Evangelists, Politics and Shomron PR – The Pew of It All

A rabbi, a Christian missionary and Jewish settler meet in a synagogue for a wine-tasting event, where they raise a glass or two.

The missionary declares: "The Jewish people are the key to lasting peace, but they must first call on jesus and then He will return to the New Jerusalem and then Israel and the world will finally have that lasting peace that they have longed for."

The settler, knowing he needs all the friends he can get, replies, "How prophetic. Would you like to lead and control our political, economic and public relations endeavors? " 

The Rabbi lifts his glass and blesses the Judeo-Christian union.

 

 

That may not be exactly the way things will play out at the Shomron Wine Tasting Reception which follows the Shomron Regional Council's Israel Advocacy Conference to take place in New York on November 17th. But on some otherworldly plane, where absolute honesty rules, that's how Shomron's Jewish leadership has been playing the hasbara game as they encourage and advance evangelizing Christian leadership as Israel's spokespersons, promoters, ambassadors, and now chief political lobbyists.

 

Everybody knows that Israel is in need of good hasbara. JewishIsrael understands that nobody needs or deserves it more than the farmers, vintners and residents living in Yehuda and Shomron. We also understand that seeking moral and political support for Israel's position from upstanding and concerned gentiles is both legitimate and desirable.  However, we at JewishIsrael claim that engaging the evangelical personalities and agendas involved in this upcoming Shomron event risks putting the nation of Israel in spiritual jeopardy and will exact an incalculable cost on the Jewish people and on Jewish sovereignty.

 

Wine-tasting special guest and end-days prophet William Koenig

The missionary's words in our opening "joke" are precisely those expressed by evangelical William Koenig, on his Christian prophecy-news site. Koenig, a featured guest at the Shomron wine-tasting reception, is being billed as a former a White House correspondent. That parve diplomatic description may make the wine go down easier for Jewish sponsors of the event, but attendees should know just what it is that gets "leading Bible prophecy expert" William Koenig all worked-up over the future of Israel and Jerusalem.

 

As a "White House Correspondent" William Koenig is apparently no friend of the Jewish lobby. Regardless of what one thinks of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and their efforts, Koenig and certain Israeli leaders are using a type of rhetoric which may be interpreted as pitting the Christian bloc against the Jewish lobby. That type of divisiveness and all that it entails may make a lot of Jews on both sides of the political spectrum feel uncomfortable. The formation of such a "Judeo –Christian Biblical" lobby to overtake AIPAC may very well be the purpose of the November 17th gathering.

 

Citing a 2005 Pew Research study on the growth of Pentecostalism throughout the world, February 2013 articles in both the Christian Science Monitor and Algemeiner quoted Knesset Christian Alliance Caucus (KCAC) director Josh Reinstein as saying:

 

“AIPAC is a great organization… but there’s no doubt there are more Bible-believing Christians than there are Jews in America… Already I think the Christian community is more influential than AIPAC.”

 

David Brog of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) was also quoted in both articles as claiming:

 

“We have the numbers and geographical reach to reach every member of Congress”.

 

Shomron conference speaker and missionary Dave Fitzpatrick

The actual conference preceding the wine-tasting event is not without problems. Since the event was first announced it has changed titles, switched venues and switched sponsors. It has also gained speakers.

Dave Fitzpatrick's name was added late in the game as a conference speaker. According to the flyer, he represents the "Israel Heartland Lobby Initiative". As of this writing there is no such entity listed online. Fitzpatrick is however on the board of a number of missionary entities affiliated with Don Finto, who in a shameful spectacle at Texas Governor Rick Perry’s mass prayer rally of 2011, openly called for the conversion of the Jews. Fitzpatrick has supported messianic missionary leaders in Russia as well as in Israel, such as Avner and Rachel Boskey and Eitan Shishkoff.

 

It may be no coinicidence that in late August 2013, Fitzpatrick announced the creation of a 12 week forum of evangelical missionary leaders to discuss Israel and the Jews. Among those mentioned were Don Finto, James Goll, Todd McDowell, Bill Koenig and Tommy Waller.

 

Tommy Waller: the incognito sponsor 

 

The initial flyer for the Shomron Conference, which was posted online in mid-October, had Hayovel Ministries listed as a sponsor.  But subsequent flyers dropped the Hayovel name along with some other listed sponsors.  

 

Tommy Waller and his Hayovel Ministries, whose Christians volunteers work with various vintners in Yehuda and Shomron, has been the source of ongoing controversy because he and his ministry initially came to Israel as missionaries with the stated intention of sharing jesus with the Jewish people. Waller and company have since engaged in virulent projects and partnered with missionary entities working in the Jewish state.  In addition, they recruit their grape harvesting volunteers from messianic congregations and have stated that they see themselves as biblically entitled to the land of Israel.

 

Yet despite the obvious risks and problems, it is hard for many Jews not to love the hard-working and devout volunteers. Har Bracha’s Rabbi Eliezer Melamed has declared that they are not missionaries. Rather, they are, according to Rav Melamed, Christians who are fulfilling biblical prophecy. JewishIsrael’s Rabbinic Advisor Rabbi Sholom Gold has since responded. Since 2009, JewishIsrael has been running regular updates on Hayovel’s activities and posting  related video material.

 

The Wallers  go to Washington with the Shomron Regional Council leaders

 

The Wallers are not just humble and devout Christian missionary harvesters planting vineyards on the hills of Samaria. Apparently, they are politically inspired too!

 

As far back as 2006 Tommy Waller was involved with Shomron leadership in political endeavors such as a reported conference call to Washington DC with CFOIC's Sondra Baras and Yonatan Behar of Har Bracha participating. Since then Waller has been present with settlement leadership at CUFI conferences in Washington, and more recently Waller accompanied Shomron Regional Council members Gershon Mesika, David Ha'ivri, Yossi Dagan and Shai Atias to several meetings with legislators on Capitol Hill. William Koenig was present at those meetings, too.

 

At the time of this report’s publication, it is not known if the ongoing concern over Hayovel Ministries led to their removal as a visible sponsor. JewishIsrael is aware that the Wallers are very excited about the conference and are organizing a gathering in their hometown, Franklin Tennessee, to watch the event via livestream.

 

Hayovel has been involved in other wine-tasting events on behalf of Shomron vintners. In a video posted in January 2013 by HaYovel's recruiting branch, For Zion's Sake Ministries, one of Tommy Waller's sons raises his glass and proudly declares, "Our fingerprints are on every drop of this stuff."

 

With William Koenig featured at the wine-tasting and Dave Fitzpatrick featured as a Conference speaker, JewishIsrael has good reason to believe that Hayovel's hand is all over this November 17th event too. The Wallers will certainly be there in spirit.

 

 

 

But will Shomron leaders draw the line at Jews for Jesus ?

Shortly after the Shomron PR conference was initially announced, the public relations site Everything PR posted their take of the event, reporting that, "There is also a special session contributed to Christian friends of Israel which will discuss the support of luminaries including Jay Sekulow of the ACLJ, and David Cerullo of Inspiration Network."

 

"Luminaries" is hardly the word to describe these two men who work hard to ensure that Jews hear the Christian gospel message. ACLJ's messianic Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow made a name for himself as the lawyer for Jews for Jesus. Sekulow defends rights for "messianics" in Israel, too. David Cerullo is the son of the notorious missionary Morris Cerullo. David runs the INSPiration TV network, which features missionaries such as Evangelist Dr. Michael Brown, whose life mission it to bring the Jews to Jesus.

 

The Pew spin of Ron Torossian: interfaith PR

The name-dropping of Cerullo and Sekulow in connection with the Shomron PR event has the definite scent of PR personality extraordinaire Ron Torossian, of the 5WPR agency. Among Torossian’s many clients, which include large Jewish organizations, he also represents mega-pastors and Christian organizations which are active in or support evangelizing. This includes Benny Hinn, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), Pat Robertson, John Hagee, David Cerullo and the ACLJ's Jay Sekulow, mentioned earlier. Apparently, Torossian has no scruples about mixing and matching his Jewish and Christian clients.  If anything, he seems to encourage it.

 

In the last several months he has been marketing, via the Times of Israel,  David Cerullo and Jay Sekulow as potential saviors of the Jewish community, the Shomron, and the world. As examples, see these articles from July, August, September and October 2013.

 

Torossian has even spun the recent devastating Pew survey to an evangelical advantage to serve his clients, even though that poll exposes the negative role that Christian influence plays on assimilation:

  • "Similarly, a 2012 Pew Center survey found that 67% of white evangelical Protestants said they sympathized more with Israel than the Palestinians…Let’s consider the playing field – Would one rather have The American Jewish Committee, Peter Beinart, Peace Now, ADL and the Jewish establishment, or Christians United for Israel, David Cerullo, Jay Sekulow, Pat Robertson and the like? The Jewish community must continue to grow close partnerships with the powerful Evangelical Christians who support Israel through times thick and thin". – Ron Torossian, Times of Israel, September 2, 2013

 

  • "American Jewish support has long been viewed as vital for the State of Israel’s political interests. The particulars of the recent high-profile Pew Research Center survey of American Jews should result in radical re-thinking of that theory (with the exception of Orthodox Jews.)  Those who are concerned with Israel’s future must now consider placing even more emphasis upon the Evangelical Christian community… More focus should be put on people like Pastor John Hagee, the ACLJ and their brilliant leader Jay Sekulow, David Cerullo and Inspiration Network" – Ron Torossian, Front Page Magazine, October 14, 2013

Sometimes things just shouldn't be mixed. It seems Torossian's firm may have had some role in the Durban 3 Protest public relations fiasco between Christians, Jews and the Israeli government  in September 2011.  Large numbers of Jewish groups backed out of the protest when it became apparent that it was messianic attorney Calev Myers of the Jerusalem Institute of Justice (JIJ) who was leading the charge along with Robert Stearns of the evangelical ministry Eagles Wings. At the time the event planning company, Hall and Brown Associates, reported that they had been, "working with the Jerusalem Institute for Justice based in Israel and NY PR firm 5WPR one of New York’s top 5 Public Relations companies on an event at the UN in September ..."

 

JewishIsrael hopes that the Jewish leaders in charge of the upcoming November 17th Shomron PR conference in New York will have the sense and the courage to guard all of our Jewish souls, and theirs, too, by no less than disinviting certain "luminaries" and sending them back out into the cold.

 

 

Shuva Israel (BlessingIsrael.com), along with The Shomron Liaison Office, the public relations arm of the Shomron Regional Council, are the main sponsors of the November 17th PR events.  Eliezer Braun is the Director on the Interfaith Department of the Shomron Regional Council, where Braun also serves as a spokesman for Shomron Regional Governor, Gershon Mesika.

Shuva Israel is an organization focused on attracting Christian donations. Eliezer Braun repeatedly uses Christian imagery, promotes Christian theology and blurs the lines between faiths in his quest to build bridges between the church and Israel. Braun openly cooperates with Christian and messianic missionary groups which actively target Jews for conversion in Israel. This doesn't seem to disturb Braun nor the Shomron Regional Council.

Shuva Israel will be collecting the tax-deductible donations received at the conference and wine-tasting.


Those individuals who wish to support Shomron causes but who are uncomfortable with Shuva Israel's missionary affiliations and their approach to relations with Christian groups, should ask the leadership of the Shomron Regional Council for an alternative means to contribute at the conference.  More on Shuva Israel can be read in this Jewishisrael's report.

Old time religion or new Christianity?

At the time of this article’s publication, the pro-Israel press is full of concerns of reports of a major evangelical shift to the political left. The leftist media has managed to grab the attention of Jews with a report that George Bush and Glenn Beck have gone to bat for an organization committed to converting Jews.  Back in 2010, Mike Huckabee filled those shoes when he was keynote speaker for the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute (MJBI). JewishIsrael  published a report about that at the time. It seems that many of our celebrated evangelical “friends" may have feet of clay and that we are dealing with some of that ol' time religion rather than a prophetic dawn of new Christianity.

Jewishisrael does not have all the answers to all of the problems being created by these interfaith relationships. However, JewishIsrael does have some suggestions. Perhaps under these dire circumstances, the best PR investment would be for Shomron leaders to sober-up and struggle to learn the fine art of articulating their case to their own people, rather than curry favor with Christians of dual roles and risking further divisions in the Jewish world.

According to David Bedein of the Israel Resource News Agency, the leaders of Yehuda and Shomron haven't even tried:

“I covered the AIPAC conferences in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Before covering these important events, which were overwhelmed by NIF/Peace Now people who came, I pleaded with reps of Judea/Samaria to attend, in order to balance the situation. None showed up at any conference.”

Maybe those attempts would fail and creative solutions would have to be found, including the creation of effective new lobbies. But Jewish leaders need not destroy their heritage and sell their birthright in a desperate search for image and acceptance from adherents of a brand of religion which does not respect or recognize Judaism's boundaries and which prays that we Jews, as a separate spiritual entity, cease to exist.

Some suggestions

JewishIsrael hopes that this Shomron PR conference will generate some creative Jewish thinking which will attract and bring back members of the traditional Zionist base in America's Jewish community. In order to facilitate this, JewishIsrael suggests that the organizers consider the following approach.

  • Avoid the problem of alienating a number of traditional Jews who are concerned with the halachic crossing of lines and who are wary of evangelical intentions, by keeping the boundaries between faiths straight and solid.
  • Judaism does not recognize any heritage described as "Judeo-Christian" in nature. Therefore references or dialogue pertaining to Judaism’s alleged sharing of common theology, covenants, prophecies, messianic aspirations or familial roots with Christianity should be avoided.
  • For the Jew, references to a “biblically-based" alliance are not tenable because "biblical" for the Christian will always include their new testament or new covenant, which Christians view as a continuum of the "Old Testament".

                                                                                                                                                                 

Resources:

Response by Rabbi Sholom Gold to Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

A Document of Principles: Binyamin Region Rabbis

Shomron Leaders Court Christian Missionaries

JewishIsrael Responds to Rav Eliezer Melamed

Justification and Limitations of Interfaith Dialogue

Halachic Rulings and Opinions


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