As Evangelical Christians Cheer, Preacher Gives Money to Back Israel

They came to honor Israel, at a time when the Jewish state feels particularly isolated in the world.

Some 5,000 cheering parishioners of the Cornerstone Church here watched Sunday night as Pastor John Hagee presented $1.5 million for Israel-related causes to the president and CEO of the United Jewish Communities, Stephen Hoffman.

Beamed across the world on 26 satellites, Hagee assured the millions in his audience that “Seventy million evangelical Christians in America stand by Israel in their day of trouble. Israel, you are not alone.

“We are Zionist. If a line has to be drawn, draw the line around both Christians and Jews. We are one. We are united. We are indivisible.”

Hagee reminded his congregation and his television audience, “On 9/11, the Palestinians were dancing in the streets when the Americans were dying in New York and at the Pentagon. Israel lowered her flag to half-mast in mourning with us. That’s friendship.”

The event is the latest evidence of growing ties between evangelical Christians and Israel during more than two years of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

“I am so invigorated by this great audience which offers the world a powerful demonstration of the deep reservoir of support for the people of Israel,” DeLay said. “I pledge that our leaders will support the just and democratic nation of Israel, as long as I remain in the leadership. We will use every tool in our power to preserve and strengthen America’s partnership with Israel.”

The new counsel general of Israel to the Southwest, Yael Ravia-Zadok, spoke at the event. There also were messages from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Since 1981, Hagee had raised $2.2 million dollars for Operation Exodus, rescuing Jews from the former Soviet Union and helping them immigrate to Israel.

The “Night to Honor Israel” has produced many skeptics in the San Antonio Jewish community.

But much of the skepticism seemed to melt away a week earlier, when a broad spectrum of San Antonio Jews held a dinner Nov. 17 to honor Hagee and his wife, Diana. Some 350 people came together to say thank you for Hagee’s years of support, not just for Israel but for the local Jewish community.

Hagee’s love of Israel goes way back. When he was a young boy, Hagee and his father, also a minister, sat together in their kitchen and listened to the radio as the United Nations voted in 1947 to partition Palestine into two states, giving international legitimation to a modern Jewish state.

He and his father cried with joy, Hagee said.

Terry Risenhoover drove from Norman, Okla., for Sunday night’s event. He has been involved in supporting Israel for 20 years, and saw the “Night to Honor Israel” as a natural outgrowth of the national prayer breakfast for Israel that for the last 25 years has been held during the annual National Religious Broadcasters Convention.

This year’s breakfast will be held in Nashville, Tenn., in February.

Mark Sherwood attended the Israel night for the fifth time, with his daughter Hope, 14, and son Randy, 13.

“I’m here to show my support for the only true friend we have in the Middle East. Israel always supports the U.S.,” Sherwood said.

“It’s cool how things are going to get better and work out,” Hope said.

The audience included many Jews as well.

“This is my second time and I wouldn’t miss it,” Raquel Holtzman said. “As long as we have friends, we need to support them. There is so much anti-Semitism in the world, and this support coming from Christians sends a good message to the rest of the world.”

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