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While Christianity traces its birthplace to the Middle East, that region has been arguably the most hostile area for the religion in recent years. A new report by the Christian charity group Open Doors has found that most of Israel’s neighbors, including Egypt, Jordan, Syria and the Palestinian territories, are among the world’s most dangerous places for Christians. Susan Michael, U.S. director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, told JNS that “Islamic extremism originated in the Middle East and is the main cause of persecution of Christians in the world today. It is a dangerous and violent ideology that must be stopped.”
President Donald Trump’s recent announcement on Jerusalem did not happen in a vacuum or come out of nowhere. It did not happen solely because of Jewish influence, either. It happened because millions of good Christians in America urged the president to do so, writes Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
Well, it is that time of year again. No, not Hanukkah or Christmas, but the Jerusalem Embassy Act waiver deadline. It comes around every six months and was a rather quiet affair—until the presidency of Donald Trump. Christian Zionist leader Susan M. Michael urges Trump not to sign another waiver and to fully implement a U.S. law that has been in place for more than 20 years.
Ahead of one of the Christian Zionist community’s signature annual events, Cornerstone Church’s Executive Pastor Matt Hagee—the son of Christians United for Israel founder Pastor John Hagee—speaks with JNS.org about his father’s legacy, the Trump administration and the future of Christian support for Israel.
Recognizing it is easier to influence those who are prone to be natural supporters of the Jewish state than it is to sway journalists who cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a perceived anti-Israel bias, the Israeli government this week offered Christian media professionals from around the world a crash course in advocacy and diplomacy during a first-of-its-kind summit. Brian Schrauger, a Christian journalist for the USA Radio Network, said Israel “is doing something very, very smart. It’s catering to a group of journalists that don’t often get attention, and it’s educating them. And these are by-and-large friendly journalists that generally support Israel.”
In Qaraqosh, Iraq, international agencies have repaired a significant amount of the damage done to schools during the Islamic State occupation. Schools are ready to welcome students to the new academic year. But the great challenge is that many Qaraqosh families’ homes still await repair or rebuilding. Iraqi Christians are hoping for a new life marked by peace and stability, but Western powers must make a major contribution to make their aspiration a reality, writes Joop Koopman, communications director for Aid to the Church in Need-U.S.A.
Egypt’s indigenous Coptic Christians are being systematically persecuted and slaughtered by Islamic terrorists. Jews know all too well this pattern in history and have vowed never to let it happen again. In a time when the Christian community has been the staunchest supporter of Jews and Israel, Jewish organizations should take tangible steps to give Egyptian Christians aid, support and protection, writes Yael Eckstein, senior vice president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
Yael Eckstein had to pinch herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. There she was, an Orthodox Israeli Jew, at a 500-year-old synagogue in Marrakesh, distributing food parcels to Muslims for Ramadan. It seemed too good to be true. But as she quickly learned, it was just another day in Morocco, a country that defies norms, defines tolerance and is home to a dwindling population of 2,500 Jews. What legacy do Jews want to leave in Morocco? Eckstein, the senior vice president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, gives her take in an essay for JNS.org.
The strategic importance of Christian Zionism was featured this week at the 2017 Herzliya Conference, one of Israel’s most prominent annual policy summits. “We’re excited to be here…taking part in the Herzliya Conference, and being able to communicate the love of Christians to Israeli decision makers, policy makers, academics and all. It’s a great privilege for us and we hope it has real practical impact for the state of Israel,” David Parsons, vice president and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, told JNS.org.
Every few years, a young far-left activist discovers Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and they are appalled. The idea of conservative Evangelicals advocating for the Jewish state runs counter to every prejudice about Christians the young advocate was raised to harbor. So the individual scours the internet, desperately hunting for that one item that will confirm their bigotry. And when they come up dry, they ignore, tinker with or amend the facts because they cannot confront a simple reality: they are intolerant of Evangelical Christians, writes Ari Morgenstern, CUFI communications director, in JNS.org.
Pastor Victor Styrsky and his congregation were celebrating Jerusalem’s reunification when they were disrupted by agitators from the leftist, anti-Zionist Jewish group IfNotNow. Evangelical Christians today are arguably the Jewish people’s staunchest allies. To disrupt Christians in their place of worship is an affront to all Christians and to the larger Jewish community, writes columnist Abraham H. Miller.
Described as one of the most significant archaeological finds in modern Israel, the Magdala Stone, unearthed in 2009, has been unveiled to the public for first time as part of a joint exhibition on the history of the menorah May 15-July 23 between the Vatican Museums and the Jewish Museum of Rome. “This is a dream that finally comes to fulfillment,” said Father Juan Solana, general director of the Magdala Center, whose work focuses on the stone dubbed a “crossroads of Jewish and Christian history.” Scholars contend the Magdala Stone’s menorah depiction is the oldest carved image of the Second Temple’s menorah ever found.
Lutheran church leaders are again asking the U.S. to pay some of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) unpaid debts to the Lutheran-sponsored Augusta Victoria hospital in eastern Jerusalem, but the American Jewish Committee (AJC), in a reversal, is declining to assist the effort. JNS.org reported in March that the AJC had quietly pressed U.S. officials and lawmakers to help pay the PA’s bills to the hospital. Farley Weiss, president of the National Council of Young Israel, praised the AJC for “properly correcting its policy so that it will no longer fall victim to this duplicitous strategy of the Palestinian Authority,” which “has perfected a policy of deliberately using aid for improper purposes and then getting more aid.”
At the 2017 Evangelical Press Association (EPA) convention, the quest for “inspiration, instruction and interaction” could not escape the specter of dissension and controversy that has haunted the evangelical Christian media since President Donald Trump’s election. Political discourse aside, the conference lived up to its intended purpose of fostering unity by enabling media professionals to build relationships with representatives from Israel and the Jewish community. “I would say the majority of those who are a part of the EPA really have a commitment and a strong feeling toward Israel, in terms of supporting Israel,” said Jill Daly, Midwest director for Israel’s Ministry of Tourism, which was an EPA conference sponsor.
As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan assumed near-dictatorial powers following his dubious victory in a constitutional referendum April 16, Andrew Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina, was marking his sixth month in a Turkish prison over an unsubstantiated charge. What makes Brunson’s case particularly outrageous, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen, is that his imprisonment comes in Turkey—traditionally an ally of the U.S., a member of NATO and widely regarded in the years prior to Erdoğan’s rise as the ideal model for a secular state with a Muslim majority.
As the Islamic State terror group faces setbacks in Syria and Iraq, its affiliate in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has turned its sights on the region’s Coptic Christian minority as part of its ongoing insurgency against the Egyptian government. More than 350 Christian families have recently fled from the Sinai city of El Arish, near the Egyptian border with Gaza and Israel. The mass displacement of Coptic Christians from the Sinai was prompted by a string of murders and threats by Islamic State terrorists in that region since late January. “The Islamic State is losing in Iraq and Syria, and has decided to lash out through its affiliates in places like the Sinai Peninsula,” said Robert Nicholson, director of the Philos Project, an organization that promotes “positive Christian engagement in the Middle East.”
“There is no place in the Bible…that any of these people can hang their hat on,” said Laurie Cardoza-Moore, founder and president of Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, in a rebuke to Christians who promote the BDS movement against Israel. “It is fake theology, like it is fake news!” she said, earning a thunderous applause at the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) International Christian Media Convention. NRB—whose stated mission is to “advance biblical truth; to promote media excellence; and to defend free speech”—made Christian support for Israel a major theme at its conference this year.
President Donald Trump recently stated that persecuted Christians in the Middle East would be given priority as refugees. If Iraqi Kurdistan were to aid in the rebuilding of the Assyrian national homeland, it would represent a goodwill gesture that would reverberate to Washington and send a powerful message that the genocide of Middle East Christians will not be tolerated. A new U.S.-backed alliance between Kurdistan, Assyria and Israel that enshrines Western principles of freedom and democracy would create an oasis of peace and prosperity in an area of the world that desperately needs it, writes columnist Bradley Martin.
Did you know that the transformation of Tu B’Shvat from an obscure Kabbalistic holiday to its current incarnation can trace its origins to a Christian-oriented, proto-environmentalist activity in 19th-century Nebraska? Hizky Shoham, a research fellow at the Jerusalem-based Shalom Hartman Institute, recounts the story behind a little-known quirk of timing and history surrounding the “Jewish Arbor Day,” which falls on Feb. 11 this year.