JERUSALEM, Israel – As part of his four-day official trip to Africa, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with a group of evangelical Christians in Nairobi, Kenya. We have no better friends than Christians who support and love Israel, he told them.
The sound of shofars greeted Netanyahu as he entered the room. He invited the crowd to come to Israel, the land of the Bible.
"Those of you who have come, come again. Those of you who haven't come, come for the first time – visit Jerusalem, visit Nazareth. You can come and see that. You can see all the places of the Bible," he said.
Netanyahu told them a story about a kibbutz that discovered a 2,000-year-old boat.
"It's a fishing boat and they carbon dated it and it's right at the time of Jesus. So, it stands there at Kibbutz Ginosar, and when you come there, you'll see it," he said. "Now look, I can't tell you that Jesus was on that boat. But I can tell you that boat was in the time of Jesus."
Netanyahu described the common bond between Jews and Christians grounded in the land of the Bible.
"These are real places. They speak to you. They speak to us. We came back to the land of Israel and realized the dreams of the prophets, of the ingathering of the exiles," he said.
"I'm glad I have the opportunity, the privilege really, of meeting you. We have no better friends in the world. None! We appreciate this friendship, and we're expanding it into the continent of Africa," he told them.
Netanyahu's trip represents a new beginning in Israeli African relations.
"Seven leaders from seven African nations talking about how to expand Israel's relationship with their countries, but with all the countries of Africa," he continued.
"Israel is coming back to Africa and Africa is coming back to Israel. We want to see Africa be the success story it can be and we want to be part of it – in everything – in water, in agriculture, in dairy production. We are eager to share all of this with our African friends."
Netanyahu also described the dismal situation for Christians in the Middle East.
"And in the Middle East today unfortunately, the attitude toward Christians and Christianity is not a good one. You see what is happening with Daesh [ISIS] in Iraq. You see what's happening with Christian communities, to the Yazidis and others," Netanyahu said.
"There is one place in the Middle East where the Christian community is not only not shrinking, it's thriving and expanding. And it's safe and it's welcome and that place is Israel. You are welcome in Israel," he said.
At the end of the meeting, the Christian leaders presented Netanyahu with a gift.
"It's the lion of Judah," Netanyahu said.