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Israeli tourism ministry reconsidering Pat Robertson deal on Christian Heritage Center

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Pat Robertson (right, front) and the rest of The 700 Club hosts.
Image: CBN.

The Israeli ministry of tourism is reconsidering cutting ties with Christian televangelist Pat Robertson over the construction of a Christian heritage, pilgrimage and tourism site near the Sea of Galilee. The Christian Heritage Center which would stretch over 125 acres is placed where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus taught and lived in the Galilee region. Robertson was one of the people at the heart of the project which was supported by many other evangelicals who worked to raise $50 million (USD).

Israeli tourism minister, Avraham Hirchson, and Robertson were just about to sign an agreement that the Israeli government would set aside land and infrastructure for the site, when Robertson made comments on his daily show, The 700 Club, claiming that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was "Divine retribution" for withdrawing from the Gaza Strip. Robertson said, "'This is my land,' and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says, 'No, this is mine.'" Many evangelicals considered the withdrawal as retreating from biblical prophecy of Jewish sovereignty over the Holy Land.

Robertson's comments earned him a harsh backlash from many different groups, including the White House and former Presidential candidate, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. A spokesperson for Robertson said the comments were taken out of context.

On Wednesday, Robertson sent a letter addressed to Sharon's son Omri apologizing for his comments. In the letter, Robertson said Sharon is "kind, gracious, and gentle man" who was "carrying an almost insurmountable burden of making decisions for his nation." The letter further added, "My concern for the future safety of your nation led me to make remarks which I can now view in retrospect as inappropriate and insensitive in light of a national grief." Robertson wrote, "I ask your forgiveness and the forgiveness of the people of Israel." According to the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Israel accepts the apology.

However, despite the apology by Robertson, it was doubtful that he would be brought back into the plan. Hirchson said on Wednesday that "Robertson's help was no longer welcome."

Ironically, Robertson helped make television ministries what they are today, and the Heritiage Center would contain studios and satellite uplinks for live broadcasts. The groundbreaking for the project is slated to begin later in the year.

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