Vice President Mike Pence, an Evangelical Christian and longtime friend of Israel, underscored this administration’s staunch support for the Jewish state with his trip here this week. With the recent US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and strong US defense of Israel in the UN, the US-Israel relationship has reached a new peak.
Of course the lack of daylight between the US and Israel did not happen overnight. It is the direct outgrowth, in part, of the influence of President Trump’s evangelical base, and a deep relationship that the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews began cultivating 35 years ago with the Christian Zionist community in North America and around the world.
But despite the deep faith among Christians that informs their love for Israel, and which in turn is shaping this new US-Israel relationship, we cannot sit back and rely on this support forever. In fact, there are troubling signs that the younger generation of Christians does not feel the same close attachment to Israel that their parents do — mirroring the same gap, ironically, in the Jewish community.
A recent survey by LifeWay Research found that overall Evangelical support for Israel will drop significantly within 10 years – unless we act now.
The survey found that while 76 percent of Evangelicals say Christians should support Israel, 41 percent of younger Evangelicals have no strong feelings about Israel. Further, while 76 percent of older Evangelicals hold positive views of Israel, only 58 percent of younger Evangelicals do.
The survey mirrors our own experience meeting and speaking with Evangelicals of all ages. For those of us who are troubled about whether one of Israel’s most steadfast partners – Evangelical Christians – will continue to be solidly pro-Israel in the future, we ought to be deeply concerned and we must act on several fronts.
First, we must focus and work harder on building the pro-Israel Evangelical voice around the world. There are 100 million Christians in China, hundreds of millions more in Brazil, South America, and the Far East, all of whom have the potential to become Israel’s strongest advocates, allies, and friends. But their support is not a given, nor will it happen by itself, just as American evangelicals didn’t simply become pro-Israel but were taught over decades to take that position.
Also, it remains critical that in North America we engage the next generation of Evangelical Christians, to ensure they follow in the footsteps of their parents and grandparents in connecting with, and supporting, Israel. Both of these strategic steps will require attention, effort and funding.
We must focus and work harder on building the pro-Israel Evangelical voice around the world.
Currently the Fellowship raises $140 million from Christians annually for aliyah, poverty, and security: last year we helped over 1.4 million Jews in Israel and around the world. But we now need Jewish leaders to step up and think big, to seize this pivotal moment in the history of the Christian-Israel relationship, and invest in Israel’s future and her security. We need the Jewish community’s help to build this critical partnership, just as we did the past 35 years with the prior generation.
That means raising meaningful funding from the Jewish community to help reach millions more Christians around the world and the next generation of Christians in North America. For those who love Israel, and want to see that our most important strategic alliance, ensuring her survival, remains strong, we must act now. The future of Israel depends on it.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein is the founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.