In a world in which the Jewish State has very few friends it can rely on, the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) organization looms large as an invaluable friend. Founded in 2006, CUFI has 1.3 million members spanning all fifty states of the U.S. On Tuesday, July 23, 2013, CUFI held its 8th national Night to Honor Israel at the Washington, DC Convention Center, packing 4,500 enthusiastic members and supporters from throughout America and beyond, waving American and Israeli flags, and cheering loudly at all references to Israel by an impressive array of speakers.
CUFI was founded and is chaired by Pastor John Hagee, the Senior Pastor of the Cornerstone mega-Church in San Antonio, TX, and the President and CEO of John Hagee Ministries. Hagee’s ministry is centered on straightforward Bible teaching, and unwavering support for the Jewish State of Israel and the Jewish people. The John Hagee Ministries occupies a 50,000 square-foot production center, which houses both radio and TV studios. Currently, Hagee telecasts on eight major networks, 162 independent TV stations, and 51 radio stations throughout the globe, broadcasting in more than 190 nations. David Brog, former chief of staff to the late US Senator Arlen Spector of Pennsylvania, serves as the executive director of CUFI.
CUFI on Campus, founded in 2009, has become a major source of advocacy for Israel on college campuses where BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaigns by pro-Palestinian Muslims, leftist students and outside professional provocateurs have hitherto dominated. Since its inception, CUFI has trained more than 2,000 students to effectively advocate for Israel. There are currently 120 CUFI chapters on campuses nationwide, and they maintain an active presence on more than 250 campuses. The organization has also recently launched CUFI Young Professionals, which enables CUFI on Campus graduates to continue their organized Israel advocacy. According to Brog, with the experience that these graduates have acquired, they will be an effective voice in support of Israel at our nation’s capital, and in their communities and churches.
Many of the Jewish attendees of the Night to Honor Israel that this reporter interviewed were touched by the CUFI audience, especially first timers. Albert Shlamowitz of Richboro, PA, a commercial realtor, a first-time attendee, had this to say: “I was awe struck by the sincere devotion to Israel the crowd at this conference displayed, and I was amazed by the commitment of so many of these people to help Israel. For the first time in my life, I was thoroughly thrilled.” Israeli native Malka Kantor of King of Prussia,PA, a longtime financial advisor, said that she was “overwhelmed and deeply touched by the display of unconditional love for Israel, and their strong stand for Israel.” She added, “I was overwhelmed by the diversity of the attendees.”
For Shlamowitz, Kantor and the others, it was not just the pro-Israel fervor of the audience. It was the CUFI leadership and speakers, including US Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Pastor Hagee, Malcolm Honlein (Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of major Jewish Organizations), Ron Prosor (Israel’s Representative to the United Nations), and Glenn Beck (author, radio and television personality). It was, however, Akaya Lee, former CUFI on Campus Chapter President at the University of Arkansas and a CUFI on Campus Young Professional, who really stole attendees' hearts. Her heartfelt conviction in God’s promises of the land to Israel was poignantly expressed when she said, “CUFI could well have been called Christians United for Jacob, but his name was changed to Israel after struggling with God’s angel.”
Having Ted Cruz address the audience was a pleasant surprise. He was not listed on the program. The maverick senator from Texas struck the audience as an articulate and sincere politician and as a potential presidential candidate in 2016. With a Hispanic surname and a Cuban father, Ted Cruz has a moving story -- the son of an immigrant who rose from below. Cruz’s mother was born in Delaware to an Irish and Italian working-class family and was the first in her family to go to college. She graduated from Rice University with a degree in mathematics and became a computer programming pioneer in the 1950s. Ted’s father was born in Cuba, fought in the revolution, and was imprisoned and tortured. He fled to Texas in 1957, penniless, not speaking a word of English. He washed dishes for 50 cents an hour, paid his way through the University of Texas, and started a small business in the oil and gas industry. Today, Ted’s father is a pastor in Dallas.
Introduced by Pastor Hagee, Senator Ted Cruz blasted Obama’s foreign policy as one that displays “weakness” and “appeasement.” He exhorted the audience “to speak the truth in an era when so many believe they know better than eternal truth,” a reference to God’s promise to the Jewish people. He added that “the alliance between the US and Israel must remain completely and entirely unshakeable.” In a clear dig aimed at Obama, he stated that the “US needs leaders who clearly understand that America and Israel are not what’s wrong with the world.” He questioned President Obama as to why sending arms to the Syrian rebel groups is in the interest of the US, criticizing Obama for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and the deposed President Morsi of Egypt. He stressed that “there is no greater threat to US security than Iran,” and added, “the US alliance with Israel is not a gift but a benefit to the security of the US.”
Cruz praised Israel for providing freedom and democracy to all its citizens, including Christians. Cruz noted that “there is an irony that many don’t seem to understand - that weakness encourages violence and military conflict whereas clarity and deterrents are the best way to avoid conflict.” As Iran is moving toward acquiring nuclear weapons, Cruz pointed out, “there is very good reason for the mullahs to believe that the threats from the US are hollow.” He mocked the Obama administration for its double-speak in calling terrorism “workplace violence.” In conclusion, Senator Cruz declared, “Do not expect the UN Security Council to pass a resolution that calls for the protection of Christians in the Middle East. Israel is the only obstacle to a Muslim Empire.”
Following the presentation of the Defender of Israel Award to Malcolm Honlein, Pastor Hagee in his booming and prophetic cadence suggested that the world is divided into two parts: those who support Israel and those who do not. “The Jews of Israel,” Hagee said, “own the land of Israel because God gave it to them.” He went on to say that “Since Obama declines to support Israel against Iran, let us signal to the enemies of Israel that we support Israel unconditionally.” Alluding to Obama’s refusal to call terror by its name, Hagee made it clear that “the war on terror is not over, it has not even begun.”
Hagee commended US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for his legislative initiative to put the military option against Iran on the table. Addressing the media’s typical misguided characterization of Iran’s President-elect Hassan Rohani as “moderate,” Hagee said, “he may walk like a moderate, speak like a moderate, but he is not a moderate.” The election of Rohani to replace Ahmadinejad has changed nothing. Iran continues to accelerate its nuclear program. Turning to the peace process, Hagee asked rhetorically, but quite seriously, “when will the Palestinians be asked to make sacrifices for peace?” He proposed ending US aid to the Palestinian Authority until it recognizes Israel as a Jewish State. “How can you make peace” Hagee said, “with someone who wants to kill you?” He was referring, of course, to the Palestinians.
Nearing the end of his presentation, Pastor Hagee roared, “When America draws a red-line our enemies should tremble.” But not when it comes to our current administration. He then exclaimed his heartfelt beliefs. “We Christians stand with Israel now, tomorrow, and forever,” adding that “Christians and Jews are a marriage made in Heaven.”
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