Will 2004 be the start of the Messianic Era for Jews and Christians? In January Israel's Parliament, the Knesset, came to the unprecedented conclusion that there is room for a Judeo-Christian alliance to help Israel and to offer some kind of official recognition for the tremendous efforts evangelical Christians have made to support the Jewish State and People everywhere in the world.
Another milestone took place on February 8th, 2004. Israeli Tourism Minister Benny Elon (National Union) asked Christian missionary groups to work to convert Muslims to Christianity in order "to show them the light."
"Go from mosque to mosque and bring the Muslims into the light, to those who preach murder and suicide attacks," Elon said. (I've been saying this for over ten years in Christian churches all over the world. In all three of my books, I have testimonies from former Muslim terrorists who wanted to kill Jews, but when they became Christians, they became lovers of Zion, lovers of the Jews and lovers of all mankind.)
Elon, an Orthodox ordained rabbi who has been Israel's Minister of Tourism in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government has also, during the last few years, been in the vanguard of what is now clearly becoming an international Judeo-Christian alliance for the defense of Israel.
These two developments are historic watershed events.
Knesset Members (MK) created the "Christian Allies Caucus" on January 5th, 2004, in recognition of the importance to Israel's security of the international pro-Israel Christian community. The caucus is the first of its kind in Knesset history. Its purpose is to streamline communications and coordinate activities between the Knesset and Israel's Christian allies. The caucus is also intended to increase awareness, both in Israel and the international community, of Israel's appreciation for the many and varied contributions that its Christian supporters have made to the well-being of the people of Israel in their day-to-day lives.
Co-chairman MK Dr. Yuri Shtern termed this a "political upgrade" of relations between Israel and its Christian supporters throughout the world. "We will not be demanding that Christians adopt any particular political viewpoint on the conflict here," said Shtern in clarifying the goals of the caucus. "We simply are reaching out to the Christians to support Israel on the basis of our fundamental right to live here in peace and security."
Also co-chairing the caucus is MK Yair Peretz of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, who appealed for Christian assistance to help the poorest communities during these difficult economic times.
Six other MK's comprise this caucus: Chemi Doron of Shinui, Gila Gamliel and Gilad Eran of the ruling Likud party, Gila Finkelstein of NRP, Arieh Eldan of the National Union, and Isaac Herzog of Labor.
The caucus MKs reflect the current make-up of the Knesset so that the views of all of Israel's citizens will be represented in the caucus' deliberations. "Israel has no better friend in the world than the United States, and that is in no small part due to our Christian friends in America, and we hope to see the same happen in Europe and elsewhere. Our shared values and beliefs, based on our common Judeo-Christian heritage, are the source of the strong ties between us, and in the post 9/11 world, our long-standing relationship has become more important than ever before," said Chairman Shtern.
Meantime, Gadi Golan of the Israeli Foreign Ministry's religious affairs department delivered an impassioned plea that the Israeli government across the board should stop overlooking their Christian friends and especially that they should cease "humiliating" Christians in the land with visa and tax problems. "As Israelis, we should know the terrible mistakes we have committed, and yet these beautiful people keep going on quietly with their many kind works among us," said Golan.
Most Christian ministries present reported progress in the processing of visas and thanked the Knesset members for their intervention with Ministry of Interior officials. Clarence Wagner, International Director of Bridges for Peace, noted that scores of Christians abroad had contacted his offices welcoming the formation of the Knesset caucus. "There was an amazing response," he said. "The phones were ringing off the hook."
The Knesset Christian Allies' Caucus is the outgrowth of an idea that had been brewing over recent years among Israeli lawmakers, particularly after broad segments of Christianity aligned to stop the construction of a provocative mosque next to the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. (I wrote about this mosque extensively in my second book, Christian Revival for Israel's Survival.)
Representatives of the three major Christian Zionist organizations with operations offices here in Israel-Bridges for Peace, Christian Friends of Israel (CFI), and the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ)- were present at the caucus' inaugural meeting to discuss areas of cooperation with the caucus MKs.
Upon hearing the news, Malcolm Hedding, Executive Director of ICEJ, said, "We welcome this initiative as an opportunity to further support Israel by making known to Knesset Members the vital work that Christian Zionists do for and on behalf of the State of Israel. I can assure you that the eyes of the Christian Zionist world are upon what you are launching here today, and therefore it must not fail. This forum must be a proactive mechanism for developing better ties between Christians and the Jewish state and community worldwide."
Also present at the launch of the caucus were the Ebenezer Fund, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, the National Unity Coalition and the Jerusalem Summit. In a statement, the caucus members said they would seek to:
1) Recognize and further mobilize those Christians around the world who are contributing to the security of the State of Israel and the welfare of the Jewish People.
2) Bring to the attention of the Israeli public the unqualified support Christians are giving to Jewish aspirations in the Land of Israel; and,
3) Provide Christian and Israeli leaders with a Knesset forum for face-to-face encounters and enhanced cooperation.
The caucus members said they would now begin to develop joint welfare projects with the participating Christian Allies that could be given high-profile launches from the Knesset itself, while also enlisting Christian support for new informational efforts to improve Israel's standing internationally, with an urgent need to focus on Europe.
Secondly, as for Minister Elon's comments about converting Muslims to Christianity, I believe that this is the only chance the world has for peace on Earth and peace in the Middle East. Islam is a triumphalist religion that cannot rest until all other religions are abolished and the whole world is "Dar es-Salaam" (Islamic) - a sure prescription for constant war and destruction. I think that the recognition of this by Jews and Christians is a tremendous breakthrough for Israel and all of humanity. I think that the Messianic Era has now begun in earnest with this Judeo-Christian alliance.
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[Avi thanks David Parsons of the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem (ICEJ) and the Bridges for Peace organization in the preparation of this article for the March 2004 Israel Today Magazine in Jerusalem. Reprinted by permission of the author.]