Little Rock, Arkansas hosted two days of celebration for Israel as former Israeli Ambassador, Yoram Ettinger, visited the state for “A Night to Honor Israel” and meetings with Little Rock’s Jewish leaders this past Sunday and Monday.
Agape Church in Little Rock has been known for over three decades as a multicultural Christian church with a membership of people from various backgrounds. The church’s founder is 70 year-old Happy Caldwell who sits on the Executive Board for Christians United for Israel (CUFI), and as he built the multi-cultural church, he made sure that his congregation knew that they would be a group who stood for Israel. Across the front of the church sanctuary read the words: “Those who honor me, I will honor.” Pastor Caldwell understood this to mean honoring Israel as the holy land and the Jewish people as God’s chosen ones.
For the past seven years, Agape Church has hosted a special event particularly targeted towards the celebration of Israel and a night to show solidarity and brotherhood between Jews and Christians called “A Night to Honor Israel” originated by CUFI. This year’s Night to Honor Israel was the first for Agape Church’s new Senior Pastor, Dr. Scott Stewart who hosted similar nights in Europe where he spent the past 26 years as a church planter and as a unifier of Christians and Jews.
Christians believe that seven is a number of completion, and for Agape Church it seemed to help solidify a passing of the torch from Happy Caldwell’s 35-year pastorate to Dr. Stewart’s new pastorate, and boy did Dr. Stewart make a splash at his first public event!
The audience boasted its most in attendance for a CUFI Night to Honor Israel at Agape Church. Statewide elected and former officials were in attendance as well as candidates for office. Arkansas United States Senator John Boozman was one of a list of prominent speakers. He said: “The United States needs a clear message for the Middle East, and that message needs to be that we will support the nation of Israel. We will provide the aid and assistance that they need to defend themselves, and last but not least a nuclear Iran is not acceptable.”
Ret. Israeli Ambassador Yoram Ettinger, who has previously served as Israeli Consul General to the Southwest in Houston, Texas, was the keynote speaker. The following day, he appeared on KARN News Radio, Central Arkansas’ largest news station and laid out a clear case for why such events are important. “The event at Agape Church was a reflection of the depth of the covenant between the U.S. and Israel and is based primarily on Judeo-Christian values which is unlike the relationship between the U.S. and any other country and Israel and any other country. The event was a very authentic reflection of the support in the U.S. My wish was to speak not just of shared values but of vital American interests. Modern-day Israel is a platform for America for common interests in commerce and in national security. We use American military systems. We share things from operating them to repairing them, and those lessons are integrated in all those hundreds of military systems. The bottom line is U.S.-Israel relations constitute a viable two-way relationship. It is vital for both countries.”
Dr. Stewart, who holds a doctorate in Hebraic Studies and just three days prior to the event was selected to sit on the Oxford University Board of Regents, delivered a message to the crowd that it is not enough for the United States and its elected officials to support Israel for geo-political reasons. He emphasized that America is a young nation and is certainly not the first country to have held the title of super power in the world. He explained that other empires once held the title, and each of their common denominator is that once they decided to turn their backs on Israel, their empires crumbled, and they lost their position of the number one super power in the world. Dr. Stewart cautioned that America should be careful not to head in that direction.
His most memorable line came when he named all of the “ites” who fell against the Israel i.e. the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. “The only ones left are the mosquito bites, and they all came to Arkansas, it seems!” (Arkansas is known for its high number of mosquitoes.)
Akaya Lee with CUFI Young Professionals was the youngest speaker on the program and received a standing ovation after her address. Ret. Ambassador Ettinger left his seat to walk over and shake her hand.
The surprise of the night was a personalized video from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When Netanyahu’s image showed up on the screen and the first words were: “Congratulations to our friends in Little Rock”, a complete shock came into the room. A survey among attendees proved that it was a highlight of the evening, and several officials were impressed that something which usually only happens in Washington, DC happened for a small state like Arkansas.
Netanyahu went on to address CUFI members as friends: “We know our friends, and we appreciate them. We know that we have no better friends in the world, and I send greetings to you all from Jerusalem, our eternal undivided capital. I said that we know our friends, and that friendship is based on a common tradition, common values. We respect freedom. We respect the individual. We respect a free society. We respect our heritage that was born in this land thousands of years ago. You know this. You know this better than anyone in the world, and every time I meet members of CUFI, I say we are blessed. We are blessed to have friends like you, allies like you. There are none better, and I want to thank you again from the people of Israel and from the bottom of my heart. Thank you, CUFI. Thank you, Little Rock.”