While some Jews harbor lingering suspicions about the motives of the evangelical group Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the political support it provides not only for Israel, but also for Jewish initiatives is valued by others, notes Jan Jaben-Eilon in Jerusalem Report (July 30).
CUFI, launched in 2006 and led by evangelical minister John Hagee—who calls the Bible “a Zionist text”—is reported to have more than one million members. In July it held its Washington Summit with 5,600 delegates. Neil Rubin describes it as “something of a Christian version of the annual Washington policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee” (AIPAC).
Even Israel’s prime minister was a guest speaker (via satellite). According to the director of inter-religious relations for the American Jewish Committee, Jews should welcome evangelical support without having to agree with every aspect of it (Jewish Telegraph Agency, July 17). Hagee has stated that proselytizing is not acceptable to CUFI members. Not everybody is convinced that Hagee and fellow Christian Zionists can be trusted, though: websites such as JewishIsrael.com are strongly critical of alliances with evangelicals and look for connections between Christian Zionism and messianic missionary efforts. Indeed, the messianic movement is especially viewed with suspicion, as blurring the borders between Judaism and Christianity. Reform Jews also warn about anti-Muslim Christians or supporters of all West Bank settlements.
The AIPAC prefers to see the positive side: it launched an outreach program to Christian groups supporting Israel and has a full-time employee for that purpose in Atlanta. At a local level in the United States pro-Israel evangelical inclinations have potential benefits: the new owner of the Atlanta Jewish Times intends to revitalize it by, among other things, expanding readership in the Christian community of the Bible Belt.Meanwhile, Mitt Romney’s recent visit to Israel has highlighted Mormonism’s relationship to Israel and Jews.
The New Republic Daily (July 30) notes that both Mormons shares with evangelicals the belief that Israel is “an integral part of their own biblical-era past and humanity’s apocalyptic future.” Max Perry Mueller writes that more recently Mormon rhetoric about the end times has become less explicit, mainly confined to “moralism” and the view that world is becoming increasingly sinful. “There is less talk about Christ’s return, and more talk about the secular apocalypse they believe a nuclear Iran represents.” After a period of tension, The LDS church has integrated itself in Israel through its BYU Jerusalem Center, which strictly prohibits proselytizing.