Millions of Christians around the world, under the guidance of more than 1,200
religious leaders, will pray for Jerusalem on Sunday, October 6, the eleventh
annual Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem.
Coming, as it does, so
soon after the annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration, much attention – both
pro and con – is paid at this time of year by the Israeli media to the growing
movement known as Christian Zionism.
There are roughly one hundred
million people worldwide who identify themselves as Christian Zionists and
support Israel in a variety of ways, from prayer to political and financial
support. Colorful images of international pilgrims waving flags during the Feast
of Tabernacles as they paraded through the streets of Jerusalem recently
appeared in this newspaper, and admirers happily describe the $16 million
economic impact of the 5,000 Christian tourists over Succot. Yet, the ultimate
impact of the growing Christian movement in support of Israel goes far beyond
Over the past 30 years since Christian Zionism has matured and
grown, many within the Jewish community have questioned the motivation for this
sudden outpouring of love after centuries of Christian anti- Semitism. Skeptical
Jews have claimed that Christians have only been, and are still only interested
in killing or converting the Jews, or point to bizarre end-of-times
We easily lump together the personal motivations of one
hundred million people and dismiss them all as crazies.
While there are
certainly many varieties and denominations within the world of Evangelical
Christianity, one thing is certain: the growing interest by so many Christians
in the land and people of Israel is unprecedented in our history, and as such,
represents a unique opportunity.
Since making aliya two years ago, I have
worked extensively with the Christian Zionist community. I started
Israel365.com, which promotes each day of the year the physical beauty and
biblical significance of Israel, as well as BreakingIsraelNews.
offering biblical insights into current events. 70 percent of our 50,000 daily
email subscribers are Evangelical Christians and in my daily interactions with
them, I have seen first hand the overwhelming love, the passionate curiosity,
and the deep interest that so many Christians have for Israel and the Jewish
As Jews, we don’t know what to make of this. Christians
interested in studying the Torah? That could only mean trouble. Seared into our
collective consciousness are the painful images from the Jewish-Christian
disputations in the Middle Ages.
Christian scholars fervently studied our
sources so that they could manipulate and twist them to use against us in staged
It is important to recognize, however, that much has changed
since the Medieval period. Christians are flocking to websites such as Israel365
or in person to Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s Center for Jewish and Christian
Cooperation and Understanding to study Jewish sources not to use against us, but
in order to “uncover the Jewish roots of the Christian faith.” Many are coming
to the realization that if the founder of their religion was a Jew, then Jewish
practice and Judaic teachings can shed light on their own faith as
Not only are large numbers of Christians interested in our beliefs,
many who I correspond with pepper their conversations with “baruch Hashem,”
“blessed is God,” and other Hebrew expressions. Today, the largest online Hebrew
courses have more non-Jewish students than Jews enrolling in their
The growing Evangelical interest in biblical Hebrew demonstrates
how so many are trying to come closer to God’s original intent and the authentic
teachings of the Hebrew Bible. Christians are coming to us and saying that
Jewish interpretations are more authentic and correct, not trying to prove us
wrong. Never in Jewish history has there been an era when so many non-Jews have
approached us to learn what our Torah teaches about God, man’s duties in the
world and the centrality of the Land of Israel.
The Haftorah we read in
synagogue last week comes from the book of Isaiah and discusses the role God set
out for the nation of Israel: “I am the Lord, who called you with righteousness,
I will strengthen your hand; I will protect you; I will set you for a covenant
to the people, to be a light unto the nations; to open blind eyes; to remove a
prisoner from confinement, dwellers in darkness from a dungeon” (Isaiah
For most of Jewish history, our role as a “light unto the
nations” has primarily been understood as a call to live an ethical life,
setting an example of righteous behavior and hoping that our individual actions
would somehow penetrate the darkness and influence our often hostile, Gentile
Rarely was anyone on the outside ever interested in what the
Jews had to say, and so being an “or lagoyim“ was an ideal that individual Jews
strived for, but in a very passive kind of way.
However, Isaiah is
calling for so much more. The “light” in his stirring description is capable of
opening the eyes of the blind and leading the imprisoned out of
With the establishment of the State of Israel, our new role on
the international stage calls for a transformation of the “light unto the
nations” metaphor from a passive, individual candle to a powerful blaze firing
up the nations and igniting the world with righteousness.
the debate whether Evangelical support for Israel is “good for the Jews,”
Christian Zionist fervor may represent our historic opportunity to fulfill our
religious destiny as a nation.
The author is the director of I s r a e l
3 6 5 (www.israel365.com) and publisher of Breaking Israel News
(www.breakingisraelnews.com), which both teach Christian Zionists about
the religious significance of Israel.
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