Joel Osteen and his wife Victoria, pastors of the 43,000-member Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, are in Israel this week to express their love and support for the Jewish people and their state.
Osteen, who is watched by an estimated seven million television viewers every week, had for years been reluctant to publicly support Israel. According to some reports, he had been pressed by other leading evangelists in the past to publicly back the Jewish state, but had chosen not to.
It is unclear what caused the change, but a few months ago, Osteen invited the Israeli consul general in Houston to his church and announced that he would be leading a group to Israel.
“As Christians, Victoria and I feel that it is important to stand in support of the nation of Israel and the Jewish people,” Osteen said in a statement released to the press. “That’s our Christian roots. That’s where our faith started.”
On Thursday, the Osteens hosted a Night of Hope at the Jerusalem Theater that will be broadcast around the world by Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) this weekend. The Osteens also met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres during their stay.
Israelis are hoping the visit will spark a new wave of Evangelical Christian tourism and support from those who may have previously not seen Israel as an important issue for the Church.