Pastor Pitts Evans of Virginia read the letter out before a Knesset hall packed with Evangelicals who arrived in Israel to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the capital's reunification, an event organized by the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus (KCAC). The event was also attended by Knesset Members Benny Elon (National Union-Mafdal), Elhanan Glazer, (Pensioners Party), and David Rotem (Israel Our Home).
"Many of us just came back from Yad Vashem," Pitts said, before reading out the letter. "This is man's feeble attempt to take a first step," he added.
"On behalf of the millions of Christians who love Israel and pray for her, we would like to repent before you before crimes committed against the Jewish people throughout history in the name of Christianity," Pitts said. "We have sinned against God and against you. We have not lived according to the mandate given to us by the scriptures; to love God with all our hearts and to love our fellow man as we love ourselves. May God grant you the ability to forgive us and may we be brothers and sisters again," he said.
"Please know there will always be a strong number of Christians who love Israel and will stand with her and seek the peace of Jerusalem," he added.
Knesset ceremony (Photo: Lyndon Williams)
Pastor Seymour Kook, of South Carolina, read out a "love letters to the God of Israel," in which Evangelical signatories said they were "deeply grateful for the root of God's olive tree (and) for every Jewish father of the faith... we stand in faith in our branch, without arrogance, with humility toward your God and the fathers of Israel, who took us in when we could not deserve him and could not find him."
"May Jacob be blessed by us, not scattered to the nations, but brought back on eagles wings, not inheriting his land divided, but yours, returned to you to steward until the messiah comes, and then forever and ever and ever," Kook concluded, receiving a standing ovation.
Reverend David Decker, an American Evangelical leader, delivered a prayer in which he heralded Israel's "capturing of its ancient heritage, the city of David. We must celebrate the modern liberation of Jerusalem," he added, receiving warm applause. "But the redemption is not finished," Decker said. "We stand before the holy mighty God of Israel as your holy people, Jews and gentiles, one people as you would want us to be," he added, expressing thanks "in the name of the beloved messiah."
"I don't think this is tourism," Knesset Member Elon told the delegates. "This is a spiritual experience, for you, and also for us. You remind so many Israelis what we are doing here," he added.
'Keen to serve Israel'Elon said the grandfathers of Knesset Members on the panel would have reacted with disbelief were they told "that 60 years from now, in the shrine of democracy in the independent Jewish state, they would welcome Christians who came to honor the State of Israel."
"After Auschwitz, we are here, thank God. Isn't that a miracle? When we see you opening the bible and using it as a personal tour guide, it means the bible is not just a book, it is a real thing. God has fulfilled his promise to gather and return us from exile," Elon said, receiving an ovation.
During the event, a number of Evangelical pastors pronounced prayers in Hebrew and in English, and the delegates sang the Israeli national anthem, Hatikva.
Speaking to Ynetnews, Apostle Zilly Aggfey, a Christian leader from Nigeria, said millions of African Christians were keen to "serve Israel."
"African Christians would love to kiss the ground in Israel. They would love to kiss the feet of a Jew," he said. During his address to the conference, Aggfey offered an apology on behalf of Nigeria for cutting relations with Israel in 1973.
"My people did not know the implications of that," he said, adding: "Any nation that does not serve you will perish. Our economy went down after we cut ties, and we became one of the poorest nations in the world. Since we have restored relations with Israel, our economy is back up."
Josh Reinstein, Director of KCAC, told Ynetnews that the event was a defining feature of relations between Jews and Christians. "I believe this underlies the relationship in the 21st century," he said.