A new program in Israel aimed at bringing Christian students to Israel for the summer may be the answer to current fears that Christian support of Israel is waning.
Since the inception of the modern state of Israel, American Conservative and Evangelical Christians, as a rule, have been highly supportive of Israel. Profound believers, they take seriously the biblical verse: “I will bless those that bless you and I will curse those that curse you.” Thus they have made a conscious effort to bless Israel with their moral and political support and prayer.
Yet times are changing. With the abundance of information available on the internet and the continuing shift leftward of higher educational institutions, students nowadays just don’t know what information is reliable. In today’s “Marketplace of Ideas,” it’s the loudest voice that often wins, not necessarily the truth.
Anti-Israel propaganda is abundant and the anti-Israel rhetoric in academia rampant. The next generation of Evangelical Christian students do not know whom to believe, and many are questioning their parents’ unwavering support for Israel.
In another generation, American Evangelical Christian support for Israel may not be a given.
Key to Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation
Enter the Herzl Institute of Jerusalem, a research and training center that focuses on Jewish political thought, philosophy and theology as well as exploring anti-Semitism and developing interfaith dialogue and understanding. Part of the mission is to explore existential questions through science, ethics, philosophy and religion.
The Herzl Institute was recently awarded a $2.2-million grant to create a program wherein Christians and Jews study Jewish texts, in Israel, with the goal of bringing Jewish-Christian cooperation and understanding to a new level. The pilot program opens this summer, with a full-fledged program opening in the summer of 2016.
The program is being jointly directed by Jewish philosopher and political theorist Dr. Yoram Hazony of the Herzl Institute, author of the Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture, and Christian Bible scholar Dr. Dru Johnson, assistant professor of Biblical Studies at The King’s College, a Christian liberal arts college in New York City. Dr. Johnson is the author of Biblical Knowing.
By bringing in this new generation of Christian Scholars to study the Hebrew texts together with Jewish students – taught by Jewish teachers – it is hoped that they will gain a deeper insight into the Jewish narrative and culture, including the significance of Zionism.
This, combined with trips and other programming exposing them to the real Israel – a Jewish State in the ancient Jewish homeland – rather than that portrayed by mainstream media about a place thousands of miles away with which they have no connection, could be just the right ingredient for Jewish-Christian cooperation going into the future.
“What we are seeing at the Herzl Institute is a very deep change, in which many Christians across denominations are saying: Maybe Jews and Judaism have something to contribute to our lives,” Hazony explains. “Maybe we could gain something important by hearing what Jews have to say about the Bible, our history and our world. The new Hebraic Heritage’ program aims to offer just that to Christian students who are looking for that kind of experience.”