By: Suzanne Rosenberg
Israel’s oldest English language daily, The Jerusalem Post, has a new product. While across the world printed newspapers are declining in pages, consolidating or going out of business altogether, The Jerusalem Post came out earlier this past year with the Jerusalem Post Christian edition.
The Jerusalem Post introduces itself as a widely recognized and trusted source for news on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world,” and suggests that now, it is “offering Israel’s Christian friends a special edition published monthly dedicated to their unique interests.”
Evangelical Christianity is continuing to grow globally even as its political influence appears to be waning in the United States. Israel and the Jerusalem Post are betting that global evangelicalism and its adherents are a steady market for tourism and readership, at least in so far as their relationship with the “the holy land” is concerned.
The Christian edition is an attractive, multicolored, many-paged monthly, with numerous articles of particular interest to the international Christian community. Articles such as, “Israel allies caucus formed in US Congress,” “Taking the Bible on Tour: Christians bring 4000 years of Jewish history to audiences across Europe,” and “Healing the Wounds, German Christians serve Holocaust survivors in Northern Israel.”
This is the latest move by the Post in its long political and publishing shift further to “the right of the political center” (as described by the Post itself). The Jerusalem Post began publication as the Palestine Post in 1932, and became the Jerusalem Post after the state of Israel was declared and the British Mandate period of Palestine formally ended. The paper evolved in order to serve the multi-lingual Jewish Palestine community of immigrants and served as a recruiting and communication tool for the Mapai movement — which later became the Israeli Labor Party, and had a clear left liberal and even socialist leanings reflecting the largely secular and East European origins of the country’s founding generation and first immigrants.
It might appear to some that the Jerusalem Post’s creation of a Christian edition is unusual or far-fetched, and the relationship and timing of such Israeli-Christian endeavors may make for strange bedfellows. At least two books have come out recently however, which are devoted exclusively to the relationship of Christians to Israel, historically and in the present.
“Power, Faith and Fantasy,” a book published only this January, explores the depths and history of the often-romantic relationship between American Christianity and their support of the Jews in Israel. Michael Oren, the author, is a well-regarded historian from the Shalem Center in Tel Aviv, and suggests that the links between American Christianity, “the holy land,” and the Hebrews began with American Puritanism and even has been partly responsible for the effort to bring “civic values, patriotism and nationalism ” to the Middle East, first through Christian missionary work and eventually through education with the establishment of the American universities of Beirut and Cairo.
This is especially interesting and even revealing when looking at the policies, often mystifying, of President George Bush in the region in general — and the support of his political base for Israel in particular. Even more fascinating is Oren’s observation that many of these ideas were popularized by a man named George Bush who taught at New York University in the 1900’s. The two contemporary American Presidents of the same name are in fact his direct descendents.
In his book, “A Match Made in Heaven: American Jews, Christian Zionists, and One Man’s Exploration of the Weird and Wonderful Judeo-Evangelical Alliance,” Zev Chafets, journalist and former Press Secretary for Prime Minister Begin, examines American evangelical support for Israel. Among the numerous points that Chafets makes in his amusing book is that regardless of the numerous ideological, political and religious differences which many evangelicals have with Jews in America and abroad, these are less important, according to many within Israel at least (this isn’t as clear among the Jewish community within the U.S.), than is their strong support for Israeli interests and security. It is therefore in Israel’s interests to nurture and further develop strategic alliances with the Christian and evangelical community acknowledging that the enemy of my friend is my enemy.
Ironically it is the evangelical Christian community, which may become Israel’s chief source of future tourism.
Those Christians who come to Israel for pilgrimages etc. make up an increasingly large part of Israel’s tourism industry. Jewish families around the world who might otherwise have sent their children to Israel for programs are thinking twice due to the political instability and the general perception that violence may erupt at any time. The evangelical community does not seem to harbor these same fears in their contemplation of pilgrimages to the “holy land.” Zev Chafets doesn’t mince words when suggesting that Israelis have few qualms about accepting help and assistance from any quarter if it is perceived as helpful and constructive, regardless of whatever eschatological differences might exist between the communities.
Many of the Jewish supporters of Israel who have been staying away from Israel due to fear and who might have sent their children to Israel in the past or go themselves are often the more outspoken and “liberal” American and western Jewish and Zionist constituencies.
The firm and unwavering support that the Christian evangelicals demonstrate is more than welcome therefore to many within Israel and without. If one reads the small print in either the subscription or the title page of the Christian editions, one discovers that the new venture is collaboration between the Jerusalem Post and the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem. The ICEJ was created in 1980 in order to provide support to the evangelical community beyond Israel’s borders. The ICEJ is where many evangelical leaders and their ministries turn for substantive information, leadership and educational guidance when looking for speakers, tours and information on Israel and assistance for pilgrimages to the “holy land.”
Advertising support is evidently brisk as are subscription sales, which are sold largely through online ads and mailing lists of the iCEJ and its numerous international evangelical partners.
The Jerusalem Post and the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem invite their potential readers to Stand for Israel. Pray for Israel. Comfort Israel. … be informed about Israel. .. and subscribe to the dynamic new Jerusalem Post Christian Edition for only 59.$ a year.”