'Part of our motivation is to give people an understanding of what is happening here in Israel and the Middle East,” says Chris Mitchell, Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) News Middle East bureau chief. “We’re all struggling to make sense of things.”
For nine years, Mitchell has hosted Jerusalem Dateline, a weekly news program based in Jerusalem that provides the latest news from Jerusalem, Israel, and the Middle East to a mostly Christian audience in the United States and around the world. Jerusalem Dateline is produced by CBN, the religious television network founded by Pat Robertson.
Mitchell explains that the news program originated as an offshoot of The 700 Club, the network’s flagship program.
“We realized many years ago that there was not enough time on The 700 Club to more fully cover what was happening in the Middle East, so we expanded our coverage with a weekly show to go deeper into Israel and the Middle East. CBN News in Jerusalem is part of CBN’s longstanding commitment by its founder Pat Robertson to stand with Israel and the Jewish people. That legacy is being carried on as well by his son Gordon Robertson.” Initially, CBN produced 26 episodes of Jerusalem Dateline per year, but it has broadcast new segments each week for the past seven years.
Mitchell, who has worked for CBN for 30 years as a researcher, producer, reporter and now bureau chief, utilizes his knowledge of both the Bible and world history to help viewers understand what is happening in the region.
“An awareness of history and knowing what the Bible says help in understanding a lot of what is happening,” says Mitchell. If you understand the religious significance of things, you understand to a greater degree the motivation of many of the peoples here – Jewish people, Muslim people, Christians – when you understand the spiritual and religious context.”
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman notes, “I have found Jerusalem Dateline to be a wonderful resource for understanding the complexities of the region for communities who care about Israel and its Judeo-Christian roots.”
WHILE THE news program covers events and breaking news stories throughout Israel and the Middle East, Mitchell says that viewers are particularly interested in archeological stories that support the Biblical account.
“When an Israeli archeologist discovers a seal with the name of Hezekiah, it means a great deal, and it’s archeological proof that King Hezekiah was a real person and it verifies the Biblical record,” he says.
Mitchell adds that news stories that illustrate the return of the Jews to the land of Israel from around the world are of great interest to Christian viewers.
“We look at the Bible on the one hand, and we go to Ben-Gurion Airport to see returning Jews on the other hand and we see a connection.”
The program also features news stories on Israeli innovation and technology that benefit people around the globe.
“We see Israel as a light for the nations,” says Mitchell, “and one outgrowth of that is the amazing innovation that we find here in Israel. We also cover the concept of tikun olam, where Jews see themselves as a blessing to the world. For instance, we highlight organizations like Innovation Africa that bring solar power to remote villages and clean drinking water.”
Mitchell says that while the program is produced by a Christian network for a mostly Christian audience, Jewish viewers have told him that they enjoy the show and appreciate the program’s vantage point.
“I think that many Jewish people that watch it appreciate the fair treatment that we give to Israel. For example, we don’t see it as just the West Bank, but also as Judea and Samaria. When you look at understanding the Biblical setting of the situation, you understand at a deeper level.”
In addition to regular news stories and features about life in Israel, Jerusalem Dateline also focuses attention on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.
“We find it vital for us to be a source of information about the plight of Christians in the Middle East,” says Mitchell. He adds that several million Christians have left the region as a result of extensive persecution in Iraq, Syria and Egypt. Mitchell even reported from Mosul in northern Iraq after the defeat of ISIS.
Jerusalem Dateline airs in the United States on the Daystar Network, the National Religious Broadcasting network, the GEB Network, and Son Broadcasting. The show is also broadcast in New Zealand, South Korea, Romania, Scandinavia, England and Russia, with subtitles or with dubbing into the local language. It is also available on the CBN News app, the CBN Family app and the CBN website.
MITCHELL HAS covered many memorable stories for Jerusalem Dateline and says that one of the most inspiring stories that he has reported was that of Operation Good Neighbor, during the Syrian Civil War when IDF forces provided civilian aid to Syrian citizens who had been affected by the Syrian Civil War. Mitchell filed a story about how IDF personnel helped Christian medical teams reach Syria to provide medical assistance to wounded Syrian civilians.
“To me,” says Mitchell, “that was the ultimate Middle East peace plan – Jews helping Christians, helping Muslims, in a humanitarian way in the midst of a war. That epitomized the idea of tikun olam, healing the world, and facilitating an amazing humanitarian work during a very dangerous time.”
Mitchell, along with his dedicated team at the CBN News bureau in Jerusalem, plans to continue anchoring Jerusalem Dateline for “as long as I’m meant to.” He feels very much at home and jokes that someone once said the feeling of living in Israel as an outsider is akin to the slightly uncomfortable sensation of walking with a pebble in one’s shoe.
“However, the pebble gets smaller as time goes by. It feels more like home here right now than the US,” he says.
Mitchell arrived in Israel 20 years ago with his wife and three children, shortly before the Second Intifada, and has reported on the Second Lebanon War, the Arab Spring, the rise of ISIS, the historical move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and numerous other historical events.
“It’s a privilege and an honor to be here, to watch Israel and to report Israel’s history on the front lines.”
This article was written in cooperation with CBN