May 25, 2020
WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST
Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.
NEW TENSIONS BETWEEN JEWS AND EVANGELICALS
An evangelical broadcaster, who boasted of miraculously securing a TV license in Israel, now risks being taken off the air over suspicions of trying to convert Jews to Christianity. The controversy over “GOD TV” has put both Israel and its evangelical Christian supporters in an awkward position, exposing tensions the two sides have long papered over. Evangelical Christians, particularly in the United States, are among the strongest supporters of Israel, viewing it as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, with some seeing it as the harbinger of a second coming of Jesus Christ and the end of days.
Israel has long welcomed evangelicals’ political and financial support, especially as their influence over the White House has risen during the Trump era, and it has largely shrugged off concerns about any hidden religious agenda. But most Jews view any effort to convert them to Christianity as deeply offensive, a legacy of centuries of persecution and forced conversion at the hands of Christian rulers. In part because of those sensitivities, evangelical Christians, who generally believe salvation can only come through Jesus and preach the Gospel worldwide, rarely target Jews.
When GOD TV, an international Christian broadcaster, reached a seven-year contract earlier this year with HOT, Israel’s main cable provider, it presented itself as producing content for Christians. But in a video message that has since been taken down, GOD TV CEO Ward Simpson suggested its real aim was to convince Jews to accept Jesus as their messiah. The channel, known as “Shelanu,” broadcast in Hebrew even though most Christians in the Holy Land speak Arabic. “God has supernaturally opened the door for us to take the Gospel of Jesus into the homes and lives and hearts of his Jewish people,” Simpson said in the video. “They’ll watch secretly, they’ll watch quietly,” he added. “God is restoring his people, God is removing the blindness from their eyes.”
In a subsequent video, Simpson acknowledged that the channel was under investigation by Israeli authorities, saying that preaching about Jesus in Israel is a “very touchy subject.” He apologized for any offensive remarks and said GOD TV would comply with all regulations. Freedom of religion is enshrined in Israeli law, and proselytizing is allowed as long as missionary activities are not directed at minors and do not involve economic coercion.
“In recent decades, millions of Christians have felt the call to stand with the State of Israel and the Jewish people with no hidden agenda,” said Laurie Cardoza-Moore, a Tennessee-based evangelical who hosts a program called “Focus on Israel” that previously aired on GOD TV. “Any attempts to convert Jews or downgrade their religion will only [sow] undue hatred at a time when we should unite in the face of darkness,” Cardoza-Moore said.
The issue remains one of the major “hot-button” issues of our time in Israel. It will be interesting to see what comes next.
YOU MIGHT ENJOY MY NEWEST BOOK HOT OFF THE PRESS
82 DAYS ON OKINAWA
JUST OUT – IT’S A THRILLER!
Col. Art Shaw & Robert L. Wise
You can find 82 DAYS ON OKINAWA at your local book store or on Amazon.