Knesset Christian Allies Caucus creates women's council

In an effort to broaden Israel's overseas support, the Knesset's Christian Allies Caucus launched an international women's council Tuesday that will work to bring female Christian and Jewish supporters of Israel together. "By establishing a women's council, our caucus aims to create strong cooperation between Israeli politicians, Israeli women's rights activists, and faith-based women's rights campaigners and politicians abroad," Caucus founder and chairman MK Yuri Shtern (Israel Beiteinu) said at the parliamentary group's monthly meeting. The new council will work to advance the status of women worldwide, on the basis of Judeo-Christian values, and try to serve as a bridge between Jewish and Christian supporters of Israel, said US Evangelical leader Kay Arthur, who will serve as chairwoman of the international board. "You have no greater friend than people who love the word of God, know the word of God, and know what God has said about the people of Israel," Arthur said in an emotional address peppered with quotations from the Bible. Her speech was repeatedly interrupted by shouts of "Amen" from the Jerusalem-based Christian supporters of Israel in the Knesset hall. A well-known Christian Zionist, Arthur, whose husband, Jack, is the CEO of Tennesse-based Precept Ministries International, said Tuesday that she promised not to "actively proselytize," in keeping with the caucus's guidelines of refusing alliances with any Christian group or individual that pursues the conversion of Jews to Christianity. Her remarks underscored the delicate balancing act Evangelical Christian supporters of Israel face when dealing with the Jewish State, which bans proselytizing, and their fundamental belief that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land was foretold in the Scriptures and heralds the return of the messiah. Four years ago, Arthur, who works closely with the Ministry of Tourism to bring thousands of Christians to Israel, was quoted as telling CBS's 60 Minutes that "the Jews need conversion. They need to know that the messiah is coming. And the Bible tells us what's going to happen." On Tuesday, Arthur denied making those remarks. The council, which will hold an international summit in Jerusalem next year, will train 1,500 women to lobby their governments to combat female genital mutilation, abuse and trafficking of women, incest and honor killing, while at the same time stressing their support for Israel. The council's Israel board will be headed by two former MKs, Gila Gamliel and Gila Finkelstein, who were members of the caucus in the last Knesset. The two-year-old increasingly-influential parliamentary lobby, which comprises six Knesset members from five political parties across the political spectrum, is an important actor in Israel's growing efforts to garner the support of Christians, especially the largely pro-Israel Evangelical Christian community around the world. "The more you know Israel, the more you know how much we need your help," Israel's first female Knesset speaker, MK Dalia Itzik (Kadima), told the gathering.