JERUSALEM – From a raucous display of affection for the Israeli prime minister to an inspiring encounter with beleaguered Israeli citizens who live near the Gaza Strip, influential evangelical leaders visiting from the U.S. this week gave the people of Israel a much needed injection of moral support.
Pastor John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the mega-pro-Israel group, brought several hundred members (of its one million-plus membership) on a weeklong barnstorming solidarity mission across Israel. A standing room only crowd at the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel heard Hagee declare that “now is the time to make self-sacrifices and urge your friends and neighbors to speak up for Israel.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose address to the group was interrupted by a number of standing ovations, offered warm words of praise for Pastor Hagee. “Our enemies hate us for who and what we are – and I mean both Israel and the U.S.,” said Netanyahu, who described the relationship between Jews and believing Christians as “based on our common values, which are rooted in the Bible.”
While Netanyahu engaged Hagee’s group in the hotel’s main ballroom, Irwin Katsof, director of America’s Voices in Israel (AVI), was hosting a farewell dinner upstairs for six of America’s most influential evangelical and Pentecostal leaders who represent millions of congregants.
AVI has sponsored several missions to Israel for Christian American leaders. On this trip the group met with Israeli politicians, IDF commanders, business leaders, rabbis and average Israeli citizens.
Dr. George O. Wood, one of the most influential Pentecostal leaders in the U.S., told The Jewish Press he “was particularly impressed with the fact that despite the terrorism and missiles falling on Southern Israel, people are going to work and engaged in innovation…. That’s the real miracle of Israel and I’m proud of the growing relationship between evangelicals and Israel, because we both have a common tie to the Bible.”
Lee Roy Taylor, chairman of the Board of the National Association of Evangelicals, said, “As this was my first trip to Israel, it was important for me as a minister to visit Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, Capernaum etc. [and] I now have a new appreciation for what’s written in Scripture. However, I was particularly impressed with the Jewish people of Israel. They have this wonderful, self-reliant attitude that inspires their creative and entrepreneurial spirit.”