Orlando televangelist Paula White, Donald Trump’s leading evangelical supporter in 2016 and 2020, has chosen a visit to Israel to formally endorse the former president in 2024.
“I endorse Donald Trump as our next president,” White told The Jerusalem Post newspaper Thursday. White, who chaired Trump’s evangelical advisory board when he was in office, further stated that, “the mass majority of people hope for and believe that Trump will be president again. If we were to do the election right now, today, 100 percent yes, he would be our president tomorrow.”
“I do believe that President Trump was God’s answer to so much prayer,” said White, who organized a meeting of evangelical leaders at Mar-a-Lago in March.
Most evangelical leaders who had endorsed Trump previously have been reluctant to state a preference for 2024. Now that White has, will others follow? And will they travel to the Jewish state to announce it?
White also chose her visit to Israel to distance herself from long-standing efforts by Christians to evangelize the Jews. In The Jerusalem Post interview, conducted outside of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, White said, “I do not want to convert Jews or send them to [live in] Israel for the Rapture. The plan for salvation for the Jews is God’s.”
Back on her stomping grounds in Orlando, Florida, the Jerusalem Temple has been destroyed for the third time, this one a replica at the failed Bible theme park The Holy Land Experience.
“There are so many churches in America that are deeply hungry to understand Torah,” White told the Post after meeting with prominent Orthodox leaders. “You can be Jewish without being Christian, but you cannot be Christian without understanding Judaism.”
Some in Israel welcomed White’s statements.
“Jews and Christians are under siege by those who wish to undermine our values, religious beliefs, and our way of life,” said Alex Grobman, an American Holocaust scholar living in Israel, in an email interview. “We welcome their support in this mission to preserve our freedom and strict observance of Judaism and their adherence to Christianity, if there is no attempt to convert us or involve ‘Messianic Jews.’”
Evangelizing the Jews has sometimes been a sore point among Jewish and evangelical supporters of Israel. In the past, evangelicals have rejected calls to distance themselves from this effort, and their Messianic allies who lead it, but White has apparently shifted on this issue.
On her widely syndicated daily television show, and in fundraising emails, White has regularly appropriated Jewish holidays and symbols for her fundraising, while embracing Messianic Jewish missionaries. On one occasion, a Messianic rabbi appeared on her program, wrapping her in a Torah scroll and reciting a Hebrew blessing. At the High Holidays, she has had Messianics sound the shofar. On another occasion, around Purim, while sitting next to her third husband, Jonathan Cain, a member of the rock group Journey, White compared herself to Queen Esther in her own personal journey from what some people called “trailer trash” to world famous evangelist.
In her latest fundraising email, released Friday, White wrote, “I have been in Israel this week and it has truly been a supernatural experience!!… While at the Western Wall I lifted your name up to The Lord, and I will continue to intercede on your behalf!” Photos of her and her family at Jerusalem’s Western Wall were included in the email.
Ironically, White’s visit to Israel comes at a time when, back on her stomping grounds in Orlando, Florida, the Jerusalem Temple has been destroyed for the third time, this one a replica at the failed Bible theme park The Holy Land Experience, which opened with much fanfare in 2002. Both local and national Jewish leaders charged at the time that the theme park was a disguised and deceptive effort to convert Jews to Christianity.
A state-of-the-art recreation of first-century Jerusalem, Holy Land was the vision of a Jewish convert to Christianity, the Baptist minister Rev. Marvin Rosenthal. In 2007, it was sold to Trinity Broadcasting Network, which is owned by Pentecostal Christians—like White—who invested an estimated $130 million to improve and expand the park, including a broadcasting studio.
In 2020, The Holy Land Experience was sold to Adventist Health, a faith-based nonprofit health system founded by Seventh-day Adventists. The new owners have said they intend to build a four-story emergency facility on the 14-acre site, not far from the other area theme parks—Disney, Universal and Sea World. So, a medical treatment center will replace an attraction that celebrated faith healing.
Holy Land’s replica of the Roman Coliseum, where church services and concerts were once held, fell to the bulldozers June 8, as has the six-story, scale model of Herod’s Temple. Only the park’s Scriptorium, which includes a number of Torah scrolls, some from the Holocaust and one from 16th-century China, is still standing.
For her part, Paula White will return to Florida with her TV pulpit, and presumably her favor with Trump, very much intact.
Mark I. Pinsky covered Paula White and The Holy Land Experience as religion writer for the Orlando Sentinel from 1995 to 2008.