In a small mall in downtown Jerusalem are the plush new headquarters of an Evangelical media empire. Large television screens in the entrance display charismatic Christian ministers delivering a passionate message around the globe.
It's called nothing less than GOD TV, and its founders, Rory and Wendy Alec, are in Jerusalem to conduct a live broadcast for a "Global Day of Prayer" on Sunday.
GOD TV's "global transmission center" in Jerusalem beams up satellite feeds of "a new breed of Christian broadcasting" to some 200 nations and territories 24 hours a day, claiming a potential viewership of up to half a billion people.
"Rory and Wendy Alec are in Israel to do a series of live broadcasts, including Sunday's Global Day of Prayer and to produce promotional videos for our 2008 Israel Tour, where we hope to bring at least 3,000 GOD TV viewers to Israel in May to celebrate the nation's 60th anniversary," Al Gibson, GOD TV's communications officer, tells The Jerusalem Post from the "global communications office" in Johannesburg.
According to Rory Alec, they have already reserved 3,000 hotel beds for the occasion, which will culminate in a worship service at Sultan's Pool in Jerusalem "to rejoice with the Jewish people" led by the Alecs that will be broadcast around the world.
"It is so wonderful to be here and experience all the Holy Land has to offer," Alec writes to viewers on his Web site. "And of course, Wendy and I and the GOD TV team will be here with thousands of viewers in May next year for GOD TV's most exciting Israel tour to date."
At first, the Alecs express their willingness to talk to the Post
during their current visit, but later say - through Gibson - that their schedule is too busy. "They are all so hectic at the moment in the studio," he says.
Members of the Jerusalem news team, headed by Gilad Reader, say they can't meet reporters without approval from Gibson.
The network says that in just five days it raised enough money in viewer donations to cover the first year, 2006, of moving its headquarters to Jerusalem.
GOD TV's Web site appeals for online "gifts" to cover the operational costs for another year. An annual gift of $288 gets you a name on a plaque in its broadcast center; $24,000 gets you a name or scripture on "a mezuza" in one of the doorways.
"GOD TV, by God's grace, is the only broadcaster to transmit from Jerusalem to the ends of the world," boasts its Web site (www.god.tv).
"Stand with us as we continue to fulfill this divine assignment in our mandate to win ONE BILLION SOULS."
Strongly supportive of Israel, the network hosted an Evangelical tour of solidarity following the Second Lebanon War last summer. Tour leader Kurt Latte told the Jerusalem Post Christian Edition
at the time that 175 pilgrims came from 21 nations "to stand with Israel in difficult times."
It has also featured live broadcasts of "the Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem" and a "Worldwide Passover celebration in Israel."
Founded in England in 1995 by the Alecs, an attractive and articulate South African couple, it was initially called "The Christian Channel Europe" and funded by "The Angel Foundation," a British-registered charity dedicated to Christian broadcasting.
The Alecs were married in Durban in 1987 and operated their own TV production company in Johannesburg before leaving for the UK in 1991. They have two children, Christian and Samantha.
GOD TV says its two main aims are "to equip and revive the Church" and "to preach the Gospel to people across the world who have never heard of Jesus Christ or who are backslidden, broken-
hearted and desperate for God to touch their lives."
Its most-watched broadcasts include "Awake Now!" with American evangelist Steve Hill, worship from Hillsong Church in Australia, Europe's mega Christian event - "Calling All Nations" - direct from Berlin's Olympic Stadium, and "Battle Cry," featuring popular American music groups.
GOD TV launched in the United States in October last year, and claims to be expanding both on satellite and cable across the US and Canada.
It has become known for its live broadcasts of international Christian events and shows featuring top Evangelical figures such as John Hagee, Joyce Meyer and Benny Hinn, as well as Rory and Wendy Alec themselves.
Since its launch in Washington, it says it has been flooded with e-mails describing its programming as "a breath of fresh air" and commending the "down-to-earth presentation" of the Alecs.
Among other things, Wendy Alec - the network's creative director - currently ministers to viewers with eating problems and food addictions.
But the network is not without its detractors. British television satirist Victor Lewis-Smith, writing in the New Humanist,
describes it as "hour upon hour of hate-filled, rabble-rousing, homophobic bigotry, much of it featuring [and funded by] right-wing American evangelists."
Britain's Channel 4 has reportedly commissioned a critical, hour-long investigative documentary about GOD TV, due to be aired later this year.