Evangelicals Slate Pro-Israel Lobbying

Some 2,000 extremely pro-Israel community and religious leaders will meet in Washington on July 19, fan out across Capitol Hill and, in effect, tell their legislators: If you want our political backing, you must support the Jewish state — no ifs or buts.

There won’t be a single Jew among the citizen lobbyists. They will all be evangelical Christians, mainly ordained and lay pastors, embarking on the first major public action of the newly formed Christians United for Israel (CUFI).

The founder and leader of the group is the Rev. John C. Hagee of the 19,000-member Cornerstone Church of San Antonio, Texas, and a televangelist whose broadcasts reach millions in the United States and 120 other countries.

In 1978, in the first of his 21 trips to Israel, “I went as a tourist and returned as a Zionist,” Hagee said.

Last week, Hagee visited Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego to enlist support for his 4-month-old organization –both among fellow evangelicals and in front of generally enthusiastic, but occasionally skeptical, Jewish audiences.

Addressing the Board of Rabbis of Southern California at the L.A. Jewish Community Building, Hagee outlined two major projects, in addition to the July summit in Washington:

  • Expand the existing “rapid response network” of 12,000 pastors, who can mobilize their congregations instantly to flood the White House and Congress with e-mails on any legislation affecting Israel’s security and well-being.
  • Institute an annual “Night to Honor Israel” in every major American city to assure Israel and Jews everywhere that “you do not stand alone.” The emotional event is already a fixture in large Texas cities and in other Southern states.

Hagee and his followers have given a total of $8.5 million to Israeli causes, including an orphanage and for absorption of Russian immigrants, he said, but the major impact of CUFI is likely to be on the political scene.

The pastor didn’t spell it out, but his associates made clear that they view CUFI as a kind of super American Israel Public Affairs Committee, representing some 50 million evangelical Christians. This constituency, in sharp contrast to the Jewish community, shares the conservative social outlook of the present administration and represents its hardcore political base.

This kind of influence cannot be ignored by U.S. Jews, said Shimon Erem, founding president of the Israel-Christian Nexus, who introduced Hagee.

“We don’t have too many friends; we cannot prevail without them,” said Erem.

CUFI’s purpose, according to its official brochure, is “to provide a national association through which every pro-Israel church, parachurch organization, ministry or individual in America can speak and act with one voice in support of Israel in matters related to biblical issues.”

The last six words may sound vague, but they are key to the evangelicals’ deeply rooted advocacy for Israel. As unquestioning believers in the inerrant truth of Scripture, Hagee and his followers are convinced that every inch of the God-given land belongs to the Jews alone and forever.

Hagee insists that he never interferes in the decisions of the Israeli government, but his opposition to the withdrawals in Gaza and the West Bank, for instance, gives concern to liberal Jewish organizations.

However, it is mainly Orthodox spokesmen, who otherwise agree with Hagee’s social and biblical views, who have publicly questioned whether the pastor’s underlying motive is the conversion of Jews in Israel and the Diaspora.

The Rabbinical Council of America, representing Orthodox rabbis and congregations, has officially protested the Israeli government’s license to Daystar, the second largest Christian network in the United States, to broadcast 24/7 over an Israeli satellite network.

Hagee, a major Daystar supporter and on-air personality, has consistently affirmed that he will not proselytize Jews, although the network’s lineup also includes “messianic” Jews with long pro-conversion records.

When Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz, head of the anti-cult Jews for Judaism, raised this issue with Hagee at the Los Angeles meeting, the pastor did not respond directly, but his genial Southern folksiness took on a harder edge.

“If rabbis would put more emphasis on putting Jewish kids into Jewish schools, young Jews would never want to become Christians,” Hagee said.



Mel Gibson Donates

$5 Million to Cedars-Sinai

Actor Mel Gibson has made a $5 million donation to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to help children from overseas receive expensive medical care, part of a Gibson family commitment dating back several years to a charity that helps sick children in poor countries.

“It’s going directly to the hospital, but we get to submit the kids,” said Cris Embleton, the Valencia-based founder of Healing the Children, which assists parents to obtain U.S. medical care for their children, especially for heart problems like those handled by Cedars-Sinai cardiologists.

Despite Gibson’s controversial high profile this year due to his blockbuster film, “The Passion of the Christ,” Embleton said the actor-filmmaker and his wife have been, “quietly giving money” since about 1999.

Gibson also is donating another $5 million to UCLA’s Mattel Children’s Hospital, which also works with Healing the Children. The organization was started 25 years ago as a Spokane, Wash.-based Christian-oriented charity but now is a nondenominational and nonprofit.

Embleton said Cedars-Sinai was chosen to receive the money partly because “a private hospital is much more apt to say yes to us,” and that Gibson has sponsored Cedars-Sinai cardiology teams working in Latin America.

“He’s been quietly supporting [Cedars-Sinai cardiology team] activities for years,” she said. “If he had wanted publicity at the height of the [‘Passion’] criticisms, he could have gotten it.” – David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Mugging Alert in Pico-Robertson

At 5:20 p.m. on Oct. 14, while walking outside her apartment in the Pico-Robertson district, writer and Jewish Journal contributor Lori Gottlieb was grabbed from behind, forced to the ground, cut with a knife and had her purse with $200 in cash stolen. She ended up with a fractured arm, swelling in her cranial cavity and she is waiting for blood test results to determine if the knife used to cut her carried any diseases.

The incident is one of several street muggings that have taken place recently in the Pico-Robertson area. Detective Randy Frederickson, robbery coordinator for the LAPD, West L.A. Detective Division, said that students outside Hamilton High School, which is on Canfield Street in the same area, have also been accosted by a man with a gun. Frederickson said that incidents were not related, although people matching the description of Gottlieb’s attackers (two African-American males, aged 20-25, driving a 2000 black Nissan Maxima with a license plate that starts with 4W) might have done a similar robbery in the Venice area

Frederickson said that the West Los Angeles area remains the safest in the city.

“We don’t want to minimize what happened, but we also don’t want people to think there is a problem that doesn’t exist,” he said, noting that robberies in the area are down 20 percent from last year.

“People that are most vulnerable are those that park in the streets or park in carports,” he said. “You need to be aware of your surroundings, and comply with the demands that a robber may make. Use good common sense when you are arriving home, and don’t ever go inside your house if you think there has been an intruder there. Stay outside and let us check it out.”

If you have questions about the robberies or safety, call Frederickson at the West Los Angeles LAPD office at (310) 575-8441 – Gaby Wenig, Staff Writer

Program Provides Tools to Combat Propaganda

A new program designed to prepare high school students to respond intelligently to the barrage of anti-Israel propaganda many of them will face in college made its official debut Oct. 17 at a major Jewish National Fund (JNF) conference in Los Angeles.

An estimated 120 Southland-area high school juniors and seniors from Tarbut V’Torah, Milken Community High School and other religious and secular campuses participated in the all-day affair. The event featured a speech by Ra’anan Gissin, senior adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, a panel of college students discussing campus anti-Semitism and sessions on Israeli history and advocating for the Jewish state.

Mara Suskauer, director of the JNF college activist department, said she hoped the gathering would give the future university students the tools with which to defend themselves from anti-Israel and anti-Semitic attacks.

“This will make them more comfortable before they get to school,” she said.

JNF and other sponsoring Jewish groups plan to hold future meetings for Los Angeles high school students and then take the program on the road to other cities with large Jewish populations. – Marc Ballon, Senior Writer

Democrats, Republican Clash in Election Debates

The pluses and minuses of the two main presidential candidates and their positions were argued back and forth in lively debates this month at two Los Angeles synagogues.

Howard Welinsky, Democrats for Israel chairman, debated Larry Greenfield, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition’s Southern California chapter, on both domestic issues and foreign affairs at Temple Ner Maarav in Encino on Oct. 9, in an event sponsored by the Council of Israeli Community.

The debate, which drew a crowd of about 200 mostly Israeli Americans, began with a discussion on the economy, jobs and gay marriage. However, it was the issue of the U.S.-Israeli relationship that sparked the most audience interest.

Welinsky emphasized Sen. John Kerry’s record on Israel with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, while Greenfield noted that many Israeli government officials consider President Bush the most pro-Israel president in U.S. history.

Greenfield portrayed Kerry as a far-left politician who could not be trusted on matters such as Israel. He pointed to Kerry’s comments to the Arab American Institute on the security barrier. Welinsky made the point that the Israeli Supreme Court had changed the barrier’s route.

On domestic matters, Welinsky labeled Bush a “captive of the far-right” on social issues, such as gay rights. Greenfield called Kerry a “captive” of the left-wing teachers unions on education reform.

The two speakers later fielded audience questions. Many of the questions were directed at Welinsky, often asking him about a perceived reluctance by Kerry to use military force. Welinsky pointed to the senator’s repeated assurances that he would not cede the U.S. prerogative to use force to any outside power.

At Westwood’s Sinai Temple, a vociferous audience of 600 made their feelings known with booing and hissing as Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) and the Republican Greenfield crossed swords verbally on Oct. 18 on issues surrounding the presidential election.

During the verbal sparring, the two clashed on the handling of the Iraq War, the Iran threat, tax cuts and other issues punctuating the presidential campaign, in addition to Israel’s security and the global rise of anti-Semitism.

Waxman suggested in the back and forth that the Iranian nuclear threat should be solved by the United Nations. Greenfield said that the Iran issue will have to be addressed in the next six months and asked who could be trusted to do it, replying, “I trust the president to do so.”

Among the groups sponsoring the event were the Jewish Community Relations Committee and the Anti-Defamation League. – Idan Ivri and David Finnigan, Contributing Writers