|Evangelical heads honored for support|
|20 December 2006|
By ETGAR LEFKOVITS
Two leading Evangelical Christian leaders with a long record of support for Israel were honored Monday in Jerusalem for their friendship and work.
The two men - Pastor John C. Hagee of San Antonio, Texas and Rev. Malcolm Hedding, executive director of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem - were feted at a joint event by the Knesset's Christian Allies Caucus (KCAC), and the World Jewish Congress (WJC).
The third annual event, entitled a "night to honor our Christian allies," recognized Hagee for establishing a pro-Israel Christian lobby in the US - Christians United for Israel - which has been dubbed the "Christian AIPAC," a reference to the American Jewish lobby.
His newly formed organization aims to mobilize Christian grass roots supporters of Israel in the US to lobby the American government at the local, state and federal level on issues related to the Jewish state.
Hagee addressed the evening gathering via satellite television, while Hedding, who is based in Jerusalem, received an award from the Ministry of Tourism.
The International Christian Embassy is best known for its sponsorship of the annual Feast of the Tabernacles celebrations, which is billed as the largest tourism event of the year in Israel that pumps some $15 million into the economy.
The awards were presented by the interim head of the Christian Allies Caucus MK Benny Elon (National Union-National Religious Party), who spearheaded Israel's relations with the Christian world during his tenure as tourism minister.
"Realizing that Christians provide strong and consistent political, moral, and economic aid to the State of Israel, the KCAC and WJC have committed to bringing to the attention of the people of Israel the unqualified support Christians have given and continue to give to the welfare and security of the Jewish people," the group said in a press release.
The increasingly influential lobby, which currently includes 12 Knesset members from across the political spectrum, has come to epitomize Israel's growing interest in garnering the support of the Christian world, during a period of growing Islamic extremism.
The event also comes at a time of burgeoning relations between Israel and the predominantly pro-Israel Evangelical community around the world.