In a nondescript building just south of Los Angeles’ Koreatown, dozens of Christians gathered last week to worship Jesus and celebrate the nation of Israel.
One congregant jumped in front of the boisterous band that played in the small space, waving the Israeli flag, as others swayed to the music with their arms raised in the air.
“How many of you love Israel in this church?” the congregation was asked in Spanish.
This is Ministerios Shekinah, just one of many churches across the United States that is part of a grass-roots movement known as Christians United for Israel. Launched in February 2006, the group aims to build “Christian support for Israel throughout America through a program of education, outreach and events.”
Although Ministerios Shekinah is a Spanish-speaking congregation, Christians United for Israel works with Christians of all backgrounds and is said to be hundreds of thousands of members strong.
On this particular Thursday night, Christians United for Israel’s Pastor Carlos Ortiz — who travels around the country speaking to Hispanic congregations — recruits worshippers, or, as he puts it, “daughters of Zion,” to join a prayer e-mail list. He also collects signatures for a petition he says a half-million have already signed, which will eventually reach Washington, D.C.
Congregants sign off on statements in Spanish that say Jews have a right to live in Israel and that there is no justification for terrorism in the region.
When asked why Israel should be so important to Christians, Ortiz says it’s all in the Bible.
“Because Israel is our link to God. It’s the chosen nation, it’s the chosen people, and it is a mandate for all of us to bless the nation of Israel,” he said.
Ortiz said it’s his job to travel from church to church to make sure more Christians are educated about the importance of the Promised Land and not miss the opportunity to be blessed through their support of the nation.
Ortiz also insisted Christians United for Israel does not seek to convert Jews. Instead they are focused on preventing another Holocaust.
“We can’t allow the Islamic nations of the world to keep attacking,” he said, while making it clear that Christians United for Israel does not hold any animosity toward Muslims.
Assistant Pastor Joshua Alonzo, whose father founded Ministerios Shekinah almost a dozen years ago, says his church is part of the organization because it is Israel that feeds the church spiritually.
Israel, Alonzo said, is “where the blessings come from.”