In June of 1978, I went to Israel as a tourist and came home a Zionist! I have traveled the world but as I walked the cobblestone streets of the Holy City, I knew I was home! My roots were there! I felt a very special presence in that sacred city that changed my life forever!
As I stood praying at the Western Wall, I noticed an elderly orthodox Jewish man praying with all his might, rocking back and forth and reciting Scripture. I thought to myself, “Here we are at the same holy place, praying to the same God and quoting the same scripture...yet I know nothing about this man or his faith.”
In the days that followed, my heart was charged with a commission from the Holy Spirit to do all that I could to bring Christians and Jews together in an atmosphere of mutual esteem and unconditional love.
I told my wife, Diana, what the Lord had placed within my heart. On the plane home, I sat down and captured my feelings and thoughts on paper. What was I to do with this newfound love that God had placed in my heart?
Some months later, Israel bombed the nuclear reactor in Iraq. The media in San Antonio devoured Israel for their actions. I personally felt that Israel had done the peace-loving world a favor by stopping the construction of a nuclear reactor that most assuredly would have been used for the production of nuclear bombs in the Middle East. The strike was executed with surgical precision and without the loss of one life against a nation that had a standing declaration of war against Israel since 1948. It was a preemptive strike that spared the world from Sadaam Hussein’s madness.
As the television commentators chastised Israel, I said to Diana, “I disagree with their position! How can we publicly express our support for Israel in such a way where the press will send a message to our Jewish friends that we support Israel’s courage to defend themselves?” .
Within minutes the idea came!
“We'll rent the municipal auditorium, invite our Jewish community, and hold an event called, “A Night To Honor Israel” where Christians will come together and show solidarity for Israel and the Jewish people!”
Diana asked a very important question, “Don't you think you should ask the Jewish community if they want to participate?”
“How do we get in touch with the official Jewish community?” I knew there were Rabbis in our city and after a few phone calls, I discovered something called the Jewish Federation where everything kosher starts and stops.
I went to the Federation the next day and asked to meet the Executive Director. I told him that I wanted to have an event called, “A Night to Honor Israel!”
“You want to do what?” he gasped.
In the finest Jewish tradition he called a committee meeting. That committee meeting developed into another committee meeting, which developed into a third committee meeting that lasted until midnight.
The Orthodox Rabbi, Arnold Scheinberg, pressed the hesitant Jewish community into taking a chance and extending its hand in mutual friendship. It's important that the Christian community realize that the Jews have suffered enormous persecution at the hands of Christians for almost 2000 years and their trust of Christians is somewhere between little and none. Their apprehension was understandable.
The Jewish community agreed to join us in what was intended to be the first and only “Night to Honor Israel!” We called a press conference and the story made banner headlines. Within an hour after the newspaper hit the street, I received a death threat stating that I would be shot before the event happened. The windows to my car were shot out as stood in front of our home. I did not realize how controversial event this event would become.
On September 10, 1981, the first “Night to Honor Israel” was presented at the Theater of Performing Arts in San Antonio, Texas. The house was packed! The Jews were asking, “So what's this Gentile up to?” The Christians were asking, “Why are we doing this?” Skepticism permeated the air. Then the 120-voice choir and 40-piece orchestra of Cornerstone Church took their positions.
The tension began to melt as the sounds of Hebrew music filled the auditorium. I gave a speech stating why Christians should support Israel and we raised $10,000 for Hadassah Hospital from the Christian community and presented the entirety of the offering that night.
As Rabbi Scheinberg was giving the benediction, I was advised by the Director of Security that the local newspaper called and informed him that a bomb threat had been made on the building. The threat warned that the building would explode at exactly nine-thirty.
I looked at my watch...it was 9:25 pm!
A bomb never exploded in the auditorium...yet there was an explosion in our hearts. We knew that we had done something that was near the heart of God the Father. As we walked off the stage, I said to Diana, “We need to do this in again!”
We did! “A Night to Honor Israel” went to Houston, Ft. Worth, Austin, Dallas, Corpus Christi, Tulsa, Phoenix, in addition to our annual event in San Antonio. “A Night to Honor Israel has also been presented in all parts of Israel.
It's an event that has a proven track record of bringing Christians and Jews together in a non-threatening, non-conversionary environment that promotes genuine brotherly love.
If Christianity cannot demonstrate unconditional love, we are nothing more than another cult! Jesus Christ taught the Law of Love with,
“Love thy neighbor as thyself” Matthew 19:19
“For if you love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same?” Matthew 5:44
“A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you.” John 13:34
“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” 1 John 4: