'We also want to encourage the Jewish community'

In the Netherlands, Christians stage a solidarity-with-Israel flyover

Christians for Israel hires four planes to trail giant banners congratulating the Jewish state on its 75th birthday

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

A plane trails a banner congratulating Israel on her 75th independence day in the Netherlands on April 26, 2023. (Courtesy of Christians for Israel)
A plane trails a banner congratulating Israel on her 75th independence day in the Netherlands on April 26, 2023. (Courtesy of Christians for Israel)

Witnessing a recent anti-Israel demonstration in the Netherlands, Roger van Oordt had an idea: What if his organization, Christians for Israel, flew an airplane overhead trailing a banner with a message of support for the Jewish state?

Van Oordt, Israel’s honorary consul in the city of Nijkerk and previous head of Christians for Israel, an international lobby group based in the city near Amsterdam, never did hire a pilot to provoke his ideological rivals.

Instead, he “channeled the idea in a more positive direction,” as he puts it, and hired a fleet of four planes to stage a flyover across the Netherlands with banners on Israel’s 75th Independence Day.

The 20-meter (65-foot) banners read “The Netherlands congratulate Israel” and feature the address of a website that Christians for Israel set up for the flyover: israel75.nl. The site’s visitors are encouraged to write Israel a greeting or donate a tree that the Jewish National Fund would then plant. Christians for Israel, in turn, have already purchased several dozen trees in connection with the action to compensate for the flyover’s estimated carbon footprint, van Oordt said.

The planes took off from Nijmegen in the country’s east, splitting off to the country’s four corners, flying for five hours. One of the planes also is scheduled to fly over Nijkerk, where Christians for Israel, a group with thousands of members and dozens of affiliates in 30 countries, has its international headquarters.

“We want to show Israel that it has widespread support in the Netherlands and we also want to encourage the Jewish community of the Netherlands through the flyover, to show it’s not alone,” said van Oordt, whose late father, Karel, founded Christians for Israel in 1979. Today, the center, which has conference halls and workshop rooms, features a shop with Israeli products and a training center for beauticians based on Israeli products from the Dead Sea.

The Netherlands flyover was not inspired by the fact that the Israel Air Force does flyovers on Independence Day, van Oordt said, “but it’s a nice touch.”

Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs said that Dutch Jews are drawing strength from the flyover action.

“At a time when antisemitism is becoming more visible, this is a case where the opposite sentiment is also made more visible,” Jacobs told The Times of Israel. “I think it’s brilliant and a powerful message at a time when Israel is demonized – increasingly as a stand-in for Jews in the Netherlands and beyond. Defense of Israel is nowadays defense of Jews.”

A consortium of 10 businessmen supportive of Christians for Israel split among them the $10,000 bill for the flyover as a gift to Israel on its 75th birthday.

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