On September 8, 2015, Shimon Perez, Israel's former president, prime minister and Noble Peace Prize winner delivered an address to leaders from within Israel, and dignitaries and guests from around the world attending the official opening of Jerusalem's newest museum, the Friends of Zion Heritage Center. In his remarks, the statesman, former President Shimon Perez, chairman of the international board of the Friends of Zion Museum (FOZ), clearly articulated a compelling message to an attentive audience.
"The Talmud teaches us that 'he who saves one soul saved a whole world', these brave man and women, the righteous among nations, are not the heroes of the past. They are relevant for each one of us even today, when the state of Israel is in the shadow of a nuclear threat. We all owe them not only our existence here, but world's righteousness. It's a morality that keeps humans human. Throughout history, our people have enjoyed the support of many from all over the world - they are stars dotting in the dark skies of the diaspora. Shining brightly. Mike [Evans], your vision has come true today, your support and your family's support are now engraved here both in stones and in our heart. This place shall become a temple and a mount, unprecedented and unimaginable. A place where all will deliver prayers to the blue heavens, reminding us that each of us, all of us, were created in the image of the lord." -- Shimon Peres, former president of the State of Israel.
The new state-of-the-art museum in Jerusalem, captivates the interest of visitors with its cutting-edge technology, using custom-designed interactive audio-visual displays, 3D exhibits, stunning video mapping displays and unique lighting. A new world opens up from the moment a visitor enters the modern facility in the Jerusalem World Center - just a brief walking distance from the Old City Jerusalem.
Through Dr. Mike Evans' initiative, the Friends of Zion Heritage Center was built as a testimony to the thousands of non-Jewish people who assisted the Jewish nation during the last few generations, during the British Mandate, the Holocaust and in the days of the establishment of the State of Israel.
The museum's exhibits describe the contributions of the friends of Israel who risked their lives and the lives of their families to save Jews who were persecuted throughout the world. Among them are former US president Harry Truman, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Professor George Bush - a relative of former US President George W. Bush, Orde Wingate, and the Righteous Among the Nations such as Oskar Schindler, Raoul Wallenberg and the Ten Boom family.
The Interview with Dr. Mike Evans, founder of the Friends of Zion Heritage Center took place at the FOZ museum in Jerusalem on September 11, 2015:
Dr. Evans, your vision led to the launching of the Friends of Zion Heritage Center in Jerusalem. How did you conceive this idea to build the Friends of Zion Museum and why in Jerusalem?
Mike Evans: In 1988 I restored a museum in Holland called the Corrie ten Boom Museum. The ten Booms were Dutch Christian Zionists. They were amazing people, very humble. They had a great love for the Jewish people. They were the clockmakers. Corrie ten Boom was the spinster who had taken care of children, retarded children and challenged children and she was the first woman clockmaker in Holland. Her grandfather in 1844 started the meetings in their clock shop for the Jewish people. The prime meeting was for the Jewish people - to stand with them, to defend them, and to pray that they would return to Zion. Now, 1844 was an amazing time to do that because it was not popular. This was even before Theodor Herzl. Every week, the ten Booms did it faithfully, and although they were criticized, they brought a lot of people to the clock shop. It lasted for 100 years. On the 100th anniversary, to the day, the Nazis came to the clock shop and they hauled them all to the Ravensbrück concentration camp.
The ten Booms were hiding Jews - they saved 800 Jewish people. The Nazis said to the old man Casper who was then 82 years old, "We will let you die in bed if you promise us, not to touch another Jew and bring him here." But, he replied, "I will consider it an honor to give my life for God's chosen people." And he did. He died in an unmarked grave. Betsie ten Boom died at the Ravensbrück concentration camp. The ten Boom family paid an enormous price.
There must be unique stories and testimonies of the 800 Jews saved by the ten Boom family. Did you talk to any of the Jews saved by the ten Boom family?
Mike Evans: I spoke at Yad Vashem ceremony for Betsie and Casper ten Boom with an Ambassador in the Netherlands. As I was speaking, a Jewish woman was crying and I asked her, "Are you O.K.?" "No, I am not O.K," she replied, "My mother and I - we went to the house to escape from the Nazis and my mother said, 'would you take a girl's watch and fix it?' That was the code to bring the girls - it was a clock shop. The old man Casper said "I must ask God'. And he went back in the house and I asked my mother, 'Is God in the house?' My mother said, 'I don't know.' He comes back and he said, 'God says yes!"
"So, they brought us in the house. I was Jew by my birth but I never went to the Passover, I never understood the Hebrew, I never sang Jewish songs - I was very secular. The ten Booms taught me to be a Jew. They celebrated the passover, I became a Jew in a Christian's home, in Christian Zionist home." And she was crying and she wanted to thank them.
This was in my museum in Haarlem where I am the chairman of the board. And when I restored it, I asked myself, "Why isn't this story told?"
Everyone knows the story about Anne Frank, but nobody knows the story of these Christian zionists who risked their lives trying to save the Franks. And then the rest of major Christian Zionists who helped build the State of Israel or did Messianic deeds - their stories are not known.
Generally speaking, the narrative of Christianity is bloody - it talks about the Crusaders, the pogroms, the holocaust, the inquisitions - so there is a tendency to forget that even though there was a darkness in the world, there were amazing heros who have amazing history. So I wanted to bring Corrie ten Boom and also others, all over the world and celebrate the heroes and the history, who have helped the Jewish people. Not just in the holocaust, but in the building the State of Israel.
Zionism has been mostly understood as an exclusively Jewish issue. In your opening remarks you mentioned that millions of Christians are faithful Zionists. Could you elaborate on this?
Mike Evans: Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "I don't believe that the Jewish State and Modern Zionism would have been possible without Christian Zionism." Now, that almost sounds like heresy, but it is the Prime Minister saying it. There are a number of streets named after Christian Zionists in Israel. But even Israelis don't know who they are. We thought that it is time to celebrate these amazing human beings who have done so many good deeds, for the Jewish people and the nation of Israel - and, so we did.
One truly experiences optimism and inspiration when visiting the FOZ museum. Individuals relay that there is a sense of hope and ownership in supporting the Jewish people and affirming the State of Israel as a sovereign nation.
Mike Evans: We had 17,000 Israelis go through the museum and when they come out of it, they say:
"We are not alone" - Because in the midst of Middle East you get the feeling that you are alone. You are fighting alone and especially, when you see what is going on even with the present U.S. administration with Iran and all that - you feel very alone. In Syria, you feel very alone. In Iraq, you feel alone. But they say - we are not alone.
And then they say, "We have hope". Because they realize that they have lots of friends. They focus some times on so many enemies that they forget that there are millions, tens of millions of friends like Emma. Emma, who is on our international board - her husband is a 4-star general in the Chinese navy. Now, Emma is a Christian Zionist in Beijng, China, and she loves the Jewish people. We have an Indonesian pastor, whose church has 30,000 members.
How did you meet these extraordinary individuals?
Mike Evans: They all come because of FOZ. There is only one place in the nation that you can go to, in order to celebrate your heroes and your history, and it's FOZ. So they all come here because they have heroes in history.
These are not the people that did bad deeds. A pastor in the largest Muslim country standing up saying I am a Christian Zionist - you pay a price for that. Emma, in Beijng, with a 4-star general husband - you pay a price for that, but these people are not afraid, and those two represent millions of Christian Zionists.
You know, Israel never really invested in building a bridge to these people. They love them, they appreciate them, but, Israel has been so busy, trying to unite the Jewish people , to build a nation - that they did not focus so much on this massive group of tens of millions of people worldwide. That is what we have been doing - that is our mission and vision, it is to unite them because they can be an enormous help to the Jewish people and the nation of Israel.
Can you tell us more about the contributions and sacrifices of the friends of Israel which are exhibited in the museum?
Well, it goes back a long ways. If you just take a man like John Patterson.
Mike Evans: I began visiting the Prime Minister's father Benzion Netanyahu, in 1980. We have been friends for a long time. He was a brilliant scholar and the family is very brilliant. At their home, there was a silver cup which said, "To my darling godson, Jonathan, from your godfather, John Henry Patterson." This is Jonathan Netanyahu who was killed in Entebbe raid. And he was an inspiration for Bibi Netanyahu. He was his hero. Now, I looked at the silver cup and asked Benzion: "Who is that man?"
"Oh, he is a Christian. We called our son Jon, in honor of Patterson." Benzion replied.
"What, you name your Jewish son after a Christian?"
"He led the first Jewish fighting force in 2000 years, the Jewish Mule Brigade."
"What? Nobody knows this! A Christian leading a Jewish fighting force!"
"Yes, he was a godfather of Joni. Then he and I went to America to build support for a Jewish state - together, we did it! Before there was a republican and democrat platform for Israel. Before Harry Truman. John Patterson was my colleague, my hero - I loved him dearly".
Well, that is just one man. Then you go through the stories of Orde Wingate who Moshe Dayan was trained by. Another Christian zionist who would have been the Chief of staff, if there was such a thing at the time.
The first Friends of Zion Award was presented to President George W. Bush by Israeli President Shimon Peres, who is international chair of the Friends of Zion Museum. What was the role of Professor George Bush in the 19th century? Has this legacy been known within the Bush family?
Mike Evans: When we presented our museum award with President Shimon Peres to President George W. Bush at the Presidential Library in Dulles - it was very lovely. It was a delightful time, and George Bush was honored for being awarded a Friend of Zion by our museum. Now, during the ceremony, I mentioned to him - you have a relative that goes back a long time, by the name of - George Bush. He knew about it. And this Professor George Bush was a Christian Zionist in 1844. He wrote a book on a Jewish state that sold one million copies - before the American Civil War. He did it before Thoedor Herzl. He did it!
A million copies! Now, in the publishing world, before the Internet, before television, that would be probably equal to 25 million copies today - unheard of. But this book impacted leaders of the world. I am sure that Herzl read the book. Professor Bush was a Hebrew professor and he said, "based upon Ezekiel 37, the Jewish people are going back to the land. The Land will be rebuilt, Jerusalem will be reunited, they will speak the Hebrew language. This is a Presbyterian professor, he was not even Jewish, and George Bush was his name.
When you look at Patterson or Orde Wingate or George Bush - there were so many - there are hundreds of them - amazing human beings who did amazing things for the Jewish people, even when no one else was talking about it.
From your study and observations, how have Christian Zionists developed such an interest and love for Israel?
Mike Evans: Shimon Peres hosted President George W. Bush during the Future conference in Israel. I was there. Ehud Olmert was the Prime Minister at the time. So I am sitting behind George Bush and he is weeping. As Ehud is speaking, I see tears flowing down his face - a very tender man. What is it about George Bush that makes him love Israel so much? He is a Zionist. He believes the Bible. He learned in Sunday school the stories of the Jewish prophets and kings and priests. This is the narrative, for Christian Zionists, it is a Biblical narrative about ancient people coming home. And one of the things that unites all Christian Zionists is a prophecy of Abraham. Abraham gives this amazing word and he says, "I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them who curse thee." It was God saying it to Abraham.
Now, all the Christian Zionists believe it with all their heart. They believe - if they bless the Jewish people, God will bless them. If they curse them, God will curse them. And they study history - they say look, the British opposed them. The British fought them. The British would not vote in favor of Jewish state. The British Empire does not exist any more - it is gone. The Roman Empire is gone. So they look at history of the ones who opposed them and they believe that God curses them. He did not bless them. And they believe that America has been blessed for blessing the Jewish people and Israel. That's the thing that unites all of them.
You addressed an ideological war against Israel and expressed concerns about BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaign. You firmly pledged, "For every BDS activist who boycotts Israel, we shall rally for Israel 10 friends and supporters."
Mike Evans: Absolutely! The old wars - that America fought against the British when they would put their uniforms on, and they would stand, pound the drums and organize - are gone. The wars of the 20th century are gone. We are now in the 21st century.
Now, you have different wars. You have ideological wars. You have economic wars, where you have companies that have more money than countries. You have cyber wars with no cyberspace passport. So now you are living in a different world where different kind of wars are fought.
Israel cannot win any economic wars. They are a tiny economy compared to the global superpowers. They cannot win ideological wars. How can you win the war of ideas in a world of ideas? That's like a Goliath.
How can you tell who wants to hurt you or hate you?
The Jewish people are not killed here over land. I have been to probably 100 funerals of Jewish people. I remember a woman, one evening - I went to the funeral of her daughter. And she told me, "The only way I knew it was my daughter was - her nails. Because everything was blown up, but one hand, and I did her nails that morning. So I saw, this was my daughter, by her nails."
When I met with these people, everyone of them said the same thing - they kill us because we are Jews. They do not kill them over land, they are Jews! If a Jew makes a mistake and it ends up in the middle of Hebron or Gaza, they are probably going to be dead. If they are identified as a Jew they will probably kill them. So people are killing them over who they are. Now, what does Israel do? How does Israel overcome this? They can't, without friends! It is impossible!
This is much bigger an existential threat that an nuclear Iran. This is huge! Right now, there are groups in Gaza who just pledged their support to ISIS. They just joined ISIS. In Gaza? This is right here! ISIS is in Syria. Israel's borders are being surrounded by radical Islam. Israel has no ability to overcome these existential dilemmas without friends.
But, Israel has millions of friends. There are probably more than a half of a billion Christian Zionists in the world. They are basically people who believe the Bible. That's all. They may not agree on the politics, but they believe the Bible. And they believe in Zion. And they believe the promises of the Bible. Well these are Christian Zionists. And being united, they can be an enormous help to Israel defeating BDS, overcoming economic dilemmas, dealing with these spirit wars. It can be an enormous force for this nation. And the nation needs it.
Because when you feel so overwhelmed, what do you do? You apologize. Rather than celebrating what you have, you apologize for it. then you spend all your time trying to apologize. For what? Why should you be apologizing - for surviving the holocaust, for sacrificing to build the nation - why should you apologize for that? You should not have to.
It was wonderful to meet with President Shimon Peres at FOZ's opening ceremony. He is a true statesman who played a vital role in affirming our common civilization based on the rule of law for the last several decades. How did you recruit Shimon Peres, former president, prime minister and Nobel Prize Winner to join your Board?
Mike Evans: Shimon Peres came and supported us because he wanted to make friends. And he said, "It takes so much more energy to make enemies and sustain them, than friends. I want to make friends." And here is President Shimon Peres having a dinner, and sitting between Emma and the Indonesian Pastor of 30,000. He wants to. He knew the former prime minister of Indonesia. He wants to make as many friends as he can.
Could you tell us more about FOZ's Ambassador Program that you launched?
Mike Evans: The FOZ Heritage center is a multifaceted phase program.
We launched the museum, which is considered, the highest tech museum per square foot in the world, using Disney and Pixar technology for the size. In addition to that, our vision and plan is to have a communication center where we can communicate real time with tens of millions of Christian Zionists so that we can unify them, we can activate them and mobilize them.
Secondly, a research institute. Israel does not know who its friends are. They need to know who their friends are. And we are going to provide that with the research. We are not paid, they do not give us any money. We do this because we believe in it.
And thirdly, we are establishing the Ambassador Institute.
We are going to train ambassadors, we are going to use mobile technology, adaptive learning technology, and we are going to have the same type of an Ambassador program, similar in many ways that Israel would have for its ambassadors.
For example, the chair that you are sitting in, Emma came with a large Chinese delegation through FOZ. Emma is not a Jew, she is a Christian Zionist and her husband is a 4-star general in the Chinese navy. The entire Chinese delegation of 30 individuals that came with her was crying throughout the entire show. And Emma's big dream is to become an ambassador of Israel to China.
So, we will find thousands of Emmas throughout the world. We will train them to be ambassadors for Israel, but in their countries - because that is where the real war has to be fought. The economic war and the ideological war. We will do it in the Middle East also. All over the Middle East. We will do it in Africa, Asia, all over the world.
There are amazing people around the world, intellectuals, professionals, people that do not have ulterior motives. They really mean it - they want to stand with you. And there are tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands, and those are the ones that we are going to find, and we are going to train to do this.
Can those who are not able to come to Jerusalem to visit the museum in person, visit the museum virtually?
Mike Evans: Yes, the whole museum is online. The visitors/users can use 3D virtual technology. if they go to www.fozhc.org, it's at no charge. They can go through all the museum, and enjoy it like they would, if they came through it here. And people are loving that. Now, we are at 17 languages.