JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel announced it will discontinue the "Government Christian Forum," an initiative created in 2013 aimed at strengthening the relationship between Israel's Christian community and the Israeli government.
"I have been informed that the Forum does not fall within the scope of the Public Security Ministry. Therefore, I have no choice but to discontinue the activity of the Forum as part of that ministry," said Dr. Mordechai (Moti) Zaken, head of Israel's Desk of Minorities Affairs.
Zaken vowed to do his best to continue to work with "Christian leaders in Israel and abroad to foster Israeli-Christian friendship."
The forum's last meeting was held December 3, 2018, and was devoted to improving the relationship between Christian organizations in Israel and the security wing of Israel's aviation authority. Israel agreed to allow Christian organizations to appoint airport trustees to help ease the experience of Christians departing the country.
CBN News has reported on the work of the forum.
Christian leaders are disappointed that productive meetings like this one will no longer be facilitated by the Government Christian Forum.
"I am Christian who has lived in Israel for 39 years. Over these many years I have worked to strengthen the relations between the State and the Christian community locally and abroad. In my time here I have found a lot of local enthusiasm for Christian support of Israel but very few officials who are willing to help our community in a practical way," David Pileggi, Rector Christ Church Jerusalem, said in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Pileggi lauded Zaken’s leadership and the forum. “Only Dr Moti Zaken, the head the Minority Affairs desk at the Ministry of Public Security has been consistently helpful … This group meets to find practical solutions to the problems of the evangelical community here in Israel, issues such as visas, harassment at the airport, finding ways for young Christians to serve in the IDF and more. Unfortunately, this Forum has been terminated by the Ministry of Public security leaving us in the Christian community no real address to take our problems. Those who have terminated this important venue have little idea of the consequences," he continued.
Pileggi urged Netanyahu to "not only reestablish the Forum but to give it your full endorsement."
Chuck Kopp, Pastor Emeritus of Narkiss Street Congregation and former Chair of the Evangelical Alliance Israel has lived in Israel for more than fifty years. He told CBN News, "I've been happy to see improved relations with Israel over the years but saddened to know about this negative step that isolates millions of Evangelicals around the world who look to Jerusalem as their spiritual home. We want communion and connection to the government of Israel and the efforts of Dr. Moti Zaken, Phd. have helped in countless ways to foster this relationship. We have treasured our time together and to have the rug pulled out from under him at this time is very tragic. Dr. Zaken is wise, approachable and has led the Government Christian Alliance with great courage for the past five years to our immense satisfaction because he is a man of action and not just talk. We call on the government to restore Dr. Zaken to this vital service to the Christian community.”
The announcement to terminate the Government Christian Forum comes at a time when many other Israeli and Jewish organizations have built bridges to Christian locally and worldwide. In 2004, Yuri Stern founded the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus (KCAC) that is now under the leadership of Member of Knesset Robert Illatov and Josh Reinstein. KCAC has established branches around the world with Christian parliamentarians who advocate on behalf of Israel. It also spawned the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast that has brought hundreds of Christian leaders to Jerusalem.
In 2006, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial established Christian Friends of Yad Vashem and the rescue service Magen David Adom formed its branch of Christian Friends of MDA. The Jewish Agency also has its own outreach to the Christian world.
At last year’s second annual Christian Media Summit, Prime Minister Netanyahu even announced he would be looking to appoint an Israeli liaison to the evangelical world.