Home Christian News During Gaza War, Evangelicals Have Become Israel’s Best Friend

During Gaza War, Evangelicals Have Become Israel’s Best Friend

Israel Gaza Evangelicals
Freed hostage Sharon Alony Cunio, center, carries a poster of her husband, David Cunio, as she marches with other families of hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, in Re’im, southern Israel, as they begin their march to Jerusalem calling for the release of hostages, Feb. 28, 2024. They began the four-day march at the site where hundreds of revelers at the Nova music festival were killed or captured by Hamas on Oct. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RNS) — For the last five months, Moshe Lavi has worn a medallion around his neck in honor of his brother-in-law Omri Miran, who was taken hostage by Hamas during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Inscribed on the steel medallion, modeled after the dog tags worn by Israeli soldiers, is a simple drawing of a house with part of one wall missing. Inside the walls of the house is a heart.

“This represents the love that is in our family, but it’s incomplete,” said Lavi, a former Israel Defense Forces captain who was in Nashville last week to attend the annual National Religious Broadcasters meeting.

“It will be complete only when we return Omri home,” he said.

Lavi, who now works as a financial analyst, and other members of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum were among a large contingent of Israelis — including government officials — at the NRB gathering to meet with evangelical leaders, radio and television hosts, and other Christian supporters of Israel.

They were there because evangelicals remain key allies for Israel in a time when the nation is losing support around the world.

“Evangelicals as a bloc are about the only friends that Israel has,” said Joel Rosenberg,  a longtime political strategist, novelist and editor-in-chief of All Israel News, an evangelical pro-Israel news and commentary site.

Rosenberg, who became an Israeli citizen about a decade ago and identifies as a Jewish believer in Jesus, told Religion News Service that he saw more Israelis at the NRB this year than in the past.

That’s in large part due to the close ties between Israel and evangelicals, who are more loyal than other groups, said Rosenberg, host of “The Rosenberg Report” for the Trinity Broadcasting Network.

“Where else are you going to find people who will listen, and then have a platform and a motive to act,” he said.

Evangelical Christians have long been the backbone of U.S. support for Israel and are arguably among Israel’s most ardent advocates. They travel to Israel in great numbers. They donate vast sums of money and advocate for Israel in Republican Party circles.

After the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in southern Israel killed an estimated 1,200, evangelicals jumped to defend Israel and raise money to rebuild its border communities. The Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm issued an “Evangelical Statement in Support of Israel.”

Evangelist Franklin Graham donated 21 new ambulances to Israel’s EMS fleet, known as Magen David Adom, becoming the national nonprofit’s largest donor, said Catherine Reed, CEO of American Friends of Magen David Adom.

“The evangelical community loves Israel,” said Reed, who brought her team, including an Israeli ambulance and a series of short videos about the nonprofit, to the exhibition floor of the National Religious Broadcasters meeting as a way to thank evangelicals for their support.

Reminders of the Oct. 7 attacks were everywhere at the conference. Not far from the exhibitors hall, conference attendees could watch “Bear Witness,” a three-minute video of the Hamas attacks using virtual headsets. The exhibit where the video was being shown was flanked by Israeli flags and Nashville Metro police officers providing added security.

A few floors up, a 45-minute version of the video — taken from footage filmed by Hamas — was being shown to groups of pastors, broadcasters and other attendees. After watching the footage, the groups heard from families of hostages and IDF officers. The videos have also been shown around the country to build support for Israel after the attacks.

There is good reason for Israel to woo evangelicals. They are mightier in numbers than Jews, said Dov Waxman, professor of Israel studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Many people, when they think about Zionists in America, think about Jewish Americans,” said Waxman. “But in actual fact, there are many, many more Christian Zionists than there are Jewish Zionists in the United States.”