During the week covered by this review, we received 14 articles on the following subjects:
Politics (& Christian Zionism)
This past week the American Embassy officially relocated to Jerusalem in time to celebrate Israel’s 70th Independence Day and the 51st anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem. All the articles received this week are in some way connected to the confluence of these events, and so will be reported here together.
What has motivated President Donald Trump to defy decades of American policy regarding Jerusalem – especially now that the peace process is frozen, and a nuclear threat looms from Iran? The answer, suggests one commentator, is Evangelical Christians. American-Israeli policy used to be dictated by American Jews, but now the political center of gravity has shifted towards Evangelical Christians. Evangelicals supported the embassy move because they believed it was “foretold in the Bible.” Israelis must therefore take Evangelicals seriously: “It is Evangelical Christians who are standing with Israel today in ways that Nehemiah never could have dreamed about,” says this commentator.
About 800 people gathered at the old Consulate in Jerusalem to celebrate its dedication as the new Embassy. In attendance were many Jews and Christians, who together saw this event as nothing less than a milestone in the “road to redemption.” The main guest, it is written, was God. The speeches were littered with references to the Bible and to prophecy, and Pastor John Hagee called on the audience to shout out “hallelujah” in his closing prayer – like a “good evangelist.”
Hagee is a controversial figure, reportedly once making the claim that Hitler was a part of God’s plan to bring the Jews back to their land. However, he was not the only controversial pastor in attendance. Robert Jeffress, pastor of a megachurch in Dallas, opened up the dedication of the Embassy with a prayer. Jeffress is on record for saying that Jews are going to hell, or at least, that they are not going to heaven. He has also called Islam evil and violent, and has argued that Mormonism is a cult from the “pit of hell.” One commentator says that the Jeffress-Trump nexus is proof that the US is “soaked in religious primitivism.” Another commentator critiqued Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for allowing such a “religious bigot” a prominent role at the dedication ceremony: “… his presence at the ceremony is a reminder that there is a price to be paid for uncritical acceptance of pro-Israel figures whose attitudes towards faith is inconsistent with religious freedom.” Yet another commentator argues that Trump, by inviting Jeffress, proved that we must be cautious in our future dealings with him: “Today Trump works in our favor and we melt at his feet. But we must stand on guard, because these kinds of people can easily shed their skins.” Finally, one commentator goes so far as to say that this new state of affairs indicates that Israel has chosen to enslave itself to Evangelicalism and to bind itself to a radical religious vision that will push it to war with Islam.
The US State Department has since made a statement saying that it was the American ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who made the decision to invite the controversial pastor. The State Department has clarified that it does not agree with Pastor Jeffress’ position on other religions.
A few commentators noted the great dissonance they felt at the juxtaposition of the celebration in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and the events in Gaza. One writes that he woke up in the morning feel discouraged: “I asked what we should all be asking – where does all of this lead?”
US Senator Ted Cruz, however, who was also in attendance at the celebration, penned a piece for The Jerusalem Post praising President Trump for his bravery. Cruz says: “I have long advocated that the United States take this action, and commend Trump for fulfilling his campaign promise.”
Further support for Israel on its 70th anniversary came from nearly 4,000 Israel-loving people from around the world who participated in the “March of the Nations” the day after the dedication. The attendants waved flags and demonstrated their support for Israel. The main organizer of the event writes that “while the media condemns Israel, thousands of Evangelical Christians are determined to come to Israel and express their solidarity and friendship.”
Two more events took place showcasing Evangelical support for Israel. First, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews put on a tribute show together with the Christian Broadcasting Network. The tribute includes a pre-recorded video from Barbara Streisand and a live performance by Pat Boone. Executive Director of the Fellowship, Yael Eckstein, comments that “we want Jews to understand that Christians are our friends, who stand with Israel and don’t have any expectations of anything in return… For the first time in history, we are not alone.” The second event will take place on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. The International Christian Embassy (ICEJ) and the Israel Allies Foundation (IAF) will co-host an event celebrating Israel’s 70th anniversary, at which 350 people are expected to attend. IAF President Josh Reinstein said: “The moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem is the greatest victory for faith-based diplomacy the world has ever seen… This brave decision by President Trump is a direct result of millions of Christians in America taking their Biblical support and turning it into real political action.” ICEJ President, Jürgen Buhler, also announced that any head of state or government who recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moves their embassy to Jerusalem will receive the “Cyrus Award.” Though the ICEJ would have liked to present President Trump with the first Cyrus award, it will be bestowed upon President Jimmy Morales of Guatemala, who is the first head of state to visit Israel for the embassy’s move.