Christians and Israel – Council on Foreign Relations

How will Christian supporters of Israel react to the replacement of former prime minister Netanyahu with a new and very different Israeli coalition? A new letter from a broad and potent group of Christian leaders appears to give the answer.

Led by the Philos Project, which is “dedicated to promoting positive Christian engagement in the Near East,” the letter is signed by dozens of Christian leaders from very mixed ethnic and denominational backgrounds. Certainly their followers are in the tens of million, many times the population of Israel—or the U.S. Jewish population. The list includes the leader of one of the largest black denominations in the US, a member of the Trump Evangelical faith council, the CEO of the largest evangelical broadcasting channel, and a range of clergymen and women, academics, writers, and public intellectuals.

An article in the Christian web site AllIsraelNews covered the letter:

Gathered by the Philos Project, the latest letter to Bennett has a diverse list of signatories that represent “tens of millions of Christians from a wide range of ethnic and denominational backgrounds who all agree on the importance of Christian friendship with Israel based on shared values that come from the Bible,” according to Philos Project President Robert Nicholson.

Israel’s new leaders have certain advantages and other disadvantages as they replace Benjamin Netanyahu after his 12 years in office. Many of the relationships he developed, for example with foreign heads of government, were personal and not easy for his successor to jump into. In the United States and in Europe, where many on the Left and Center/Left saw Netanyahu as an opponent, relations may improve; certainly Democrats in the United States who saw Netanyahu as tied to the Republican Party have an opportunity to rebuild relations now with the new team in Jerusalem. This statement by Christian leaders makes a different argument: that their support is for Israel, not any particular leader.

The letter is short, and its text is below. Signatories are shown at the Philos web site.

June 17, 2021

Dear Prime Minister Bennett:

It is with great pleasure that we write to congratulate you on the successful formation of a new government for the State of Israel, the world’s only Jewish state.

We are Christian leaders from different traditions who feel a strong sense of friendship with Israel based on shared values that originate in the Hebrew Bible. Israel embodies these values every day in its commitment to democracy and human rights, and serves as a bold model of ethnic and religious pluralism for others to follow.

We are grateful for the work of your predecessor, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, for all he did to strengthen Israel and its alliances over the past twelve years, and look forward to all that you and your coalition will accomplish in the years to come. We want to thank you in advance for protecting our shared values as they apply to Israel’s citizens, whether Jews, Christians, Muslims, or Druze; for guarding the holy sites and welcoming religious pilgrims from around the world to discover the birthplace of their faith; for defending Israel from outside aggression; and for continuing to work toward peace with Israel’s neighbors. In return, we pledge to deepen our friendship with your country and its wonderful people.

For many centuries, the Jewish people did not have friends; indeed, Christians were often counted among their greatest enemies. But today the situation is different. Hundreds of millions of Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christians in North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia are united in their love for – and strong defense of – a sovereign Jewish state with Jerusalem as its capital.

As the heir of a great tradition of Jewish leadership going back thousands of years, you will be standing on the shoulders of giants. But now your shoulders, too, will be burdened by the responsibilities of statesmanship as you lead your country in difficult times. We pray that God grants you wisdom and strength as you make hard decisions that will affect the lives of millions, and we trust that He will answer those prayers.

May you, your family, and your coalition partners be blessed as you lead the people of Israel into a new phase of its history. Please consider us friends in the spirit of our common values and allies in a common mission. We look forward to meeting you in person the next time we are in Jerusalem.

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