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BrieAnna Frank, a Barrett Honors student majoring in journalism and political science, was an undergraduate research fellow with the Center in 2017-18. In 2018, she traveled to Jerusalem with the support of a Friends of the Center student research award. She graduated in May 2019 and is now a reporter for The Arizona Republic
My research in the U.S., including interviews with several evangelical leaders, showed that they were much more fervent in their support for Israel than the other two groups. In Jerusalem, I was able to interview evangelicals from organizations such as the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem and the Christian Broadcasting Network. These Christians were also fervent supporters of the modern State of Israel, implying that it is a Christian duty to support Israel because of its prophesied role in the days leading up to the second coming of Jesus.
Support from the Center allowed me to conduct research for my honors thesis during my studies abroad at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in fall 2018. My thesis explored support among evangelical Christians for the modern State of Israel and considers Christian groups in the United States, Israel, and the Palestinian territories. My preliminary research suggested that support for Israel varied widely among the three populations.
My research also looked into attitudes among Christians in these three areas regarding claims of human rights violations by Israel against Palestinians. Evangelicals in Jerusalem largely dismissed such accusations, believing that most of these accusations were coming from ignorant people who were not familiar with the complexities of the conflict on the ground. They stated that they believe the geographic, political, religious, and historic conflicts Israel faces are unprecedented and that, given the country’s unique position, Israel has been fair toward the Palestinians.
Palestinian Christians, though, adamantly disagreed. They stated that Israel continues to commit human rights violations, and that the notion that supporting Israel is Christian duty is laughable. They stated that Christian teachings implore followers to fight for oppressed groups, which would be Palestinian Christians in this conflict. This group largely believed that Israel is no longer special to God, and that the promises set out in the Old Testament to the Land of Israel were conditional agreements that were broken when the ancient Israelites strayed from God’s commandments. Therefore, they do not believe modern Christians should have any allegiance to Israel on religious grounds, and that they should concern themselves with upholding Christian values all around the world—which they believe would oblige them to fight for the rights of Palestinians.
Needless to say, my research has been fascinating. I’ve talked to people on both sides of the conflict who are passionate about their faith and their identity and who have eloquently discussed what role their faith plays in their thinking about Israel and its role in the modern world.