“Hello friend of Israel,” begins a gleeful and gray-haired Pat Boone in an infomercial for the Holy Land Dream Company (HLDC). Boone’s cue follows the hook to his 1960’s hit Exodus: “This land is mine. God gave this land to me.”
At the time Boone wrote the lyrics, he was describing Jewish émigrés going to Mandate Palestine to join the ranks of Zionist militias. But today the golden-era pop star has recast the tune. No longer is it a Zionist anthem but a Christian benediction encouraging evangelicals in Texas to purchase land in Israel. The “me” in “God gave this land to me” has shifted from an imagined Jewish protagonist to an American dispensationalist Christian whose land acquisition will speed up the arrival of the end of days.
The advertisement continues, “I wrote those words to Exodus and I’ve often wished that I could actually own a piece of the holy land. Now I do and you can too.”
Back in 2011 when Boone signed on as the spokesman and Exodus became the theme song for the HLDC, the one-square-foot plots of land between the Sea of Galilee and Nazareth sold for $110. Initially a portion of the proceeds went to Israeli medical relief charities and the Jewish National Fund. But now, Boone’s gift-the-holy-land project is being used as a fundraiser for an evangelical Christian broadcasting network with offices in Texas and Jerusalem. The plots are now sold for $1200 as part of a donation drive for the network’s ministry.
The infomercial airs on Daystar TV, an organization that made headlines earlier this year in Israel when they mounted a CCTV camera overlooking the Mount of Olives. According to Christian doctrine the messiah is prophesized to return to earth via this hill, and Daystar already has a stream running ready to capture the second coming on live television. Additionally, Daystar took the Israeli network HOT to court after the carrier dropped the Christian broadcaster because of viewer complaints that said the programming promoted Jewish conversion to evangelical Christianity. The uproar was over Daystar’s New Testament segments in Hebrew.
In the U.S. Daystar is renowned as a flagship televangelist broadcasting channel with an estimated net worth over $200 million. The station airs Christian programs, including the national summits for Christians United for Israel, and organization that fundraises to pay for Jewish immigration to Israel. The station was founded by leading born again Christians Marcus and Joni Lamb.
In 2011 Daystar was again embroiled in scandal with a sexual harassment lawsuit and charges made by three employees who said they suffered demotions and abuse from the Lambs after gaining knowledge of Marcus Lamb’s extramarital affair. One Daystar employee reported Joni Lamb’s father forced her to engage in what he called “quiet time,” where the Christian leader would embrace the employee, request she sit on his lap, and ask her to pretend he was her husband. The Lambs, however, maintained that the accusations were baseless and aimed at profiting off of the couple’s marital woes.
I spoke to Daystar’s Dallas office and they explained the plots were used in a pledge drive this past summer. Then I called the cellphone number listed on HLDC’s website, where an Israeli dealer said “you cannot do anything with your plot.” He affirmed that the land for sale was private property, could not be built on, and that everything is legal, including the ownership of plots by foreigners.
“They are about 20 to 30 meters from a road,” he continued, emphasizing that “everything is legal. It’s all legal.” I asked him if I purchased a plot, could I later bequeath it to a relative after my death. He said I could, but there would be a transaction fee involved.
After the plots are purchased, HLDC sends customers a certified deed with the exact longitude and latitude so clients can GPS their own piece of the holy land. Pat Boone bought one for himself and one for each of his immediate family members. The deeds are designed to resemble degrees and nicely framed. Daystar Dallas even said they could make special arrangements to personalize a gifted plot’s title.
There is, however, the question of how the Israeli businessmen came into ownership of the territory that is now being sold from Texas. The HLDC’s website states they purchased the plots in 2009. Still it is nearly unheard of for Jewish Israelis to own land in Israel, and even stranger for non-nationals. Like China, Israel has a system of state-owned land where individuals can purchase a home with a lease from the government for the soil it is built on for 50 or 100 years. There is one exception though. Palestinian citizens of Israel own deeds to the land in all of the state’s Arab villages. This is because after the founding of the state in 1948, the new government nationalized all Jewish-owned deeds inside of the armistice line and cancelled outstanding debts owed on the titles. Palestinian-Israelis then became the only population left with private property (aside from the Jewish National Fund, which retains quasi-government powers).
Boone first met Asaf Har-Gil and Idan Deshe, the Israeli businessmen co-founders of the HLDC, while on a religious trip two years after the organization began operations. By happenstance the music sensation had recently found a bible passage about gentiles purchasing territory in the biblical land of Canaan. “I’d just read in Jeremiah 32 about his being instructed by God to buy a piece of land, get the title deed and have it attested,” wrote Boone last fall in his column for the Christian weekly WND. Boone took their encounter as an omen. He is from a messianic Christian background, meaning he considers himself to be part of the Jewish people, but among the righteous who accepted Jesus as the messiah. He is a devout dispensationalist; he thinks the end of days has started, proofed by the founding of the state of Israel and Obama’s election to the presidency.
Then last February Boone relaunched HLDC to American audiences at the Holocaust museum in Israel with Governor Mike Huckabee at his side. The singer presented the manager of Yad Vashem with the original Christmas card where he first jotted down the opening lines to Exodus in a moment of inspiration. “It was an amalgam of everything I believe coming together. This land is God’s covenant to his people, and it’s never going to change,” said Boone to the Jerusalem Post, marveling over the musical merger of Christianity and Zionism.
Promoting HLDC is not Boone’s first foray into evangelical infomercials. He was the inaugural spokesman for the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem’s (ICEJ) first infomercials that ran from 1993 to 1994. And today he still retains the title of ICEJ’s Christian Ambassador to Israel.
Outside of televangelism, Boone proselytizes on how American politics are also manifestations of the end of days through regular columns in the Christian press. He is opposed to the current negotiations between Israeli and Palestinians, likens Palestinians to foreign “settlers” of the holy land and lauds Obama for hurrying the process of the second coming:
Differing from virtually every previous U.S. president, Mr. Obama seems to accept the claims of the Palestinian leadership, even the violent Hamas and Hezbollah, that the land given by God and settled by Israelites 4,000 years ago now rightfully belongs, at least in large part, to random settlers who moved into the area only in the last 200 years. And though the Balfour Declaration and the United Nations – and most civilized society the world over – have acknowledged and verified Israel’s claim to their historic homeland, this president is doing everything he can to pressure Israel’s leaders to cave in to the demands of the Muslim settlers.
And Boone is also a birther:
This man spent his childhood in Indonesia and lived as a Muslim. Right through his teens and his three college experiences, as he recounted in his autobiography, he sought out the companionship and mentoring of dissidents and even Marxist teachers. As he began his ascent in politics and ‘community organizing,’ he joined a liberal church whose angry leader, Jeremiah Wright, is still pastor emeritus. Obama says he became a Christian there, but he apparently never read the biblical history of the Jews and God’s eternal commitment to them of the tiny land that includes Jerusalem, the Holy City He calls Mount Zion. And he seems unaware of God’s declaration to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: ‘I will bless those that bless you – and I will curse those who curse you.’
Boone’s Israel land sale reflects the growing movement of hard-line evangelical Christians that view the state of Israel as biblical prophecy. Some dispensationalists even go as far as paying for aliyah services, or Jewish immigration to Israel in hopes of speeding up the rapture. But Boone’s project is one jump further on the dialectic. He’s encouraging the next phase in the time line, which is the transfer of Jewish control of the holy land to Christian domination.