The Dead Sea lies at the lowest elevation on earth. And in the arid valley that stretches to the salt lake’s western shore sits Ein Gedi, a nature preserve and oasis that ranges from lush, spring fed gardens, to parched craggy rock, dotted with palm trees. Here, among this barren but beautiful landscape, a massive stage is perched amid the dusty rocks, complete with giant video screens and dazzling light displays. It looks more like a docked spaceship than a concert venue. What is normally a peaceful desert scene is now blanketed by the rumbling of a tour bus convoy, and a bank of electricity generators droning in the background.
It’s late September, 20-18, and the searing heat of day has given way to chilling breezes. As a full moon rises across the blue waters of the Dead Sea that separates Israel from Jordan, a blast from the shofar signals the festival has begun. This is the opening night of Sukkot, the Jewish harvest festival, when the Bible calls for an “ingathering” of Jews to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. These days, Christian Zionists believe this biblical ingathering also includes them.
Christian Zionists from over 100 countries are here as the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem hosts the 6-day celebration. And , as we are learning on this reporting journey, if you really want to follow the global movement of Christian Zionism, follow the money.
For this report, we’ve reviewed dozens of US tax returns from Christian Zionist organizations. Over the last 20 years, a handful of nonprofits has raised over 2 billion dollars in support of Israel. In this episode we navigate these financial streams, and the burgeoning political alliance between the far right in Israel and Christian Evangelicals in the United States, and increasingly around the world.