Several years ago, CEO of the Christian network CBN Gordon Robertson came to the same realization as many others before him: Israel has a PR problem.
“When Americans would think of Israel it was always in terms of terror attacks or anti-Israel resolutions at the UN,” Robertson told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, talking over the phone from Jerusalem where he was participating in the four-day annual Christian Media Summit.
In 2013, Robertson decided to do something about it, launching the first in a series of films to educate the public about Israel. The first one, ‘Made in Israel’, showcases Israeli technology and innovation.
“The great technology made in Israel and the amazing innovation, in agriculture for instance, was an untold story,” he said.
A meeting with the Israeli consul general in the US at the time reinforced his belief that such action was needed to try to salvage Israel’s image.
Next came ‘The Hope: The Rebirth of Israel,’ which journeys through the 50 years preceding the founding of the state of Israel, featuring Zionist visionaries and founders of the Jewish state including Theodor Herzl, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, Chaim Weizmann, David Ben-Gurion, and Golda Meir.
‘The Hope’ was followed by ”In Our Hands,” a docudrama which tells the story of Israel’s 55th Paratrooper Brigade in the Battle of Ammunition Hill in the war of 1967. “Most accounts of the Six-Day War are straight documentaries, and The Battle of Ammunition Hill is a sentence or two,” Robertson said with the release of the film earlier this year. “No film we know of actually recreates these pivotal scenes and events with such intense accuracy. For new generations of Jews and Christians, ”In Our Hands” is a must-see.”
“I think it was a surprise [to Israeli participants of the Christian Media Summit] that a Christian broadcasting network put the resources together to put out an accurate history of the Six Day War from the point of the paratroopers,” Robertson told the Post on Tuesday.
The next film the network will release will coincide with Israel’s 70th Independence Day. The network followed Israeli volunteers and organizations providing humanitarian aid around the world. “I don’t think the majority of people know about this work that Israel does. Most people wouldn’t have a clue that Israel was the second largest provider of aid to victims of the Nepal earthquake, after India,” he said. “I think that’s phenomenal and it’s a story that needs to be told.”
I always think that getting the facts out is the best way to defend Israel, he said, noting that ‘In ours hands’ had the most impact so far, “because it actually portrayed a period of time between 48-67 when Jordan had control of east Jerusalem.
“The facts are quite clear that the Jews were completely barred from east Jerusalem and the West bank,” he continued. “I think that history needs to be told again, particularly in light of the UN resolution last December,” he said, referring to UNSC Resolution 2334 which demanded that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.”
For Robertson, it’s important that the Israeli government is aware of the friendships it has in the Christian community and “how willing they are to be of help to Israel.”
“I think going forward there is a new awareness within the government and the Foreign Ministry that the Christian media truly wants to be a friend of Israel,” he said.