Michele Bachmann, a former Republican congresswoman who drew criticism in for calling for the mass conversion of Jews, had something to say to the Jewish people. An Israeli organization seeking to strengthen the bond between evangelical Christians and the State of Israel orchestrated the announcement at the Knesset on the eve of Israel’s th anniversary.
“Personally, I know that in ignorance, that myself, I have stated things that I should not have said, and I apologize, profoundly apologize, repent and ask forgiveness from Almighty God,” Bachmann said this past May. She stopped short, however, of saying she no longer believed Jews needed to convert.
Bachmann’s apology was facilitated by Israel , a company whose focus is nurturing the “natural alliance” between Jews and pro-Israel Christians in the United States. Her audience in the Knesset was overwhelmingly Christian, members of a group visiting Israel on a trip organized by Israel .
The founder and director of Israel , Rabbi Naphtali Weisz, says his organization seeks to cultivate a positive relationship between Jews and Christians while reinforcing Christian support for Israel in the United States. Weisz founded Israel in after immigrating to Israel from Columbus, Ohio. Unlike the much larger advocacy groups, Christians United for Israel and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, Israel , Weisz says, has a biblical focus: Its objective is “educating Christians about Israel” by “highlighting the biblical significance of Israel.” It does that primarily through digital media outreach. Its main avenues are a news site, a Facebook page and a daily email newsletter that has more than , subscribers.
“Jews aren’t, generally speaking, reaching out to Christians and teaching Christians about the Bible, and that’s the void we’re looking to fill,” Weisz said.
Christian Zionist support for Israel stems from a belief that God’s covenant with the Jewish people requires that Christians back “their biblical and historical right to sovereignty in their ancient homeland,” according to CUFI, the
largest pro-Israel group in the United States. This has translated into widespread grassroots support for Israel in American politics, and to funding for Jewish causes in Israel, including Jewish immigration. A recent report by The Associated Press found that the country’s Christian allies fund a third of Israeli immigration.
Some of this support stems from a belief among some evangelicals in the parousia — the ingathering of the Jews in their homeland that will bring about the end of days, when the Jewish people will be forced to accept Christianity or die. A Pew Research Center poll from found that % of American Protestants believe Jesus Christ will return before . A survey published earlier this year by LifeWay Research, a Christian polling group, found that % of American evangelicals believe that “sharing the Gospel with Jewish people is important,” and that % agree that “Jesus will return when the Jewish people accept Jesus.”
“We have a bad history with Christians; they’ve persecuted us throughout our history. While there are many who still hold on to the belief that the church replaced Israel, the New Testament replaced the Old Testament, there is a movement of Christians who are rejecting that,” Weisz said, though he conceded that many Christians still believe that Jews will burn in hell for not accepting Jesus.
Indeed, the increasingly close connection between Christian Zionists and Israel has some liberal American Jews and Israelis concerned.
Logan Bayro, a spokesman for the liberal American advocacy group J Street, said the crux of the issue was what exactly are the priorities of evangelical Christians.
“Do they support Israel’s future as a secure, democratic homeland for the Jewish people?” Bayro asked. “Or are they committed to a vision that is rooted in a religious, messianic agenda?”
Bayro argued that evangelical Christian groups like CUFI are “promulgating a discourse about Israel that is ultimately hostile to diplomacy and a two-state solution.” Their encouragement of West Bank settlement expansion and policies regarding Jerusalem’s Temple Mount that could inflame tensions with the Muslim world are ultimately not in the interest of Israel’s long-term security, he said.
Israel’s entire operation “is connected to the Bible,” Weisz said. Its news site, Breaking Israel News, features articles prefaced by biblical verses highlighting the significance of current events.
The news site also includes sections on “End of Days” and “Bible Prophecy,” which have educated readers on matters such as how “a blue blood supermoon eclipse with the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shvat” signifies doom for Muslims in Israel’s neighboring countries.
“News from a biblical perspective in the Jewish community sounds ridiculous,” Weisz admitted. “But for Christians, it’s part of their outlook on life.”
While Weisz insists the company and its news organ hold no political position whatsoever, the news site’s coverage refers to Area C of the West Bank, which is governed by the Israeli military, according to the ££ Oslo II Accords, as “Israeli land.” Israel doesn’t hide its support for Israeli settlements in the West Bank either. Weisz also wouldn’t comment on whether the organization supports a two-state solution.
Weisz said much of the Israel-registered corporation’s funding is derived from the sale of goods on its website, including jewelry, maps of biblical Israel and other assorted knickknacks. Israel also generates revenue from donations, as well as from ads on its news site and in its daily newsletter.
Israel’s Knesset-hosted Bible lectures, held this year on May , placed special emphasis on the historical import of the Trump administration’s decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem. Speeches were punctuated by amens, hosannas and hallelujahs from the Christian crowd.
The Bible study session was headed by Yehudah Glick, a Likud party member of the Knesset who advocates increased Jewish access to the Temple Mount. He was joined by Jim Garlow, an evangelical pastor and ardent supporter of President Trump who campaigned against same-sex marriage in his home state of California. The event was the third of its kind organized by Garlow’s wife, Rosemary SchindlerGarlow, whose Schindler Society has pushed for Bible study at the U.S. Congress.
Glick and other speakers lectured on passages from the Bible that discussed the Jewish temple, the centrality of Jerusalem to the Jewish people and God’s role for “all nations.” Glick linked passages from Psalms to the £ Middle East war, in which Israel captured east Jerusalem. He hinted at divine intervention in the conflict.
“I just want to point out that the people that are here come to Jerusalem, bless Israel not because they will be blessed, but because they really, truly love us,” Glick said.
Yet most of American and Israeli Jewry doesn’t share the conservative social values of the evangelical Christians who support Israel, said Eli Lederhendler, a professor of American Jewish history at Hebrew University. But, he said, “Israel is unfortunately in a position of not wanting to turn away any friend, for understandable reasons.”
At the same time, the Christian right in the United States has aligned itself with like-minded people in Israeli society who believe that for the country to thrive, it must, he said, “restore some semblance of the ancient past.” Many of those people, including Glick, happen to be in power at the moment.
“It is troubling that right-wing governments in Israel have encouraged the kind of friends that we weren’t used to in the past,” Lederhendler said. He noted that, in the end, it has an impact on the cultural battle for Israel’s identity as a democratic and Jewish state, and added, “There’s a lot of treacherous ground that lies ahead.”
Weisz insists that the only way to approach this “golden age of JewishChristian relations” is to engage with evangelicals. “By working closely with them, we can help move Christianity to a healthier place in relation to the Jewish community,” he said.
‘We have a bad history with Christians.’
WHO BY WATER: Christian pilgrims wave flags and dance before being baptized in the Jordan River.