The Knesset's Christian Allies Caucus has marked its fourth anniversary, at a time of burgeoning ties between Israel and the predominantly supportive evangelical Christian community around the world. But as the relationship flourishes, the lobby also faces growing challenges from opponents of Israel's ties with the evangelical world, both in Israel and abroad. The increasingly influential parliamentary lobby, currently made up of 13 Knesset members from seven parties across the political spectrum, has come to epitomize Israel's newfound interest in garnering the support of the Christian world, at a time when radical Islam is on the rise. 'Evangelical Christians are the most strategic ally the state of Israel has and we have to be stupid not to understand this,' said Caucus chairman MK Benny Elon (NU- NRP), who spearheaded Israel's campaign to court evangelical Christian support during his tenure as tourism minister. 'This is not just friendship as a means to an end but true friendship,' Elon said, negating ongoing concerns in certain streams of Judaism over ulterior motives evangelicals may have in their relations with Israel. Established in January 2004 amid a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings, the parliamentary lobby immediately took off, as pro-Israel Christian pilgrims stood out, in the then-empty streets of Jerusalem. Their moral support was conspicuous at a time when many American Jews stopped coming to Israel. After decades of shying away from Christian supporters, the newly formed Israeli lobby burst onto the scene with a flurry of activity, which continued apace in the last year even as the Caucus's founder, MK Yuri Shtern (Israel Beiteinu), passed away. Over the last year, the parliamentary lobby has formed, or was in the process of forming, sister pro-Israel caucuses with 10 countries around the world: The US, Canada, Uruguay, Brazil, Korea, Philippines, Malawi, South Africa, England and Norway. A mega caucus-event with the chairmen of all 10 sister parliamentary lobbies is scheduled to be held in Washington DC in May. 'The success of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus over the last four years can be felt both internationally and here in Israel,' said Caucus director Josh Reinstein. 'The [positive] relationship between Jews and Christians in the 21st century is now [a fact] and the advancement of Judeo-Christian values in the face of the rise of radical Islam is now a global movement.' At the same time, the Caucus's main limitation to date has been that it primarily deals with the supportive evangelical Christian community, and has failed to make major inroads with the Catholic Church or mainstream Protestant communities. However, a major event with Mormon Church leaders is planned for this coming year. Last year, evangelical organizations based in Israel faced criticism from the top Roman Catholic leader in the Holy Land for their unflinching support for Israel. Moreover, evangelical groups have also been given the cold shoulder by the Chief Rabbinate, which recently banned Jewish participation in a major Christian-sponsored tourism event due to concern over proselytizing. The controversy over the event highlighted the divergent theological views that still exist among Jews. Indeed, the Caucus's work in courting the support of predominantly politically conservative Christians has been shunned by mainstream American Jewish leadership, whose views on social issues differ greatly from those of the Christian Right. 'Israel should be working with every friend it has in the Christian world, which very often are evangelical,' said Bobby Brown, former Israel director of the New York- based World Jewish Congress. With 70 million evangelical Christians in the US - who make up as much as forty percent of Republican voters - their support, based on shared values, is critical, Israeli Caucus officials said. 'Despite our success, we have no intention of slowing down,' Reinstein concluded, pledging 'even more far- reaching and bolder initiatives' in the year to come. This article was taken from the Jerusalem Post Christian Edition.