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Evangelicals Venture To Israel in Show of Solidarity

By Michele Chabin
solidarity israel evangelicals
People attending an International Christian Embassy Jerusalem solidarity mission tour the devastation at Kibbutz Nir Oz in southern Israel. (Photo courtesy of International Christian Embassy Jerusalem)

Gerald McDermott, an American Anglican priest and retired professor of theology, had visited Israel 22 times before his most recent trip. The author of two books on Christian Zionism and the meaning of Israel to Christianity, he was invited to join a mission in late January to show solidarity with the Israeli people in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre

“I’d seen most of the Oct. 7 videos,” McDermott said, referring to footage of the atrocities committed by Hamas at several kibbutzim and a dance party near Israel’s border with Gaza on that warm autumn day. The attack left 1,200 people in Israel dead and 240 held hostage in Gaza.

But nothing prepared McDermott, he said, for encountering the scene at Kibbutz Nir Oz, where Hamas entered the home of the Bibas family and tortured them before kidnapping them.

“You see all the blood on the walls, the bullet holes, the baby’s toys,” McDermott said the day after he and dozens of other pastors from around the world visited. “What we saw in living color was the hatred that Satan himself has for the Jewish people. Satan hates the Jews because he knows God loves them. Satan is living in and inspiring Hamas,” McDermott asserted. 

The mission, organized by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, included a visit to Sderot, a Gaza border city that has sustained numerous rocket attacks by Hamas in the past two decades. The group also went to northern Israel, from where tens of thousands of Israeli residents have been displaced by missiles launched by Hezbollah in Lebanon. 

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israel solidarity
Pictures of the Bibas family are seen at the entrance of their house at Kibbutz Nir Oz, southern Israel, Dec. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

The participants, who hail from 18 countries, heard eyewitness testimony from massacre victims and some of the relatives of the 136 Israelis still being held captive.

The number of visitors to Israel has decreased dramatically since its war with Hamas began. Airlines have reduced the number of fights, and the hotels have been packed with evacuees. But in December, groups of evangelical Christians began to arrive, according to those who have organized the trips.

“In the past two months we’ve seen dozens, if not hundreds, of Christian groups coming to Israel,” said Josh Reinstein, director of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, a not-for-profit organization that encourages support for Israel among politicians and faith leaders abroad.

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Josh Reinstein. (Photo via Knesset Christian Allies Caucus)

Since Oct. 7, evangelical Christians have donated tens of millions of dollars to Israel’s first responders and nongovernmental organizations that assist war victims.

“Christians, and not only in America, are supporting Israel like never before,” Reinstein said, pointing to pro-Israel rallies sponsored by Christians in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. In the U.S. especially, evangelical Christians actively lobby lawmakers to support Israel. Prominent American evangelicals made their voices heard loudly at November’s March for Israel on the National Mall in Washington.

Pastor Lisa Powell, the founder of Lisa Powell Ministries International in Corona, California, said she came to Israel in January on her 38el visit “to really see what I could do for the people here and pray about how we can be a blessing in a more tangible way.”

Because the group stayed in a Jerusalem hotel that is hosting dozens of evacuee families from Sderot, Powell had the opportunity to sit with them and learn about how they are coping with loss and displacement.

“That really pulled on my heart,” Powell said. “I’m a grandmother of 18 and also a great-grandmother. Entire families are staying in one hotel room. They are in a state of trauma, but they are strong, strengthened by being together as a community. Under any other circumstances they would be in a refugee camp, but the Israeli government is assisting them.” 

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Christians on an International Christian Embassy Jerusalem solidarity mission visit a parking lot of burned cars while touring Israel. (Photo courtesy of International Christian Embassy Jerusalem)

Given the broad support for Gaza’s Palestinians among many young people, Powell hopes to bring a delegation of Christian college students to Israel so they can experience the country for themselves. “They only know what they see in the media and on TikTok, which is targeting the younger generation to disillusion them and to turn them against Israel,” the faith leader said.

Nick Hansen, the co-pastor of a Pentecostal church in Denmark, was in Israel on Oct. 7 to celebrate the Feast of the Tabernacles. While the shock of that day has subsided, he said, “there is now a somberness, a silence, a void without joy and without peace,” in Israel. “Everyone seems to be on high alert, on guard for the next attack.”

Hansen said he felt compelled to come on the mission with the other pastors to see the carnage for himself. “Sitting in Europe and watching the news, we wonder whether Israel is going too far. Being here, you understand the sheer evil of Oct. 7. It was a celebration of death, a brutality that doesn’t exist even in nature,” he said.

solidarity israel
Shelly Shem-Tov tells the story of her kidnapped son, Omer Shem-Tov, to an International Christian Embassy Jerusalem solidarity mission visiting Israel. (Photo courtesy International Christian Embassy Jerusalem)

Pastor Ken Soltys, the founder of Ken Soltys Ministries in Hayesville, North Carolina, said he was deeply affected by the pastors’ encounters with the families of Israeli hostages in a Jerusalem hotel. Shelly Shem-Tov described the kidnapping of her son Omer Shem-Tov, explaining that he has asthma and celiac disease.

“Omer is our youngest. We call him our sunshine. He’s a good boy who went to a festival to dance,” the mother told the pastors. “I hope you will go home and tell your community our story. I hope this nightmare will end and I will hug my sunshine.”

Michele Chabin is a contributor to Religion News Service.



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5 Respuestas

  1. What is it going to take to get Christians to wake up to the fact that Israel is the provacateur. The massacre of Palestinians in 1947 by the tens of thousands by the Irgun terrorists that was completely unjustified can never be “rectified”. Israel must give the land back to the Palestinians and abandon their delusion that a white Ashkenazi convert to Talmudic Judaism has any right whatsoever in the land of Palestine. Free Palestine!!!

    1. Stick to the point please Greg Norris. A word from you calling for the immediate safe release of the hostages by Hamas will start a reasonable discussion. Thanks again Greg Norris.

    2. Thank you Greg. The propaganda of the Israeli state is quite incredible. To watch the unfolding horrors upon the Palestinian people, and understand that this has been happening for the past 75 years is eye opening. I am so sorry that it took me so long to see it for what it is, realising how the state of Israel has manipulated the world. But to hear them talking about the whole people of Palestine as less than human is horrifying.
      I think walking away from the evangelical church was the beginning, I didn’t realise how indoctrinated I was.

  2. I challenge all of you to read Alan Dershowitz’s “The Case for Israel.” Review the historical facts he presents and see whether you can maintain your positions. Here’s an interesting quote: “Between 1880 and 1967, virtually no Arab or Palestinian spokesperson called for a Palestinian state. Instead they wanted the area that the Romans had designated as Palestine to be merged into Syria or Jordan. As Auni Bey Abdul-Hati, a prominent Palestinian leader, told the Peel Commission in 1937, “There is no such country…Palestine is a term the Zionists invented…Our country was for centuries part of Syria.”pg 7.

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Hola. Vemos que este es el tercer artículo de este mes que ha encontrado que vale la pena leer. ¡Estupendo! ¿Consideraría hacer una donación deducible de impuestos para ayudar a nuestros periodistas a continuar informando la verdad y restaurar la iglesia?

Your tax-deductible gift helps our journalists report the truth and hold Christian leaders and organizations accountable. Give a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “The Atlas Factor: Shifting Leadership Onto the Shoulders of Jesus” by Lance Ford.