Christians United For Israel
Nearly 2.5 million Christian Americans are defending Israel. They call themselves part of the “goyim underground.”
Kasim Hafeez, a Muslim from Nottingham, England, was on his way to Pakistan to join a jihadist training camp when he saw the book, The Case for Israel, by Alan Dershowitz.
Scoffing at the title, he bought it, eager to disprove all the arguments.
Hafeez grew up in a home where his father told him that Hitler was a great man whose only failing was that he didn’t kill enough Jews. Hearing a steady barrage of anti-Western, anti-Semitic invective growing up, both at home and in mosques, Hafeez said, “Even though I lived a comfortable life, had freedom of religion, and had state-sponsored schooling, I learned to feel like a victim. You look for a way to fight back, and you begin to think that being a terrorist is okay.”
Unwilling to admit he was wrong, he decided to go to Israel to validate his prejudices.
But Hafeez had a problem: he couldn’t disprove the arguments in the Dershowitz book. Unwilling to admit he was wrong, he decided to go to Israel to validate his prejudices. This marked the beginning of his transition from would-be jihadist to a Muslim Zionist. In Israel, Hafeez spoke to Druze, Muslims, Christians, and Jews. He was shocked to see that Israel was a democratic, free country where most people just “got on. It was mind-blowing.”
Today, Hafeez is the Outreach Coordinator for Christians United for Israel (cufi.org), giving truth to the despicable lies told about Israel as an oppressive, apartheid state. “Many people in the West now believe that if only there were a Palestinian state there would be no violence. It’s difficult for people to admit that radical Islam is a problem. But it’s not Islamophobia to highlight their violence against women, intolerance, murders of innocent people. People need to wake up. This can come to your door. Everyone has a stake in this.”
Garnering Christian Support for Israel
CUFI’s primary mission is to open Christians’ eyes to the reality of a democratic, humane and vibrant Israeli nation, though their having hired a Muslim in such a prominent role shows how determined they are to reach as many people as possible who will listen. Launched 40 years ago by Pastor John Hagee as the first such non-conversionary Israel advocacy organization, today CUFI is the largest pro-Israel organization in America. Currently, the group is on track to exceed 2.5 million members by the end of the year, and has 1.2 million “likes” on Facebook. The organization also boasts more than 2,300 student leaders on more than 200 college campuses who, like many intrepid Jewish students, are bravely working to shine the truth about Israel amidst the toxic anti-Israel and BDS propagandistic environments. CUFI on Campus’ Facebook page has more than 10,400 “likes.”
CUFI sponsors many trips each year to Israel, which have been transformative in enlightening Christians about “the real Israel.” Even in the midst of the current wave of terror, 35 young Christian leaders have toured the country. The itinerary of this recent “Millennial outreach initiative” was weighted toward visits to Christian holy sites in the Galilee, Nazareth, and Jerusalem, but the group also visited Israel’s security fence with IDF Col. Danny Tirza, Yad Vashem, the town of Sderot, one of the most hard-hit areas from Gazan missiles, and Father Gabriel Nadaff, a Christian priest in Nazareth who launched a campaign for Christians to enlist in the IDF. On Friday night the group visited the Kotel and was hosted for dinner by Jewish families.
These missions are meant to inoculate the participants from the anti-Israel narrative.
Randy Neal, Western Regional Coordinator for CUFI, explains that these missions are meant to “inoculate the participants from the anti-Israel narrative that is gaining traction among young professionals in the U.S. today.” CUFI is sending five more groups to Israel in the coming months, with Neal leading two of them.
Neal joined CUFI in 2006 as the group’s first full-time grassroots organizer, and he is known in Christian circles as an expert in the history of Christian anti-Semitism. Speaking at Congregation Beth Jacob in Beverly Hills recently, Neal acknowledged at the outset that he understands if Jews are skeptical that CUFI’s sole goal is to advocate on behalf of Israel and promote its safety, with no intent to convert. “It’s true that for many Christians, the word ‘Israel’ is understood to mean ‘Christian.’ I myself used to believe that until I learned all the Biblical sources that prove that Israel is the land that belongs to the Jews and exclusively to the Jews.”
In fact, when Pastor John Hagee, founder of the John Hagee Ministries, first announced his plan for CUFI 40 years ago, 29 of the 30 Christian leaders in attendance walked out after Hagee announced the group’s non-conversionary philosophy. By 2005 there had been a sea change in Christian attitudes in this area. That year, more than 400 Christian leaders attended CUFI’s annual conference, the non-missionizing policy fully accepted. Ari Morgenstern, CUFI’s Communications Director, attributes this to Hagee’s consistent efforts over many decades repudiating replacement theology, which he has done at his large and influential Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, as well as on his television program. “In a more modern sense,” Morgenstern adds, “after 9-11 I think there was an increased understanding that Jews and Christians, Americans and Israelis, share the same enemy in radical Islam. It’s not just that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. It’s that many of what we now call Judeo-Christian values are the same.”
There have ended up being two conversions: two of our members became Jewish.
Randy Neal added that this non-conversionary policy has both lost and gained friends for the organization. “But I have to confess, there have ended up being two conversions: two of our members became Jewish.”
In one of the many moments that strongly resonated with the Beth Jacob crowd, Neal admitted that some Christians ask him if quoting the famous line, “Those who bless you, I will bless and those who curse you, I will curse” (Genesis 12.3) is simply “cherry picking” a biblical verse to rationalize the organization’s work.
“Cherry picking? Sure we are! Here are some more cherries.” As he said that, his PowerPoint presentation displayed quote after quote from Tanach affirming God’s promise to bring His children back to the land. The crowd laughed and applauded as the slides started changing slowly, then faster and faster, with dozens of quotes from Ezekiel, Amos, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Psalms.
Neal is credited with pioneering and implementing the programming and procedures that have made CUFI into the largest pro-Israel organization in America. According to Israel Defense Force Col. and Vice Commander Bentzi Gruber, “Randy gives important facts about Israel that even many Israelis do not know."
CUFI’s Israel advocacy includes ongoing educational, political and social media efforts, in addition to their tours to Israel. They also host pastors’ meetings, “Stand with Israel” meetings, and “Nights to Honor Israel,” all meant to underscore the reality of Israel as a humanitarian democracy. Their Israel Collective (israelcollective.org) initiative features exceptionally well produced videos about Israel and its remarkable achievements. The Israeli Ministry of Tourism has credited these IC videos as "the best resource available to communicate the true heart of Israel."
Like its Jewish counterpoint, AIPAC (where Neal formerly served as a member of the Northwest board), CUFI’s political activism has been intense of late. This past August and September, coinciding with their organization’s annual D.C. Summit, CUFI sent 5,000 delegates to Capitol Hill to oppose upcoming Iran nuclear deal. In August alone, they sent members to 112 Town Hall meetings in their congressional representatives’ home districts and bought full-page newspaper advertisements, calling out supporters of the Iran agreement by name. Neal asserts that Rep. Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona, quickly changed his mind about voting for the deal when CUFI called to tell him his name would appear in the ad. And when Chuck Hegel was first nominated as Barack Obama’s Secretary of Defense in 2013, CUFI announced an urgent mission for pastors to go to Washington D.C. to protest the nomination. Three days later, 400 pastors made the last-minute trip to try to stop the nomination.
A U.S. Secretary of Defense should be able to distinguish between an enemy and an ally.
“We felt a U.S. Secretary of Defense should be able to distinguish between an enemy and an ally, and Hegel called for easing up on Iran and being tougher on Israel,” Neal said. While Hegel’s nomination went through, Neal believes that the lobbying efforts prevented the nomination from being a slam-dunk affair. Instead, it became a weeks-long interrogation “that left no one with the excuse that they had not been warned.” On a happier note, the Hezbollah Financing Prevention Act passed the House in 2014, the same evening CUFI had been lobbying on Capitol Hill.
In August 2014, as Israel fought Operation Protective Edge against missile attacks from Gaza, CUFI mobilized a solidarity trip to Israel within one week, with pastors from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. Pastor Jay Bailey of the Solid Rock Assembly of God Church in Midland, Georgia, had already been on four other CUFI tours, but signed up for this one as well. “I feel zero level of risk, zero level of danger,” he said before leaving. “I feel a profound sense of moral outrage about what is going on, and the perception that there is a moral equivalent between Israel and Hamas, a terror group. The moral fog is absolutely outrageous.”
All the pastors had downloaded the “red alert” app that Israelis were using to warn them of impending missile attacks. On the Sunday of their trip, the red alert went off 25 times during the pastors’ Sunday service. Each time they had to walk out of their service and into a bomb shelter. Some pastors reenacted this same red alert interruption in their own congregations to underscore what Israelis have had to live through.
$80 million has been sent to Israel-based charities over the past 34 years.
John Hagee is the chairman of both CUFI and of the John Hagee Ministries, which has sent $80 million to Israel-based charities over the past 34 years. In 2014, the Ministries sent $2.8 million to Israeli organizations, including contributions of between $50,000 - $400,000 to Nahal Hareidi, the Koby Mandell Foundation, Ohr Torah Stone, Save a Child’s Heart, Western Galilee Hospital, Magen David Adom and Nefesh B’Nefesh.
Randy Neal became emotional as he wound up his talk at Beth Jacob. “It’s with an incredibly heavy sense of responsibility that we realize what we owe the Jewish people,” he said. “This is a little late in coming, but please know there are millions of others like me out there. You are not alone. You have millions of agents in the ‘Goyim Underground.’”