Paul Calvert spoke with Ilan Scolnik, from the Friends of Zion Museum.
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has said that without Christian Zionism, the modern State of Israel would not exist today. In 2015 the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem launched, to give Christians worldwide a home in the modern State of Israel. Paul Calvert spoke with Ilan Scolnik, Director of Marketing and Sales at the Friends of Zion Museum, about the Jewish/Christian relationship, what people will experience at the museum and their future plans for the Ambassador Project.
Paul: What is the Friends of Zion Museum?
Ilan: The Friends of Zion Museum, is a museum that takes the concept of righteous gentiles from the Holocaust that we all know so well, and it expands it over 200 years leading up to the State of Israel. It celebrates those who stood by the Jewish people in creating the State and helping the Jewish people with their Zionist dream.
Paul: Shimon Peres was the International Chairman of the museum wasn’t he?
Ilan: Yes he was. Also on our board sit former Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, the former Head of Mossad Danny Yatom, General Yossi Peled, the person who composed Hallelujah, Kobi Oshrat, and many more. The consensus and participation both in Israel and overseas has been overwhelming.
Paul: When were you opened and why were you opened?
Ilan: We opened with a soft launch in April and the official opening was September 8th 2015. We opened with two major goals. One is for Christians worldwide to have a home in the modern State of Israel. We found that Christians went all over the State of Israel to the holy sites, but they lacked a connection to the modern State of Israel. This museum gives them that connection. It connects the Bible to the modern State.
On the other hand, we wanted to create a centre that acted as a beacon and a bridge between Israelis, Jewish people and Christians. We wanted to show Israelis that there are many people who support them around the world, especially in a time like now, where we have BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) popping up all over the world and we have all sorts of negative media. It is so important for Israelis to know that people support them.
What we discovered, is that Israelis not only loved the museum because they found the people support them, but their message of the museum, the connection of the biblical to the modern is something that was very needed in the Israeli society.
We have security forces that come to the museum, school children, people from all over Israeli society, both in the religious Jewish world as well as secular Jewish world. They say time and time again that the connection with the modern State is so necessary through the Bible, otherwise why are we here?
Paul: How many people have come so far?
Ilan: A little over 60,000 people have already come through the museum. About half of them are tourists from around the world and the other half are Israeli local people. We are very proud of that number.
Paul: What can people see when they come to the museum?
Ilan: The museum is a one hour experience. You can also see the entire content of the museum on our website in a 3D virtual tour. The virtual tour is on the home page and you can see all of the exhibits in English. It’s the latest technology.
The museum is comprised of seven different rooms, multimedia, the latest technology and all Israeli made. You will see firstly a beautiful map of the State of Israel and a tour using helicopters and drones flying over the State of Israel, connecting people to the Bible and the State of Israel. We then travel back in time and meet Abraham, Moses and Ezekiel. We then meet the dreamers, the first people who started dreaming about the State of Israel; people like Professor George Bush, who wrote a book dating before the Civil War and sold a million copies. That book was calling for the Jewish people to return to the holy land. We then meet the visionaries, people like Queen Victoria. On the Zionist exploration fund, people who supported the State of Israel in exploration in the State of Israel. We jump towards the Holocaust and meet people who we call lights in the darkness, who saved Jewish people from the Nazi horrors; people like Oskar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg who saved over 100,000 Jews. We then meet those people who fought alongside the Jewish people in the creation of the State, people like John Patterson who commanded the first Jewish fighting force in over 2,000 years and basically led to the creation of the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces). People like Orde Wingate and then of course the final room is the grand finale where every person who comes to the room actually sees themselves. The concept being based on, ‘Here am I’ from the Bible. We want every person that comes through here to answer that call and say, “Here am I. I’m standing with the Jewish people. I’m standing with the State of Israel.”
Paul: You are going back to the very beginning, with the promise to the Jews. Is that very important today?
Ilan: It is incredibly important today. People with replacement theology around the world, the very existence of the Jewish people in the State of Israel depends on their historical right to the land. The very relevance of the Temple Mount today; the very relevance of the fact that there are archaeological findings that have been dug up in the past that were discarded and removed; those are attempts to erase the Jewish connection to the land of Israel. Connecting the Jewish people to the modern land of Israel, that’s why we are here; that’s why we are not in Uganda or somewhere else. This is the only place for us. That’s the place where our forefathers were. It’s the place where we have been for over 3,000 years, so it’s the only place.
Paul: What names in history do you look back at as pioneers of Christian Zionism?
Ilan: Among the very first is an amazing person by the name of Jean Henri Dunant, who was a Swiss born banker. He has been called the first Christian Zionist.
Jean Henri Dunant was the founder of the Red Cross and the sponsor of the Geneva Conventions and a huge supporter of the Zionist dream and the return of the Jewish people to this land of Israel. He is also the winner of the first Nobel Peace Prize. He died in poverty because of his dream and because of his political views.
We also look back at people like William Blackstone, who wrote a petition, privately given to over 400 world leaders. This laid the foundation for Christian Zionism today.
We also look at George Bush, because Professor George Bush wrote the book Valley Of Vision, which sold one million copies before the American Civil War.
Paul: Is Christian Zionism alive and well today?
Ilan: It is alive and well and it is growing I am pleased to say. I am looking as an outsider, being a Jewish person in the State of Israel. Christian Zionism is something that is desperately needed. In the words of our Prime Minister, BiBi Netanyahu, he says that without Christian Zionism, the modern State of Israel would not exist today. It is so important that there are people all around the world that support the State of Israel. It’s important that their voices be heard. It’s important that they stand up and go on social media and use their voice and make their voices heard, because there are so many people that don’t support. Therefore Christian Zionism is incredibly important.
Paul: Is the Jewish Christian relationship a good relationship today?
Ilan: The Jewish Christian relationship is among the best it has been in many years. I can’t think of a Pope, at least in my short life that has, for example, made statements like the current Pope has made. It’s unprecedented, the fact that the Evangelical world in North America and around the world is growing and is very supportive of the State of Israel. These are things that are invaluable for the political and historical power of the Jewish people and it’s very important.
Paul: Is it important for Christians to understand their Jewish heritage and come and bless Israel?
Ilan: It goes back to Abraham. That’s something we talk about in the museum, ‘I will bless those who bless thee. I will curse those who curse thee,’ from Genesis. When Christian Zionists come here, they believe that statement, or they believe that part of the Bible, the Old Testament and the connection to the Jewish people is very strong and very important for Christians. I believe it’s very important for Jews too.
People today need to find what we share, as opposed to what drives us apart. The more we find reasons to have common goals and interests, the stronger we will be against ISIS and Islamic extremists, who lump us all together anyway. So why be divided when we face them?
Paul: What are your future plans for the museum?
Ilan: The museum is really the first part, what I call the bait. People come to the museum and it’s a one hour experience. Then they immediately want to know what they can do. They say, “Here am I. What can we do?”
The museum is planning what we call the Ambassador Project, which is going to be Masters level courses, teaching people a little bit about communication, a little bit about media studies and about the modern State of Israel. It’s going to give them the tools to become informal ambassadors for the State of Israel.
In addition to that, the third phase of the museum is that we are going to create a Think Tank and Communication Centre, providing real time communication with the non-Jewish world across the whole world. That way, those three pillars will create the Friends of Zion Heritage Centre and make it a real beacon in the world.
Paul: What is your prayer for the museum?
Ilan: My prayer for the museum is that we take the flame of Dr Mike Evans, the founder of the museum and the person who wrote the History of Christian Zionism and his passion for the Jewish people and the State of Israel and multiply it and take it to millions of people worldwide. We have 750 million Bible believing Christians around the world and it is my prayer that those Bible believing Christians will become Zionists; Israel supporting Bible believing Christians.
Read more at Supporting Christian Zionism.