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Pastor Robert Jeffress and Rabbi Rabbi Zalman Wolowik share the stage with U.S. Ambassador David Friedman at the openening ceremony for the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.(Photo by: HILLEL MEIR/TPS)
Christian supporters made the embassy move to Jerusalem possible
By YECHIEL ECKSTEIN
05/15/2018
Amid much fanfare, history was made Monday when the United States Embassy officially
opened its doors in Jerusalem.
 
The US Embassy move from Tel-Aviv, where it has been since 1948, and White House
recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital stands as a huge diplomatic achievement for the
State of Israel. It’s also reasonable to think that Jewish leadership in the United States
helped advocate for this day.
 
But this historic turning point in Israeli history could also not have taken place without the
critical involvement of another group – evangelical Christians in America.
 
It’s no secret that evangelical Christians largely supported President Trump in the 2016
elections, helped elect him and remain among his key supporters. The president maintains a
close advisory committee of evangelical Christian leaders; and Vice President Mike Pence is
a fervent evangelical. Further, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, while
not an evangelical, is a devoted Christian who is also fighting fearlessly in the UN to defend
Israel. Other senior US officials also maintain very little daylight between the US and Israel
on key positions.
 
In essence, steadfast support of Israel by the evangelical Christian community ensures, more
than anything, the promotion and the safeguarding of Israeli interests and Israel’s
emergence as a world power.
 
While some may believe this support is guaranteed, it is not – and has never been. For the
past four decades, the organization I founded, the International Fellowship of Christians and
Jews, played a critical role in building bridges of trust and cooperation between Christians
and Jews in America and between Christians and the State of Israel. By the end of the ‘70s,
 
very few Jews were aware of this community, and those that were, generally were
suspicious of it and failed to take them seriously. Moreover, Israel and the Jewish people
were not at the top of Christian priorities back then. We can recall President Carter, who
was an evangelical Christian – but whose positions as president were hardly pro-Israel.
The widespread Christian support of Israel we see today is a direct result of decades of
advocacy, education and teaching the evangelical community of the Jewish roots of their
Christian faith, and the need to deepen their bonds with Israel and the Jewish people.
 
At the start of my journey I had no idea how much this community would eventually grow in
numbers and influence. While we focused on teaching the Christian leadership to support
Israel, we also sought to encourage Christians to tour the land of Israel and strengthen their
bonds with her. Today Christian tourism accounts for about half of all tourism to the Jewish
state.
 
Starting in the ‘90s, with the fall of the Soviet regime and the first wave of Russian
immigration to Israel, millions of Christians answered my call to help bring Soviet Jews on
aliyah to their ancestral homeland. Many also began contributing to The Fellowship to help
us care for Israel’s weaker citizens – lower-income, elderly, minorities and others – and to
provide security for the country.
 
Israeli leaders including ministers, member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, local mayors
and anyone engaged in social issues in Israel understands the impact evangelical Christians
here have made over the years. Indeed, today, The Fellowship is the single largest
philanthropic charitable organization in all of Israel.
 
Each year more than 1.5 million Israelis and vulnerable Jews around the world – poor
elderly, those threatened by anti-Semitism – receive help from The Fellowship. We provide
for basic needs such as food and medicine for families, children on welfare and senior
 
citizens, we have funded MRI and PT Scan machines and trauma care rooms in hospitals in
Israeli communities in peripheral areas that serve lower-income residents, we have
renovated 5,000 bomb shelters in such communities, and support hundreds of other
projects for the wellbeing of Israelis regardless of gender, religion or race.
 
These projects, costing hundreds of millions of dollars each year, would not have existed
without the donations of millions of Christians worldwide, most of whom are ordinary
Christians of modest means who deeply believe in supporting the Jewish State and her
people.
 
Such support – which the American and Israeli public at large may not fully recognize – has
become a critical strategic asset for Israel, politically and socially.
 
But we cannot rest on our laurels. There is so much more we can do. Outside the US,
evangelical Christians are one of the fastest-growing religious communities in the world,
with some 100 million believers in China alone, and hundreds of millions more in Latin
America, the Far East and elsewhere.
 
In fact, those nations following the United States in moving their embassies to Jerusalem
share a common thread – strong evangelical Christian communities. The President of
Guatemala, Jimmy Morales, is a fervent evangelical Christian and his voters support Israel
for that same reason. In Honduras too, which has also announced the transfer of its
embassy, the evangelical community is some 40 percent of the population.
 
Yet just as evangelical Christian support for Israel did not just happen out of nowhere, but
required leadership and bridge building work, so for it to survive and thrive in the future it is
imperative that we invest in it and strengthen it so that it will be our Jewish lifeline in the
years ahead.
 
The author is president and founder of the International Fellowship of
Christians and Jews.
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