Jan Willem van der Hoeven quickly warmed to his subject. He had long ago shed his suit coat, and now, like a modern-day Billy Sunday in an ancient setting, he preached his message from the top of a barren, windswept hill in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
"We have not come here just to embrace this little settlement," he said, "but we wanted to embrace all of the settlements of Judea and Samaria the biblical names for the Israeli-occupied West Bank as the right of the Jews."
Hundreds of people listened attentively to van der Hoeven -- a top official at the International Christian Embassy -- as he spoke from a makeshift stage at the edge of this Jewish settlement of small, prefabricated homes.
Many in the audience were Americans, including Virginia Zakes, 53, of Houston. Across the back of her white blouse Zakes had stitched, in red lettering, what she was feeling: "Israel is deep in the heart of this Texan."
"God says, 'I have given you this land for all eternity,' " van der Hoeven declared. "God, let your word go forth. May the God of Israel know that it is not just Israelis who believe this land belongs to the Jewish people, but many, many Christians around the world."
Van der Hoeven's message was a welcome one in this settlement of 120 persons about 10 miles northwest of Nablus, and in the other Jewish settlements throughout the West Bank. His is the gospel of fundamentalist, evangelical Christianity, which has firmly aligned itself not only with Israel's survival but also with the goal of Israel's retention of the West Bank as a God-given right of the Jewish people.
But as comforting as this is to the settlers, the increasingly vocal support from the Christian right in the United States and Europe is seen by many other Israelis as a double-edged sword. Among Orthodox Jews, there is a deep distrust of the suspected missionary intentions of the devout Christians who flock here. Occasionally the suspicion has flared into cases of arson and other forms of violence against Christian institutions that are seen as centers of proselytizing activity.
In the government, there are also questions about how closely Israel should identify itself with such figures as the Rev. Jerry Falwell, whose Moral Majority organization is viewed with suspicion and alarm by many of Israel's strongest supporters in the American Jewish community.
"Some great friends of Israel like Frank Church the late Democratic senator from Idaho have been run out of Congress by these people," a government official said. "They have been on the hit lists of the religious right."
The official, who asked not to be identified, is among those in the government who share a sense of unease about the alliance with the Christian evangelicals.
"Their support for the state of Israel is there because we fit into a certain theological scheme with heavy emphasis on prophetic fulfillment," he said. "They may have expectations that we behave in a certain way. I wish they would take us for what we are and not for what they want us to be."
Despite such misgivings, the links between Israel and the Christian religious right appear to be flourishing. About 5,000 Christians from more than 40 countries -- including about 1,000 from the United States -- visited here in mid-October to demonstrate their support for Israel and its claims to the West Bank and to press for western recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Known as the "Feast of Tabernacles" and held in conjunction with the week-long Jewish festival of Sukkot, the annual Christian gathering here has been organized since 1980 by the International Christian Embassy, a fundamentalist Christian organization that is headquartered in Jerusalem. Prime Minister Shimon Peres warmly greeted the Christian pilgrims, as had his two predecessors, Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin.
The bonds between the Christian right and Israel have been growing steadily, coinciding with the increased influence of fundamentalist preachers such as Falwell in the United States and the rise to power in Israel of the right-wing Likud bloc.
Begin, the first Likud prime minister, sprinkled his political rhetoric with heavy doses of biblical justification for his policies. At the same time, he encouraged the alliance with the Christian fundamentalists, who see in modern Israel the fulfillment of biblical prophecy and whose literal interpretation of the Old Testament coincides with Israeli claims to the whole of the ancient "Land of Israel."
Begin gave Falwell an official award for his support for Israel. In November 1982, when Begin's wife died, the prime minister had to cut short a tour of the United States just before he was to address a convention of Christian fundamentalists in Dallas. Last year, Falwell brought his Moral Majority to Jerusalem for its first gathering in Israel.
For many Israelis who are dedicated to the Likud's policies in the West Bank, the fear of inviting proselytizing Christians into their midst and the risk of alienating liberal American Jews are offset by the proven and growing political power of the religious right, especially in the United States.
Charles Levine, a public relations specialist who was retained by the International Christian Embassy for the "Feast of Tabernacles" this year, is a religious Jew who sees the alliance in these terms.
"The religious community in Israel is split on this," he said. "There are those who are completely skeptical, who see them all as missionaries. I am personally convinced that they take their Old Testament seriously and that they are working day and night for Israel.
"Israel doesn't have a lot of friends around the world, and to write off a force of millions I think would be foolish."
One of those who is "working day and night for Israel" is van der Hoeven, a tall, intense man of 44 and a native of the Netherlands. His International Christian Embassy is a focal point in the alliance between fundamentalist Christians and Israel. It is a self-described "embassy" that enjoys no diplomatic or official status in Israel.
The embassy was founded in 1980 by van der Hoeven and other Christians here in reaction to the withdrawal of the few western embassies that were located in Jerusalem from the city after the Begin government enacted legislation declaring Jerusalem Israel's "united, eternal capital."
Most western governments, including the United States, consider Arab East Jerusalem part of the occupied West Bank and do not recognize the city as Israel's capital. Today, according to van der Hoeven, the Christian Embassy has an annual budget of about $1 million, a staff of 25 and millions of adherents around the world.
"Jerusalem," van der Hoeven said, "is the only city God says he cares about." The city's disputed status as Israel's capital remains the focus of Christian Embassy activity.
But van der Hoeven and others who attended the annual "Feast of Tabernacles" also support the most nationalistic goals of the Israeli right wing.
Van der Hoeven said Israel needs the West Bank to make room for the Jews of the Soviet Union and because he foresees an outbreak of anti-Semitism in the United States.
"If this land is given back to Jordan," he said at Einav, "where will all the millions of Jews live that we know are coming back in the next few years?"
Zakes, a Houston housewife, nodded her head in agreement: "If Israel does not survive, there is no place for Jesus to come back to."