Gordon Robertson, son of the outspoken conservative televangelist Pat Robertson, remembers being nine years old when his Southern Baptist pastor father sat the family down, Bibles at their side, to read and understand the ramifications of Israel’s recent victory in the 1967 Six Day War.
“We would normally talk about politics over the dinner table,” recalled Robertson, now 59, “but this was different, this was, ‘all right, everyone, open your Bibles, I’m going to walk you through the prophecies that were just fulfilled.'”
“He wanted to emphasize that not too many times in your life do you get to say, a prophecy just got fulfilled,” he said. “This isn’t just a prophecy from the Old Testament, this is a prophecy from the New Testament as well, that just happened.”
Israel’s victory in June 1967 was a seminal moment in Robertson’s young life, followed by his first trip to Israel two years later at age 11, when he visited the Western Wall for the first time.
“The joy, in 1969, was absolutely incredible,” said Robertson. “The exultation — I can’t really explain it, it’s one of those things that’s really intangible. There was a moment there, there was a part of Judaism I had never seen before.”
Robertson has been sharing these personal anecdotes with the press as he publicizes his latest Christian Broadcasting Network project, “In Our Hands,” a 108-minute docudrama created by CBN Documentaries to mark the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War.
Robertson, a Yale graduate and attorney who is now CEO of the Christian Broadcasting Network and a co-host on the long-running Christian talk show “The 700 Club” created by his father, was in Israel this week to screen the film after showing it in the US and then at the EU in Brussels.
In “In Our Hands,” Robertson notes that he takes the story back to Titus, the future Roman emperor who destroyed the Second Temple in 70 CE. That perspective was shared by the 1967 paratroopers interviewed in the film, said Robertson.
“From their point of view, they weren’t fighting the Jordanians,” said Robertson. “They were fighting the war against Titus.”
Robertson emphasizes this history-based vantage point in an added section following the movie, in which he walks viewers through Scriptures, showing them the history of Jerusalem and the Temple, and the conquests and events that dramatically changed Christianity.
“Until you gain that understanding, you can’t get that this was the first time that Jerusalem is under Israeli control again,” he said. “You can’t understand biblical prophecy or headlines from today.”
The docudrama is interspersed with filmed scenes of Israeli actors playing the roles of paratroopers, IDF generals and political leaders in a panoply of scenes that are heavy on drama and virtual drumrolls.
However, it’s the recorded interviews with IDF veterans, somewhat reminiscent of “The Gatekeepers,” Dror Moreh’s award-winning 2012 film about Shin Bet directors, that offer the most impact, as the veterans, now older men, describe the events of that fateful week and relate what the experience felt like for them.
“One of the fundamentals going into the project was not to add my point of view,” said Robertson. “I wanted it to be the point of view of the paratroopers who won the war, of those eyewitnesses who fought the battle, not an American or Christian point of view.”
Robertson and his director and producer, Erin Zimmerman, said they both watched “The Gatekeepers” and other recent works by Israeli filmmakers about the period, including Mor Loushy’s “Censored Voices” about the release of formerly suppressed government recordings of soldiers’ reactions following the Six Day War.
It’s impossible, said Robertson, to watch those controversial, left-leaning films about the events that changed Israeli history without letting them affect his own film.
Yet for Robertson, an intensely pro-Israel Christian friend of Israel, it’s crucial to continue having Israel in control of Jerusalem and the Old City.
He recalls going to Bethlehem in the 1970s and having a “profound experience” with candles and shepherds with their flocks on Christmas Eve, an “experience he can’t have any longer,” he said, referring to the biblical city that is under Palestinian Authority control.
“It’s not safe for me,” he said. “It’s an iffy thing now, I keep hearing, ‘it’s not safe for you to be here.'”
“Do I want a Jerusalem that is under Palestinian control as a Christian?” said Robertson. “And the answer is no, I do not want the Garden of Gethsemene, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the City of David, the Western Wall, Hezekiah’s Tunnel being under that kind of control, to apply for permission and not be safe.”
“I would hope Israel would never bargain away the Western Wall,” he said. “Because if you do, I’m certain there would not be access anymore. And what would that mean for the legacy of the Jewish people?”
The legacy of the Old City and the Western Wall are personally important to Robertson as well, who took his own kids for a kind of Christian bar mitzvah to Israel when each turned 12. He shepherded them, individually, to the Western Wall to pray and then to the Jordan River to be baptized.
“For Robertsons, our clan, with my father, with me, with my son, there’s a bond and it’s tough to put that into words,” he said.
Robertson’s great-grandfather, a preacher in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, was fluent in Hebrew, as well as in Latin and Greek, in order to better read the Scriptures in their original languages. He took his Hebrew lessons on Sunday mornings at the local synagogue.
As for Robertson, he’s lost track of how many times he’s visited Israel.
Still, he said, at various times he’s wondered, “What’s a goy like me doing in a documentary like this?”
For now, Robertson will continue cheerleading Israel in his next CBN film, called “To Life,” about Israeli aid worldwide.