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What Happens When Jews And Christians Throw An Israel Celebration Party


The Bible is filled with stories of miracles. But if there’s one major takeaway from the 2017 Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Summit, it’s that miracles still happen in our time, and it’s our job to notice and truly appreciate them.

The 11-year-old CUFI, which now boasts 3.5 million members, recently gathered in Washington, DC, amid steamy July temperatures. And like last year, it was an incredibly uplifting experience to be a Jew in a convention hall brimming with positive spiritual energy.

“I come here to get my batteries charged. I see the enthusiasm of the audience. It draws the speaker out; it’s very powerful,” Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, told me in an interview. I understood exactly what he meant.

This year, I found myself surrounded by 5,000 friends of Israel, representing all 50 states and 97 percent of the nation’s Congressional districts. As part of the recent proceedings, CUFI celebrated the #JerusalemJubilee—the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification in 1967’s Six Day War—with a notable emphasis on miracles.

Yoram Hazony, president of Israel’s Herzl Institute, talked about 2,000 years of Jewish yearning for Zion and how blessed we are to see a time when Jews have returned to a united Jerusalem. Hoenlein noted that G-d has given us “all the miracles” in this generation. And David Brog, CUFI’s founding executive director, called the Jews’ fighting back 50 years ago a miracle.

‘You Must Believe In Miracles’

I asked Pastor John Hagee, CUFI’s founder and national chairman, about that thematic emphasis on miracles over email. He replied:

We believe Prime Minister Ben-Gurion said it best when he stated, “In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.” We see Israel’s modern rebirth and its consistent against-all-odds survival as miracles. After thousands of years of yearning and praying, the Jewish people reclaimed their homeland and liberated their capital. Marking that Jubillee celebration at this year’s Summit was, for us, a most obvious decision.

I liked that “obvious decision.” It was a perfect fit for a group that believes so instinctively in prayer’s power, G-d’s goodness, and that G-d still acts among us, here on Earth.

“We see the hand of G-d in everything we do,” Pastor Hagee said. “We are all hardworking and dedicated, but as Christians we believe that it is G-d’s teachings that mandate we stand with Israel, it is His grace that has enabled our growth, and it is only with His favor that we move forward.”

The Priorities CUFI Hopes To Achieve

CUFI is most certainly moving onward and upward, warmly welcomed into the Trump White House, in a way they were not by the last administration. In his email, Pastor Hagee described the president as “an explicitly and unapologetically pro-Israel president,” which is a high honor in this context.

The change in leadership and Middle East policy since CUFI last convened a year ago was noted by various speakers. The audience cheered every reference to the Obama administration’s being part of history, and President Trump, Vice President Pence, and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley being part of the political present.

Pence, who spoke at the summit’s Hebrew song and Israeli dance-filled Night to Honor Israel, received a hero’s welcome. His biggest applause line of all: The promise that moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem is not a matter of if, but when.

That commitment is a big deal to this crowd, reflecting one of CUFI’s three major priorities right now, along with Congress’ passing the Taylor Force Act, which seeks to end the practice of paying Palestinian terrorists for murder, and the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which would be a federal anti-BDS law. These are heavy issues, to say that least.

‘We Don’t Live In Isolation’

So many discussions about Israel in recent years have focused on the dangerous Iran deal, regional instability, and the very real security risks Israelis face daily. Those are all pieces of Israel’s daily reality, and for those of us who live abroad, they’re important to keep in mind as we watch or read the news. CUFI’s speakers addressed those issues, but I also appreciated the long historical horizon afforded by the event’s faith-based framing.

As Erick Stakelbeck, host of TBN’s “The Watchman,” helpfully reminded everyone during a call and response, the Jewish people have always faced enemies. However, we’re still here, while those enemies, including the ancient Greeks and Romans, rest upon the ash heap of history.

Various speakers rightly reiterated that Israel’s fight continues, in the Middle East, at the United Nations, and on college campuses. But as we continue to fight in those venues, it’s helpful to periodically pause and consider that as bad as things may seem, they’ve been tough before too.

“We all have to recognize that the Jewish community can’t stand alone, and Israel can’t do it alone,” Malcolm Hoenlein commented. “We need to have everybody. We don’t live in isolation, Jews here or Israel.”

Indeed, we don’t. The upside of that? Jews worldwide now have the benefit of praying and fighting for Israel’s continued thriving with committed allies like Christians United for Israel at our side. Count that as yet another modern miracle.