Knesset speaker gives Christian tourists Zionism lesson

Reuven Rivlin gives account of his families exodus from J'lem's Old City to send pilgrims back to their homelands as ambassadors.

Christian Tourists 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Christian Tourists 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Over 1,500 Christian leaders and laymen from 35 nations heard a first-hand account Thursday morning from Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin of an Israeli family’s historic exodus from Jerusalem’s Old City.
The message of Rivlin’s address, which emphasized the bond between the Jewish people and Israel, is one the believers will most likely bear with them upon their return to their respective homelands.
“Zionism comes from Zion, and Zion is Jerusalem,” Rivlin told the group convened on the capital’s Mount Herzl.
The Speaker’s family was one of the first to exit the walls of Jerusalem in the second half of the nineteenth century, in an act that encompassed both the belief that the city is the historic and religious heritage of the Jews, and the necessity to take action to realize its legacy.
This is the largest educational tour yet of Protestant Christians organized by Word of Life (WOL), an Evangelical- Charismatic group headed by Rev. Ulf Ekman, a Swedish preacher and teacher. Since 1987, WOL has brought over 12,000 Christians to Israel as part of efforts to expose the Israeli reality to the visitors, while reminding them the central role Judaism plays in Christianity, and the resulting indebtedness. The group will be spending a week touring Christian and Jewish sites in Israel and the West Bank.
“Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and was that a thousand years before Christ,” Rivlin told the group.
“You go back not as pilgrims, but as ambassadors,” he said. “We live in a world where not everyone understands that there is a place for the Jewish people; tell people that there’s such a place.”
Rivlin then proceeded to bless them in the name of Israel and the Jewish people, and wish them a Shana Tova (happy Jewish New Year).
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Rivlin stressed the importance of the support of such groups.
“There is no way to keep together the Jewish body and soul, without a state,” which they support, he said.
Some critics of “Zionist Christians” maintain that the underlying motives of such believers is a messianic era, which in Christian theology would include Jewish conversion to Christianity.
Rivlin noted that while the eschatological beliefs of Jews and Christians diverge, “in the interim we all agree that Israel must remain strong.
Despite the differences, and claims that such religious streams might be involved in missionary work, this group, that believes in a robust State of Israel, is important in a world that thinks it should be weak.
“When the messiah comes, we’ll ask him which is the right way,” Rivlin said in a smiling allusion to late Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek’s famous suggestion on how to decree which religion has its messianism right. When the messiah arrives in Jerusalem, Kollek said, we’ll ask him whether it’s his first or second time in the city.
“We must be welcoming to such people, whose desire is that Israel be strong,” Rivlin stressed.
“Such occasions help our people understand why the Jewish state and nation are different than others,” Ekman told the Post of Rivlin’s address, which followed a visit to Yad Vashem.
“When they return to their homes next week,” Ekman said of his group, “they will go as ambassadors,” who will be able to present a “humanitarian, politically sane and biblically grounded case on every level for the Jewish state.”