WASHINGTON (Jul. 19)
As the American Jewish community mobilizes to defend the embattled Jewish state, more than 3,500 evangelical Christians converged on Washington to remind them that they’re not alone. Representing all 50 states, delegates to the first annual Christians United For Israel summit flooded the halls of Congress on Wednesday in a spirited lobbying campaign to boost American support for Israel.
Israeli and American lapel flags were in abundance, as were red, white and blue buttons that read, “I vote the Bible.”
“We as Christians have come to Washington, D.C. today, 3,500 of us, for one purpose and one purpose alone, and that is to go see every senator and every congressman and tell them that 40 million Christians in America stand with the State of Israel,” the Rev. John Hagee, the group’s founder, told a crowd of approximately 1,500 supporters of Israel, most of them Jewish, at a Washington rally Wednesday.
Some delegates attended the rally, but most were engaged in meetings with more than 200 congressional offices.
In meetings with Senators and House members, delegates urged the United States to permit Israel to continue its anti-terror operations against Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon until the missions are completed.
But many Jews are wary of evangelicals, who often subscribe to a deeply conservative domestic political agenda. Others are skeptical of the evangelicals’ scripture-based support for the State of Israel.
One such person was Seth Gale, who braved the 90-degree heat to attend the Israel rally.
“To couple their strong take on the right to the land with their domestic issues is troublesome for a lot of Jews,” said Gale, who described himself as a social liberal. “At the core of it is that you want the intentions and the motivations to be the same with someone who supports your cause.”
Three rows in front of Gale, singing along to boisterous cheers of “Am Yisrael Chai,” stood Charles Harding, a delegate from Oklahoma.
Harding said evangelicals wouldn’t be deterred by the lukewarm reception from many Jews.
“We are going to continue to show them our sincerity,” said Harding, whose church in Oklahoma City bears the flags of both the United States and Israel. “Our belief is deeply based on the Bible, and Christianity was born out of Judaism. Because of that we owe you a great debt, and the way that we are going to repay that debt is by our resolve to stand with Israel and to stand with the Jewish communities all throughout the United States.”
Speakers at the rally included Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Daniel Ayalon; Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.); Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich; Rep. Ben Cardin (D-Md.); Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.); Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.); Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.); and Hagee.
The rally was sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, the National Jewish Democratic Council, the Republic Jewish Coalition, the American Jewish Committee and the Israel Project.
Before a standing-room-only crowd at a Wednesday news conference, Hagee denied that his movement’s support is based upon an apocalyptic end-of-days scenario, in which the ingathering of Jews to the Holy Land is a precondition for the coming of the Messiah.
He vowed that the group would not proselytize Jews.
“Everything that’s conducted will be completely non-conversionary,” Hagee said. “You can’t invite someone in to honor them and start off by offending them.”
The Rev. Jerry Falwell, leader of the Virginia delegation, said that although he believes Jesus is the only route to salvation, “that has nothing to do with my commitment to Israel and Jewish people everywhere.”
Gary Bauer, a longtime conservative Christian activist, said the group is committed to opposing “Islamofascism,” as embodied by “maniac” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other “heirs to Hitler.”
David Brog, a Jew who is the group’s executive director, has been urging Jews to embrace evangelical Christian support.
“If there is one overriding theme of Jewish history, it is our lonely walk through the centuries,” he said. “We have faced so many tyrants, and we’ve faced these tyrants and mobs alone. I think we have waited two millennia for this kind of reconciliation, and I am very grateful that it is now happening before our eyes.”