The gathering threats to Israel, varied and growing in sophistication, were very much on the minds of 5,000 die-hard Christian Zionists this past week in Washington D.C. Members of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) met for the annual “Washington Summit,” hosted by evangelical Pastor John Hagee.

The Summit was a smashing success, not only for the enthusiastic attendees, but for Jewish-Christian networking. With Malcolm Hoenlein delivering a thundering address, and other speakers like evangelical broadcaster Erick Stakelbeck warning of the dangers of jihadist ideology, the Christian supporters of Israel got their money’s worth.

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JoAnn Magnuson, curator of the Jewish-Christian Library & Education Center in Minneapolis, is a veteran of Jewish-Christian relations. She was buoyed by this year’s Summit:

“I have attended all seven of the CUFI Summit events and I believe that this was the strongest one yet. I have attended, and in many cases worked on, most of the major pro-Israel events in the USA over the last 30 years so I have some experience in this field. I was one of the few Christian members of AIPAC back in 1982 and have long wished that an organization would be created that would make that sort of single-issue lobbying experience accessible to the Christian community. CUFI has done that.”

The Rev. William Harter, a colleague of Magnuson from the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel (NCLCI), has spent decades advocating for Israel among the mainline churches. Specifically, Harter has worked hard to oppose the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, particularly in the Presbyterian Church. In addition, he is a board member for the America-Israel Friendship League (AIFL), which seeks to build friendships for Israel amid shared values.

Harter and AIFL Executive Director Alex Grobman attended this year’s CUFI Summit. Harter summed-up his experience:
“The conference provided convincing and detailed information underscoring the necessity of understanding the Israeli/Palestinian struggle, as part of the ongoing search for authentic pluralism on the part of minority peoples—Jewish, Christian, Muslim and others—in the larger Middle East as well as significant portions of Africa and Asia.
“The conflict between authoritarian and triumphalist world-views and those who advocate human and civil rights including the rights of women and children was articulated very well.”
The work of AIFL, which focuses heavily on hosting delegations to Israel, increasingly dovetails with the work of CUFI. Grobman, a leading Holocaust scholar and friend of evangelicals, also recognized the specialness of this year’s Washington gathering.
“We applaud Reverend John Hagee and his wonderful staff for making this conference such a moving experience. What makes CUFI conferences so inspiring are not only the excellent speakers, but the incredibly dedicated people you meet at these events. They have an infectious enthusiasm, a profound love for Israel, and an understanding of the importance of the Jewish state as being in the forefront in the war against terror. They recognize that Jews and Christians are in this fight together for the future of our way of life.”

AIFL chairman Kenneth Bialkin and League advisor Uri Bar-Ner (former Israeli ambassador to Turkey) are also keen on working with evangelicals, thus Grobman’s attendance at the Summit.

The evangelicals present in Washington this past week made it clear they are committed to standing with Israel, and they were deeply moved by Irving Roth’s address at the opening plenary session.

Roth, director of the Holocaust Resource Center at Temple Judea in Manhasset, New York, told his poignant story of surviving Auschwitz and Buchenwald. He then showed his solidarity with the Summit audience:

“God has sent CUFI to the Jewish people!”
David Brog, the Jewish attorney from Washington recruited by Hagee to oversee the vast CUFI operation, is well aware of the value of networking. In fact, the growing ecumenical cooperation among pro Israel advocates bodes well for battling what evangelical book publisher (Balfour Books) Thomas Sharp refers to as an “information war.” At a press briefing, Brog mentioned the fact that Palestinian propagandists are infiltrating the American Church:
“The enemies of Israel seem to finally get that the Christian community in America is a group to reach. They recognize even the evangelical Church has a liberal side. They are aggressively targeting churches in America.”

He went on to add that from time to time, field reps for CUFI report back that a particular church is not interested in “what we’re selling,” due to influence from Sabeel, or some other Palestinian source. In America, religious leaders like Jim Wallis of Sojourners, Brian McLaren, and Lynne Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church are increasingly promoting the Palestinian narrative. Last spring, evangelical pastors John Ortberg, Joel Hunter, and Bob Roberts participated in the “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference in Bethlehem.

These developments, along with mainstream media coverage of Israel, and strategic threats from rogue regimes, compel groups like CUFI to pledge their unwavering support for the Jewish state.

If the wildly enthusiastic attendees at the Washington Summit are any real indication, Israel is, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said via satellite, “not alone.”

The writer is a researcher, speaker and long-time pro Israel activist. He can be reached at jim1fletcher@yahoo.com.

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