Christians United for Israel (CUFI) celebrated their tenth summit on July 12th and 13th with a 2 day conference held in Washington DC. CUFI is the US’s largest pro-Israel organization and a powerful educational group that has a lobby presence in Washington DC. where education and political advocacy are their focus.
David Brog, Executive Director of CUFI, is proud that the organization has built a fantastic following from Christian Americans since its creation a little more than ten years ago. Brog welcomed the 5,000 delegates to the 2015 event and to loud applause he spoke from the heart saying, ” We have a sure source of wisdom: We trust G-d! Thank G-d you are here!”
5,000 delegates were rewarded with two days of mesmerizing lectures and events. The golden list of speakers included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the fiercely independent Dennis Prager. There was a screening of the new full length movie produced by CUFI, Israel through the Looking Glass which was followed by grass roots speakers who were Jewish, Christian and Arab Israeli’s, all talking about the threats that face the country.
Later, there was a forum where top tier presidential candidates shared their perspectives on Israel and the current situation in the Middle East. The candidates included Governor Jeb Bush, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Lindsey Graham, Governor Mike Huckerbee, Governor George Pataki and Senator Rick Santorum. These formidable speakers held the audience’s rapt attention. Huckerbee explained once again, “Israel has a right to safe and secure borders that are enforceable. Our roots are very much tied to the Middle East. It is a spiritual, not just a political, heritage.” Santorum explained his position, “We can stand with Israel 100%. Protecting Israel is a high priority for us. .I support a process led by the Israelis to achieve an accommodation with the Palestinians. The US must not dictate a solution.”
This was followed by a two hour briefing from influential decision makers and opinion leaders who updated the audience on recent developments in Israel, the Middle East and Washington, D.C. The next day included a presentation by members of US Congress who briefed the delegates on legislation affecting Israel and the Middle East. Brog explained that the session, “Let people hear more from Congress in an hour and a half that most people will have heard in a lifetime.”
Much attention was given to the issue of Iran’s nuclear proliferation. Brog shared his concerns saying, “We’ve known that this agreement was pending for some time and we discussed this event at the conference. There is nothing more important than working to counter a bad deal. We thought the deal would be completed last week, but despite the delays an agreement will ultimately happen. There is nothing more important for our efforts than fighting this bad deal with Iran. The deal that has been finally created is going to be a terrible deal. In fact, the deal is a Presidential Executive decision and it will not have two-thirds ratification. It could therefore be changed down the road, but this would be difficult.
“Our focus has been on getting the support of Senators and Congress to understand the problems with the deal. On Sunday, July 12th, we took 5,000 delegates from the Conference to Capitol Hill. This was a larger group than usually presents themselves. We met with politicians and their aides and they listened to our concerns. Given that we represent large numbers of Christians from their communities, they showed up in force to give attention to the issues that we care about. Approximately 85% of Congress were present.
David Walker, CUFI On Campus National Campus Coordinator spoke to the students attending and said, “You are our students who are learning how you can make a difference for Israel from our CUFI On Campus leadership. Looking at your faces, I believe that it is no coincidence that you are here.”
Brog expanded on the importance of the CUFI student program which is now active on 300 campuses. This is just the tip of the iceberg given there are more than 4,000 US colleges, if you count all two and four year colleges, including those that are for-profit. “We understand that our efforts need to be focused on college students who are overwhelmingly misinformed and under-informed of the importance of Israel. Our campus program is extremely important to us and it is an area for which we are looking to raise additional funding. There is an abundance of anti-Israel professors and students typically come out of college less supportive of Israel than when they went in.
“This makes our campus work a top priority. Have we done enough in this area? Absolutely not, but we’ve done a great deal. We turn students into pro-Israel voters and we’ve had graduates that have been in our program who have moved on to work for professional organizations that support Israel. In fact, in Los Angeles we worked with Joshua Hoyt when he was a student and he is now employed at the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles.
“We are pleased to sponsor certain numbers of students so they can afford to attend the summit. This year we invited 500 and it was a packed room of CUFI on Campus attendees. These are the kids who fearlessly defend Israel on their college grounds. When we bring them to Capitol Hill they have an entirely new understanding of the processes involved.
“If we don’t look at the future we will not be able to meaningfully support Israel and it takes a great deal of work to get the trust and understanding of undergraduates who are the future voters. We have to recruit people to communicate the passionate issues that are at stake and every year we reward 130 kids with a trip to Israel and they can then connect the dots and they almost always leave with a lifelong love and understanding of Israel.
“There’s nothing like a trip to Israel to change people’s understanding of what is at stake. Whether you are Jewish or Christian, you never understand the situation better than when you have experienced the conflict up close. We’d love to bring more people, but we can only do so much. Each winter we are bringing a group of pastors and leaders of some Christian communities.
“We have a new focus on the millennial generation. This group includes young people from ages 10 to 35 and they are surprisingly different from their parents. They do not accept their religion in the same way. Their Pastors and leaders are often in their twenties, often city characters with tattoos so they have street credibility and these church community members have a rebellious streak that suits their youthfulness.
“The Millennial Generation is strong on supporting those who are downtrodden and so there’s an easy path for them to support the Palestinians. If a church leader does not understand the history and the events that have passed in Israel, they can miss the actual truth which is that Israeli’s are the downtrodden. The problems with the Millennial Generation communities is that the wrong voice can be heard and can influence a large number of young Christians and this is a disaster.
“The false narrative about Israel is growing. When we started CUFI we had more support than we find today, especially among younger Christians. We’ve lost the support of the Presbyterian Church for example, but while support may fluctuate and hostility is aimed at us and at Israel we have to stay focused on the reality. Israel is the only country in the region that has a democratic government. When we receive criticism, when we are condemned, we can’t let this influence the truth. The right thing has to be done.
The event closed with a special banquet for delegates who had donated more than $1,000. Special guest Eli Wiesel, spoke passionately during the dinner that honored CUFI members, including pastors of some of the largest Christian communities in America.
As the event drew to a close, the response was stellar. “We came to learn from the brightest and the best, and this was exactly what happened!” beamed Rebecca Chavez, a Pastor’s wife and mother of two boys.