Pastor John Hagee is on a mission to “build a pro-Israel machine that will combat and defeat antisemitism in this generation.”
The founder of Christians United for Israel was in Israel this week with 32 rabbis and pastors on the first mission of the Rabbi Scheinberg Fellowship, created in honor of Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg, Hagee’s long-time Jewish friend.
According to its website, the fellowship is meant to “foster long-lasting relationships between pastors and rabbis that will transform communities and better the future of Jewish-Christian relations.”
Late Rabbi Aryeh Sheinberg and Pastor John Hagee
The late Scheinberg was a rabbi in Texas, where Hagee is from. In 1981, when Hagee decided he wanted his church to hold the first “Night to Honor Israel,” he appealed to the Jewish Federation, who responded that it would require a committee meeting to decide if they could support it. However, many committee meetings later, the event had still not been given the green light - until Scheinberg intervened.
“He told the federation that we are always looking for friends,” Hagee recalled. “Here’s a man who says he is a friend. Why don’t we allow him to prove whether he is a friend or not.”
The first Night to Honor Israel was so powerful that Hagee decided to do it yearly. Today, there are dozens of Nights to Honor Israel across the United States, many drawing upwards of 5,000 people. In 2006, Hagee founded CUFI. Today, the organization has 11.5 million members.
“A rabbi and Christian pastor got together with mutual respect to produce something that has impacted America, Israel and the world,” Hagee said.
CUFI has played a pivotal role in strengthening the US-Israel relationship. According to its website, it has a powerful grassroots movement that touches every state and Congressional district in the country. Its members also speak out against antisemitism and stand against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
However, Scheinberg passed away two years ago, and Hagee is aging. Multiple polls show that the younger generation of evangelical Christians is less supportive of Israel and less connected to the country. Hagee hopes that the fellowship will help turn this phenomenon on its head.
“There are indeed masses who are disconnected presently,” Hagee said. “It is also true that another generation of young people is coming down the road who had heard nothing but a pro-Israel message from when they were in the cradle. And they are heart, soul, mind and body pro-Israel and love the Jewish people unconditionally.”
The mission started on March 13 and included pairs of pastors of rabbis and pastors from California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Minnesota, Missouri, Maine, Georgia, Maryland, Louisiana, Texas, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Virginia, Florida and New York.
Among the pairs was Hagee’s son Mathew, who was paired with Scheinberg's son, Rabbi Avraham Scheinberg.
They traveled from north to south across the country, visiting Shiloh, the City of David, Hezbollah tunnels and the southern border.
The group also met new immigrants from Poland on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport.
“They start talking to each other. They start eating together. They start telling mutual stories. Finally, they say, ‘let’s get together when we get home,’” Hagee described. “We are building the vehicle through which relationships can be developed.”