American and Israeli flags fluttered through the Washington Convention Center’s aisles with the forceful wind of belief and commitment last Tuesday. Believers sitting in front rows, side rows or anywhere in between joined hands and danced the hora to the sound mostly of lively klezmer music.
What followed then was reminiscent of a religious tent meeting as Pastor John Hagee brought the crowd of over 4,000 to order.
This was Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and its eighth annual summit. While evangelical in its feel, there were many Jews who spoke and who were there just because it was important to show support.
Hagee founded CUFI, which now counts move than 1 million members. It is an organization unabashedly pro-Israel. Some of its speakers included Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (via satellite); Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations; Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Organizations; House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and many other elected officials and pro-Israel activists, both Jewish and Christian.
Netanyahu told the audience that Israel isn’t the focus of Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons.
“Those weapons aren’t prepared to launch against Israel,” he said. “They already have nuclear missiles. Those ICBMs are intended to hit the United States, and that could happen very soon.”
He also said, “What an achievement, I salute you. … Iran is working tirelessly, aggressively, but Israel is strong, we will guard our country.”
Cruz, one of the evening’s keynote speakers, said, “What’s wrong with the world are regimes from Tehran to the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo that permit or even encourage the continued persecution and murder of Christians and Jews.”
Prior to the evening’s addresses, WJW talked to David Brog, CUFI’s executive director, and Josh Ahrens, a college student from Portland, Ore., who is part of CUFI on Campus, a branch of CUFI that has trained more than 2,000 students in 120 chapters to discuss, debate and advocate for Israel on college campuses.
“Our Washington summit is a time for us to engage our elected officials on Capitol Hill that Israel is not just a Jewish issue, but for all Americans it is an American issue,” Brog said.
Any threat to Israel is a threat to the United States, he continued.
Ahrens said that CUFI has identified about a third of all college students to be pro-Israel. College students, he added, have a lot of questions for CUFI on Campus representatives. He also said that there is sometimes push back from some students.
“The reception is always mixed,” he said. “But the discussions about Israel are deeply engaging.”
Another person sitting nearby said that Israel and the United States should be “watching for signs of 1938 all over again,” referring to the rise of Nazi Germany. “CUFI, you should realize is pro-Israel. It is not anti-Arab nor is it anti-Islam.”
Some of the breakout sessions included “Israel 101-The Basics of the Arab Israeli Conflict,” “Committed To Israel’s Destruction: Hezbollah and Hamas,” “Targeting the Sunday People.”
“Targeting the Sunday People” covered the persecution of Christians who live in Arab nations.
“Myths and Facts: Refuting the Negative Myths About Israel,” was part of a second group of sessions that also included “Iran: Eye of the Storm,” and “The Biblical Mandate to Stand With Israel.”
At its Middle East briefing, CUFI presented speakers including Netanyahu, Cantor, Israeli Minister of Tourism Uzi Landau, and others.
Speaking the cruel truth, Landau nonetheless brought forth a laugh when he told the audience: “News flash, our neighbors don’t want us to exist.”
Another speaker told the receptive crowd: “When we come together like this, we are created in the image of God. The efforts to separate us are meaningless.”
Perhaps Hoenlein summed it up the best when he said, “The prophets were not prophets of doom but prophets of hope. You just have to read it right. Here’s my advice: Don’t bet against the Jewish people. And the Jewish lobby is a myth, but it’s our job to make it a legend.”