Thousands of Christian Zionists Gather to Support Israel

More than 4,000 Christian Zionists gathered in Washington, D.C., this week to send a pro-Israel message to members of Congress.

The fifth annual Christians United for Israel Washington Summit brought together everyday Christians, politicians, Orthodox Jews, and evangelical leaders on July 20-22 to show solidarity with Israel and to lobby federal lawmakers on behalf of the Jewish state.

At the "Night to Honor Israel Banquet" on Wednesday night, speakers raised concern about the cool relationship between the Obama administration and Israel. CUFI founder John Hagee, a controversial pastor known for his staunch Zionist view and end time prophecies, called on the crowd to stand by Israel's side and fight against her enemies.

"When flotillas filled with militants seek to turn Gaza into an Iranian port, we proudly proclaim I am an Israeli. When the world condemns Israel for defending yourself from thousands of missiles and mortar attacks, we proudly proclaim I am an Israeli," said Hagee at Wednesday's banquet. "When terrorists threaten to kill you, we proudly proclaim I am an Israeli. When your allies grow weary of fighting tyranny and oppression and seek the easy way out, we stand with you and say I am an Israeli."

CUFI, on its website, said the threats against Israel are growing daily, citing Iran, Hamas, anti-Semitism, and U.S.-Israel relations. The Christian Zionist group said now more than ever Israel's supporters need to speak out for the country.

Though Hagee is a vocal supporter of Israel, some Jews are hesitant in tying themselves too closely to the megachurch pastor and CUFI. Some Jewish leaders cite Hagee's "apocalyptic Christian prophecies" as a source of tension and claim they are what fuel his hard-line support for Israel.

Hagee, however, claims that his support for Israel is unconnected to his views in Christian eschatology, citing Mathew 24:36 as evidence that human beings cannot hasten the "end of days."

Still, as James Besser of The Jewish Week noted in a column this week, Jewish leaders in the political center are "ambivalent" about Hagee and his group, "unsure of exactly what kind of friendship the Christian Zionists are offering.

"Some remain nervous about the prophecy issue, as well, and uncomfortable with what seems like staunch opposition to giving up any more territory," Besser wrote.

But The Jewish Week writer said conservative Jews mostly see Hagee and his group as a "godsend."

CUFI summit attendees on Thursday spent the entire day lobbying elected officials to support Israel after praying on the steps of the Capitol.

Last March, Hagee presented members of Congress a petition signed by over 100,000 American Christians expressing solidarity with Israel. The petition declared the Jewish people have a right to live in the ancient land of Israel, there is no excuse for acts of terrorism against Israel, and Israel has a right to defend its citizens.

"Israel is America's closest and most trusted ally. We are committed to steadfastly supporting the Jewish State as she fights to defend the democratic values that we all hold dear," Hagee had said. "As our leaders in Washington make decisions about American foreign policy in the Middle East, it is important for them to know that Christians across the country remain solidly committed to a strong US-Israel relationship."

In addition to being CUFI's founding chairman, Hagee is also the founding pastor of the 18,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas.

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