More than 2,000 Israeli-Americans recently gathered in Washington, D.C. for the third annual Israeli-American Council Conference. While there may have been only a handful of Christians at the conference, the speakers’ remarks and the Israeli community’s initiatives demonstrated a shifting focus on welcoming Christians into the fight to support Israel.
During a panel titled “Democracy and a Jewish State,” Elazar Stern, Knesset member and former major general in the Israel Defense Forces, described the importance of bringing non-Jewish people to Israel, mentioning The Philos Project’s Passages initiative in particular. He has dedicated his time to addressing Passages groups in Israel.
The Philos Project’s Passages endeavor offers Christian college students with leadership potential a fresh and innovative approach to experiencing the Holy Land, a cause that is directly in line with Stern’s passion for introducing non-Jews to the land of Israel.
New York Sen. Charles Schumer and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani also spoke during the conference. According to The Huffington Post, both politicians touched on the importance of Israeli-Americans in “strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship.” During his speech, Schumer said, “The Israeli-American community has made our country, and particularly my home state of New York, the vibrant, ascendant and optimistic place that it is today.”
Giuliani spoke out against violence committed by the Palestinian Authority and told the nation of Israel that the United States stands behind it in solidarity. “No matter what’s going on between our governments, our people here love you,” he said. “All of American supports Israel, since we are all in the same boat in the fight against terror.”
IAC Chairman Adam Milstein has spearheaded multiple projects promoting Christian involvement in pro-Israel activities during the last 10 years. Milstein started the Campus Allies Mission to Israel through AIPAC, which has been sending 40 students to Israel every year for a decade. He has also sponsored the AJC’s Project Interchange, which sends California student leaders of interfaith backgrounds to Israel.
“When you send Jews on birthright, it makes an impact on their lives, but the impact on non-Jews is 10 times more.” Milstein said. He stressed the impact that Israel has on Christians and non-Jews, saying, “Anyone who goes to Israel comes back a friend, but especially the non-Jewish participants.”
He explained that many non-Jewish or Christian allies of Israel passionately involve themselves in the politics surrounding Israel – which is why he said that he is a “big believer” in connecting non-Jews to Israel and the Israeli people. “They come back and they are willing to defend Israel, which is unique,” Milstein added.
But his focus on the Christian community is not solely for Christians to support Israel, but also for the support that the nation of Israel provides to persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
“The only country in the Middle East that Christians are prospering is Israel,” Milstein added. “This is the only place that all religions prosper because Israel is a democracy. Israel is an open society.”
While droves of Christians are fleeing out of Iraq and Syria because of radical Islamist conquests, Christians are able to freely practice their faith in the State of Israel.
The Israeli-American Council Conference focused heavily on uniting the Israeli and Jewish people, but Milstein stressed the importance of creating unity between the Jewish and Christian communities.
He called on shared values as a unifying force: “We have the same history,” he said. “We have the same heritage. We can see that in the Middle East we are protecting each other, and we have to understand that the war of radical Islam is against our Judeo-Christian values.”
The IAC is the fastest-growing organization in the Jewish community, with a presence in 27 states and a reach of more than 250,000 people nationwide. The purpose of the organization is to inspire a sense of identity in American Jews and Israelis. As the organization continues to rapidly develop and expand, Israeli-Americans are beginning to welcome their Christian friends into the community.
Milstein made it clear that the organization’s inspiration is not exclusively for Israeli-Americans. When asked where he would like to see the IAC in five years, he replied, “I would like to see the IAC to be much larger than the Israeli-American community. I would like to see it as the overall pro-Israel community in the United States, including Jews and Christians.”
The stated mission of the Israeli-American Council is to build “an engaged and united Israel-American community that strengthens.” For more information about this organization and its programs and partners, visit www.israeliamerican.org.
This article originally appeared on Philos Project, November 1, and reposted with permission.