(May 17, 2018 / JNS) The move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was a victory not just for Israel or the Jewish people, but for the large faith-based evangelical community in the United States that represents the largest voting bloc in support of U.S. President Donald Trump.
On May 14, the opening-ceremony bleachers at the Jerusalem embassy—in addition to Israeli and American politicians, and members of the press—were filled primarily with a mix of Orthodox Jews and evangelical Christians. Evangelical Christian leaders who form an advisory team for Trump, known officially as the White House Faith Initiative Leaders continued their celebration the next day at a closed event on the rooftop of the Aish HaTorah Jewish learning center overlooking the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. Also present were rabbis, former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Danny Ayalon and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
Friedman, himself an Orthodox Jew, told the Christian leaders of the embassy move, “Today is not a day to rest on laurels. We have a lot of work to do, and we are just getting started.”
Ayalon, who also served as Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, said the move “was not a political event, as some are trying to say. It is the true manifestation of the relationship of the Israeli public and the American people.”
Noting the challenges of being an Israeli diplomat, Ayalon said, “people around the world accuse Israel, saying, ‘You are 70 years old, and you were created by the U.N.’ Wrong and wrong. We are 4,000 years old, and our nation was created by King David.”
Addressing the concern of many that Israel is becoming a wedge issue in American politics and is losing the longtime support of Democrats, Ayalon begged to differ. “You cannot say we don’t have bipartisan support,” he said. “Harry Truman was a Democratic president who recognized the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, and now a Republican president, Donald Trump, has recognized Jerusalem.”
Celebrating the role of the evangelical community in supporting Trump and in promoting pro-Israel policies, including the embassy move (which was a campaign promise made by Trump), Paula White, a pastor and televangelist who heads up the president’s evangelical advisory committee said, “I have to give thanks to our tenacious president, Donald J. Trump. As I always say about him, ‘promise made, promise kept,’ ” adding, “Four American presidents promised to do so, but only one president did.”
White said, “The reality beyond the fake news is that Israel has no better friend than President Donald Trump.”
She listed a number of Trump’s foreign-policy accomplishments demonstrating his pro-Israel bona fides and noted that he was the first standing American president to visit the Western Wall.
White added to his list of achievements the signing of the Taylor Force Act, which prevents America from sending foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority as long as it continues to make direct payments to jailed terrorists and the families of terrorists killed in the act of attempted murder.
She also pointed to Trump’s selection of former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, his withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal and reinstating economic sanctions against Iran.
“G-d is redrawing the map through our president, and it is an honor to be a part of that,” said White, calling Trump a “modern-day Cyrus,” referring to the Persian king who allowed the Jewish people to return from exile and commence building of the Second Temple, just meters away.
Stark change in relationship
Rabbi Stephen Burg, director-general of Aish HaTorah noted that “Jews have had a connection to this place for 3,000 years.” Praising Israel for permitting members of all faiths to worship freely, he noted how members of each major world faith have their holy days on consecutive days of the week and come to the old city to worship how they choose.
“I call it weekend in Jerusalem: Friday the Muslims, Saturday the Jews, Sunday the Christians,” said the rabbi.
Event organizer and White House Faith Leaders member Pastor Mario Bramnick, who also serves as president of the Latino Coalition for Israel—the largest Hispanic “pro-Israel, pro-Jewish” organization in America—noted the stark change in the U.S.-Israel relationship since the last administration.
“Things have changed in the White House,” he said. “Things have changed in America. It is a new day, and we give glory to God.”
Bramnick added, “I want to honor our dear president for his unwavering courage, clear determination for recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and for moving the embassy.”
Furthermore, the pastor noted that the United States is not the only country moving its embassy. Guatemala did so two days later, on Wednesday. Paraguay plans to move its embassy by the end of the month, while leaders in Romania, Czech Republic and Honduras are also contemplating a move.
Bramnick said his organization is “working with governments of other Latin nations and those in Eastern Europe.”
He also noted that in addition to a private meeting with Friedman, the leadership council also met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
White, who leads the council, assured that “the faith initiative will certainly go back and report [to Trump] all the wonderful things that have taken place.”
Asked what comes next, she told JNS, “This is the beginning of recognizing what always has been and having the embassy moved to the capital Jerusalem. So I think we always step back. We process. We evaluate. We look at what our next steps are, and we take action.”