Hundreds gathered in Beverly Hills on April 28 to hear from John Hagee, the Evangelical pastor who founded Christians United for Israel (CUFI), at the organization’s second annual Night to Honor Israel in Los Angeles.
Speaking to a mostly Christian audience, some of whom had arrived on coach buses from across Southern California, Hagee told his well-rehearsed story of becoming a Zionist during a 1978 visit to the Western Wall and urged the crowd to join him.
“We as Christians have gathered in this place tonight to say that supporting Israel is not a political issue, it is a Bible issue,” said the founder and senior pastor of the 20,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. “We believe that those who bless Israel will be blessed and those who curse Israel will be cursed.”
Long inspired to bring Christians together with Jews to support Israel, Hagee, 73, held the first Night to Honor Israel in 1982 in San Antonio; he founded CUFI in 2006. The organization now holds more than 40 such events every month in cities across the country.
CUFI has more than 1 million members who reliably contact and lobby their representatives in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the group’s single issue: strong U.S. support of Israel. Programs like the one on Sunday night at the Saban Theatre on Wilshire Boulevard are designed to reinforce the commitment of the group’s supporters and to recruit new members from the country’s Evangelical Christians.
“We’re not preaching to the choir, we’re rallying our troops,” CUFI Executive Director David Brog said, as audience members waved the American and Israeli flags they’d been given at the theater’s front door.
The crowd did include a few Jews, likely put at ease by CUFI’s conscious decision to set aside theological differences with Jews in order to lend support to the Jewish state. CUFI maintains that it does not aim to advance any particular Israeli policies, but Hagee made clear in his speech that he personally objects to any partition of either the land of Israel or Jerusalem.
If Hagee’s message was simple and straightforward, Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, attempted to convey in 35 minutes the complexity of the Middle East today.
The ongoing “Arab upheaval,” Hoenlein said, is actually a conflict between Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood over who will control the region.
“And what’s blocking them? One little piece of land,” Hoenlein said, referring to Israel. “One little bastion of democracy is stopping all of these evil forces from achieving their ends.”