Cowboy hats and kippas: Christian Zionists gather in Washington to cheer for Israel, pressure politicians

Alice Bach
On this morning, July 15, as hot as Hades, the DC Conference Center is cool and respectfully quiet. Banners inscribed with Bible verses hang from the two-story atrium. There is security, wanding of every participant, polite but careful, much more efficient than the TSA at airports. Everyone is polite and eager to be your friend.

Once you past through registration, about 30 seconds, you get your CUFI — Christians United for Israel — tote bag and your badge, which is hung around your neck by a super-cheerful greeter. You must wear the badge and carry your CUFI bag to move around the Conference Center. Never forget, the enemy is everywhere.

Up two giant escalators to the gigantic ballroom, which accommodates 6,000 people. Blue and red lights play on the ceiling in the half-darkness. People are saving seats, calling out to friends, excited that the conference will open in a few moments. I get an aisle seat.

Cowboy Hats and kippas

Most of the audience is white, many couples, many bunches of women, who are members of the CUFI prayer group, Daughter of Zion. Possibly five percent of the audience is made up of people of color. There are a handful of rabbis, wearing kippas (skullcaps). Their badges have a marigold yellow stripe across them. Ironic, I think, that the rabbis are made to wear yellow on their identity badges, but I know better than to suggest anything negative to thee people.

The rabbis are surrounded with officials of CUFI. The rabbis and other Jewish leaders move with gravitas through the crowd. I know that Senator Joe Lieberman will speak. I know that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will appear several times live from Jerusalem on the huge flat screens to thank us for supporting Israel and of course to praise his dear friend Pastor John Hagee. I know that Representative Michele Bachmann will speak tomorrow night at the Night to Honor Israel banquet.

Next to me is a man wearing a cowboy hat and studded denim shirt and matching jeans. He is from Texas. “If we keep paying those Saudis for gas,” he told me in a conversational tone, “They will keep giving the money to the Arab terrorists, and we will be destroyed. Texas should pump oil, North Dakota should pump oil, and when we get rid of Obama, they’ll be the fracking of gas.”

I smile and gulp some coffee. “We been, the wife and me, four times to Israel, visited the brave settlers in Judea and Samaria, just like in the biblical days. You know they remind me of our own Pioneers, settling the West, because we are the new Promised Land, connected to the Promised Land in Israel. God has smiled on both peoples.”

‘Not if war will come, but when’

Just then the house lights are dimmed, and three huge screens click on. In a moment the room becomes silent. The man in a pale blue linen suit arises and moves to the podium. He is a dead ringer for Burl Ives, as Big Daddy Pollitt, in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Pastor John Hagee, our leader. Founder and CEO of Christian United for Israel.

“When Israel blew up the nuclear weapons defenses of Iran in ‘81, or Iraq, every country was getting down on Israel. And it came to me. We Bible-believing Christians must stand with Israel.” People jump to their feet and applaud. It is the first of about a dozen such leaping, shouting, and clapping ovations that interrupt his speech.

“Israel is under fire. It is not if war will come to the MIddle East, it is when! Israel needs us to speak with one voice. We are Christians UNITED for Israel. (Thunders into mic) Israel lives. Israel now, tomorrow, and forever.”

People leap to their feet and chant “Not one inch, Not one inch.” That means in CUFI-speak Israel will not give back one inch of God’s covenanted land to the upstart Palestinians.

Who are the Palestinians?

Pastor Hagee led us through the familiar covenant that God made with Israel in Genesis 15. As he reminded us with a sly smile:

No mention of Palestinians. There were no Palestinians. God could have made a covenant with Palestinians somewhere else, but he chose Israel. Some people still do not understand that Israel is the only nation founded by God, not a king or an emperor, but God Almighty. And we must impact the people who shape our United States public policy in this country. That’s why we are here in Washington because what God gave to Abraham 3500 years ago cannot be repealed by the United States, the UN, or any Arab government. We are Bible-believing Christians. We know that the Bible is a Zionist text. The Bible teaches us through this covenant that Israel, Zion, owns this land, from the River to the Sea. We are faithful. We are in it to win it. We are united with Israel. We are the nightmare the anti-Semites have dreaded. We stand firm.

Our next speaker, an elderly rabbi from Texas, who sits on the CUFI Board and has been a supporter of Pastor Hagee since the beginning of his God-given plan to Stand United with Israel. Rabbi Aryeh Sheinberg sprinkles his talk with Hebrew words. Verisimillitude. He is clearly the “real thing.” He recites a portion of Psalm 137 in Hebrew. Then translates for the audience:

Let my right hand lose its cunning if I forget you, Oh Jersusalem.” (Psalm 137.5). This is our heritage. Every Jew on this earth has the heritage of the Bible, the Covenant with Adonai. All Jews are eternally Jews. Jews cannot lose their connection to Israel. The land belongs to Israel forever, for eternity. Even if a Jew has never stepped foot on the Holy Land, even if he has never been to the Wailing Wall, he owns Israel. Is not God more powerful than the UN?

The room was silent. No leaping and chanting. The man next to me sighed quietly. His wife took his hand.

Arabs will never be able to produce one grape, one olive, on land stolen from the Jews. As was said in Leviticus, ‘the land will remain desolate. ‘I will lay waste the land so that your enemies will who live there will be appalled. I will scatter them among the nations and will draw out my sword… (Lev. 27:32-33, as amended by the Rabbi).

Biblical misinterpretation

What Rabbi Sheinberg does not say is that the verses he quotes are threats against the unfaiful Israelites (consistently referred to as Jews by Hagee and his minions even though Jews as defined by modern-day religious practices were not to appear for at least 500 years, after the destruction of the First Temple and Jerusalem).

The biblical Israelites practiced animal sacrifice morning and night. Most of them knew well the gods of the Canaanites, and God’s fury described in the verses cited above are threats to the faithless Israelites, who have been sacrificing on the high places, the altars to Baal, a major Canaanite deity. But Sheinberg continues, reminding us that neither the Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Ottomans, or Arabs could make the land grow crops: “Only Israel can make the land produce. Because God vowed that the land would be desolate, empty. No Palestinians existed in the Bible. There was no Islam. So who are the real owners of God’s holy land?



Alice Bach

Alice Bach's picture

My past careers have been as a book editor, a journalist, and a writer of children’s books.  Then I joined the Catholic Worker, learned to make soup for hundreds of homeless folks, and went to graduate school.  I have taught religious studies at both Stanford University and Case Western Reserve University.  Being unsuccessful at tearing down the Ivory Tower of academia, I decided to concentrate on writing about Palestine.  My goal is to tear down the Apartheid Wall with words.