A prominent Evangelical Christian organization is urging its members to pour money into West Bank settlements in its newest fundraising drive, “Adopt-a-Settler.”
The Jerusalem Prayer Team, a Christian Zionist organization that opposes Israel giving up land in exchange for peace, conceived of the idea in mid-May after a meeting with Israeli Tourism Minister Benny Elon.
“When asked by Rabbi Benny Elon if the Jerusalem Prayer Team could help save the settlers, I said, ‘Yes,’ we would help immediately,” the chairman of the group, Michael Evans, wrote in a letter to a Jerusalem Prayer Team spokesman. “We must let [settlers] know that they are not alone. We do not consider their going home a great catastrophe, but rather a fulfillment of prophecy.
“We do not support the road map,” said Evans, a pastor and author of the recent book “Beyond Iraq: The Next Move” (Whitestone). “The Bible is our road map.”
The campaign has already begun in newsletters, sermons, fliers and parlor meetings around the country, a spokesman for the Jerusalem Prayer Team told the Forward. “So far, it’s been very successful,” said the spokesman. The campaign is not in the mold of similar “adoption” charities, which offer donors the opportunity to correspond with their beneficiaries. Nevertheless, individual settlers will be receiving gifts from their patrons, the spokesman said. The goal is to raise enough to give a gift of $55 apiece to 14,000 settlers.
“Eventually we hope [to raise money for all] 200,000,” said the spokesman. “But the best we can do now is 14,000…. That’s the amount we’re able to raise now.” Every single settlement has asked the Jerusalem Prayer Team to be included in the effort, according to the organization. Funds collected will be spread out throughout the West Bank.
“I am praying that many will adopt two, or five or 10 settlers,” Evans said. “Perhaps your prayer group, or church or a businessman could help as many as 100 settlers.”
The Jerusalem Prayer Team — which claims 2 million members, and whose board members include Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell — says it has invested millions of dollars in Israel since the organization was founded in the mid-1990s, supporting hospitals, schools and other public works projects, and is vigorously fighting the implementation of the Bush administration’s road map by circulating petitions.
“The goal of our organization is to have a million people praying daily for the peace of Jerusalem,” said the spokesman. “The goal of the organization is not, per se, to raise money, as it is to support the State of Israel.”
Jewish organizations such as the One Israel Fund have poured millions of dollars into security equipment, armored vehicles, day care centers, generators, ambulances, synagogues and other endeavors in West Bank settlements. The Jerusalem Prayer Team is not the first Christian organization to pump money into the West Bank.
Lewis Roth, a spokesman for Americans for Peace Now, said there have been other similar fundraising drives in the Christian Zionist community. “There was an ‘adopt a settlement’ program, which was the same kind of thing, where you would adopt a specific settlement. It’s certainly not surprising or new to find right-wing Christian groups” engaged in this kind of activity, Roth said.
The Jerusalem Prayer Team’s effort, Roth said, could be damaging to American diplomacy in that “it sends a signal that there are elements operating in the American political sphere not supportive of the road map.”
The Jerusalem Prayer Team’s campaign got underway only a few weeks before Prime Minister Sharon criticized American Jewish charities for exaggerating poverty in the West Bank. Sharon said that images of Jews in dire poverty “harms Israel’s national strength and damages the country in the perception of Jews overseas.”
“That’s not our appeal at all,” said the Jerusalem Prayer Team spokesman. “Our appeal is a humanitarian appeal. We didn’t talk about hunger; that doesn’t affect us.”
The Jerusalem Prayer Team has also found encouragement from other sections of the government. When Evans met Elon when he was visiting the United States, Elon said to him, “I am here to ask for the support of Bible-believing Christians. No one else has the power to help save the settlers and the settlements.”