[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]
Although the weather outside on Sunday, May 15, was cold and rainy, more than 1,200 people – Christians and Jews – gathered at the Evangel World Prayer Conference Center for a Night to Honor Israel.
Hosted by Evangel, the evening included a performance by the Evangel choir and a series of speeches and was capped by a rousing performance by the Charlie Daniels Band.
As honored guests, Jewish Community of Louisville President and CEO Stu Silberman, the JCL’s Jewish Community Relations Council Chair Leon Wahba and Rabbi Joel Wasser were all given the opportunity to speak.
Silberman thanked Pastor Bob Rogers and the Evangel Christian community for their strong support of Israel and the JCL through the years as well as their hospitality that evening. He said he was “thrilled to see that support for Israel is universal and transcendent. It is with great admiration that I see all of you here honoring a nation which is still fighting for its survival, even after 63 years.”
Silberman went on to describe Israel as a nation that is “a safe haven for oppressed Jews” and a nation that respects treasured Amercian values “like freedom and democracy.”
Wahba also thanked the community’s Evangel hosts, then went on to decry terrorism. He also spoke out against a small group of protesters that had gathered outside the church and the BDS – boycott, divest, sanction – campaign that some groups are trying to launch against Israel.
Rabbi Wasser offered a blessing to the gathering.
The support of Evangelical Christians is so important to Israel that Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, although he could not attend the program in person, prepared a video message for the gathering. Netanyahu thanked everyone present for their support of Israel and singled out Pastor Bob in particular.
Pastor Bob spoke of his love for Israel and recounted his first visit to the country. At the time, he was a college student and was traveling with his father shortly after one of Israel’s wars. During his travels, a group of soldiers boarded his bus. Pastor Bob noted that the soldiers were younger than he was, and it struck him how precarious the situation in Israel is.
Then Charlie Daniels took the stage. The consummate professional musician and showman, Daniels and his band not only delivered a wonderful concert that mixed new pieces with classic favorites, but Daniels, too, spoke of his love of Israel. If there were only one place he could go for the rest of his life, the singer stated, it would be Israel. He’s planning another visit there in November.
As Daniels’ performance neared it end, he played his fiddle, leading the crowd in Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah,” and “The Star Spangled Banner,” and finished with “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”
The Evangel community also took up a collection that night, and promised that the net proceeds of the evening would be given to the Jewish Community of Louisville to be used in the JCL’s Partnership with Israel region, the Western Galilee.