JERUSALEM, Israel — Leaders of the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative gathered on a rooftop overlooking the Temple Mount on Tuesday to salute President Donald Trump’s success in moving the U.S. embassy to Israel’s capital city — and to thank the faith community for their role in making it happen.
The president created the Faith and Opportunity Initiative earlier this month under Executive Order 13831 “to assist faith-based and other organizations in their efforts to strengthen the institutions of civil society and American families and communities.”
Pastor Paula White, who is spearheading the initiative, praised the work that Christian and Jewish leaders had done to advocate for the embassy move. She also lauded the work of White House officials Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, as well as U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
Ralph Reed, leader of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, called the embassy move “an incredible moment in history, something that we as Americans cherish.” He referred to Jerusalem as the “ancient, eternal, and indivisible capital of Israel.”
He also commented: “I don’t think that it was an accident that the first trip that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made … was to Israel.”
Former Rep. Michele Bachmann declared her “thanks and appreciation for the faithful rabbis and the faithful pastors who for the past decades faithfully preached the Word of God.”
She added: “Without that, there perhaps wouldn’t have been the political will to do this. President Trump acted out of his heart, I believe, and because of his love for the Jewish state, but also because the heart of the American people was with this move.”
Pastor Jim Garlow of California’s Skyline Church declared: “Where people know, love, and read the Bible, they stand with the Jewish people and the nation of Israel.”
He added: “Donald Trump does not come from amidst us. … [But] God knew what Israel needed.”
Later, he added: “You watch — he’ll be another Cyrus,” referring to the Biblical ruler of Persia, who permitted the Jews to return from exile to rebuild their temple.
“[Trump] has done more for religious liberty and Israel than any president we’ve ever had.”
Lourdes Aguirre of the Latino Coalition for Israel said that President Trump’s message in moving the U.S. embassy had been consistent with his message of peace.
She said that the humanitarian work Christians do in Syria, in coordination with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), is possible in part because of President Trump’s support.
“We are protected because the President of the United States stands for peace for all religions, for all faiths,” she said. “When our president came to the Middle East, he called upon everyone to unite, and to go against one common enemy: the terrorists.”
Ramiro Pena, pastor of Christ the King Church in Waco, Texas, praised Israel’s example of religious freedom: “As Americans, as peace and freedom-loving people, we celebrate the only true democracy in the Middle East. Where there is freedom, there is freedom to worship God as conscience dictates.”
“I have never seen in my lifetime what this president has accomplished in one year,” said Jay Strack, president and founder of Student Leadership University.
He stressed that the love Americans felt for Israel did not mean that they did not love the Palestinians, too — and added that most Israelis care for the Palestinians as well.
Strack said of President Trump: “He has a heart that is strangely warmed by the word of God.”