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PAGE 12A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 29, 2013 bk,~ _ CUFI CUF! founder Pastor John Hagee (left) with U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman ofthe House Committee on Foreign Affairs, at a dinner in Hagee's honor on Nov. 7 in New York. By Scan Savage JNS.org NEW YORK--With more than 1.6 million members, Pastor John Hagee's Chris- tians United For Israel (CUFI) has become a powerful force in pro-Israel advocacy in Ameri- can politics. Additionally, his humanitarian work--includ- ing the donation of more than $80 million to Israeli charities--has earned him growing praise from the Jew- ish community. But despite the efforts of Hagee, who is arguably the face of Christian Zionism to- day, many Jews remain skep- tical of Evangelical support for Israel. That phenomenon can be understood against the backdrop of Christian Zion- ism's history of embracing competing theological and political ideologies, a trend that persists today. Deeply rooted in the Chris- tian faith, especially Protes- tantism, Christian Zionism emerged in the U. S. and Great Britain in the 19th century, when leaders such as Lord Shaftesbury and William Eugene Blackstone helped shape the movement's policies in their respective countries. More modern Christian lead- ers like Winston Churchill and Harry Truman, working with Jewish friends, set the course for their governments' sup- port for and recognition of the modern state of Israel. Hagee seeks to continue that legacy. "Before CUFI there was nothing to give American evangelicals a national voice for Israel," Hagee told JNS. org in an exclusive sit-down interview on the eve of a major dinner with Jewish leaders in his honor in New York. While Hagee has been a staunch supporter of Israel since the early 1980s, when he ~rst organized the now Silver. CO!fis. Gold i;. Diamonds Daniel Montesi 407,831-8544 rkcash corn www w, nterpa famous "Night to Honor Israel" at his Cornerstone Church in SanAntonio, Texas, CUFI--founded in 2006--has arguably become his most powerful tool in support of Israel. "Our main and initial objective was to get thou- sands of leaders to go each year to Washington, D.C. to engage every senator and congressman as to why we as evangelicals support Israel," Hagee said. It wasn't always easy to garner Christian support for Israel. For most of Christian history, the teaching of re- placement theology--which argues that the Christian church has replaced Israel and the Jewish people regard- ing the plan, purpose and promises of God--has been a dominant teaching. Hagee initially faced push- back from other Christians regarding his ministry's support for Israel---his own church, as well as his family,. was threatened by violence that included bomb threats and smashed windows. "Israel has always had its enemies. When I first started supporting Israel over 30 years ago, I was using the TV platform to preach against the doctrine of replacement theology, which was all the rage then," he said. Despite CUFI's growth--it calls itself America's largest Every day that you're outside, you're exposed to dangerous, but invisible, ul~aviolet (UV) sunlight Left unprotected, prolonged exposure to UV radiation can seriously damage the eye, leading to catara~, skin cancer around the eyelid and ot~er eye disorders. Protecting your eyes is important to maintaining eye health now and in the future. Shield your eyes (and your family's eyes) from hmfal UV rays. Wear sunglasses with ma]dmum UY protection. I THEVISIONCOUNCIL pro-Israel group--Christian Zionists today still face sig- nificant threats from anti- Zionist Christians, who use their faith to accost Israel over its policies toward the Palestinians. The anti-Zionist movement is based in the Bethlehem Bible Church, an evangelical church in the West Bank, which hosts the "Christat Checkpoint" confer- ence, gathering evangelical leaders to criticize Israel and promote Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Jewish state. Hagee sees no difference be- tween these modern Christian anti-Zionists and traditional Christian anti-Semites. "From time to time, groups organize for purposes that are anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. You can't divorce the two. You can call it your theology, but it's anti-Semitism within a theological umbrella. I place all these people in the category ofanti-Semiteswith a new flag to fly," he said. Christian Zionism has also faced resistance in its efforts to be accepted by the Jewish community. Hagee admitted that it is only natural for some Jews to be skeptical of Chris- tians due to the long history of Christian anti-Semitism, as evidenced during the Crusades, Inquisition, and Holocaust. "I think there are Jewish people who have what my rabbi friend Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg (an Orthodox rabbi in San Antonio) says is a '2000-year knee flinch' of their skepticism of the Chris- tian agenda," Hagee said. "The Jewish people are very aware of history and it will take just more than a few Christians singing kumbaya to change their mind," he said. Aside from history, there are significant political, geo- graphical, and cultural differ- ences between Evangelicals and Jews that bolster Jewish suspicions of Evangelicals.Ac- cording to the Pew Research Center, evangelical and born- bgain Christians voted an overwhelmingly 79 percent for Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the 2012 presiden- tial election, while Jews voted overwhelmingly in the other direction--69 percent--for President Barack Obama. Ad- ditionally, Pew says most Jews tend to live in heavily urban- ized regions in the Northeast like New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, while Evangelicals are most heav- ily concentrated in southern states like Tennessee, Texas, and Oklahoma. The American Hebrew Academy Honor Society is accepting nominations for eighth- and ninth-grade stu- dents who have shown excel- lence in academics, character, leadership and community service. The society's goal is to acknowledge bright, hard- working, well-rounded stu- dents who are nominated by school personnel, rabbis, Jew- ish community professionals, camp directors, counselors, coaches, and/or friends for Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, how- ever, breaks the mold of Jew- ish Americans. He was born and raised in New York and is a conservative who has worked in the south for many years for and with evangelical Christians, including former President George W. Bush. Fleischer, a close friend of Hagee, told JNS.org that his Jewish friends constantly express their skepticism of Evangelicals. "Just like any bigotry, if you don't know somebody you are inclined to stereotype them. As soon as you get to know them, it starts to break down. This is true in both direc- tions; I've seen conservatives make false judgments ]about people] who they may not know, just like liberals, Jews and anybody else who are not aware of the evangelical community," Fleischer told JNS.org. "All the years I've spentwith Evangelicals, I never once had anybody trying to convince me of anything or make me think differently about my beliefs," Fleischer said. Fleischer added, "When they ]Evangelicals] say they are praying for you, it doesn't mean they are praying for you to convert. It is a heartfelt gesture that truly shows how deeply they care about your well-being." Hagee understands Jewish skepticism of Evangelicals, but hopes Jews can also be open-minded. "They have a historical right to be skeptical, ]but] all I ask for is the Opportunity to present my message," he said. Regardless of any Jew- ish debates over Christian Zionism, it was clear at the dinner in Hagee's honor that the pastor and CUFI are well respected in the eyes of prominent mainstream Jew- ish leaders. "I've had a long relationship with [Hagee] and I participat- ed in his Washington confer- ences and his 'Night to Honor Israel;' it is a remarkable experience that everybody should have. He cares deeply about Israel. And his audi- ences are very passionate and committed. I deeply respect Pastor Hagee, he does not have alternative agendas and is very committed to Israel's vitality and survival," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Confer- ence of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organiza- tions, who presented Hagee with a lifetime achievement award at the dinner. membership in to the Ameri- can Hebrew Academy Honor Society. All Honor Society stu- dents will be able to com- pete for five (5) $20,000 annual merit-based schol- arships to attend the Ameri- can Hebrew Academy (Day students will be eligible to receive $10,000 annual merit-based scholarship). While students are en- couraged to consider the Academy for their high school career, it is not a Hoenlein gave his take on Jewish skepticism of Evan- gelicals in an interview with JNS.org. "First of all, you evaluate each partner on an individua[ basis, and there are certainly some with legitimate suspi- cions. However, that is not true with Pastor Hagee and CUFI. While he does have his religious beliefs, he does not impose them onyou and he is very respectful of your faith," he said. "We need the evangelical community... I would ask people to embrace their true friends and, as to those who engage in questionable prac- tices, we should isolate them," he added. Michael Kassen, president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, echoed Hoenlein's sentiment on Hagee. "We're thrilled that he's been a real pro-Israel leader for decades. Our belief is that is it very important that support for Israel, which is already strong among Jew- ish Americans, also extend beyond the Jewish people to include Christians and many others," Kassen told JNS.org. Israeli Prime Minister Ben- jamin Netanyahu, addressing the dinner in avideo message, spoke about his long friend- shipwith Hagee. Nobel Laure- ate and noted Holocaust survi- vor Elie Wiesel, sitting next to Hagee, lamented that if there were more gentiles like him, history might have turned out differently. In avideo message, News Corporation CEO and Chairman Rupert Murdoch praised Hagee for standing up for democracy and freedom. Hagee told JNS.org that he has enjoyed a warm relation- ship with many Jewish leaders over the years, including every single Israeli prime minister since Menachem Begin. "Begin was a great Bibli- cal scholar and held Bible teaching every Friday night, which he invited me to. Each time I met with him it was a very enjoyable opportunity as friends to share common principles of faith that bound us together. That has never really changed, from when I met Begin to Netanyahu today," Hagee said. Hagee is hopeful that his church and CUFI will con- tinue to flourish. "I hope that the next gen- eration [of CUFI advocates] will rise up to be aggressive and intelligent leaders that will continue its work until all the enemies of Israel are defeated," he said. 4 requirement for member- ship in the Honor Society. "The American Hebrew Academy is a remarkable edu' cational institution with an outstanding faculty and stu- dent body. Identifying terrific 8th and 9th grade students follows the school's mission of shaping, inspiring, and creating the next generation of Jewish leaders," said Leslie Grossman, the Academy's admissions director. To make a nomination, go to.www.ahahonorsociety.org.