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Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Father of Faith-Based Diplomacy

While growing up in Dallas, Josh Reinstein recalled learning the Passover story and that some of the Children of Israel had chosen to remain slaves in Egypt after their brethren were freed. This deeply disturbed him. Several years later, when he was bar mitzvah, Reinstein made his first visit to Israel. He stood in Jerusalem’s Zion Square and looked around, noting the Jews from all over the world. “It made me very sad and I began to cry,” he said. “Because at that moment, I realized that my family and all the people I knew growing up were those people who decided to stay back in Egypt while God was doing this incredible thing and bringing His people back to the land of Israel.”

After graduating from college, Reinstein made aliyah in 1999. In 2004, he helped establish the Israel Allies Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. The caucus would become the foundation for a global network of faith-based diplomacy. Today, Reinstein is the director of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus and the president of the Israel Allies Foundation, which coordinates the efforts of 36 Israel Allies Caucuses around the world. 

According to Reinstein, faith-based diplomacy is the most powerful weapon in Israel’s diplomatic arsenal. Specifically, Christian Zionists, or fundamentalist Christians. Evangelical Christian denominations constitute the “fastest growing religion” in some parts of the world, he said, particularly in Catholic-majority countries. He cited Brazil, which in 1948 (the year the State of Israel was created), was 100% Catholic. Today, Brazil is more supportive of Israel than ever before. The reason, Reinstein said, is because a third of the population has converted to fundamentalist Christianity. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was raised Catholic and later baptized as a Pentecostal. 

“Most of the successes we’re seeing in foreign relations come from Christians turning their biblical support into political action,” Reinstein said. Evangelicals, he added, are rising to positions of power and effecting change. In Bolsonaro’s case, he ordered the relocation of the Brazilian embassy to Jerusalem. 

According to Reinstein, the wave of conversion to evangelical Christianity began when God started to fulfill His covenant with Israel in 1948. The replacement theology of mainstream Christianity no longer made sense, he said. “How do you explain Israel if you believe you’ve replaced Israel? We have the ingathering of exiles; the desert blooming; Israel as a light unto the nations through its technology, and a lot of mainstream Christians were like, ‘Wait a minute, we were wrong. The covenant is an everlasting one. Look at what God is doing for the Jewish people in Israel. We want to be a part of that.’ ” 

IAF Chairman conference

Israel will continue to be “misdiagnosed,” Reinstein said, as long as people are looking at it through a political lens. “The only way that Israel makes sense is when you look at it through a biblical lens.”

Almost  two decades after making Israel his home, Reinstein’s exhilaration has not abated. Every day, he drinks his coffee on the terrace of his apartment and watches the Jerusalem skyline. “I can’t get over it,” he said. “I’m still giddy about being here.”

Josh Reinstein’s new book, “Titus, Trump and the Triumph of Israel: The Power of Faith Based Diplomacy,” is on pre-sale on Amazon

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