Israel is losing the support of the Evangelicals

Israel’s solid foundation of Evangelical support is eroding among the Millennial generation. Action is needed.

Is Israel losing one of its strongest pillars of support? • Until recently, the 100-million strong Evangelical community was an enthusiastic friend of the Jewish State • But in the past few years, Evangelical Millennials have grown increasingly attracted to anti-Israel messages • If Israel and the Jewish community does not act soon, it will lose one of its most important friends

מאוהב לאויב? הפגנת תמיכה בישראל. צילום: נתי שוחט, פלאש 90
How long will this support last? A pro-Israel demonstration. Photo: Nati Shohat, Flash90


Since the creation of Israel, the Evangelical Christians have been among its biggest and most devoted supporters. According to the Evangelical belief, the return of the Jews to their land heralds the return of Jesus – and their relation to the Jewish state derives from that: A Pew survey conducted in 2013, showed that there are more Evangelicals than American Jews who believe that God gave the land to the Jews. When taking into account that the American Evangelicals are about 100 million people, of which 15 million youngsters are ”Millennials”, these figures are not surprising.

However, in recent years the situation is changing. Distinct signs indicate that the anti-Israel activity among the Evangelicals is gaining momentum. A coalition led by progressive activists, supersessionist theologians and Palestinian Christians, reaches out to the young Evangelicals who have become estranged to their communities and subject them to propaganda.

The increase of anti-Israel activity is taking place against the background of both demographic and ideological changes among Evangelicals. The older generation who lived during the Holocaust and saw the establishment of Israel and the Arab efforts to destroy it is diminishing, and they are slowly being replaced by the younger generation who lack knowledge in the subject and who are willing to lend a sympathetic ear to anti-Israel narratives.

David Brog, executive director of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), claims that:

”Anti-Israeli activists are getting a surprising grip in the Evangelical community, especially among the Millennial generation. They are telling lies about Israel, thus making progress. We ignore them at our peril”.

The identity crisis of American society is also taking its toll on young Evangelicals. These find themselves with ‘old’ and conservative perceptions, in contrast to the American public that has largely adopted progressive and post-modern perceptions. Thus, a growing number of people within this devotional community sees Evangelism as a source for prejudice and racism, the young Evangelicals are looking for a way to separate themselves from their conservative, gay-hating elders. Engaging in pro-Palestinian activity provides them a way to do that and communicate with the rest of American society.

In an interview with Manfred Gerstenfeld, Jim Fletcher, author and expert on Israel-Evangelicals relations says that major power centers within the American evangelism are already committed to spreading the Palestinian version to the conflict. A leading Evangelical organization for leadership and education, Catalyst, allows for pro-Palestinian narratives to be spread across the U.S. Its director in particular cultivates strong relationships with anti-Israel Christians, such as Sami Awad from the holy land foundation.

“Christ at the Checkpoint”

The beginning of the ”Evangelical Intifada” can be traced back to 2010, where the anti-Zionist movie ”With God on our side” was released and the first ”Christ at the checkpoint” conference was held in Bethlehem. 250 people attended the conference organized by the Bethlehem Bible College and the Holy Land Foundation, which has close ties with the ‘Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center’, which is promoting the narrative of ‘Jesus was a Palestinian’ (as you can see in ‘The stones cry out’ movie).

The conference presented messages undermining the legitimacy of the Jewish people and their state. Mitri Raheb, a priest from Bethlehem, said that ”the Israeli president Netanyahu is not really a Jew with a connection to Israel, because he comes originally from an east European tribe who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages”. The first conference received sparse coverage, but the watershed is the conference in 2012, which already concluded 600 participants.

In a study published by Dexter Van Zile in the JCPA, it was found that the mayor of Bethlehem, Victor Batarseh, used motifs from the New Testament against Israel. According to Batarseh, the Palestinians have been crucified by the Israeli security forces, Bethlehem is a giant prison and Jesus – who lays inside the body of the Palestinians – is imprisoned inside the city surrounded by the separation wall. In a recent conference’s Manifesto which was held in March 2014, declared that there are some genuine injustices occurring in Palestinian territories and that their suffering cannot be ignored anymore. The program of the tour in Hebron is described like this: ”We will be visiting the old market where strongholds of Israeli settlers, guarded by Israeli forces, have squeezed the life off the area”.

Movies with twisted narratives

The movie ”With God on our side”, released in 2010 and produced by Porter Speakman Jr. , a film maker trained in presenting a distorted narrative of the conflict. The movie follows the hero’s conscience crisis, starting as an enthusiastic supporter of Israel and then becoming aware to the suffering of the Palestinians. Eventually he drops his support for Israel and adopts a more mature attitude towards Christianity and the conflict. At the end of the movie, the hero replaces his feelings of guilt over the Holocaust with guilt over Palestinian suffering.

The movie, which was presented across the U.S, Britain and Ireland, describes the support for Israel as an irresponsible target and the pro-Palestinian activity as the ‘next big thing’. Another part in the anti-Israeli Propaganda is the movie ”Little Town of Bethlehem”, which presents the Palestinian liberation struggle as being the same as that of African-Americans in the United States.

Willow Creek Church

Another key factor is the Willow-Creek Association in Chicago, an important secondary stream of the protestant Evangelicals in the U.S. and an umbrella organization for 9000 churches and controls the Evangelical stronghold in the Sun Belt states. These churches use the media extensively in order to deliver distorted messages about the conflict.  Lynne Hybels is the co-founder of Willow Creek and a well-known speaker among the new generation of the Evangelicals. Under its current leadership, Willow Creek is a base for anti-Zionism in the community.

Gary Burge for example, a senior lecturer in Willow Creek, is promoting his book “Whose land? Whose promise? What Christians are not being told about Israel and Palestinians”. The first edition came out in 2003 with plenty of factual errors found in it: Among others was the claim that Israeli Arabs are not allowed to serve in the army. According to a study made by members of CAMERA, they approached Burge and confronted him with his mistakes. He promised that a new revised and updated version is going to be published. However, there are also mistakes in the new edition, such as the claim that the Arabs in Israel are obliged to write their grandmother’s name in the license – even though it’s a part of their internal practice. In response to the allegations directed against him, Burge said that ”We must examine the essence of the book and that is: there is an occupation of 3.8 million people”.

Relevant Magazine

Cameron Strang serves a clear example for the difference between generations regarding the Evangelical support for Israel. His father Steve is the publisher of Charisma – an Evangelical magazine holding a pro-Israeli perspective. However, Cameron is the publisher of Relevant – a very popular magazine among Evangelical Millennials. When the magazine was first published in 2003 it was pro-Israel, but in recent years it took a sharp turn.

Readers need to understand that we’re talking about one of the main media publications among young Evangelicals. It comes out every two months in 70,000 copies, where most of the readers are young people aged 18-39. In 2012 there were 500,000 visits to the website. The March-April edition was themed ”Blessed are the peace makers” and presents a great example of the new approach towards the conflict, which was adopted by Strang. In the editorial, Strang is telling the story of Bassam Aramin, a young Palestinian who served time in prison for his involvement in terrorist activity. The key moment is Bassam’s conversation with the Israeli warden while in prison.

The warden asks Aramin: ”What made you become a terrorist? And Aramin replies: ”You are the terrorist who’s sending here settlers and soldiers to take my land. I’m just a freedom fighter who’s trying to protect my village and my house”. Strang concludes with a kind of comparison between the Holocaust and the Palestinian suffering:

Aramin never thought about the trauma of the Jews. At the same time, his warden never thought about the sober reality of daily life for Palestinians – without many civil rights that he took for granted.

Telos Group

Another study made by CAMERA revealed one of the key engines of the new Evangelicals: Telos Group, which is based in Washington and has been founded by Gregory Khalil and Todd Deathrage. In its website Telos is defined as pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian, pro-American and pro-peace. The activity of the group mainly focuses on organizing seminars for training and education about the conflict. The seminars are being held in the U.S., where both Israeli and Palestinian leaders are invited, and also in Israel – where educational tours for selected leaders take place.

הצעירים לא מתחברים כמו המבוגרים; אוונגליסטים בירושלים. צילום: פלאש 90
The young are not as enthusiastic as the old; Evangelicals in Jerusalem. Photo: Flash90.


The participants of these seminars allegedly receive an equal exposure for the positions of both sides, but in reality they mostly hear a one-sided Palestinian narrative, that shows the Palestinians as victims and the Israelis as oppressors. For example, they are hearing Mitri Raheb who was mentioned above, and Archbishop Elias Chacour – who plays a major role in the anti-Israeli movie ”The Stones cry out” and says there: ”It is surprising that the Jews made others endure what they had endured”.

In 2013, the Presidential Advisory Council for Telos has been established, consisting of a broad panel of 20 public opinion and policy leaders. Among others serves there Salam Al-Marayati who said about September 11:

We should look to the groups that benefit the most from these kinds of incidents, and I think we should put the state of Israel on the suspect list because this diverts attention from what’s happening in the Palestinian territories.

Another member in the panel is Lynne Hybels; According to a report made by NGO Monitor, at least one half of Telos’ funding in 2008-2010 came from the George Soros Foundation.

Donald Miller

One of the rising stars among millennial Evangelicals is the writer Donald Miller. After his visit to Israel and the west bank in the autumn of 2012, Miller published a post in his blog entitled ”The painful truth about the situation in Israel”. According to Miller, Israel rations the food of the Palestinians, and while most of Hamas Rockets fall in empty areas, Israeli missiles targeted towards Gaza strike into one of the most densely populated areas in the world.  ”How many pictures of dead Palestinian babies will Americans tolerate?” He asks. ”This is no longer your grandmother’s Israel”.

The Palestinian effort among Evangelicals is targeted. The organizations and individuals that were listed above represent themselves as balanced, but the content speaks for itself. We’re talking about a very well-oiled machine who’s getting support from anti-Israeli organizations.As time goes by, the historic Evangelical support for Israel whose potential is huge, is making way for a pro-Palestinian propaganda. As Jim Fletcher said, ”If something isn’t done soon, in 10 years the pro-Israel support among American Evangelicals will be all gone”.

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1 comments on the article

  1. as satan tricked eva. so are christians slowly turning against israel. those of us who try our best to warn are labled extrimist and hate our neighbor. Worst lie is G_d of Israel and allah is same god. As sky is blue and grass is green and you get wet when swimming. G_d is Lord and there’s no other.