On the occasion of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, a Christian evangelical delegation toured Judea and Samaria as part of a project launched by the Mount Hebron Regional Council that aims to increase European tourism and to generate advocacy for the region that is more positive.
The Lions of Judah Mission 2017 consisted of leaders of European and South American evangelical communities, such as Belgium, Britain, Italy, Malta, Spain, Colombia, Paraguay, and Argentina. They toured Mount Hebron for three days and visited biblical sites, such as the Cave of the Patriarchs and the Three Angels Observation Point. They were escorted by three foreign television stations that recorded the journey and screened them to millions around the world.
“Israel is part of my blood and spirit and I will do my best to support this country,” Vincenzo Saladino told Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “We chose along with the Mount Hebron Regional Council chairman to open the region’s gates to all Christians, both Catholics and evangelicals, in order to construct the right strategy to explain to the rest of the world where the truth is and where the lies are.”
“Just as Abraham had the faith to move to an unknown land and to place his fate in God’s hands, his legacy teaches us that the time for talk is over and that now is the time for action,” continued Saladino. “We wish to show the rest of the world the lies of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement and the heart of the people in Judea and Samaria.”
Saladino, a resident of Calabria, Italy, was appointed by the Mount Hebron Regional Council to serve as an ambassador with the role of presenting the Hebron residents’ perspective to other Europeans and to lead evangelical delegations so as to bring more Christian tourism to the region.
“For years, extreme left-wing organizations have brought groups to Mount Hebron in order to influence public opinion against Israel by fanning the flames of conflict in the region and by portraying Israeli citizens as violent occupiers,” argued Mount Hebron Regional Council Chairman Yochai Damri.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely congratulated both Yochai Damri and Vincenzo Saladino on the initiative and praised the thousands of tourists coming to Mount Hebron in order to familiarize themselves with Biblical lands and to witness the reality on the ground themselves rather than basing their opinions on political slander.
“This experience has definitely brought me closer to the people of Israel,” London evangelical leader Paul Joseph Norton told TPS. “To meet the people of the Mount Hebron communities and to witness the way that God opened this beautiful land to all types of people from different races, tribes and tongues has been amazing. I go home with a renewed vigor and passion for the people and their land.”
The area of the Mount Hebron Regional Council is located south of Jerusalem, between the Etzion bloc and Beer Sheva, and covers over 500 square kilometers of land surrounding the city of Hebron. The area is home to 18 Jewish communities and over 8,500 residents, with some 4,500 children. The council recently started the Mount Hebron Fund, which sponsored the trip, in order to raise funds to help the communities develop projects to bolster security, social needs, and positive media attention.
“Supporting the Jewish people is the true fulfillment of our Christian identity and today this support does not come in money, but through diplomacy,” asserted Vincenzo Incontro, an evangelical leader from Sicily. “We aim to explain the truth and disseminate it to our respective communities. We shall be your ambassadors in both flesh and spirit.”
Daniela Traub contributed to this report.