‘I Knew I Wanted To Help The Jewish People’: An Interview with Christians United for Israel’s Pastor John Hagee
Latest update: September 4th, 2014
This past July, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) – the largest pro-Israel organization in America with nearly 1.8 million members (and 1.2 million Facebook followers – 15 times as many as AIPAC) – held its ninth annual Washington Summit, drawing 4,800 delegates from all 50 states.
Founded in 2006, CUFI has held more than 1,700 pro-Israel events, including 260 formal Nights to Honor Israel; hosts about 40 pro-Israel events a month; has a campus organization at more than 300 colleges; publishes a magazine; and runs an active website.
The Washington Summit featured Prime Minister Netanyahu (on video); Ambassador Ron Dermer; five U.S. senators; former CIA director James Woolsey; columnists Charles Krauthammer, Dennis Prager, and William Kristol; several IDF members; and many others.
The delegates lobbied their Congressional representatives (the principal talking point: any final deal with Iran must deny it not simply a nuclear weapon but a “nuclear capability,” because “allowing Iran to develop all of the components of a bomb so long as they don’t put these components together is not a solution”).
Following the Summit, CUFI ran a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and 15 other major American newspapers, quoting the provisions in Hamas’s charter asserting that Islam will “obliterate” Israel; that there is no solution except “jihad”; and that the Jews must be killed – and setting forth CUFI’s response: “Israel’s Enemies Are Our Enemies/ Israel’s Fight is Our Fight/ We Stand with Israel.”
CUFI then sent 51 pastors – one from each state and the District of Columbia – on a four-day solidarity mission to Israel. They prayed at the Western Wall; visited the parent of one of the Israeli teenagers murdered by Hamas; traveled to Sderot on the Gaza border; met with key public figures; and attended an IDF briefing, among other activities.
Last month CUFI issued an “action alert” after reports were published that the White House had blocked routine weapons transfers to Israel. Within two days, over 30,000 CUFI members had personally emailed President Obama to demand he reverse that stand.
During the 2014 Summit, CUFI’s founder and leader, Pastor John Hagee – now 74 and showing no signs of slowing down – gave me an exclusive interview. The following are excerpts from our 30-minute conversation.
Richman: [W]hen you started this effort back in 2006 for CUFI, did you anticipate where you would be today?
Rev. Hagee: I would have to say that the day we did it, on February 6, 2006, I did not know the fire and the enthusiasm that would sweep across the evangelical community.
I invited to my church, Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, four hundred of the leading evangelicals of America. These were the presidents of universities, the owners of radio and television networks; these were the pastors of the mega-churches, and the leading televangelists, and I was not confident that we would get through the day without extreme controversy.
[I told them] we must meet with the Jewish community on the basis of mutual esteem, love, and respect. And you could have heard a pin drop…. I said, “How many of you will support me on this issue?” Four hundred hands went up – like they were hooked to one wire…. At that moment in time, I saw a supernatural wind take this organization much further than I had envisioned it the day before. Because when you have that kind of horsepower unified, nothing is impossible.
And there are 60 million of us in America, so we are just beginning, but I told them, I said, “Let’s go to Washington. We want to go to Washington once each year, and face the senators and Congress members, speaking out for Israel…. So they went home and started telling their church members about it, and without organization or anything else, 3,500 people showed up that first time. It was four months down the road and that’s the night when it dawned on me, “We have lit the torch on an issue that has the ability to be globally significant in the defense of Israel.”
About the Author: Rick Richman, whose work has appeared in The New York Sun, The Tower Magazine, and The Jewish Press, among other publications, is a prolific writer who appears regularly in Commentary magazine and its group Contentions blog, where this originally appeared. He also maintains the Jewish Current Issues blog (www.jpundit.typepad.com/jci/).
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