CreditAl Drago for The New York Times
A Dallas evangelical pastor who once said that Jewish people are going to hell and a megachurch televangelist who claimed that Hitler was part of God’s plan to return Jews to Israel both played prominent roles on Monday in the opening ceremony of the new American Embassy in Jerusalem.
Robert Jeffress, who spoke at President Trump’s private inaugural prayer service and is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, delivered a prayer at the opening ceremony on Monday, while the Rev. John C. Hagee, a televangelist who founded Christians United for Israel and leads a San Antonio megachurch, gave the closing benediction.
Despite their comments about Jewish people, the two pastors are among the leading pro-Israel voices in the evangelical Christian world. Some evangelicals believe that American foreign policy should support Israel to help fulfill biblical prophecies about the second coming of Christ.
The decision by Mr. Trump to move the embassy from Tel Aviv fulfilled a major campaign promise and handed a victory to hard-line pro-Israel Americans, as well as conservative and evangelical Christians who have long wanted the United States’ diplomatic home to be in Jerusalem.
But critics say the move, which broke from almost seven decades of United States policy, could risk peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, who both claim Jerusalem as their capital. Mass protests broke out along the border fence with Gaza in the hours before the embassy opening on Monday, and Israeli soldiers shot and killed more than 50 Palestinians, the Health Ministry reported.
In their prayers at the ceremony on Monday, both pastors praised Mr. Trump. Mr. Jeffress said the president “stands on the right side of you, God, when it comes to Israel.” Mr. Hagee said the new embassy made a clear statement: “Let every Islamic terrorist hear this message: ‘Israel lives.’”