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Evangelical Centre in Galilee to Move Ahead

Pat Robertson a “Key Figure”

Back in May the Colorado Springs Gazette broke a story which was picked up by the AP, who told us that:

The [Israeli] government has offered to donate 35 acres beside the Sea of Galilee for an evangelical Christian center to boost Christian tourism…

Now Haaretz reports that that plan is going ahead – and it appears to have grown more ambitious over the summer:

As part of the project, Israel will initially lease 125 acres (500 dunams) in the area between Capernaum, Tabgha and the Mount of Beatitudes. The idea: to build a center that will provide Christian believers with a sense that “Jesus lived here.” Some see the project as having great potential to attract pilgrims.

Actually, I was there a few years back and I saw plenty of Catholic churches and other signs of Christian presence. This plan, though, will be aimed at Christians more generally, although evangelicals will run the site:

And who is the group with whom the negotiations are underway? “We are talking about a broad group, and at its heart one of the key figures will be Pat Robertson,” says [Tourism Minister Abraham] Hirchson.

But back in May, it was Ted Haggard rather than Robertson who was in the limelight. To go back to the AP report:

The government told a group of evangelical leaders, including the Rev. Ted Haggard of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, it would be willing to improve a nearby airport and provide power, water and phone lines for the center…

Haggard called the land “priceless.”

“None of that land is for sale,” said Haggard, also president of the National Association of Evangelicals. “You could never buy it.”

Haggard provided a few extra details about his trip in an email, which has since been reposted around the internet (e.g. here):

…Yesterday a small team of Evangelical leaders (Sunday Adelaja from Kiev, Michael Little, President of CBN, Jay Sekulow from the Center for Law and Justice in Washington, Brian and Bobbie Houston from Hillsong in Sidney, Australia, and Dr. Brent Parsley from the great New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO, USA) and myself spent just about three hours with Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Finance for Israel near/on the Sea of Galilee in Israel. Then we were in Jerusalem and in two hours we’re leaving to meet Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. These discussions are very important regarding Israel’s understanding and relationship with Evangelicals worldwide, and our relationship with Jewish people and Israel.

Sunday Adelaja has been featured on this blog before; his website features some photos from the event.

Haggard gave some further thoughts on the subject in July, in an interview with William Wallis:

Pastor Ted Haggard, president of the US National Evangelical Association which groups 22.5m Americans, said by phone from his New Life Church in Colorado Springs that with the right conditions 1m US Christians could be encouraged to visit Israel annually.

Mr Haggard, who met the Israeli prime minister and members of his cabinet on a recent trip to Jerusalem and is galvanising support for the Galilee project, said the government needed to cut red tape to allow more and cheaper flights into Israel. “When you have a package with a tour company, airline and hotel then you start to get prices in the range that the average tourist from Kansas can afford. Those are wonderful people. They want to go,” he said.

Asked about the Palestinians, Haggard added:

“The evangelical community is large and diverse, and the Palestinian community needs to know that evangelicals want life to be better for everybody,” he said. “I am a supporter of Ariel Sharon and I know what he is doing in the Gaza Strip is painful. But I am supportive of Palestinians getting a reasonable government concerned with building roads and schools rather than blowing up children. I have met with President Bush and told him how supportive I am.”

One wonders what Pat Robertson would make of that: back in October 2002 Robertson shared a platform with the then-tourist minister Benny Elon, whose calls for the expulsion of the Palestinians were met with cheers from a Christian Zionist audience in Washington D.C. (see here). Haggard, in contrast, is on record as supporting a two-state solution, although it is impossible to square that with his church’s “adoption” of the illegal settlement of Beit Haggai; I speculated back in July that Haggard was probably just following Sharon’s vague platitudes about a “final settlement”.

The proposed new centre is not without controversy. Back to Haaretz:

Opponents to the project, among them the chairman of the Yad L’achim organization, Rabbi Shalom Dov Lifschitz, who met with Tourism Minister Hirchson, argued that bitter experience with evangelicals leaves no doubt regarding their missionary activity.

Lifschitz is an thuggish character who appeared in this blog just last month, where he was boasting of his efforts at getting Israeli Christian alleged missionaries fired from their jobs. Haggard, though, sought to ally fears over missionary activities in July:

There is no single group that respects Orthodox Judaism more highly.” He added: “Wouldn’t those Orthodox believers love it if we could persuade more Muslims to become evangelicals?”

Well, Haggard knows they would, since in February 2004 Benny Elon urged evangelicals to do just that:

Israel Tourism Minister Benny Elon said Christian missionary groups should try to convert Muslims to Christianity “to show them the light,” but said Israel would not tolerate any attempts to convert Jews.

But while the Israeli government doles out chunks of the Galilee to American Christians, it should also be recalled that the region is the location of two largely Arab Christian villages, Barim and Ikrit. The residents of both towns were evacuated by the IDF back in 1948 as a temporary measure; nearly sixty years later, they’re still waiting to go home.

(Tipped from Christianity Today Weblog)

2 Responses

  1. “Israel Tourism Minister Benny Elon said Christian missionary groups should try to convert Muslims to Christianity “to show them the light,” but said Israel would not tolerate any attempts to convert Jews.”
    Jesus is coming to the Muslim world.Hallelujah. ooh wait..He has already arrived. These Jesus loving people are still in the refugee campssss with the Allah loving “love-to-bomb-themselves” people.

    wonder if these Christians missionaries will be spitted at Jerusalem.Pat Robertson might wanna travel to Jerusalem for a try.

    u have a great blog…I read it on daily basis and save as many stuff as I could.you know right…be prepared with facts to use it whenever in need.

    Shalom.

  2. […] blogged on the proposed Christian theme park in the Galilee here. The last time Robertson put his foot in it, by calling for the death of Hugo Chavez, Ted Haggard […]

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