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IOWA CITY - The message was clear from three Republican presidential candidates speaking to Iowa City evangelicals Tuesday night: Now's the time to stand with Israel.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum spoke to about 200 people gathered at Grace Fellowship Church for an event called the Jerusalem Call, which seeks to unite American Christians to support Israel through prayers, petitions and financial support.
Huckabee, who said he has traveled to Israel 40 times, said the link between Christians and Jews is clear.
'You can be a Jew and have nothing to do with Christianity,” Huckabee said. 'One cannot be a Christian and be isolated from the Jews. It's about Biblical authority.”
Santorum described how he took a delegation of Americans to Israel, even as Hamas bombed the country, because he wanted to make clear the importance of tourism to religious sites. He also touted his appearance in an Islamic State magazine with a quote labeled 'In the words of our enemy.”
'The enemy knows me, and I know them,” Santorum said. 'With Rick Santorum as president, on Day 1, they will know we have someone who understands them and someone who will stop them from bringing about the end of Israel.”
The candidates criticized a nuclear deal with Iran, saying the United States had turned its back on a longtime ally by promising to reduce sanctions against a country that wishes harm for Israel.
Although the event was focused on Israel and Grace Fellowship Pastor Gary Miller said the congregation wasn't there to favor any andidate, the GOP hopefuls were looking for votes.
'This is not a time to take any risks,” Santorum said, possibly alluding to other Republican candidates, such as developer Donald Trump or surgeon Ben Carson. 'It's a time to elect someone with a long and storied track record.”
Jindal got some of the biggest applause of the night with domestic topics, including school choice, abortion and the recent school shooting in Oregon. He said President Barack Obama disappointed the country by bringing up gun control in Oregon instead of asking Americans to stand together in prayer.
'It's not about taking away the Second Amendment,” Jindal said. 'We have to fix what's wrong in our culture. We need a spiritual revival.”
Among several digs at Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, Jindal mentioned recent stabbings in Israel: 'What are the odds Hillary Clinton will ask for knife control?”
Spectators appreciated hearing three candidates speak on one night.
'I was very glad to hear what they had to say,” said Sandy Green of Tipton. 'I really want to be informed.”
Matt Miller of Kalona visited Israel two years ago on a church trip and said the tour brought home the links between Jews and Christians. He supports the Jerusalem Call. As for which GOP candidate he supports, he is less certain.
'All three were really good tonight,” he said. 'As far as leaning one way or the other, I don't know yet. But the caucuses are coming up.”