US Christian Leader: Israel Should Reach Out to African-Americans
A prominent Christian broadcaster and African-American leader is calling on Israel to make a more concerted effort to reach out to blacks and other minority groups in the United States in order to improve its image and boost its standing among different sectors of the American public. “I think you have a natural ally in terms of African-Americans as a group in the United States,” said Pastor Glenn R. Plummer, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the National Religious Broadcasters Association, which represents over 1,700 Christian television, radio and other media in the United States. “I don’t know that there is a lot of effort being made in that direction. I think there is a lot of room for improvement in terms of reaching out to those groups by Israel,” Plummer said in a radio interview conducted in Jerusalem on behalf ofthe America’s Voices in Israel program. A resident of Detroit, the 49-year old Christian evangelical leader is here on his second visit, and he says that one of his reasons for doing so is to learn more about Israel’s rescue of Ethiopian Jews.
“As an African-American myself, I am intrigued and I have been amazed by this story,”Plummer said, “It is a fascinating story of how Israel went there, took out seats on these huge planes, put all these people in them and brought them here. I never knew this story until I came here,” he said. Plummer seemed impressed that Ethiopia’s black Jews had been welcomed in Israel with open arms. “As a black from America, we sometimes think in polarized terms of black and white,” he said. “The divisions and polarizations that are in America, that is not their experience here, which was very refreshing for somebody like me to hear.” Plummer believesthat the story behind Israel’s absorption of the Ethiopians needs to be more widely disseminated in the United States. “It is something I think that our country needs to hear, that African Americans need to hear. I think that it will heighten the commitment of a whole group in our country who love the Bible but are not necessarily jointed yet with Israel, and I am personally driven to see that happen.”
Plummer noted with pride the widespread support that Israel enjoys among Christians throughout the United States. “Aside from Jewish organizations, I would venture to say I don’t think there is another group in America that is more outspokenly supportive of the State of Israel than evangelical Christians.” The underlying reason for this support, he said, was not a desire to proselytize. “I think there is genuine love in the hearts of Americans, particularly among the evangelicals, for the nation of Israel, for the Land of Israel and for the people of Israel.” “Not to have a passionate love for the Jewish people just does not make sense,” he asserted, pointing out that Jesus and his disciples were all Jews.
Asked about recent strains in black-Jewish relations in the United States, Plummer said he thinks that at least part of the problem stems from certain African-American political leaders,”who have taken the position that Israel is now the Goliath and the Palestinians are the Davids They have painted this picture of Israel being the oppressor.” “Maybe they are just ignorant of the facts, but that is hard for me to believe,” he said, adding that, “As an African-American leader I feel very differently.” One of the emotional highlights of his visit, Plummer said, was going to the Old City of Jerusalem and seeing the Temple Mount. Being here, he said, has been “a wonderful experience. It has revived inside of me the desire to see others come and visit Israel”.
Preferring not to comment on Israel’s internal political situation, Plummer did have one piece of advice for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and for all Israelis. “Don’t quit, don’t give up, don’t back down. You may be tired, but continue to be strong and be courageous, remember who your real strength is. You are Israel!” “Your strength,” he concluded, “is in the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He will never forsake you.”