Onward Christian soldiers

 

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Unsurprisingly, there are more non-Jews than Jews advocating for Israel on campuses. What is surprising are the reasons for their activism
 
Students chat during a break at a Christians United for Israel leadership conference held in January in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo credit: Courtesy)
WASHINGTON — Think North American campus activism for Israel and chances are you won’t think of a Hispanic Catholic organizing pro-Israel events.

Or, of an African American Catholic at a historically black college telling not just her fellow students, but also a Jewish youth group, why she supports Israel.

Yet, Stanley Gonzalez-Martinez and Alexis Crews are among thousands of non-Jewish students at North American colleges and universities who wear their love for Israel on their sleeves.

‘Non-Jewish students vastly outnumber the number of Jewish activists motivated to support Israel’

That shouldn’t be a surprise, says Stephen Kuperberg, the Israel on Campus Coalition’s executive director. “Non-Jewish students vastly outnumber the number of Jewish activists motivated to support Israel,” he says.

“On campus, just as it is in the rest of the United States, if the only support Israel has comes from Jews, we would be in very bad shape.”

Christians United for Israel has 98 campus chapters — created at the behest of students, CUFI’s executive director, David Brog, says. “I didn’t anticipate doing a campus program,” he says. “We started getting approached by campus Christians, telling us, ‘Israel is really under assault; no one is defending Israel… They wanted our help.”

Five hundred students attended last summer’s CUFI Washington Summit, Brog says. (While the majority of students are evangelical, he says, there is more Christian denominational diversity among the students than among adults affiliated with CUFI.) The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, meanwhile, drew more than 1,200 students, Jewish and non-Jewish, to its policy conference last year and expects more than 1,600 at next month’s conference. J Street drew about 500 students, mostly Jewish, to its conference last year.

The motivations for Christians are many — for some, like Sarah Spillar, it starts with a religious foundation and grows from there to pragmatic reasons. For others, like Gonzalez-Martinez, it’s a byproduct of forming friendships with Jews and seeing the state’s importance to them.

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