(Photo: Tiffany Rose)
LOS ANGELES – The consul general of Israel in Los Angeles believes that Christianity is experiencing a rapidly growing renaissance in Israel. With that, he emphasized the biblical mandate that evangelical Christians and Jews have – to be in a favorable relationship with one another.
"We really are a community of believers and we are both mandated with relationship with one another, with relationships to our great religions, and the Promised Land, [and] the Holy Land," Consul General David Siegel recently told The Christian Post. "It's mandated in the Old Testament, it's mandated even stronger in the New Testament. So we are biblically mandated to this relationship."
Pointing to the fact that both faiths have shared foundational values, Siegel noted that in many cases these values are "identical."
"We live in a world that we all understand is a world that needs to be repaired."
Siegel said he believes that Israel has been experiencing a growing Christian population as a result of persecution throughout the Middle East.
"Today, Israel is also a safe haven for the Christians of the Middle East who are being systematically persecuted in all sorts of countries under this guise of this 'Arab Spring,'" he explained.
He pointed out that Christians are setting up bases of operation to continue empowering their communities throughout the Middle East through charitable organizations and use of radio.
"So Christianity is experiencing a huge renaissance in Israel today, both in terms of the numbers of believers, prayer houses and sessions that take place throughout the country in a multitude of languages, but also the people on the ground that are working to save lives in the Middle East," he said. "Much of the blood, unfortunately, is that of Christians. This is the plight of Christians in the Middle East and unfortunately we don't see that much attention put to it."
Siegel told CP that "the evangelical community is probably Israel's closest friend in the world, not a fair weather friend, but a constant friend whether times are good or bad."
He gave an example of this in talking about the 9/11 tragedy.
"I was in this country during 9/11, in Washington [D.C.] with my family," he said. "We moved with my family back to Israel that fall right after the attacks; my term was over and we came right into the very problematic period of Israel's history of suicide bombings. I remember being at a hotel before we were able to move into our house, just in transit from the United States, and the hotel was packed with Christian supporters – there was no one else. So it's that story that is a message that we feel that even when times are bad our Christian friends are with us."
In another example of the existing relationship between Christian and Jewish groups, he pointed to them working side-by-side in the Philippines.
"We have teams on the ground that are protected by U.S. Marines and working hand-in-hand with other NGOs, including Christian NGOs, to repair souls and repair infrastructure," Siegel said. "Now we are in phase two, after the recovery, and the emergency aid that is working on reconstruction, post-trauma treatment, medical treatment, and social care. It shows that it's not just biblical, not that that's not important, but in our everyday lives of modern states Israel has a lot of things on the table in terms of the Christian-Jewish relationship, and that's a wonderful thing to celebrate."
He added that the challenge for both communities of believers is that both are under attack verbally. Siegel explained that Israel had the first field hospital in Haiti on the ground after the massive earthquake and workers were overwhelmed. "Surgeons were actually going into old metal factories to create more medical devices and surgical devices because they were running out of supplies so quickly because of the amount of surgery that had to be done on the ground – amazing stories of human commitment and innovation," he said.
"I remember also that we were partnering with the evangelical groups on the ground, and Al Jazeera television and other voices of extremism were attacking both of us – both Jews and Christians for harvesting organs in Haiti. I remember that as such a defining moment of, here we are, both America and Israel, both Christian and Jewish communities, coming in to help and [at the same time] hear the voices of religious intolerance and hate, not only not being there to help, but coming out and attacking what we were doing and turning it into some sort of work of the devil, rather than being God's work.
"I think that on the informational level it's so important to fight that propaganda and we feel it every day. Our relationship also has risk in that if we don't educate the next generation that (propaganda) is consuming the news and it concerns a lot of misinformation about both of our communities," Siegel explained. "We need to fight that."