CUFI’s recent summit in Washington, D.C., offered opportunities to lobby Congress for continued support to Israel and to discuss the United States’ Middle East policy
By BRUCE TILSNER
After attending the 2012 Washington Summit for Christians United For Israel (CUFI) in July, I want to thank this wonderful organization.
The 5,000 attendees from throughout the United States paid their own way, and took time from their families, jobs and recreational passions to engage in pro-Israel political action. Having reached more than a million members in just seven years, CUFI is now America’s largest pro-Israel organization.
Although I was raised in a traditional Jewish family, I’ve lived a predominantly secular life. However, I’ve always greatly appreciated our Christian Zionist friends, and their efforts to strengthen the cooperative relationship between the United States and Israel. Having attended six national policy conferences for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), I am familiar with how large pro-Israel conferences in Washington work.
After considerable discussion with Jewish and Christian friends that have attended previous CUFI national summits, I rolled the dice and supported their efforts by participating. I even boarded a bus at the Living Word Christian Center for a 24-hour ride to Washington.
Although participants didn’t know that I was the only Jew on the two local buses, these Evangelical Christians were warm and welcoming when discovering that I was Jewish — and the same hospitality was exhibited by many other Minnesota Christians that attended the summit.
While displaying incredible kindness, nobody tried converting me to Christianity. Our Christian friends never indicated that Jews must compromise other public policy beliefs to retain their support for Israel.
Many people contributed to my wonderful experience, but special thanks go to Ilan and Cindy Sharon, from our local Jewish community, and my longtime Christian friend, Joanne Magnuson. Their support and encouragement to attend the CUFI summit is greatly appreciated.
Our Jewish community is very fortunate to have the friendship and involvement of Pastors Mac and Lynne Hammond from the Living Word Christian Center. Additionally, the Jewish people couldn’t ask for better friends and better people than Pastor Tim Burt and his wife, Renee, who are also from the Living Word. Their encouragement greatly contributed to almost 200 Minnesotans traveling to Washington.
While their biblical and spiritual devotion to Israel is undeniable, our Christian friends also respect Israel as a loyal ally and a strategic asset to the United States. To illustrate their respect for Israel as a strategic partner, the CUFI executive board states the following in its welcome letter in the 2012 Washington Summit Guide:
“We are here to remind our elected officials that Israel is a bastion of freedom and democracy in a despotic Middle East. We are here to stress to our nation’s leaders that Israel is our first line of defense against the many enemies devoted to attacking America and killing Americans. When Israel battles Hezbollah and Hamas, it’s battling Iranian-backed terrorist groups that have American blood on their hands. When Israel sounds the alarm about Iran, it’s focusing our attention on the greatest strategic threat to America and the West.”
A CUFI brochure titled “Defend America” has the following written on the back page:
“I believe that a strong Israel is an American strategic asset. I believe that when Israeli soldiers patrol their border, they are maintaining our first line of defense against militant Islam. I believe that when Israel confronts Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Iran, they are confronting shared enemies that we’d otherwise face alone. As America limits its commitments abroad, allies like Israel, which take the lead in pursuing shared strategic interests, become more important than ever. As America cuts spending, military aid to Israel remains a wise investment in our own security.”
Finally, on the last day of the 2012 National Summit, I joined my fellow Zionists on Capitol Hill to meet with members of our Congressional delegation. Our Christian friends lobbied with conviction and dignity on legislation to stop Iran’s nuclear program, to maintain security assistance for Israel, to increase strategic cooperation between the United States and Israel, and to use American influence to stop Palestinian incitement.
In addition to being people of great depth and variety, many CUFI members have traveled to Israel. They are well informed about Israel’s history, geography, achievements and challenges. CUFI also had a wonderful gift shop at the summit, which offered uniquely pro-Israel merchandise at affordable prices.
CUFI is also becoming more active on college campuses. Hundreds of bright, polite and motivated college students attended the 2012 CUFI summit. These students are doing great work to combat the misleading and visceral propaganda that’s used against Israel at our universities.
The 2013 CUFI National Summit will take place July 22-24, 2013, in Washington, D.C. If you want to help Israel by lobbying our legislators on Capitol Hill, have a great educational experience regarding American Middle East policy, and learn more about Christian Zionism, I recommend that you attend future CUFI summits.
If you’re a passionate Zionist, the CUFI summit is a terrific way to meet local Minnesotans with a principled and unapologetic commitment to the safety and well-being of the Jewish state.
Bruce Tilsner lives in Plymouth.
(American Jewish World, 8.17.12)