October 12, 2005
Jesus lived there
Pat Robertson wants to assume a missionary position in Israel:
Along the northeastern edge of Lake Kinneret, the landscape is quiet, the wind blows gently and the Korazim River meanders tranquilly, much as it did in the time of Jesus, but this undisturbed vista may not last much longer. Plans are underway to develop an evangelical Christian center in the area – a mini-Israel of sorts and perhaps a biblical theme park.
As part of the project, Israel will initially lease 125 acres (500 dunams) in the area between Capernaum, Tabgha and the Mount of Beatitudes. The idea: to build a center that will provide Christian believers with a sense that “Jesus lived here.” Some see the project as having great potential to attract pilgrims.
Indeed, most tourism to Israel is Christian. In 2000, for example, 2.7 million tourists visited Israel, of which 1.5 million were Christians. Tourism Minister Abraham Hirchson says evangelicals will invest $50 million to $70 million in the project, and that they will design the area with Israeli consent. Hirchson says, “I hope that in November we’ll be able to sign the first agreement.” Hirchson believes the new center will draw a million to 1.5 million additional tourists a year.
… And who is the group with whom the negotiations are underway? “We are talking about a broad group, and at its heart one of the key figures will be Pat Robertson,” says Hirchson. Robertson, an Evangelist from the U.S., is widely known from the “The 700 Club,” the Christian news and talk show that is the flagship of the Christian Broadcasting Network.
… Opponents to the project, among them the chairman of the Yad L’achim organization, Rabbi Shalom Dov Lifschitz, who met with Tourism Minister Hirchson, argued that bitter experience with evangelicals leaves no doubt regarding their missionary activity. The Ministry of Tourism says the project calls only for a visitors’ center, with staffers saying, “Israeli children will not sit down there to learn about Jesus.”
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