A couple of weeks ago I attended the local Israel Independence Day festival near my home. Of the many groups and vendors promoting themselves at the festival, one in particular caught my eye. It was Christians United for Israel, or CUFI for short.
For a vendor with a small booth at a festival, the people from CUFI were remarkably well organized and stocked with informational booklets, pledge forms to support Israel, and circulars for their annual conference in Washington, D.C.
But beyond the well-appointed booth, I was most impressed with the people manning it. I spent a good twenty minutes speaking with people I will identify as Susan, David, and Marilyn about my work as an advocate for Israel, Christianity, Judaism, CUFI, and of course, Israel.
At the conclusion of our discussion, Marilyn pulled out a ticket to CUFI’s “A Night to Honor Israel” event. When I asked her what I owed her for the ticket, she said, “Nothing. You need to be there.”
As it turns out, she was absolutely right.
Upon arriving at the Saban Theater in Los Angeles, I was immediately struck by the welcome I received. As soon as I stepped foot inside the entrance, I was greeted with warm smiles and handed an American flag and an Israeli flag along with the evening’s program.
The theater was packed with people from nearly every walk of life. I heard Hebrew being spoken by men wearing kippas, I saw elderly people in wheelchairs, toddlers scrambling about, blacks, whites, and Pacific Islanders–both sexes and all ages–some dressed in suits and ties, others sporting jeans and T-shirts.
The night began with a prerecorded message from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. At the conclusion of Netanyahu’s remarks, the entire auditorium erupted with applause and a sea of American and Israeli flags held high and waving.
The entire audience then stood for America’s national anthem and remained standing for Israel’s as well.
What followed were a series of gifted speakers delivering passionate speeches in support of Israel, from directors of CUFI to Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Without exception, every speaker’s pro-Israel remarks were met with the same raucous applause and flag-waving as Netanyahu’s remarks.
As a special treat, in between speeches the audience was entertained by renowned Israeli singer Dudu Fisher singing songs about Israel and Jerusalem.
But without a doubt, the highlight of the evening was the keynote speech given by Pastor John Hagee, the founder of CUFI. With a combination of wit, scripture, history, zeal, and a self-deprecating sense of humor, Hagee presented a moving and impassioned case for support of Israel.
He detailed his spiritual journey that led him to establish the organization, the initial lackluster response he received, and even the many death threats made against him. Hagee joked about the death threats, saying that in Texas where he hails from, the threats really mean something because everyone in Texas owns at least one gun.
While Pastor Hagee likes to joke, CUFI is no joke. It is the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States, boasting one million three hundred thousand members. According to its program, it is also one of the leading Christian grassroots movements in the world and holds over five hundred pro-Israel events annually. It also holds an annual summit in Washington, D.C. where it provides talking points packets, meetings with elected officials, and even a Congressional directory.
That kind of pro-Israel support is critically needed in our day and age. At a time when Europe is increasingly anti-Semitic, America is really one of the last bastions of pro-Israel support. And statistics show as much. Polls show that sixty seven percent of Christians support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.
However, on college campuses the numbers are inverted. Only thirty two percent of students support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.
Everyone knows that universities have gone from being institutions of higher learning to left wing incubators for anti-American and anti-Israel radicals. Yet we also know that America’s future policy makers, heads of industry, and great scientific minds will come from these very secular, left wing, anti-Western institutions.
In response to this challenge, CUFI has courageously established CUFI on Campus to counter anti-Israel propaganda on the universities’ own turf and push for support of Israel based on traditional Biblical values and history.
At a time when Israel is facing some of the greatest challenges since its founding as a modern nation-state from the likes of Hamas and Hizballah terrorists, an unstable Syria, an Islamist Egypt, and a nuclear driven Iran, it is heartening to see such widespread and heartfelt support within America.
Pastor Hagee and CUFI are truly doing God’s work in supporting and honoring Israel. May God bless them.