The clear, smooth sounds of the shofar echoed through the packed hall at Evangel World Prayer Center on Thursday, August 14, welcoming members of the Jewish community and the Evangel congregation to A Night to Stand with Israel with featured speaker Sen. Mitch McConnell.
As different as these two communities are, they are united in their support of Israel. This summer, as Israel was under attack, they once again came together for this rally. Pastor Bob Rodgers was the gracious host.
Jewish Community Relations Council Chair Becky Ruby Swansburg delivered a stirring speech. “We should be gathered tonight to celebrate Israel,” she said, but instead, “we’re gathered tonight to stand with Israel,” pray for and defend the Jewish state.
Israel, she pointed out, “is under attack by Hamas rockets” and has a right to defend its citizens. “When rockets rain from the sky, no nation should be asked to sit idly by” although that seems to be what world opinion expects.
Israel is also under attack underground. “I often wonder,” Swansburg continued, “if Mexican drug cartels were tunneling under our southern border, kidnapping US citizens, firing missiles at San Diego, Phoenix and Los Angeles, staging terrorist attacks on our cities, what would our government do? I assure you, it would not be the advice world leaders are now recommending to Israel.”
Israel’s national anthem is a prayer and a hope “to be free people in our land,” she pointed out, not a statement of pride and strength like other national anthems. Those present came to pray that Israel might be free and that the whole region might find peace. On behalf of Louisville’s Jewish community, she thanked everyone present for standing with Israel.
Sen. McConnell expressed his pleasure at being at an event that brought Christians and Jews together in support of Israel, and he reaffirmed his own strong support for Israel.
For the Jewish people, Sen. McConnell said, having a country didn’t end their challenges. Since its establishment, it has been under siege, fighting war after war.
Israel is always asked to give up land for peace, he observed, “but reciprocity never seems to come,” and he added that the United Nations seems to be a cheering section for anti-Semitism.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said it best, Sen. McConnell continued – the Israelis use missiles to defend their people and Hamas uses its people to defend its missiles.
Sen. McConnell pointed out that Israel warns the people of Gaza of an impending attack while Hamas forces its people to stay in harm’s way. This results in high civilian casualties for which Israel is then condemned.
Israel should not be forced to accept a ceasefire before it is ready, he continued because a ceasefire is good only when Israel has achieved its goals: destroying the tunnels and Hamas’ ability to attack.
Israel left Gaza voluntarily, Sen. McConnell reminded his audience, and the people of Gaza elected Hamas as its government. In exchange for ceding land, Israel got a neighbor that used the materials allowed in for rebuilding community resources for building tunnels and firing missiles.
“We need to stand with Israel,” he said.
The United States is Israel’s only ally, Sen. McConnell said. He questioned whether President Obama and the Democratic leadership would preserve that relationship, as well as the wisdom of current American foreign policy.
Sen. McConnell pointed out that he backs up his support for Israel with action and at the end of July, he pushed through a $2.25 million allocation for Israel’s defense.
The Evangel congregation took up a collection for Israel that night. Half of what they collected, $5,000, was given to the Jewish Federation of Louisville’s Stop the Sirens Campaign and the other half will go to their own social service programs in Israel.
Other participants included Kevin McKnight who offered greetings, Cheryl Gough and the Evangel choir who performed “God Bless America” and former U.S. Representative from Indiana Mike Sodrel, Rabbi Michael Wolk of Congregation Keneseth Israel and Charles Shunnarah, a American Christian from a Palestinian family all offered prayers for peace. Shiela Steinman Wallace from the Jewish Community of Louisville led “Hatikvah” and Don Petersen sang “Jerusalem.”
Sen. McConnell’s wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, was also in attendance.