In this section:
Likud and Falwell
An Expanded Israel
Subsidizing The Settlements
Populating The Settlements
The Tragedy of the Settlements
Postmillennialism and Premillenniallism
Ariel is a Jewish settlement in the West Bank of Palestine, and Faith Bible Chapel is one of hundreds of Christian Zionist Churches funding settlements like Ariel. FromThe Christian Science Monitor, April 25, 1998:
Five years ago, Ariel was a town in the doldrums. Laying the groundwork for making peace with the Palestinians, then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had frozen building plans and cut off preferential funding to Jewish settlements like this one, on land Israel occupied in 1967.
Depression set in here as the settlers came to be seen as peace's spoilers and began to fear for their settlement's future.
Then came faith. Faith Bible Chapel, that is, an Aurora, Colo., evangelical church whose members made it their mission to "adopt" Ariel.
Would Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip be able to survive without massive support from Christian Zionists in the United States? This is the question this web page is exploring.
Christian Zionism is based on God's covenant with Abraham from Genesis of the Old Testament of the Bible. To read about the early Christian Zionists, click here.
Jewish Zionism was not based on Scripture. The early Jewish Zionists were reacting to the fierce anti-semitism that was rampant throughout Europe. By the late nineteen thirties, when millions of Jews were desperately trying to get out of Europe, no country would take in large numbers of Jewish refugees. Only one country offered -- the Dominican Republic, but it, too, fell far short of its promise. To read more about early Jewish Zionism, click here.
Establishment of the State of Israel was seen by Christian Zionists as fulfillment of God's Covenant with Abraham. In contrast, it was seen by most Jewish Zionists as a place where Jews would be safe. To read about the establishment of Israel, click here.
The early secular government of Israel agreed, for practical reasons, to leave the ancient Jewish lands of Samaria and Judea out of its borders. To read more about Israel's pre-1967 borders, click here.
After the War of 1967, which Israel won in just six days, Israel occupied the ancient Jewish lands of Samaria and Judea in the West Bank along with the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Desert to the South, the Golan Heights in the North. and all of the city of Jerusalem. That war was seen by Christian Zionists and some ultra-orthodox Jews as a sign that God was further fulfilling His promise to Abraham. To read more about the War of 1967, click here.
To read a chronology of settlement growth, click here.
Likud And Falwell
Government support of settlement building accelerated dramatically in 1977 when Menachem Begin became Prime Minister. Begin's ultranationalist notions had made him a figure on the fringe for the first three decades of Israel's existence, but his Likud Party had finally come to power.
Ironically, Begin won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1978, along with President Anwar Sadat of Egypt, for signing the Camp David Accords. Thanks to skillfully managed negotiations on the part of U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Begin agreed to return the Sinai desert to Egypt, but refused to discuss the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. And this is where our story begins - the same year that the Camp David Accords were signed.
That year, 1978, Begin invited The Reverend Jerry Falwell for his first official visit to Israel, and the following year, 1979, his government gave Falwell a gift -- a Lear Jet.
Begin's timing was perfect. He began working seriously with Christian Zionists at the precise moment that Christian fundamentalists in America were discovering their political voice.
The same year that Falwell received his Lear Jet, 1979, he formed the Moral Majority, an organization that changed the political landscape in the United States. What was Falwell's interest in Israel? He was a Dispensationalist. Dispensationalism is a system of theology that believes the Jews must return to Israel as part of God's plan for Christ to return. To read more about the history of Dispensationalism, click here.
An Expanded Israel
In order to fulfill Biblical prophecy, Dispensationalists have been working hard to ensure that the world's Jews return to Israel and occupy all of Palestine. To facilitate that process, Dispensationalists have been leading groups of pilgrims to Israel since Falwell's first visit in order to win financial and political support for the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The late Grace Halsell, author of Prophecy and Politics, participated in two Falwell-led pilgrimages to Israel in 1983 and 1985, and quotes a fellow Christian pilgrim on the tour:
"The Jews must own all of the land promised by God before Christ can return. The Arabs have to leave this land because this land belongs only to the Jews. God gave all of this land to the Jews." (p.87)
The late Ed MacAteer, considered to be the godfather of the Religious Right, talked about his expansionist dreams for Israel in an interview on CBS' 60 Minutes: Zion's Christian Soldiers.
"I believe that we are seeing prophecy unfold so rapidly and dramatically and wonderfully and, without exaggerating, makes me breathless. Every grain of sand between the Dead Sea, the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea belongs to the Jew." When asked if that includes the West Bank and Gaza, his answer was "Every bit of it."
Rapture Awaits in the Florida Panhandle, Toronto Star, February 12, 2005
Read about a Christian Coalition gathering in 2002 to witness the passion Christian Zionists, and some U.S. Republican legislators, feel about Israel.
Did Tim LaHaye Just Call Israelis "Not-To-Be-Trusted Yids?," Talk To Action, December
Jews and the Christian right: Is the honeymoon over? Michelle Goldberg, Salon
The Christian Right, Dominionism, and Theocracy - Part Five, Talk To Action, December 26, 2005
The day after Christmas, Tim LaHaye's "Left Behind Prophecy Club" sent out its daily e-mail message with a 2005 "Year in Review" summary The teaser stated: "Are we living in the End Times? Could events of today signify that the Rapture and Tribulation could occur during our generation? Five important Signs from 2005 say yes!" read on
Journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, writing for the New Yorker magazine, estimates there are roughly 150 settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with a total population estimated at 243,000. [This article was written well before Israel's withdrawal from Gaza] Goldberg writes:
Perhaps three-quarters of the Jews in the West Bank and Gaza could be considered economic settlers ... The remainder of the settlers, fifty thousand or so, came to the territories for reasons of faith.
Goldberg's article, The Zealots, is based on interviews with settlers of faith. While Christian Zionists have formed strong working relationships with settlers of faith, this web site is concerned primarily with economic settlers, many of whom live in the settlements due to financial support from the Christian Zionists. A survey taken by the Israeli organization Peace Now in July, 2003
indicates that more than 70 percent of settlers, a significant increase from previous polls, would agree to eventually leave the West Bank and Gaza if they were compensated, while 29 percent are ready to leave right away. (From New York Times, August 2, 2003)Peace Now monitors settlement activity and provides detailed maps of the settlements and outposts.
It's not known how much money for settlements comes from the Israeli government, supported by U.S. dollars, and how much comes from Christian Zionists. The financial support of Christian Zionists, however, appears to be substantial enabling settlers to buy attractive homes at a very reasonable price. Lawrence Shafer, a businessman, moved to the settlement of Ariel for economic reasons. He told television producer Bob Abeshouse on Bill Moyer's Now,
There's a lot of people in the outside world think that we all live here because we're all very right wing fanatics. No, we're people who do not have enough money to afford to buy a flat. But we want to leave something to our children. We've always wanted to buy our own house. And to buy a house inside inland Israel costs three times what it costs in Ariel.
Donald Wagner is Professor of Religion and Middle Eastern Studies at North Park University in Chicago and executive director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. He wrote a series of commentaries on the phenomenon of Christian Zionism for the Lebanon Daily Star. This comes from Part 4:
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, led by a former Anti-Defamation League employee and Orthodox rabbi, Yechiel Eckstein, claimed to have raised over $5 million, mostly from fundamentalist Christian sources.
Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, based in Colorado, is one of the many organizations that runs an Adopt-a-Settlement Program. From their web site:
The focus of Christian Friends of Israeli Communities (CFOIC) is to link settlements in Israel with Christian churches and individuals throughout the world. These communities are located in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.
$25 / month
Partner of CFOIC-Israel
$50 / month
Friend of Biblical Israel
$100 / month
Patron of Biblical Israel
$500 / month
Pillar of Biblical Israel
$1,000 / month
Guardian of Biblical Israel
The above opportunity to invest comes from Project Focus of Christian Friends of Israeli Communities.
Sondra Oster Baras is the director of the Israel office of Christian Friends of Israeli Communities. She told the San Francisco Chronicle that she estimated "one-third of the 145 Israeli settlements receive funds from Christians."
The Jerusalem Prayer Team prays
.. for peace in Jerusalem because the Scriptures tell us to in Psalm 122:6. Also, the Great Commission proclaims that we would be a witness unto Him in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria.
From the Middle East Information Center, the goal of the Jerusalem Prayer Team
.. is to raise enough to give a gift of $55 apiece to 14,000 settlers.
Eventually we hope [to raise money for all] 200,000. But the best we can do now is 14,000....From Bridges for Peace:
Many Christians have felt this desire to reach out and help in the prophetic restoration of Israel, in a tangible way, by blessing individuals (new immigrants and veteran Israeli alike) with material gifts. Bridges for Peace has done just that.
From Prophecy and Politics, 1986, about the American Christian Trust headed by Mrs. Bobi Hormas:
"The trust enjoys 501(c)(3) status and receives funds from private individuals, estates and large evangelical-fundamentalist organizations. The Trust in turn gives this money to Israel, expressly for Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Mrs Hormas told me the Trust planned to raise a hundred million dollars to purchase land for Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the present target area being in the Palestinian town of Hebron... This I was told would help fulfill biblical prophesy. (p,170-171)
Populating the Settlements: Funding Jewish Immigration to Israel
In addition to buying land and subsidizing settlements, Christian Zionists have played a major role in supporting Jewish immigration from the former Soviet Republics to populate the settlements. From Donald Wagner:
John Hagee, pastor of the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, announced in February 1997 that his church was donating over $1 million to Israel. Hagee claimed the funds would be used to help resettle Jews from the Soviet Union in the West Bank and Jerusalem. "We feel like the coming of Soviet Jews to Israel is a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy," Hagee stated.
The Gratefully Grafted Ministries is one of the international organizations that supports immigration to Jerusalem and West Bank settlements through their Israel Fund:
All funds are used toward serving the Body of Messiah in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, the Galilee and beyond ..
Their ministry sponsors the Ebenezer Emergency Fund and Operation Exodus:
From 1991 through the Fall of 2004, Ebenezer has brought more than 100,000 olim back to Israel.
If their numbers are accurate, and if most of their "olim" end up in the settlements, they could have brought into the West Bank and Gaza Strip as much as 41% of the settlers. (Author's note - Gratefully Grafted Ministries' website changes from time to time, so the quotes on this page my no longer exist in their site.)
Christians for Israel
is helping the Jews home to Israel from the former Soviet Union. This is an international project known as Operation Aliyah. It is more than just a humanitarian project - it is a divine calling for the Church to assist the Jewish people in their physical return and restoration of the land of Israel.
Why does Operation Aliyah exist?
In the fulfillment of Biblical Prophecy. The Jewish people were scattered throughout the nations according to God's word, because of their disobedience. God beckons to the gentiles to assist in the return of the Jewish people to Israel. Jeremiah prophesied that the return will be of greater magnitude than the exodus from Egypt and will involve all the tribes of Israel. This time they will remain in their land. I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God. Amos 9:15
Akiva Eldar, journalist for the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, claims that Christian Zionists are pouring money into Israel. "But that's not the only way they are supporting Israeli settlement of the West Bank."
The most important thing is that they have so much influence in Washington, that they are so influential in the White House and in Congress. (Bill Moyer'sNOW, June 6, 2003.)
Jerry Falwell told 60 Minutes:
There are 70 million of us. And if there's one thing that brings us together quickly it's whenever we begin to detect our government becoming a little anti-Israel.
Pastor John Hagee's Cornerstone Church raised $1 million dollars in 1977. When asked if he realized that support of Likud's policies and the increase in Jewish settlements was at cross-purposes with US policy, Hagee answered:
I am a Bible scholar and a theologian, and from my perspective the law of God transcends the laws of the United States government and the US State Department.
The Village Voice, May 18, 2004, documented that National Security Council Near East and North African Affairs director for President George W. Bush, Elliott Abrams, actually met with the Apostolic Congress, a dispensationalist organization, to discuss their theological concerns. Three weeks after that meeting President Bush reversed long-standing U.S. policy, endorsing Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank in exchange for Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip.
From Stephen Zunes, Foreign Policy In Focus, June, 2004:
It appears, then, that right-wing Christian Zionists are, at this point, more significant in the formulation of U.S. policy toward Israel than are Jewish Zionists, as illustrated by three recent incidents.
After the Bush administration's initial condemnation of the attempted assassination of militant Palestinian Islamist Abdel Aziz Rantisi in June 2003, the Christian Right mobilized its constituents to send thousands of e-mails to the White House protesting the criticism. A key element in these e-mails was the threat that if such pressure continued to be placed upon Israel, the Christian Right would stay home on Election Day. Within 24 hours, there was a notable change in tone by the president. Indeed, when Rantisi fell victim to a successful Israeli assassination in April 2004, the administration-as it did with the assassination of Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin the previous month-largely defended the Israeli action.
When the Bush administration insisted that Israel stop its April 2002 military offensive in the West Bank, the White House received over 100,000 e-mails from Christian conservatives in protest of its criticism. Almost immediately, President Bush came to Israel's defense. Over the objections of the State Department, the Republican-led Congress adopted resolutions supporting Israel's actions and blaming the violence exclusively on the Palestinians.
When President Bush announced his support for the Road Map for Middle East peace, the White House received more than 50,000 postcards over the next two weeks from Christian conservatives opposing any plan that called for the establishment of a Palestinian state. The administration quickly backpedaled, and the once-highly touted Road Map essentially died.
The Tragedy of the Settlements
Soon after the war of 1967, Israel's founding Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, by that time retired, spoke to the Knesset, Israel's Parliament. His prophetic words were recorded by Jewish scholar Arthur Hertzberg in The Tragedy of Victory. Ben Gurion said:
All of the territories that had been captured had to be given back, very quickly, for holding on to them would distort, and might ultimately destroy, the Jewish state.
A delegation of United States church leaders visited Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine in 2002. They declared:
We emphasize the urgency of the crisis in the region and our sense that the Middle East and, indeed, the entire world, stands on the brink of a catastrophe if a comprehensive peace is not achieved soon.
For Jews and Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, life has become cycles of violence, fear and hatred. Much of the world has come to see Israel as an occupier nation, a perception that has isolated Israel in the United Nations and led to anti-semitism around the world.
Amidst all the tensions created by the settlements, Jerry Falwell told 60 Minutes, "The Bible Belt in America is Israel 's only safety belt right now." Falwell and the movement he helped create have played a major role in supporting the construction and maintenance of the settlements. They helped bring tens of thousands of Eastern European Jews to Israel to increase the population of the settlements. They have made it politically risky for any American president to promote a peace plan.
Because of their passion to see Israel permanently expand its borders, Christian Zionists have added fuel to the flames of anti-semitism worldwide. Their work has also served to isolate Israel, particularly in the United Nations. And then Falwell has the chutzpah to say, "The Bible Belt in America is Israel 's only safety belt right now."
Esther Kaplan writes in The Nation, July 12, 2004, The Jewish Divide on Israel, that "American Jews are at least evenly split on how to secure Israel."
Postmillennialism and Premillennialism
Postmillennialists are not Christian Zionists. They are adherents of Christian Reconstructionism or Dominion Theology. They represent the most extreme constituency of the Religious Right. They are the activists who claim the United States is a "Christian nation," calling for the United States to return to Old Testament Biblical law.
They don't believe in the rapture theory, or that we are living in the End Times before Christ returns. Leading Reconstructionist author, the late David Chilton, explains that the last days ended with the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D:
the expression "the last days" and similar terms, are used in the Bible to refer, not to the end of the physical world, but to the last days of the nation of Israel, the "last days" which ended with the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. (Paradise, p12)
Gary North, a prolific Christian Reconstruction writer points out in The Unannounced Reason Behind American Fundamentalism's Support for the State of Israel:
In order for most of today's Christians to escape physical death, two-thirds of the Jews in Israel must perish, soon. This is the grim prophetic trade-off that fundamentalists rarely discuss publicly, but which is the central motivation in the movement's support for Israel. It should be clear why they believe that Israel must be defended at all costs by the West.
Postmillennialists believe that Christians must take domionion, or control over most of the secular institutions in the world in order for Christ to return. Therefore, they encourage Christians who share their biblical worldview to become politically active.
From George Grant, a leading postmillennial writer in The Changing of the Guard , Biblical Principles for Political Action:
Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ -- to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.
But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after.
World conquest. That's what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish. We must win the world with the power of the Gospel. And we must never settle for anything less... Thus, Christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land -- of men, families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the Kingdom of Christ. (pp. 50-51)
Christian Zionists Are Premillenniallists
Of the many theories about when Christ will return, the most popular is called premillennial dispensationalism. It is depicted in the best-selling Left Behind novels by the Reverend Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.
Premillennialists believe that since God has a plan, the future is already set in motion. It might seem logical that if events taking place on earth are part of God's pre-ordained plan, then political activism is unnecessary. But the Reverend Tim LaHaye explains why Christians who share his Biblical worldview should be politically active.
LaHaye named humanism as the great evil threatening to destroy America and coined the term "pre-tribulation tribulation" to characterize what will come about if humanists are allowed to take control of the government.
In 1980 LaHaye published The Battle for the Mind where he asked, "Is a Humanist Tribulation Necessary?" LaHaye answered that the Great Tribulation,
is predestined and will surely come to pass. But the pre-Tribulation tribulation -- that is the tribulation that will engulf this country if liberal humanists are permitted to take control of our government -- is neither predestined nor necessary.
But it will deluge the entire land in the next few years, unless Christians are willing to become much more assertive in defense of morality and decency than they have been during the past three decades." (Battle for the Mind, 1980, pp. 217-218)
Susan Friend Harding, a Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has published widely on fundamentalist Christianity. She wrote Chapter 3, Imagining the Last Days, the Politics of Apocalyptic Language in the fourth Volume of the Fundamentalism Project. The Fundamentalism Project was sponsored by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences to study the rise of fundamentalism worldwide. The volumes are published by the University of Chicago Press. Harding writes:
LaHaye urged Christians to pray and witness as usual and also to help the victims of humanism ... to join the national drive to register Christian voters ... to run for public office ... (pp. 69)
[Falwell] argued that unless born-again Christians acted politically ... they would lose their ... [ability] to fulfill Biblical prophecy. (p. 70)
In other words, political involvement is required to get raptured. While pre and post millennialism differs on the subject of Israel, adherents share similar political goals for the United States government: dominion by those Christians who share their Biblical worldview. People of both belief systems support political candidates who support their narrow theocratic agenda, and they oppose the secular government, or godless Constitution that our founders gave us.
What does George W. Bush believe? It's not clear. Unlike former President Ronald Reagan, who talked openly about his fascination with Armageddon, President Bush has not mentioned the Rapture or Armageddon. His road map for peace calls for a Palestinian state -- something opposed by Christian Zionists. His domestic policies, however, are consistent with Dominion Theology. (See video by Joan Bokaer about dominionism available to download for free on this web site.)
CBS 60 Minutes, Christian's Zion Soldiers, October 6, 2003
Washington Post, The Evangelical-Israeli Connection, March 24, 2004
On The Road to Armageddon, Beliefnet, 2004
From Bill Moyer's Now
Christian Zionists in the Holy Land
The Jewish Divide on Israel, The Nation, July 12, 2004
The New Yorker, Among the Settlers , May 31, 2004
Frontline, Israel's Next War? April 5, 2005
Destined To Clash: Zionism and the Settlements, The Forward, March 4, 2005
Evangelical Children's Novels Push Conversion of 'Spiritually Empty' Jews, The Forward, March 18, 2005
Israel, on Its Own, Is Shaping the Borders of the West Bank, New York Times, April 19, 2005
Part IV: Pie in the Sky, Truthout, April 26, 2004
Threat to Divest Is Church Tool in Israeli Fight, The New York Times, August 6, 2005
Evangelicals Get a Piece of the Promised Land, IPS News, October 3, 2005
Discontent among Christian Zionists, Talk To Action, December 9, 2005Updates and more articles
Last updated: December-2005