“There are a lot of questions about this work that I do, and that’s why I wrote the book, ‘Titus, Trump and the Triumph of Israel,'” Josh Reinstein, director of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, told United with Israel in an exclusive interview.
By Terri Nir, United with Israel
Josh Reinstein, co-founder and director of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus and president of the Israel Allies Foundation, grew up in Dallas, Texas and Toronto, Ontario. He is also the producer and founder of the hit TV show Israel Now News, a half-hour weekly broadcast to millions of viewers worldwide.
Reinstein, 42, has been dubbed “the father of faith-based diplomacy.” He recently authored a book, titled Titus, Trump and the Triumph of Israel: The Power of Faith-Based Diplomacy (Gefen Publishing House), which became available on September 1.
Following are excerpts of the interview, in which he discusses his Aliyah (immigration to Israel), his army service, his family, his role in faith-based diplomacy and, ultimately, the recent diplomatic successes of the Jewish state in which the Caucus played an important role.`
Q: When did you make your actual decision to make Aliyah?
“I always knew I would make Aliyah, from as far back as I can remember. From my earliest memories, even before I visited the State of Israel. It was always my conviction to move to Israel.
“I grew up in a very Zionist family, and all my grandparents were Holocaust survivors, so I understood the importance of having our own country, our own army, our own government, and I really always wanted to come to the land of Israel and be in the land of Israel.”
Q: When did you make your first trip?
“My first trip was for my Bar Mitzvah, when I was 13. My grandfather sent me here on a teen tour, and it was very exciting for me. I was already, for many, many years, wanting to come to Israel, dreaming about coming to Israel, and I finally got to come.”
Q: Can you tell us about your reaction when you arrived? How did it affect you?
“I think it was a real wake-up call for me. I went to Jewish schools…and I learned the story about the Exodus from Egypt – it was a big part of Jewish education, and obviously, it’s a big part of our holidays and our prayers. And I learned at age 7 or 8 that there were Jews who stayed back in Egypt…
“It really bothered me because after the 10 plagues and all the great miracles, why would they stay and be slaves in Egypt when they could follow God and go to the Promised Land? This is something that bothered me throughout the years. And then, when I came at 13 years old and got to Zion Square in Jerusalem, I looked around and saw Jews from France, from Russia, from Ethiopia, from America, living in this incredible, bustling society. God brought us back to our land in our time, and I realized that my family, my friends, and everyone I really knew were those people who stayed back in Egypt…
“So, it was a real eye-opener for me. It was devastating, really, to realize what was going on in Israel and that I was missing it by living in the United States and Canada.”
Q: So how old were you when you made Aliyah?
“I basically, from that moment, made a commitment to come to Israel. I would come every summer I could afford to. I’d work some summer, I’d come some summers, I went to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on the one-year program [for foreign students] in my second year of university and then finally, after I got my degree, I made Aliyah in 1999.
“I lived in an absorption center and immediately volunteered for the army. I was already 22, so I had to volunteer, I wasn’t inducted. I was a tank gunner in the 188 unit of the IDF.”
Q: Throughout your teen years, you had this focus on Israel. Did you inspire anyone else, among family and friends, during that time?
“Absolutely. I spoke about Aliyah and coming to Israel all the time. I made Aliyah with seven of my very close friends. We all did military service. I made a shidduch (match) for my sister, so I got her to move here… Eventually I brought over my younger brother, who now lives in Israel… We’re all living in Israel, we got married, we have families.
“I worked very hard to make sure that the next generation of Reinsteins would live here and their children would be born in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel).
“It’s very emotional for us because my oldest son just had his Bar Mitzvah and he’s the first Reinstein that we know of to be born in Jerusalem and celebrate a Bar Mitzvah in Jerusalem in the last few thousand years.”
Q: Your children are still young, but do you find that your work with the Christian communities and faith-based diplomacy intrigues them?
“I think that they’re exposed to a very interesting group of people. They know a lot of politicians, celebrities, Christian leader and Jewish leaders, so I think it definitely influences their upbringing. Obviously, because of the work I do, my children are growing up in a very Zionist household, living here in Israel… They can see first-hand the importance of defending Jerusalem as the undivided capital.
“I’ve been very involved with countries moving their embassies to Jerusalem as well, so they got to see first-hand the fruits of this labor. I think it’s been very inspiring for my children – and to the whole family, to me and my wife as well.”
Q: More and more countries are talking about moving their embassies to Jerusalem. Has your work played a part in making that happen?
“Absolutely. We worked for 14 years on the issue of getting America to move its embassy to Jerusalem. It was one of the prime goals of the Israel Allies Foundation, and really, the way we were successful was by getting Christians involved in the issue, making it a Christian issue and getting it done under the Trump administration. Also, we were involved in the Guatemala embassy move, and most recently, we have very close ties with the president of Malawi. His declaration to move the embassy to Jerusalem was something in which we, from the sidelines, were somewhat involved.”
Q: You were in an elite IDF combat unit. Is there any particular experience that affected you?
“I just think that being a pretty spoiled, upper-middle-class Jewish kid from North America, the army experience really shaped me, gave me the work ethic and dedication to follow through on my dream. For me, the military was a very positive experience. We were involved during the Second Intifada, we were on the front lines, so it wasn’t an easy experience; it was very tough. Mentally and physically, it was an incredible thing to go through and to be able to learn how to be an example and to tackle hard issues and get things done.”
Q: Have you considered getting other faith groups involved, not just Christians?
“The key is not working with different religions and mobilizing support – there are organizations that do that. We realized early on that it was Christians, not countries, that were standing with Israel. The success of faith-based diplomacy today is that there are millions of Christians who believe in the bible and turning that into real political action….
“In the last three and a half years, under the Trump administration, we’ve seen some of the most successful examples of faith-based diplomacy the world has ever seen. We’ve proven the theory that by Jews and Christians who believe in the bible working together, we can get incredible things done. So it’s not like we’re going to say, ‘Now, what can we do with Hindus?’ It was based on the fact that we’re here because of the bible and there was a specific group that understood this other than the Jewish community.
“There are a lot of questions about this work that I do – a lot of questions from Jews, a lot of questions from Christians – and that’s why I wrote the book, Titus, Trump and the Triumph of Israel, in order to explain the history of this relationship and the possibilities for the future.”
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