Iran, Antisemitism and Israel Advocacy Dominate Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem
Participants in the Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem listen to a panel of Israeli experts discuss Iran on December 12, 2022. (GPO)

Iran, Antisemitism and Israel Advocacy Dominate Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem

Four-day conference returns to Holy Land after three-year hiatus due to COVID; hundreds of participants from around the world hear from Israeli officials on major issues facing the country

Handling Iran’s intransigent nuclear ambitions, tackling growing antisemitism in the US and presenting a fair representation of Israel were the main themes of the annual Christian media summit in Jerusalem this week, as hundreds of journalists, activists and people of faith from around the world arrived for the first in-person conference since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The four-day conference is organized by Israel’s Government Press Office “to foster better understanding and strengthen the friendship between Christians around the world and the State of Israel.” As such, the summit this year included appearances by a range of Israeli officials, including Knesset members, Israeli media personalities, representatives of the Israel Defense Forces, and representatives of pro-Israel NGOs. Although Christian favorite Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu disappointed summit attendees by not speaking on the opening night of the summit, they hoped to see him before its conclusion. The group was scheduled to visit the Knesset on Wednesday.

The conference heard on Monday from Israeli experts on Iran, who expressed diverse views on how to respond to the Islamic Republic’s determined quest to achieve nuclear capabilities and a shared admiration for the Iranian people who have taken to the streets over the past three months to protest the draconian religious laws that govern life, especially for women.

Israel Defense Forces International Spokesman Lt Col. Richard Hecht talks to The Media Line at the Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem, Dec. 12, 2022. (The Media Line)

The panelists were not the only ones with a message of support for the protesters.

“There are courageous people in Iran and outside of Iran truly calling for change, and so I never think that we can approach these situations fatalistically,” Robert Stearns, a New York pastor who founded the Eagles’ Wings Ministries and a prominent member of the Christian Zionist movement, told The Media Line.

“Right now, these courageous young women who are taking off the hijabs and standing up, we have to believe that we really could see a sea change in Iran and so that’s what we’re calling for,” he said.

Stearns was far less supportive of former US President Donald Trump’s recent embrace of rapper Kanye West – whose antisemitic comments have led major companies to end their partnerships with him, and his meeting with another virulent antisemite, Nick Fuentes.

“I don’t pretend to speak on behalf of the evangelical world but I’ll say the reaction from this evangelical is that the former president, President Trump, needs to issue an absolutely strong unequivocal repudiation of the viewpoints that are apparently part of [the mindset of] Kanye and some of the other guests who were there,” he said.

“This was a huge mistake on his part and I hope that he rectifies it,” he added.

Yifa Segal, the former chief of staff to then-Israeli Ambassador to the US Gilad Erdan, talks to The Media Line at the Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem, Dec. 12, 2022. (The Media Line)

Israel Defense Forces’ International Spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, who gave the attendees a comprehensive overview of the security issues facing Israel vis-a-vis the Palestinians, told The Media Line that Israel is facing “a very, very volatile situation right now all over… mainly in the Palestinian sphere.”

Regarding the recent uptick in violence in the northern West Bank, Hecht said that the absence of the Palestinian Authority had left Israel with no choice but to take on those who had been attacking its own civilians.

“There’s a massive influx in violence mainly in Jenin and Nablus, mainly because the Palestinian Authority isn’t enforcing their authority there, which is basically still working in other places,” he said.

“We were giving them warning to try and handle these terrorists. These are ungoverned spaces; we call them hornets’ nests of Islamic Jihad and there were attacks coming out into Israel’s homefront and we had to go in and act,” he also said.

When asked about the recent announcement by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) of the discovery of a terror tunnel under  a UNWRA school in Gaza, Hecht said: “They are all over and it’s something that we are very, very concerned about. It’s a vast amount in the tens and it’s a complex infrastructure underground with a lot of capabilities and it’s something that we will have to deal with at some point.”

Pro-Israel advocacy also took center stage at the summit, with Israelis and visitors alike stressing its importance. The summit returning once more to the country was of enormous benefit, according to Yifa Segal, the former chief of staff to Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan, during his stint as ambassador to the United States.

“I’ve seen delegations come here from around the world – all kinds of delegations: politicians or security experts; civil society or influencers; religious leaders. Once they come into the country and they see the people and they understand the complexity, they see the security challenges on the ground, they see the reality for what it is, they often change their minds sometimes even dramatically change their minds,” Segal told The Media Line.

“I think the best tool that we have is [to] just open your eyes and see for yourself and let the truth speak for you,” she said.

Segal’s philosophy was borne out by summit attendee Dorothy Spaulding, the president and founder of Watchmen Broadcasting, a Christian television channel in Georgia.

“I like to show people at home all about Israel. I like to show the good things they are doing,” Spaulding told The Media Line.

“All the little bits and pieces that we learned that we can take back to our studios and get the people excited about the things of Israel. I just like people to know how great Israel is,” she said.

Leading venture capitalist Jonathan Medved, the founder and CEO of multi-million-dollar equity crowdfunding platform OurCrowd, stressed to the summit the importance of Israeli technology, which he said is the future of the country.

Medved also highlighted the positive impact of the 2020 Abraham Accords between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain on the sector.

He further recounted details of his recent trip to Saudi Arabia, whose connection to Israel he said is now out in the open.

GPO director Nitzan Chen addresses the Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem on , Dec. 12, 2022. (Dario Sanchez/The Media Line)

GPO director Nitzan Chen told The Media Line that the summit “has given us a good opportunity to share views and to [talk about] the challenges that Israel is facing, particularly BDS, particularly Iran.” He added that the summit gave Christian media representatives the chance “to get to know the Israeli society much better.”

Chen also acknowledged that, among the participants in the summit, “we have also a Christian world that [is] coming from the Catholic perspective, not just evangelical, and this is another challenge.”

He said that not everyone present could be deemed to be “pro-Israel,” and as such “we need to persuade them that we are right – not all the time, most of the time. And we need their support on any topic, not just the conflict. We’ve got lots of other issues in terms of the content that connect both of the communities.”


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