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On the return trip from Washington, D.C., aboard the chartered bus carrying mostly Jews from Cherry Hill, NJ who had attended the Night to Honor Israel Banquet organized by Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the conversations were charged with excitement, pride, and renewed determination. For Arlene, a first time attendee, it was an “unbelievable experience.” She was in awe of the fact that there are genuine “Jew-loving Christians,” who are also fierce supporters of Israel.
It is easy to understand Arlene’s relief at her discovery of “other kinds of Christians.” Many among the group are sons and daughters or grandchildren of Eastern European Jews who remember hearing stories of the hatred and hostility their family members had faced from gentile neighbors. To Arlene’s surprise, she learned the origins of such Christian enthusiasm from one of the speakers, Israel’s Ambassador Michael Oren. Oren spoke of Christian Restorationism, which holds that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did not break his covenant with his People, and that restoring the Jewish people in their Promised Land is a moral obligation for Christians.
The Restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land was a nineteenth-century Christian movement with both political and religious motivations. The movement flourished primarily in English-speaking lands, and especially in the U.S. John Adams (second president of the U.S.), in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, wrote: “I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize man than any other nation.” And in an 1819 letter to Mordecai Manuel Noah, Adams wrote: “I could find it in my heart to wish that you had been at the head of a hundred thousand Israelites…and marching with them into Judea and making a conquest of that country and restoring your nation to the dominion of it. For I really wish the Jews again in Judea as an independent nation.”
Pastor John Hagee, founder of CUFI, could be considered a philosophical and theological descendant of this corps of restorationists, among whom were many of the American Founding Fathers. Hagee is a classical restorationist, who does not seek to convert the Jews to Christianity, but to restore their glory.
Thirty years ago during a trip to Israel, Pastor John Hagee was in Jerusalem visiting the Western Wall and, while watching those at prayer, realized how little he knew or understood about Judaism. Upon Hagee’s return to the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, the mega-church where he pastors to 19,000 active members, he reached out to area rabbis to work with them regarding Israel advocacy. Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg of Congregation Rodfei Sholom in San Antonio, Texas, was the only rabbi to answer the call. As Pastor Hagee puts it, Rabbi Scheinberg had the “courage” to work with CUFI and that helped to usher in the 1st Night to Honor Israel.
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