The Israel Defense Forces has been sending soldiers on tours of a museum honoring Evangelical Christians’ support of Israel.
The army’s Education Corps said it would reexamine the policy following a query from the Walla news site, which first reported on the tours on Sunday.
The Friends of Zion Museum was founded in Jerusalem’s Nahalat Shiva neighborhood, in the city center, in 2015 by Mike Evans, a pro-Israel Evangelical Christian.
Evans is an ardent Trump supporter and his organization bestowed the US president with its highest honor — the Friend of Zion Award — after the commander-in-chief recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December and announced he would move the US embassy there.
In the lead-up to the embassy move in May, Evans paid for hundreds of signs that were hung up throughout Jerusalem hailing Trump as “a friend of Zion.”
Evans has also seen controversy over his past work as a religious leader in the US.
In 1977, he was the head of the Bnei Yeshua messianic congregation in Stony Brook, Long Island, in New York State, which reportedly held its Christian services with a Jewish star hanging from the pulpit. The group would proselytize based on Evans’s stated goal of seeing “every Jewish person in the world come to a greater relationship with the God of Israel through the acceptance of Jesus as the messiah.”
Using innovative technology, Evans’s museum takes visitors through a biblical and historical timeline, honoring non-Jewish individuals that worked to safeguard the Jewish people.
The religious narrative places particular emphasis on Christian leaders who were supportive of the Zionist movement even before Theodor Herzl.
At the conclusion of the exhibit, which is said to have attracted hundreds of thousands of tourists from around the world, visitors don 3D glasses for a film in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims, “I don’t believe the Jewish state would have been possible without Christian Zionism.”
Former president Shimon Peres served as chairman of the museum’s board of directors and the site has earned visits from a wide range of high-profile officials, including President Reuven Rivlin and US Vice President Mike Pence.
In a response to a query from Walla, museum officials asserted that the institution has no religious or Christian symbols inside. The officials added that the chief rabbi of Israel had installed a mezuzah on the museum’s door frame.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit confirmed that the army has been in contact with Friends of Zion for over two years and said that sites for soldiers’ visits are handpicked after much consideration.
However, following Walla’s query, the IDF’s senior education officer will reexamine the matter, the army said.