Two months ago in JewishIsrael’s report, Evangelists, Politics and Shomron PR – The Pew of It All, we outlined a number of concerns regarding the November 2013 Shomron Regional Council's Israel advocacy conference in New York. The focus of JewishIsrael’s report was directed at scheduled evangelical speakers, their associates and their missionary agenda.
Representatives from JewishIsrael attended the conference, while other staff members viewed a live streaming of the event. This post-conference report is based on a number of observations made by the JewishIsrael staff in attendance.
In JewishIsrael’s earlier report, we suggested that Tommy Waller's Hayovel Ministry was a major player in the organization of this event despite Hayovel's name being removed as a sponsor and none of its representatives being listed as speakers in the final rendition of the conference’s publicity flyer.
Tommy Waller was noticeably present at the conference and Hayovel representative Aaron Murphy appearing as a featured speaker. Other presenters at the conference peppered their speeches with references and expressions of gratitude to Waller and Hayovel.
In addition to a presence at the New York event, Hayovel Ministries was live streaming the event and had an organized viewing at the Franklin Marriot in Nashville, Tennessee.
As expected, evangelists William Koenig and Dave Fitzpatrick, who also have connections with Waller, spoke at the conference. Although both men have a conversionary agenda directed at the Jewish people, their speeches carefully avoided any controversial or objectionable theological statements.
Media campaign fails to draw a crowd
The event posters displayed a number of notable pro-Israel sponsors and was accompanied by a month-long publicity blitz, including press releases, posters, online invitations, feature articles, and banner ads in social media, blog sites, and Jewish publications. In addition to being a hasbara event for the Shomron, the event was also a fundraiser for Shuva Yisrael (BlessingIsrael.com) which supports the work of the Shomron Liaison Office.
Despite these efforts, the conference turnout was mediocre at best. JewishIsrael staff at the conference estimated attendance at between 150-200 people, with Jerusalem Post reporter Tova Lazaroff reporting an audience of 200.
While Jewishisrael was concerned about the evangelical personalities involved, we had expressed the hope in our pre-conference report that the conference would generate some creative Jewish thinking which would attract and bring back members of the traditional Zionist base in America's Jewish community. But there were no resolutions or creative solutions adopted at the conference, which was supposed to be an “historical event of support for Israel and Judea and Samaria.”
Sponsors of the event, such as Arutz 7 and Americans For a Safe Israel (AFSI) published quite a different take on the conference. Larry Domnitch reported in Arutz7 and other Jewish publications that "hundreds" attended the conference. AFSI described the conference as a "huge success".
Yet as of this writing, two months after the conference took place, there is no mention of the conference or its outcome on either David Ha'Ivri's or BlessingIsrael.com's Facebook pages. Nor has Hayovel Ministries issued a follow-up report on the conference.
Hayovel continues to collaborate with missionaries
Just a month prior to the Shomron Conference, Tommy Waller and Hayovel harvesters and ministry team were again in Israel. In addition to harvesting grapes, they were promoting their christ-centered agenda on Christian television networks.
The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) ran an article and video on Hayovel which placed an emphasis on end-days prophecy, worship in the vineyards and repairing the relationship between Jews and Christians in preparation for "the coming of the Messiah". The video and its accompanying article were swiftly taken down by CBN two days after publication.
In October 2013, Tommy Waller collaborated with missionary Myles Weiss of Zola Levitt Ministries (ZLM) on a new series for Zola Levitt TV. Zola Levitt Ministries was founded with the explicit goal of converting Jews to evangelical Christianity. JewishIsrael has posted excerpts of a preview of the 2014 "Journey of Restoration Series", including an interview with Tommy Waller on his harvesting endeavors in preparation for the great wine feast in his anticipation of the coming of jesus.
In reference to Waller and Hayovel 's efforts, Weiss states in the December 2013 Zola Levitt letter that ,"Orthodox Jews looking for Messiah, and Christians watching for Yeshua are making a stand together in the mountains of Samaria."
Weiss concludes his letter with a plea for funding, stating, "our Jewish friends and family must know our/their Messiah now. Providentially they seem more inclined than ever to receive Him…"
Political benefit or embarrassment?
In September 2013, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, penned a controversial position on the Christian role in fulfilling prophecy. In that article Rav Melamed defended Tommy Waller as not having missionary intent and noted among other things that, "… Tommy has rallied support for Israel from American Congressmen and Senators. The head of the Shomron Regional Council, Mr. Gershon Mesika, told me that Tommy’s activities have been very influential."
While JewishIsrael feels that the quest for political support among gentiles is a worthwhile and legitimate endeavour, we believe that serious mistakes are being made in the Shomron Liaison Council's approach in their collaboration with zealous evangelicals, messianic missionaries and fundamentalist Christian sects.
That the Shomron Advocacy Conference did not attract a larger crowd, despite the impressive list of sponsors, speakers, significant publicity and active Hayovel involvement, brings into question just how influential these Christian groups and personalities are in eliciting an enthusiastic Zionist response and in creating the kind of Jewish unity necessary to ensure a continued thriving presence in Yehuda and Shomron. Days prior to the conference, AFSI's Mark Langfan spoke to Arutz 7 of the "warm unity between many groups that has never happened before". So what went wrong?
Attracting or alienating Jewish support?
Perhaps it's no drawing card for the pro-Israel Jewish camp to highlight a wine-tasting event and advocacy conference with the name of a zealous evangelical such as former White House correspondent William Koenig. It is Koenig who openly challenges the Jewish lobby (AIPAC) and publishes on his website that the key to world peace is as follows: "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. "
In the last few years Shomron leadership has been unabashedly courting missionary figures. There was an especially embarrassing episode back in 2011 when the Shomron Liaison Office spent significant resources in a high-profile campaign to welcome and honor Pastor Enoch Adeboye of "The Redeemed Christian Church of God" (RCCG). Adeboye, sometimes referred to as the "African Pope, "teaches to his purported millions of disciples what can only be described as Supersessionist Replacement Theology to the tune of:
"The physical Jews expect Isaiah 49:23 to be fulfilled but they failed to realize that a change has occurred. These promises have now been transferred to the Church. Any physical Jew who fails to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will together with other unbelievers bow to us Christians someday."
Adeboye was invited to Israel by Shomron Regional Council Governor Gershon Mesika and by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed. Rabbi Melamed took a very active and public role in welcoming him. But perhaps the most disgraceful moment caught on camera was at a Gala dinner honoring Adaboye, with Shomron councilmen Gershon Mesika, David Ha'ivri and Yossi Dagan seated at a dinner table with none other than Israel's #1 street missionary and meshumad, Yaakov Damkani and his wife, Elisheva. JewishIsrael ran a full report on this episode in part 1 of our Response to Rav Melamed.
A new office and hopefully a new direction
This week the Shomron Liaison Office announced that it is constructing new office facilities and appealed for funding through Shuva Israel (blessingisrael.com). The offices are being prepared to welcome an influx of tourists, parliamentarians and VIP's. Only two specific names were mentioned in the letter, those of Mike Huckabee and Michele Bachmann, both devout Christian US politicians who support Israel. It needs to be remembered that Huckabee also supports the targeting of Jews for conversion. The Shomron Liaison Office’s appeal made no reference to Jewish leadership in the Diaspora.
JewishIsrael can only hope that a new office may herald a new direction and approach to the hasbara challenge, with Shomron leaders turning to their Jewish brethren in the Diaspora and skillfully articulating their case to their own people, rather than relying on Christians of dual roles and risking further division in and endangerment to the Jewish world.