Several thousand Christians from more than a dozen nations joined together with several thousand Israelis recently in the small Samarian Jewish town of Revava to mark the end of the self-imposed Israeli building freeze in the so-called West Bank.
The Christians were in Israel to participate in the annual International Christian Embassy's Feast of Tabernacles celebration. The theme of this year's feast was Genesis 22:17, where God promised Abraham that "his seed shall possess the gates of their enemies."
The visiting Christians demonstrated their belief in that passage by physically standing with the people of Israel, as they reversed the fateful decision to suspend Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria, in accordance with demands from the United States and European and Arab countries.
"We Christians are telling you to be strong and courageous to possess the land," a Christian leader said. In Revava the Christians held large, colorful banners and their national flags. Interestingly, they were swarmed by both the Israeli and the international media, who were certainly surprised at their presence there.
The Christians mingled with the several thousand Jewish people, who had come from all over Israel to express support for the so-called "settlers" and their right to continue building in their community. Many of these Israelis expressed surprise to see all those foreigners there in such a remote and isolated location for that special occasion. They greeted the visiting Christians warmly, and they applauded loudly as the flags of the various nations were marched in.
A Likud Party deputy minister, Ayoub Kara, who is an Israeli Druze, addressed the crowd in a fiery Zionist speech. He turned to the Christians and stated: "I say to all the non-Jews here that I, too, am not a Jew. But in my spirit I am Jewish, and I am Zionist, and I am happy to see that you are, too. Good for you, that you are here to support Israel."
Another Likud MK, Danny Daron, who organized the rally, also took time to address the Christians in his speech. "We salute you, because we know you love Israel unconditionally." Daron asked the visitors to take the message back to their own countries that Israel respects and appreciates them.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stuck to his word to allow the construction freeze to expire on the set date of September 26, despite heavy pressure from the U.S. and elsewhere to extend it. However, building permits are expected to be issued more sparingly, so as not to rock the diplomatic boat too much.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has been saying almost every day for the past month or more that if any Jewish building resumes in the area he wants to claim for a future Palestinian state, then the current peace negotiations will be over. U.S. President Obama has been pressing Netanyahu hard to not let that happen, and has even indicated that if the peace talks break down, Netanyahu will be blamed.
Daron sought to remind the Prime Minister that similar threats were made 15 years ago by former U.S. President Bill Clinton. He insisted that if Jewish "settlement activity" continued after the signing of the Oslo Accords, it would cause an international crisis, for which Israel would be blamed. But Daron noted that Israel continued building then. The U.S. and other nations made some noise, he said, but there was no international crisis, and there was no regional war.
He stressed that the Israeli government must continue to dispute loud and long the Arab claim that Judea and Samaria are supposed to be "occupied land" that had belonged to the Arabs. And since the world refuses to accept the truth that Judea and Samaria are Jewish lands, Israel must "constantly and adamantly re-enforce" that fact.
He added that, if there should be a Jewish construction freeze while negotiations take place, then there should also be a construction freeze for the Arabs in all of their territories.
We might explain that about 5,000 evangelical Christians come to Israel from many nations of the world every year to celebrate the Succoth, or Feast of Tabernacles holidays. They gather for a week of special meetings, worship services, and activities sponsored by the International Christian Embassy. And they march with their banners and national flags each year in the big, annual Jerusalem Parade.
These visiting Christians have made their presence and their support for Israel widely known among the Israeli people. And in so doing, they have gained great respect and appreciation from the Israeli people and from the Israeli government, as well.
Dr. Al Snyder is a former professor of Communications at Liberty University in Virginia and North Greenville University. He has done extensive missionary work in Israel and Africa.