With the blasts from shofars and with Israeli flags waving wildly in the breeze, hundreds of Evangelical Christians from over 30 countries converged in Jerusalem on October 7 along with Jews and locals to sing, dance and pray for peace in the Holy City.
From their perch at an overlook of the Old City in the capital’s East Talpiot neighborhood, Eagles’ Wings – a non-profit New York-based organization – led the crowd, and the millions watching in hundreds of countries through live streams, in prayer as a cool breeze rustled through the capital.
The event marked the annual Day of Prayer for Peace in Jerusalem, an observance that was started by Evangelical co-chairmen of Eagles’ Wings, Dr. Jack W. Hayford and Bishop Robert Stearns, in 2002 and is marked around the world on the first Sunday of October.
As the sun began to set, painting the Judean Hills a rich gold, the crowd, sprinkled with kippah-wearers and many with crucifixes hanging from their necks, enjoyed speeches, impassioned songs, and choreographed dance routines focused on 51 years since the unity of Jerusalem and 70 years since the birth of the State of Israel.
The ceremony was part of a trip led by Eagles’ Wings that aimed to bring together millennial Evangelical pastors from around the world to see Israel, to visit its holy sites, and to better understand the politics surrounding it. Many participants were visiting for the very first time.
For Stearns, gaining support for Israel among this younger demographic is extremely important.
“The millennial generation has two major differences than the previous generation,” Stears told The Jerusalem Post on the sidelines of the event. “Firstly, they are not as politically focused, and secondly, they are much more interested in social justice.”
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For these reasons, Stearns felt it to be crucial for these young leaders to visit Israel and see the facts on the ground for themselves. And by learning about Israel’s reality, they can in turn bring the message back home to their communities.
“Gatherings like this are extremely important,” Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Michael Oren, who spoke at the event, told the Post. “Obviously they have a spiritual importance, but they also have a diplomatic and strategic importance.
“It’s important that we stress that those people who would deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, who would deny that there was a Temple on the Temple Mount, are also denying the Christian story. If there was no Temple then Jesus had no place to teach and it didn’t happen.
“It’s important that we bond together with allies in the Evangelical community – but not just in the Evangelical community – who are willing to stand with us and to protect our legacy, our heritage, and our faith because those aren’t abstractions, they go right directly toward our security.”
A number of the leadership from the Eagles’ Wings delegation also had the unique opportunity to meet with US Ambassador David Friedman prior to the event and thanked him for his continued and ongoing support.
Vice president and senior international spokesman for the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem, David Parsons, also stressed the importance of this friendship between communities.
“We live in a remarkable day where, in the past Christians were the worst enemy of the Jewish people and today they are their best friends,” he told the Post, before heading on stage to address the crowd. “This relationship is precious, it’s historic, it’s unprecedented, and we have to do everything we can to pursue it with genuine honesty and openness towards each other.”
But the Christian support for Israel is something appreciated by both rabbis and pastors alike. “Bishop Robert Stearns, through his Eagles’ Wings Day of Prayer, has transmitted his abiding passion for Israel to millions of Christian Evangelicals across the world,” said Rabbi Marc Schneier, founder of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and the founding rabbi at the Hampton Synagogue in New York.
Rabbi Tuly Weisz, the director of Israel365, which promotes the biblical significance and physical beauty of the Land of Israel, also sees this relationship as something vitally important and historic. “It’s the most important relationship that the Jewish people could have. It’s the greatest opportunity we have ever had. And we’re truly living in a time of unprecedented relationships between Jews and Christians, which this event is an example of.”
The rabbi expressed appreciation for this relationship and for the Christian support not only on a spiritual level, but also for the political implications this support has provided. “The Christian political support is vital as is evident by the moving of the [US] embassy to Jerusalem, which is really because the Evangelical community insisted that President [Donald] Trump keep his promise to them,” he said. “The Jewish people have always been so isolated and lonely and now we have tens of millions, hundreds of millions, of Christians praying for the peace in Jerusalem. It’s a miracle.”
Donna Jolay, the director of Christian relations at Israel365, shared the sentiment. “This is just such an exciting time to be in, after thousands of years we have the opportunity to come together. And really, I see a lot of responsibility on the Christian side because we have behaved pretty badly for a couple thousand years toward the Jewish people.
“But we can see that things are changing, we have the ingathering of the Jewish people, the return into the land, and Christians are waking up and realizing and taking responsibility for our bad behavior and trying to making amends for that as well.”
The relationship of Christians toward Israel “is the most important thing. I say, the greatest move of God in the Earth is happening today in Israel and the Jewish people are gracious enough to invite us in and let us be a part of it, which is really amazing considering our history.”
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