The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) routinely takes groups of young Israeli soldiers on educational tours of various sites throughout the country. These tours are designed to instill soldiers with a greater love for the land and knowledge of its history.
Over the past two years, one of the sites being visited has been the Friends of Zion Museum in downtown Jerusalem. The brainchild of Mike Evans, a pro-Israel Christian leader from America, the museum highlights the role played by Christian Zionists in the rebirth of the Jewish state.
Using hi-tech audio and visual presentations, Friends of Zion Museum offers visitors a glimpse of the faith that drove prominent Christians going back centuries to stand beside the Jewish people and support their long quest to return to the Holy Land.
Some fear the presentation is tinted with a "missionary" message, and that was certainly the tone of report on the IDF tours published this week by the Israeli online portal Walla News. While not directly accusing the Friends of Zion Museum of being a missionary venture, Walla News reported that it had "queried" the IDF Education Corps about taking young soldiers there. The news outlet then boasted that in response to this query, the army would reevaluate the decision to bring Israeli soldiers to this Christian museum.
For its part, Friends of Zion stressed that its content is not overtly religious in nature, and that the museum has been endorsed by Israel's top political, military and religious figures. Former President Shimon Peres sat on its board, the nation's chief rabbi installed a mezuzah at its entrance, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu helped dedicate the facility by stating, "I don't believe the Jewish state and modern Zionism would be possible without Christian Zionism."
PHOTO: Mike Evans giving a tour of the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)