This week Israel inaugurated an effort to inform and assist a mostly hidden class of global journalists. Although the government- sponsored conference drew a modest estimate of some 130 participants, the audience that they reach is an estimated one billion households around the world.
“Israel has no better friends – I mean that – no better friends in the world,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Christian Media Summit at its opening session on Sunday evening.
The friends to which he was referring, he said, are “Christian communities around the world.” It was a carefully worded reference.
Not all Christian communities are friendly toward the Jewish state. Most, in fact, remain thoroughly convinced of an inherent superiority over Judaism and their replacement of Jews as God’s chosen people.
This is a corruption of Christianity’s DNA that began a mere 25 years after Jesus departed the scene in the Roman province of Judea. It began in Rome.
“Has God rejected His people?” asked a Gamaliel-trained student of Torah in about 60 CE. He was writing to Christians in Rome where, about a decade earlier, Jews had been expelled by the Roman emperor, Claudius. In the aftermath of the expulsion, the gentile-only community of Christians began to embrace the idea that God had cursed the Jews, replacing them and his covenant with them with Christians.
“No!” the author shouted to the question he had posed. “God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Don’t be arrogant!” he reproached. “It is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.... The gifts and the calling of God [vis-a-vis the Jews] are irrevocable!” Unfortunately, especially for the Jews for some 2,000 years, Christianity embraced beliefs and attitudes toward Jews explicitly condemned in its own Scriptures.
Remarkably, about 150 years ago a segment of Christianity began to reject this corruption of its DNA.
Reading the Bible for themselves, they began to believe its clear meaning about God’s uniquely chosen human tribe and his irrevocable covenant with them, including the Land of Israel deeded to them “forever...
as an everlasting possession.”
In fact, today this segment of Christianity scattered around the world is so enthusiastic about the Jewish State of Israel, so convinced of its existential right to exist and thrive, that Netanyahu is right to say, “Israel has no better friends.”
Although these friends may number more than one billion households, their passionate alliance with Israel profoundly angers the larger Christian community. Christians who support Israel, wrote Bethlehem’s Palestinian mayor in last Sunday’s Haaretz, are Netanyahu’s “enthusiastic foot-soldiers” in the Jewish state’s “war against the Palestinians.”
In fact, there is war. It is an bare-fisted ideological war that has been launched by Christians against Christians who stand with Israel.
Ironically, its seminal source comes from Bethlehem by those who identify themselves as Evangelicals, the primary branch of Christianity that stands with the Jewish state.
In its fourth iteration in 2016, the “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference sponsored by Bethlehem Bible College aimed its rhetorical guns directly at them. Support of Israel, said college dean Dr. Munther Isaac, “is incompatible with the teachings of Jesus.”
It is an arrogant, dehumanizing and racist “imperial theology,” he said, adding that it “employs God” to support “the occupation” and “even the settlements.” As such, he concluded, its “triumphalist” nature is indifferent to suffering and undergirds Israeli colonialism.
The unspoken charge of “heresy” sizzled in this and other speakers’ sentiments.
Dexter Van Zile attended this week’s Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem. Van Zile is the Christian Media Analyst for CAMERA, an NGO that monitors Middle East reporting in America.
“Jerusalem is ground zero for Evangelical Protestants throughout the world,” he noted. This was “a good way for the State of Israel to take advantage of that reality.”
Why? Because “the anti-Zionist community has turned Greater Jerusalem into their world headquarters for anti-Israel agitation.” In hosting this summit, “it seems like Israeli officials are starting to come to grips with that problem.
“I think this conference represents an attempt to take Jerusalem back, so to speak, from Israel haters who have turned the city into a symbol of Israeli and Jewish misdeeds.
That’s a crucial task to accomplish in the ongoing information war.”
Another attendee, Martin Dzuris from the Czech Republic, was especially impressed by the summit’s “accessibility to Israeli government officials and how they treated their guests.”
Indeed, speakers included Israeli luminaries like Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Education Minister Nafatli Bennett, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, and analysts like Caroline Glick, Khaled Abu Toameh, Itamar Marcus and Mordechai Kedar.
Even IDF generals and representatives of Israel’s intelligence communities took the time to meet, speak and greet. Notably, every speaker seemed at ease, willing to invest time with the group.
“Iran is building a machine that will enable them to create dozens of nuclear weapons that will turn them into a regional superpower, with their intercontinental ballistic missiles poised to annihilate us [Israel] and the USA,” Bennett told the gathering.
In fact, Netanyahu said, “Iran is a threat to the entire world.” But it is not just a nuclear threat. Iran is at “war against Christians.” Christians in the Islamic Republic are being “brutally tortured for doing nothing more than practicing their faith.”
Jerusalem resident Connie Wilson echoed a common sentiment among Christian journalists who live in Israel. She notes that the summit was not only a first time event, it was unique in its government involvement across the board, including the Prime Minister’s Office, the President’s Office, the Foreign Ministry, the Government Press Office and more.
“Christians and Jews who believe in the same God – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – are coming together. There is far more about which we agree than disagree.” The summit, she said, is the beginning of a “God-led initiative.”The writer is editor-in-chief of JerusalemJournal.net and its Chaim Report, an Israeli-centered aggregation of news and views from around the world.[email protected]