On Thursday, CUFI’s new television show, “The Watchman” will debut on TBN. We sat down with show host Erick Stakelbeck to learn a bit more about what’s in store. “The Watchman” will air each week on Thursday at 11:30 pm eastern time in the US.
Tell us about your new show, what can we expect?
"The Watchman" brings together CUFI, America's largest pro-Israel organization, with TBN, the world's largest Christian television network. I couldn't ask for two better or more influential organizations to partner with on this project.The program will be a 30 minute weekly newsmagazine that will not only shine a light on the gathering threats to America's and Israel’s security - like the Iranian regime, ISIS and Hezbollah - but will also highlight the many uplifting, even miraculous, stories that unfold across the Holy Land every day. We will turn the prevailing anti-Israel media narrative upside down and show how the Jewish state truly is a light unto the nations. We'll feature on-the-ground reporting, commentary, analysis, and interviews with top American and Israeli decision makers. In addition, we'll also expose the efforts to delegitimize Israel - whether at the UN or through the BDS movement.CUFI now has nearly 2.8 million members and is using its extensive network to reach congregants in churches, students on college campuses, and elected officials on Capitol Hill to strengthen the US-Israel relationship and activate, educate, and encourage Christians to stand with Israel.
How long have you conceived of such a program, and what unique attributes do you hope this show will have?
What’s it like, after so many years being around CUFI, to now work fulltime for the organization?I have wanted to do a show like this for years. Although I have spent close to two decades covering radical Islam, the Middle East and national security issues, my heart and passion has always been pro-Israel activism. As CBN's Chris Mitchell, a close friend and former colleague of mine often says, "all roads lead to Jerusalem." That was always the way I felt, and covering the shared threats to Israel and America over the years only reinforced that belief.Fortunately, I had a great training ground in my former job with CBN, where I had a weekly program that allowed me to frequently hit on Israel-related issues and build up my contacts in the country. But this new project with CUFI and TBN takes it to another level. One reason is that I'll be able to focus not just on security threats, but will also be able to show all the amazing things taking place in Israel, including the scientific, medical and technological breakthroughs, the archaeological discoveries and much more.I'll be traveling to Israel several times each year to compile these stories, and I think such an on-the-ground perspective is really what sets the show apart.
Working fulltime for CUFI is truly like a dream come true. My wife had told me for years, "You need to work for CUFI." She saw my joy every time I was at a CUFI event, especially at the Washington Summit each summer where I was able to be among thousands of energized, pro-Israel Christians. I'm proud to say that I've attended every CUFI Washington Summit, from the very beginning in 2006 - first as a correspondent covering the event, and since 2010, as a speaker on panels like the Middle East Briefing. During that time I built deep friendships among CUFI's staff and leadership and got to know Pastor Hagee and his wonderful family. In the process, my admiration for CUFI and its mission only grew. It always seemed like a perfect fit; as soon as we found the right project on which to collaborate it all came together beautifully - on God's perfect timing.
What do you think the greatest threats to American and Israeli security are today?
Despite the mistaken belief among some in the international community that Tehran has moderated in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal, the looming threat of the world's leading state sponsor of terror possessing nuclear weapons remains the number one threat not only to Israel's security, but to America's. And in the immediate term, the threat to Israel is obvious: Iran, now flush with tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief thanks to the aforementioned nuclear deal, will no doubt use a large chunk of this cash to supply increasingly advanced arms to its terrorist proxies on Israel's borders.In addition, in spite of it being a direct violation of UN Security Council resolutions, Iran continues pursuing ballistic missiles. And that is one of the major reasons the Islamic Republic also poses a grave threat to the United States. Iran continues to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles - ICBM's - that could one day reach the United States. Those ICBM's are not meant for Israel or Europe - Iran already has missiles that can hit all of Israel and a good chunk of Europe. No, those ICBM's are meant for the country that Iran's leaders still gleefully refer to as the "Great Satan," the United States.If history tells us anything, it's that when someone tells you they intend to kill you, you should believe them. So, when Iran's Mullahs vow to wipe Israel off the map and chant "Death to America,” I tend to sit up and take notice. With "The Watchman" program on TBN, we're going to lay out these threats each week in a way that will hopefully make other Americans do the same.
Can you give us a little info on what the debut episode will cover?
The first episode of "The Watchman" will showcase a little bit of everything that the show plans to offer in the long term. It will feature plenty of content that audience members of all backgrounds will appreciate.We'll open up in Jerusalem with a hard-hitting look at the recent wave of Palestinian terror and the institutional incitement to violence that is behind it. We'll then sit down for a great interview with Israel's Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, to discuss those security threats and much more. Pastor Hagee will also join us to tell the story of his fascinating journey into pro - Israel activism and why he started CUFI. Finally, we'll head to Magdala, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, for a look at how archaeologists are uncovering the remains of a first century Jewish fishing village featuring an ancient synagogue where Jesus may have taught.In addition to the great content, the show is shot and produced in a cutting edge, eye-catching style that I think people will really enjoy.