JPOST: Delegation of Colombian leaders in Israel as Latin American support spikes

Some 40 Evangelical Christians from Colombia are in Israel this week for a diplomatic and spiritual mission. The group, run by Pastor Raul Rubio Garzon with the participation of Senator Edgar Palacio Mizrahi, is touring the country and building ties.

On Wednesday, they met with Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, the only native Spanish-speaking official currently in the country.

“Israel is winning the battle for the hearts and minds of the people of Latin America,” said Israel Allies Foundation head Josh Reinstein. “We are seeing tremendous political support for Israel as faith-based diplomacy continues to expand around the world.”

The visit by the Colombian delegation comes less than one month after the establishment of the Columbian Senate Friends of Israel Allies Caucus, which is being co-chaired by Mizrahi and Sen. Paloma Valencia. The caucus includes senators from four distinct political parties, which Reinstein said “highlights the multi-partisan support for Israel in Colombia.”

The new caucus is the 40th in the network of Israel Allies caucuses around the world. They work with the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus and are generally made up of Bible-believing Christians who stand with the people and State of Israel.

Latin American support for Israel has been on the rise for the past decade, as the Evangelical Christian community grows in those countries. David Parsons, vice president of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, said that according to surveys, around 20% of Latin Americans are now Evangelicals, rising to close to 30% in Brazil and more than 40% in much of Central America.

Parsons attributed Brazil’s election this year of extremely pro-Israel Jair Messias Bolsonaro as its president to the country’s larger Christian population. Furthermore, he said that Christianity is behind Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales’ decision to move his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, like the United States did.

“They have a big heart for Israel,” Parsons said of the people of Latin America, “and they expect their leaders to stand with Israel.”

In 2013, Israel and Colombia signed a Free Trade Agreement, which was recently ratified. Reinstein said that Colombia is considered the second most important commercial partner of Israel in Latin America, after Brazil.

In addition, the Tourism Ministry provided statistics for visitors from the top 30 countries. Brazil, Argentina and Mexico are all in that group. So far in 2019, there have been 107,500 visitors from Brazil, 67,500 from Argentina and 55,500 from Mexico, according to the ministry.

“Faith is something that has to become practical,” said Garzon. “The spirituality has to become practical.”

He said that 20 years ago, the Colombian Evangelical community connected with the Jewish community and showed members how Christians could be “a tool to really show the world what Israel is all about.

“There is still a lot of ignorance,” he continued. “We need to build bridges, stronger bridges, to do hasbara [public diplomacy]. You don’t have to thank us for this work. We just want to be on the right side of history – and the love for the God of Israel is our obligation.”

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Israel is winning the battle for the hearts and minds of the people of Latin America.

Josh Reistein IAF President