Last month, I left my neighborhood and to some extent, my comfort zone. I headed south on the Gene Snyder to Billtown Road and the Evangel World Prayer Center. I was pleasantly surprised to see both the Israeli flag, flying permanently in front of the Prayer Center, and the Lo uisville police, sitting in the parking lot, presumably providing security.
I came to the Prayer Center because I wanted to see what a Night to Honor Israel felt like in the midst of an Evangelical congregation. I was not disappointed.
We felt like honorary guests among their congregation. Many standing in the pews held Israeli flags. A 10-piece band accompanied the congregation singing the “Star Spangled Banner” before we heard a recording of “Hatikvah.” I thought to myself, “what a shame that we, the local Jewish community, did not have a presence there to sing ‘Hatikvah,’ but what an honor that they were playing it.” Then I took a look around. There were perhaps 15 Jews from our community that I recognized. If this was a night to Honor Israel, where were we?
There was a video message from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Then, the Evangelical congregation sang several songs in Hebrew as the Hebrew transliteration appeared on a large video screen up front.
At this point, my teenage children who joined me were a bit confused and I must admit, so was I. I simply kept reminding them that we were among Evangelical Christians that stand in solidarity with the nation of Israel and the Jewish people. And most importantly, we were there as their guests and we shared a common goal – supporting the State of Israel.
Pastor Bob Rodgers welcomed everyone. He reminded us all that there was a bond between Jews and Christians and that the two groups stood together in support of Israel. He explained that this evening’s tribute to Israel would be broadcast live in Bethlehem by Holy Land Broadcasting, a television station airing Christian programming throughout the land of Israel that he had founded. He told of more than 40 visits to Israel and the strong connection he feels to the State of Israel.
Rabbi Robert Slosberg of Congregation Adath Jeshurun then spoke about his connections with and love for the State of Israel. He asked us to imagine a time when the Arab and Muslim nations were willing to co-exist with Israel and live side-by-side in peace. He reminded those present of the range of Israel’s many accomplishments in science, technology and resource management through Nobel Prize winners and startup companies. He dreamed about Israel’s ability to have a positive impact on all its neighbors.
Rabbi Slosberg then thanked the Evangelical congregants “… from the bottom of both my Jewish and Zionist heart. What you do for Israel could never have been imagined by Herzl …” He quipped, “I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around your presence today. Never in my 35-year career did I ever envision speaking at a Night to Honor Israel at the Evangel World Prayer Center.”
Finally, the Rabbi explained, “We need friends like you who are not afraid to speak up, show up, and back your words with deeds and support. You are remarkable and an inspiration.”
In the course of the evening, the congregation also took up a collection for Israel and made an $1,800 donation to the 2016 Federation Campaign to go to Israel.
So next year, if the Evangel World Prayer Center hosts another Night to Honor Israel, consider leaving your comfort zone. Show up to stand in solidarity with our Evangelical friends. I promise you it will be a night to remember.