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News Brief

February 4, 1983
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A 42-year-old pastor of a 2,000-member San Antonio, Texas church, described as denominationally nonaligned, is the organizer of a growing movement which raises funds and “love and support” for Israel and the Jewish people through a project he calls “A Night to Honor Israel.”

John Hagee, pastor of the Church of Castle Hills, says he was shocked into action for Israel and for Jews by the hostile general media reaction to Israel’s bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor in Baghdad in June, 1981.

Hagee, who said his father, a Methodist minister, taught him that Jews were God’s chosen people, also said the hostility expressed over the attack on the reactor spurred him to conceive of the idea of the program of a night to honor Israel. He proceeded to organize the project after the idea was approved by the church’s executive board and its board of deacons.


The outspoken young minister has asserted publicly that “if the Arabs ask us to crucify the Jewish people on a cross of oil, then we will tell them to keep their oil and we’ll ride bicycles.

Hagee has been described as being just as fervent about Jerusalem remaining the undivided capital of Israel, asserting that “God specified the land boundaries, including Jerusalem, for Abraham and his seed, forever.”

He said he and his church had sent a letter to President Reagan protesting the sales in 1981 of five AWACS reconnaissance planes to Saudi Arabia.

The minister has also publicly declared that “it is not possible for a man to read the word of God and say that he hates the Jews.” Another “unquestioned truth” for him is Israel’s absolute right to exist.

He has described himself as a “pre-millenialist, ” a term to describe Christians who believe that the creation of the State of Israel is a fulfillment of prophecy and indicates the second coming of Christ is near.

He said the Christian community had been guilty of silence during the persecution of the Jews, particularly by the Nazis. His associates reported his views have brought him death threats from Arab factions and white power advocates.


The “Night to Honor Israel” project was organized by Hagee and the content of each event is determined by Christians. But Hagee has hired Saul Silverman, a former director of the Jewish Federation of San Antonio and an early admirer of Hagee’s efforts, to serve as national director for the programs.

The format for each “Night to Honor Israel” is ecumenical but dominated by Christian elements Silverman reported, in a letter to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, that the program began more than a year ago in San Antonio and that last September 12, a second “Night” was held in San Antonio before an SRO audience.

He reported that since the first event in San Antonio, the program has been presented in Houston, Fort Worth, Tulsa, Dallas, a second time in San Antonio, and in Phoenix.

Silverman reported each “Night” is held in the major auditorium of the city, following a basic format. There is no admission charge but a “love offering” is taken, in accordance with the fact that it is a Christian group sponsoring the event. All proceeds go to an Israeli beneficiary. The beneficiaries to date have been the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem and the Israel Emergency Fund.

A printed program for each event has the same page one format — the word ISRAEL appears on the cover above a blue line with a blue-colored Mogen Dovid below and then another line. Below that line appears the slogan, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Below that is a drawing of hands clasped in brotherhood; on the sleeve of one arm is the flag of Israel, on the other the flag of the United States. In smaller type below appears the line, A NIGHT TO HONOR ISRAEL and the date, time and place.


The text reads: “The purpose of this program is to give the Christian Community an opportunity to demonstrate their love and support for Israel and the Jewish people. It is my conviction, and the conviction of the members of the Church of Castle Hills, that we have a responsibility to give an expression of our support, particularly in these days of uncertainty and unrest.”

The bottom half of the second page contains copy in a box which includes Chapter 12, Verse 3 from Genesis: “And I will bless them that bless thee and curse them that curse thee, and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Next to it is Chapter 15, Verse 27 from Romans: “For if the gentiles have shared in their (the Jews’) spiritual things, they are indebted to them also in material things.”

The reader is then informed that “we are here to introduce a new era in America — an era of unity, mutual respect and lasting peace — an era when Christian and Jew stand together hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, and announce to a hostile world that we are united in brotherhood.”

The text adds: “and we are here to say that it’s time for the Jewish people to hear the voices of their friends loud and clear. It is time for us to speak up for Israel, and it is time for us to stand up for Israel.”

On the back page is the famous quotation from Hillel: “If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?”

Referring to the 75 percent Christian make-up of the 2,800-member audience for the “Night” presentation at San Antonio on September 11, 1981, the first of the programs, Silverman, then the San Antonio Federation executive director, commented, “If I hadn’t seen it myself, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

Hagee credits part of his passion for justice for Jews and Israel to the fact that “as a young man, in my developing years, Jews were major contributors in my life,” including the first football coach in a Houston junior high school.

He was the first non-Jew to receive the San Antonio B’nai B’rith Council Humanitarian of the Year Award. He also was honored by the Hadassah Texas region with its Henrietta Szold Award and by the San Antonio Hadassah chapter as a founder of Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.

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