couples.
They come from all denominations of Christianity. In other circumstances, you would be hard-pressed to find all of them sitting together. Their beliefs and traditions differ, from person to person, from church to church, from institution to institution. This, not my invention, but as expressed (in my words) by Pastor John Hagee, founder and executive director of CUFI. However, they all have a nucleus binding then together, unifying them, and that, in one word, is Israel.
At an event as this, so much is impressive. The number of people, the speakers, (the best of the best, Christian and Jewish). But one emotion overshadows everything else, and that, in one word, is love.
I know there are many reading this, (and who will refuse to read it) who will be skeptical. Or perhaps suspicious is a better word. After all, in the eyes of many, all Christians are suspect. After 2,000 years of persecution and anti-Semitism, after holocaust following holocaust, (and in reality, there were many of them), while dealing with continued missionary activity, whereby Christian organizations attempt to supposedly steal Jewish souls, how can any of them be trusted?
I know, they believe things that I don’t. Each sect has its own set of rules and beliefs. There are those who wear crosses and others who reject it. Some churches are full of pictures, icons and crucifixes. Others have bare walls, without any of the above. Just about all of them maintain a basic belief, one way or the other, in Jesus. Jews don’t. Jews don’t believe in any of the above. According to major Jewish scholars, over the centuries, for a Jew, this is idol worship, as is forbidden in the Torah. However, they also rule that for non-Jews, much of this is (according to Jewish law) acceptable. Our theologies are different; each to his own. Of course, what is unacceptable are attempts by other religions to try and ‘convert Jews.’
So, the big question is, do they have an agenda? I have friends who have repeatedly told me, ‘we don’t want you to act like Christians; we want you to act like Jews. That’s who you are, that’s who you should be.’ Are there those who think we should believe like them? Probably. Why don’t they do anything about it? I’ve heard it with my own two ears. Some say, ‘that’s not our problem. When he comes back, he’ll deal with it.’ Of course, they are talking about their belief in what they call the ‘second coming.’
But so what! If that’s what they want to believe, let them. (We know better.) But what they don’t believe in is ‘replacement theology,’ that being a theory that G-d replaced the Jewish people with another. They believe, as is written in the Bible, that Jews are the apples of G-d’s eye, and whoever blesses them will be blessed, and whoever curses them will be cursed. There is full belief in the Tanach – the Bible, as they call it, ‘The Old Testament.’ They believe it, (and many know it) with all their hearts. Pastor John Hagee repeated, as he is wont to do, a most remarkable phrase: “There’s the Torah way, and there’s the wrong way!” (Let’s hear some more Jews say that!)
And their love for Israel, for the Jewish people, for the Land of Israel and the people of Israel, is overwhelming. I cannot say, 100% that there aren’t any agendas amongst any of them; I cannot read people’s hearts and minds. But the outpouring of love is much too much to be a superficial show, with all sorts of shadowy background schemes. It’s real – it’s genuine – it’s authentic. And to be blind to it, in my humble opinion, is a huge error of judgement.
I have a wonderful picture together with a Pastor named Sam Whaley from Spindale, North Carolina. He, together with his wife Jane, and other family members, came to Washington with their entire congregation, several hundred people. They set up a Holocaust memorial and exhibit honoring Israel at the entrance to the conference hall. It included models of the ‘Mishkan’ – the Tabernacle built by Moses in the desert, and Beit HaMikdash, the Temple. As featured guest speaker Glenn Beck walked through the exhibit, he wept. So did many others.
Another remarkable facet of CUFI is involvement of youth. The organization offers 500 scholarships a year for students, who were also present at the conference. These kids work on college campuses around America, countering the huge Arab propaganda machine, making major efforts to speak for Israel. In my opinion, even though I’m sure this will be considered somewhat controversial in certain circles, Jewish campus organizations should work together with CUFI students. They have the same goals, and a unified effort would certainly have positive results.
The last day of the conference, the entire group, over 5,000 people, ‘invaded’ Capitol Hill, with representatives of 46 states visiting their congressmen and senators. There were three talking points, all dealing with American policy concerning the state of Israel, and the Iranian plans to develop nuclear weapons. CUFI executive director, David Brog, together with Pastor Hagee’s wife Diana, made it very clear, speaking to the thousands that, despite other important issues on the table, the only subjects to be broached were Israel, US policy towards Israel, and Iran.
Left to right - Mike Isley, David HaIvri, Pastor Roman Asbill, Congressman Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, myself, Jeremy Gimpel, Ari Abramowitz
Many people, seeing me there, a Jew with a ‘Kippa’ (Yarmulke) on, came over to talk to me. I also approached many people, introducing myself and speaking with them. That’s the way it was, like a big family affair.
On the second day, during one of the sessions, I rose to ask a question. I introduced myself, citing my residence as Hebron, Israel. Within seconds thousands were on their feet, treating me to a standing ovation. It wasn’t me, as David Wilder, rather as a Jewish person, from Hebron, in Israel, at their conference. It was quite amazing and extremely touching.
CUFI is, I believe, probably the largest pro-Israel lobby in the United States, if not in the world. They have over half a million ‘likes’ on their Facebook page, and I’ve been told they have over 700,000 ‘friends.’ The statistics speak for themselves.
I thought to myself, and mentioned to some of my friends at the conference, how ironic that the most powerful Israel lobby group in the US is Christian. What would happen if we tried to form a similar Jewish organization, with only one goal – that being the good of the State of Israel. Could we get 5,500 people together for three days to speak about G-d’s chosen people, their security, their future, in the holy land? Not a bad idea. JUFI – Jews United for Israel. When we had our own 700,000 people on Facebook we could combine, forming CJUFI – Christians and Jews United for Israel. (Dream on, my friends, dream on…)
With friends, David HaIvri (Samaria Regional Council), Tommy Waller (HaYovel), James Mucklestone
Until that happens, I can only offer my fervent thanks and blessings to the thousands, tens and hundreds of thousands of people, of whatever religion, who are standing up and being counted, working for Israel, in the name of G-d, the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the one and only, G-d of Israel. May He bless all of us, Amen!