A sign showcasing the museum of Christian Zionism
The donation star that encapsulates the ideas of the Friends of Zion
Two freedom fighters for Israel – one Jewish one Christian both American fighting for Zionism
By Rachel Lowenbraun
What is Christian Zionism?
Christian Zionism at its core is mostly an Evangelical belief that the Jewish people are the true people of the land of Israel being that they have a covenant with G-d to the land. (Friends of Zion, 2022) Therefore, Christians must support the Jewish people in returning to their land in order for the Christian belief that when the Jewish people are returned to Israel the second coming of Jesus will occur. The theology of Christian Zionism is rooted in “dispensational premillennialism,” the belief that Jesus will return to earth to rule, precluded by a mass migration of Jews to Jerusalem, natural disasters, disease, and war during the 7 years of the Tribulations. These events are followed by the Battle of Armageddon, in which the gates to heaven finally open for Evangelical Christian Zionists and leave the non-believers – including roughly two-thirds of the Jewish population – to perish on earth while the streets run with their blood (Zinshtein, 2019).
Why study the effects of Christian Zionism?
Research suggests that pro-Israel groups run by Jewish efforts, namely AIPAC, are mere child’s play with a little over 100,000 members (Overby, 2019) in comparison to the roughly 10 million members of Christians United for Israel (CUFI). John Hagee, the leader of this organization, has been creating material to educate, mobilize, and recruit large numbers of members each year. The cultural ties between Christian dominionism and American political conservatism have created a stronghold on American politics, making the questioning of Israeli political practices completely off the table regardless of these policies’ impact on global affairs and peace efforts (Lauer, 2009). The level of support by sheer numbers and funding disproportionately represents Evangelical Christians, who are non-primary stakeholders in the matter, in Israeli policy and American foreign policy to Israel. The story around Israel for many Americans will be one of Biblical prophecies, in opposition to the multifaceted nature of Jewish Zionism including secularism in the Jewish state.
In short, Christian Zionism does not validate anyone but the Jewish people as entitled to make a home in Jerusalem; in their belief, no other lands shall be built on the grounds of Biblical prophecy. Furthermore, Christian Zionists have the numbers to stronghold onto their desire for the future of Israel.
How does Christian Zionism impact the peace building process and Palestinians in the West Bank?
The role of how Armageddon rhetoric harms both Israelis, Jews, and Palestinians must be explored in order to dissolve as many barriers to peace between the two nations as possible.
The Christian Zionism movement focuses in modern day on the West Bank, with a goal of restoring Judea and Samaria with little to no regard of the Palestinians in the West Bank.
Christians United for Israel in 2017 donated $1.7 million dollars for settlements in Palestine. In addition, Christian Friends of Israeli Communities (CFOIC), founded in 1995, links American churches to settlements to provide funding to build their cities in the occupied territories. In 2014, members raised roughly $600,000 for settlements, which they state is not occupied territory since G-ds law outweighs international law. (Gallagher 2015)
The erasure of Palestinians entirely along with Palestinian Christians themselves being negated as an obstacle rather than a brother to western Christians. The division Christian Zionism causes between more extreme Israelis and those of the majority of Jews about the occupied territories in the West bank places a blockade in peace negotiations. The funneling of money from Christian Zionists resources towards settlements in the West bank closes the window for a two-state solution and places international anger on Israel. The harmful effects of the end of times spoil those who desire for peace, and if the number of those who are for preparation of the Armageddon outweigh those who are for peace solutions then both Israelis and Palestinians will continue to suffer at the consequences of an ideology to which they do not subscribe.
Direct experiences in Israel
During my research in Israel I met with a prominent Palestinian retired journalist and a Jewish peace activist.
“How many Christians have to be killed for the western media to wake up and see” the retired journalist said to me when speaking about the death of Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian Journalist and Christian. He expressed his frustrations with the invisibility of his group and how western, mostly American, Christians do not value Palestinians as equally as Jewish people in regards to Israel even though they have the same faith. This holds true with previous notions by the CUFI leader Hagge notes that Palestinians is not a real entity and the people are not Palestinians but rather ‘just Arabs’. (Chetty, 2014) In addition I spoke to a Jewish peace activist volunteer, an modern orthodox Jew who spends a lot of time in the West Bank or Judea and Samaria. The Jewish activist spoke about how in orthodox religious settler communities there have been issues with Christian Zionists pretending to be one of them. He stated how Evangelical Christians, mostly from America, will literally dress up as an orthodox Jew with a fake name and story in order to infiltrate illegal ideological settler communities. He went on to say that they do this in order to intertwine themselves closest with the biblical prophecy of Judea and Samaria. There are no official records of how many people do this a year, how many are involved with settler violence against Palestinians, or how much/if they radicalize settlers into furthering their own Armageddon agenda.
In addition, direct exposure to the Christian Zionism rhetoric can be found in the Friends of Zion museum located in Jerusalem.
The expansion of this ideology begins with inviting a potential member into a personal stakeholder within Israel. By ignoring and downplaying parts of pre-state and modern state of Israel that go directly against Christian Zionist ideology the exhibits are able to manipulate the viewer into a false sense of righteousness that has been carefully constructed to coddle a few and funded by tens of millions of backers. There are countless signs around the museum that state that there are “30,000,00+ members worldwide” for Friends of Zion. The intimidation by sheer numbers goes to show the point being made that Christian Zionism is the correct way to go, why would so many people follow if it was not?
In the exhibit, The Founders Theatre, the walls are covered in scripture about how G-d promises the land to the Jewish people and how he blesses those who uphold this covenant. Even the name “The Founders” calls on a definition of the Jewish people as the true people to the land, then expanding to say how Israel was barren between Jewish exodus and the modern state of Israel. The next room, Here’s to the Dreamer, features four different talking head sculptures of prominent Christian Zionists from the early 19th century. Notably this section mentions the Jewish people as the “natural owners” of Israel and once again makes no mention of any other peoples living in the land. (Friends of Zion, 2022) In addition, the dreamers make only note of Hertzel trying to claim he was in close proximity with Christian Zionists even making a claim that he slept next to a book about Christian Zionism but this has been unconfirmed. The exclusion of Jewish Zionism and efforts aids in painting a picture of the Jewish people as a poor and helpless peoples who yearned for the help of Christian Zionists and were always rejoyceful for their help. The minimization of Jewish efforts and idea of Jewish acceptance of Christian aid based on the fact that they are fulfilling their biblical prophecy – may I remind everyone that this ends with Jesus killing most of the Jews on earth – places Christian Zionism above Jewish Zionism and any negative moral implications their strategies have created.
Chetty, Irvin G. “The New Apostolic Reformation and Christian Zionism.” Journal for the Study of Religion, vol. 27, no. 2, 2014, pp. 297–312. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/24799454.
“Policy Accomplishments.” Christians United for Israel. https://cufi.org/about/policy/policy-accomplishments/
The Founders Theater, 2022. Friends of Zion Museum, Jerusalem
Gallagher, Ash. “US Christian Charities Bankroll Israeli Settlements.” Aljazeera. August 26, 2015. https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2015/8/26/us-christian-charities-bankroll-israeli-settlements
Lauer, Erin. “American Christian Zionism and US Policy on Settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.” American School of International Service. Spring, 2009. https://dra.american.edu/islandora/object/0809capstones%3A212/datastream/PDF/view
Lowenbraun, Rachel. Photograph of Friends of Zion Museum. 16 June 2022. Author’s personal collection.
Overby, Peter. “Unpacking What the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Does.” NPR, NPR, 13 Feb. 2019, https://www.npr.org/2019/02/13/694463816/unpacking-what-the-american-israel-public-affairs-committee-does.
Zinshtein, Maya. “‘Til Kingdom Come.” Ventureland and Passion Pictures. 2019. *special access for screening*