WASHINGTON — Pastor Jay Bailey of the Solid Rock Assembly of God Church in Midland, GA has been to Israel four times already, but he knew long before he departed from New York for Ben Gurion International Airport on Monday that this would be his most important trip. This time, Bailey would only be in Israel for a little over two days, and he knew when he left that he might face rocket fire upon arrival. But for Bailey, the moment could not be better.
“I’m packing and looking forward to this – its going to be great” the pastor enthused before his flight. He flew to Israel Monday as part of a solidarity delegation from Christians United for Israel (CUFI), which brought 51 pastors – one from each US state and the District of Columbia – to Israel in a show of solidarity.
The pastors hope to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF soldiers, and to donate blood to Magen David Adom (MDA) during their brief two-and-a-half day sojourn.
CUFI Executive Director David Brog says that the idea for the solidarity mission came together quickly after “a tremendous outpouring of desire to do something.”
Both last week and this week, CUFI took out a series of full-page ads in almost two dozen major American newspapers, defending Israel’s actions and criticizing Hamas. It urged concerned citizens to go to the CUFI website, where they could sign a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry that said that the signer was “deeply troubled by reports that you put the prestige of your office and our nation behind efforts to promote a ceasefire proposal that specifically addressed key Hamas demands — such as the easing of the Gaza blockade — while largely ignoring Israel’s security requirements.”
The advertisements caught the eye of the US State Department, with State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf offering strong criticism of their content.
“Those kind of statements that wholly misrepresent the Secretary’s intentions and efforts do nothing to further the security of Israel because they are so blatantly false,” she told reporters last week.
Brog says such ads are at the center of the organization’s mission, explaining that CUFI’s “job is largely to explain to other Americans” why Israel’s cause is just. CUFI’s outreach so for, under the leadership of high-profile Pastor Jim Hagee, has brought some 1.6 million American voters into their fold.
But, says Brog, CUFI’s highly motivated membership base still looked for additional action beyond the ad campaign.
“This group will come and represent the thousands of Christian supporters of Israel in their communities back home,” Brog explained. “We thought it was important to demonstrate even in the middle of a war that we stand with Israel.”
The group plans to meet with a variety of Israeli figures in order to come back with what Brog described as “a more informed, powerful message of support for Israel.” Brog emphasized that although his group will seek to meet with political leaders, “we don’t want to interfere in any of the responsibilities of this conflict.”
“If Netanyahu has time, we will meet with him – and if he doesn’t, we will understand,” he said.
Bailey, who leads a large church in the suburbs of Columbus, GA, is a veteran participant in CUFI tours – this is his fourth visit with CUFI – but for around one-third of the pastors, this week’s visit will be their first to Israel.
“It might be the shortest trip, but this is the most important trip we’ve ever taken,” asserted the Jamaican-born pastor. He received notice from CUFI about the mission less than a week before he departed for Israel, and told his church leadership of his decision to attend almost immediately.
He waited until Sunday services to share his decision with the broader congregation.
“They love Israel, we are one with Israel and so they will be very excited,” he said shortly before making the announcement. “I have been sharing commentary and stories all along so they understand the context and it is not very difficult for me to explain the urgency and opportunity for me and for Christian leaders to stand with Israel.”
Before he left, Bailey said that he was not at all concerned about his personal safety.
“I feel zero level of risk, zero level of danger,” he asserted. “I do feel a profound sense of moral outrage about what is going on. It is more exacerbated by the perception that there is a moral equivalent between Israel and Hamas, a terror group. The moral fog is absolutely outrageous.”
As a result, Bailey is “profoundly motivated to go to Israel to show our solidarity.”
“There is not one scintilla of hesitation – it is my joy, my passion and my sacred obligation,” he added.
Bailey says that he has met with local Jewish leadership in Columbus, with whom he has longstanding ties. He is partnering with area synagogues to hold a night to honor Israel in Columbus in September.
“This is not just a blip on the radar for me – it is my passion,” he asserted.
Shortly before departing, Bailey cited Psalms, writing to his churchgoers: “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.” As God engineered this day from before the foundations of the world, He knew that pastors from all across America on this day would make a journey to Israel to declare our unambiguous and unwavering support for Israel and the Jewish people. I cannot tell you how excited and empowered I feel to be counted among these leaders to stand with Israel. This is our moment in history to stand for who and what is right! I STAND WITH ISRAEL.”