Israel hosts international Christian reporters, galvanizes evangelical support for Jewish state

Chris Mitchell CBN Middle East Bureau Chief (left), Avi Dichter Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee (center), Minister of Jerusalem Heritage Zeev Elkin (right) at Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem, Israel, October 2017 (Photo: Government Press Office)

Speaking at the first of its kind conference for Christian media sponsored by the Israeli government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told participants that Christians are Israel’s best friends.

“Israel has no better friends — I mean that, no better friends in the world — than the Christian communities around the world,” Netanyahu told reporters and media personnel at the Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem on Sunday.

Netanyahu upheld Israel’s commitment to religious freedom and compared its record to neighboring countries in the Middle East.

“Israel is the one country in a vast region where Christians not only survive, they thrive,” Netanyahu said.

Some 130 influential Christian journalists and news executives from around the world are attending the event, which ends on Wednesday, according to the Government Press Office. Representatives from TBN, CBN, Daystar and God TV hosted several of the sessions and addressed attendees.

The purpose of the gathering was to galvanize evangelical support for Israel and provide tools for Christian journalists to better relate Israel’s narrative in the news.

“The unbreakable bond of Jerusalem to the history of Israel is even more challenging these days, as ignorant and even nefarious international organizations attempt to undermine this bond,” Minister of Jerusalem Affairs & Heritage Zeev Elkin said. “Thus, the importance of hosting the most influential members of the international Christian media in Jerusalem is paramount.”

“As Christianity has its roots in Judaism, these journalists have the unique opportunity to understand that the spurious charges claiming that Jerusalem has no contextual historical attachment to Israel are utterly absurd,” Elkin continued.

The GPO, Foreign Ministry and other government agencies hosted the Christian journalists and gave them access to panels of experts and a host of government officials including Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Education Minister Naftali Bennett.

In his remarks Sunday night, Netanyahu focused on Iran, applauding U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement that he wants to review the 2015 nuclear agreement with the Islamic republic. Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have long lobbied the U.S. to prevent Iranian nuclear weapon acquisition.

As expected, Netanyahu was enthusiastic about Trump’s announcement. He was highly critical of Iran, particularly for its treatment of Christians in the Islamic republic.

“Christians are brutally persecuted in the Islamic Republic,” he said. “Christians have been lashed for sipping wine during prayer services. Christians have been brutally tortured for doing nothing more than practicing their faith.”

He urged reporters to focus on the persecution of Christians there.

“Dedicate this week to highlighting the plight of the countless Christians suffering under Iran, profile the brave Christian leaders jailed for practicing their faith, sit with the families of the school teachers jailed for years merely for converting to Christianity, call out the lie and the lies of President Rouhani, who promised in 2013 that all religions would, quote, feel justice in Iran, while so many Christians live there in constant terror,” he said.