Christian Evangelicals and Israel: A Marriage of Convenience
Despite claiming undying support for eachother based on morality and freedom, it appears that the alliance between Christian evangelicals and Israelis is based on the former's insatiable desire to proselytize - tolerated only by the latter's insatiable desire for cash. In other words, opportunistic to the core.
Citing a mandate to support Israel, a Texas-based Christian broadcast company has begun televising Jewish evangelists for Jesus into Israeli homes, provoking outrage from Jewish leaders.Keep your advice, we want only your cash.
Daystar, which calls itself the second largest Christian network in the United States, launched its round-the-clock, seven-day-a-week programming on Israel's Yes satellite network on April 10. It debuted on Israel's HOT cable channel last week. The network's schedule features a roster of prominent Evangelical preachers.
Daystar's vice president for programming, Janice Smith, describes the new channel as a natural outgrowth of the American Evangelical community's largely pro-Israel sentiments. "[It's] the realization of the heart's wish of millions of Christians who watch Daystar and seek to support Israel by investing in her," she said.
But critics here and in Israel decry a broadcast lineup that includes several well-known Messianic Jews - converts to Christianity who continue to identify as Jews and describe their adopted religious beliefs as natural extensions of Judaism.
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, termed the network's Israeli initiative, "inappropriate, insulting and offensive," when told about it by The Jewish Week.
As political and financial ties deepen between Israelis and Evangelical Christians, the clash points to an increased blurring of the religious and political goals of Christian pro-Israel groups, critics say.Charity??? Israelis have the fourth biggest military in the world and are nuclear armed - they don't need charity.
One of the most prominent backers of the broadcast initiative, for example, is Pastor John Hagee. Spiritual leader of the 18,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Hagee recently launched Christians United for Israel, a national grassroots lobbying organization that seeks to mobilize Evangelical political support for the Jewish state. He has also raised millions of charity dollars for Israeli institutions.
In a meeting with Jewish leaders last month, Hagee emphasized that his new lobbying group would not proselytize. But at a broadcast in late March in which Daystar's Israeli initiative was announced, Hagee, whose preaching is a fixture in the network's schedule, enthused, "It's just all I can do to keep from getting up and dancing. It's a joy and it's a dream come true. If we are able to preach the gospel without reservation ... it's a major breakthrough," according to JTA.Babble all you like, but not through Jews.
Daystar's Israeli program schedule . . . includes "Rabbi" Jonathan Bernis, the host of "Jewish Voice Today." Bernis states that his ministry "is dedicated
to bringing the Gospel of Yeshua - Jesus - to the Jews first," and "to educate and equip Christians to understand and appreciate the Jewish roots of their faith, and to impart to them a love for Israel and the Jewish people."* * *
The programs of Zola Levitt, a televangelist who died last month, also continue to be broadcast on Daystar posthumously. Levitt, according to the Zola Levitt Ministries Web site, was "a Jewish Christian thoroughly educated in the synagogues and brought to the Messiah in 1971." The ministry's mission continues to be "the evangelism of the unbelievers and the exhortation of the believers," the Web site states.
Sid Roth, host of another Daystar show, describes himself as "a Jewish believer in Jesus as the Messiah." His Web site states that "as the host of the Messianic Vision, a nationally syndicated radio, television, and publishing ministry, Sid has been on the cutting edge of Jewish evangelism for more than twenty-five years."
Foxman said the network's use of Messianic Jews "crosses the line."
"If they support Israel because they believe it will help hasten the second coming [of Jesus], that's fine," he explained. "If they want to broadcast their support of Israel, wonderful. They're entitled even to broadcast their Evangelical programs. But to utilize Messianic Jews is inappropriate, insulting and offensive."Of course not! Is that even possible? Donations involving Israelis flow only one way - in their direction.
Yisrael Zinger, an official of Yad L'Achim, an Israeli anti-missionary group, termed Daystar's new Israeli channel "very worrying."
"We have watched several hours of Daystar's programming, and it's obvious that they're not only teaching about Christianity," Zinger said. "Their real purpose is to try to convince as many people as possible to become Christians. They believe that unless that happens, their Messiah - Jesus - won't come. For [Evangelical Christians], Israel is the place to save souls."* * *
Despite this, Levy, Daystar's Israeli partner, insisted the channel is merely a vehicle for Christians "to show their love of Israel. It's not calling on Israelis to donate money or to get the message of Jesus - not at all."
Smith said Daystar had held extensive discussions with "key leaders, both in the United States and in Israel" before launching its Israeli affiliate. "We discussed a strategy whereby Daystar's intentions to be a blessing, by sincerely helping the people in Israel with our financial support and prayers, would be seen as a genuine desire to help people around the world, specifically Israel," she said.What kind of "key leaders?" Spiritual, Business, or Political? That would shed some much needed light on the nature of this coalition.
Yoram Mokady, chairman of the Communication Ministry's Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting said that Daystar, like all other channels broadcasting in Israel, must abide by the ministry's rules.Shouldn't that so-called prohibition stop them from supporting Israelis, who regularly and systematically threaten AND humiliate both Muslim and Christian Arabs and non-Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza?
These essentially are prohibitions on harming other religions, exercising undue influence, threats or humiliation, or soliciting donations, she said. Broadcasters, he said, are warned to exercise extreme caution in these matters.
I guess not.