BEFORE GETTING INTO whether or not the battle of Armageddon will actually take place at this spot, the pastor has a question for participants in his group on this first day of sightseeing together: What brought them on this trip to the Holy Land?
William Ruggles, a young born-again Christian from New Jersey, raises his hand. “God commanded us to bless Israel, and God will bless those who bless Israel,” he says. “So I bless Israel, and you know, that’s why I’m here – to bless the Israeli people.” His response earns him a round of amens and a doting smile from the pastor.
It’s just a couple of weeks since US Vice President Mike Pence paid his first state visit to Israel, where he professed his undying love for the Jewish people and the Jewish state. For many Israelis, it was a surprise there were leaders in the world who still felt this way about them.
But had they tagged along with an evangelical group like this one, they might not have found it so strange. In fact, they would have realized that the vice president, a born-again Christian himself, was simply giving voice to what many of those who put him and his running mate Donald Trump in power believe.
About 40 individuals – ranging in age from late teens to early seventies – are participating in this eight-day tour of the Holy Land organized by Sar-El Tours & Conferences, a trip provider that specializes in the evangelical market. Led by David Whiting, a pastor from Houston, Texas, this group represents churches along the length of the East Coast, running from Massachusetts down to North Carolina.
Photo: American evangelicals at Tel Megiddo, in northern Israel (Rami Shlush)