Brenda and Phil Lewis are the most pleasant people you’ll ever meet. Bren, as she calls herself, is so sweet, and Phil has a great sense of humor, but that does not detract from the importance of their mission.
Both grew up in South Wales. Brenda’s family was in the food business and had a lot of Jewish friends, and Brenda built relationships with Jews from an early age. Phil’s life had a tragic beginning. His mother was killed in an accident when he was just a baby, and he was sent to live with his grandparents. Phil remembers that his first acquaintance with Judaism was in primary school when his grandfather gave him the Holocaust book “Five Chimneys”, telling him that it was very important.
Brenda and Phil had an appreciation for the Jewish people, but it was only later that each came to understand the theological basis for that appreciation. A trained teacher of religious education, Brenda trusts that “If you seek the truth, you will find it.” She found the Jewish roots of her faith when she started attending chapel regularly (church is called “chapel” in Wales). Reading passages from the Bible each week, it was hard not to see God’s love for the land and his people. She began to understand why it was so important for Christians to align with God’s firstborn, the Jewish people. “If you don’t love Jews, how can you love God?” she asks rhetorically.
For Phil, finding this truth meant understanding that there is an eternal God, an eternal land, and an eternal way of life for the Hebrew people. Once he realized that each of these three pillars was indispensable, everything came together, everything made sense. From this, he came to the fundamental conclusion that “if you got Israel wrong, you simply got everything else wrong.”
Growing up, Brenda and Phil went to the same school and the same church. The chapel was very popular, attended by many young people, and it was there that Brenda and Phil eventually met. They married in 1980, and had two daughters. The eldest, Hannah, born in 1981, is a barrister, and the younger, Judith, born in 1984, is a midwife.
The girls grew up in a very pro-Israel household. The Lewis’ are self-defined “watchmen of the walls of Jerusalem” – they feel a profound responsibility to do whatever they can to defend and advocate for Israel. Today, both daughters live in England, and, thanks to the example of their parents, actively support Israel themselves. And they are determined to find marriage partners who will share their love of Israel.
Brenda and Phil’s first trips to Israel were in 2003 and 2004 respectively. Phil jokes that on his first trip he was asked by an Israeli security guard why he was coming to Israel, and when he responded “because I love Israel,” the security guard countered “then how come it’s taken you so long to get here?” Jokes aside, these visits were monumental in strengthening their love of the land and enriching their faith. Phil likens Israel to the heart. “Visiting Israel, you connect to the blood source, and only then can the blood be pumped to the extremities.”
The Lewis’ relationship with CFOIC Heartland began not long after their first trips. In May 2004 they were on a trip to Israel with Revelation TV and CFOIC Heartland’s Israel Director Sondra Baras spoke to their group. “It was before the Gush Katif Disengagement and Sondra spoke about the dangers of pulling out of the region,” Brenda recalls. “Sondra is very dynamic, but it’s what she was saying. A light went on. I had a moment where I realized this was important.” A year later Phil returned to Israel, just as the Jews were being expelled from the Gaza Strip. He visited Nitzan, where Gush Katif refugees were being resettled temporarily, and he and his group planted trees there. From then on the Lewis’ became very active in helping the Gush Katif refugees, and did so with love and devotion for many years.
Meanwhile, back in the UK and Wales, there was a rise in anti-Israel sentiment. Pro-Palestinian activists targeted Jewish shops and Israeli goods, focusing most aggressively on products manufactured in Judea and Samaria. Phil and Brenda invited Sondra to visit their hometown to educate Christians on the importance of the Biblical heartland, and the importance of Israel remaining there.
In January 2016 the Lewis’ spent a day in Judea with CFOIC Heartland US President Margy Pezdirtz. It was the day after the young mother, Dafna Meir was brutally murdered at her home in the southern Hebron community of Otniel, and they felt led to spend the day demonstrating their solidarity with the people of the region. That day they visited the communities of Kiryat Arba, Bet Hagai, Bet Yatir, and Sussya.
The couple had been involved with CFOIC Heartland for years, but it was the first time they spent so much personal time in the communities. The day made a lasting impression on both of them. Phil was impressed by the strength and courage of the people themselves. Brenda was impressed by the way of life. “You cannot find fault. You sense God’s pleasure. The people [of Judea and Samaria] know they have to do it, and it’s hard, but God’s smiling down on them. Visiting, you feel a part of something that’s huge.”
Brenda and Phil have continued their important work advocating for Judea and Samaria in the UK and Wales. They recently became official CFOIC Heartland representatives, presenting our work at all kinds of Israel events. Last summer they traveled to Scotland to man the CFOIC Heartland table at the International Shalom Festival, a celebration of the people and culture of Israel at the Edinburgh Fringe. “When Christian and Jew stand together,” Phil says, “there is strength there. Together with God, we are like a three threaded cord, never to be broken.”
Phil and Bren are sickened by the recent UN Security Council resolution deeming settlement activity illegal. They are doing whatever they can on a daily basis to fight the decision, including contacting their MP to voice their dismay. “Our country has never recognized a Palestinian state. It is nonexistent now and was nonexistent in 1967. How can you occupy a state that never existed?” More than ever they are trying to get the message out: “The settlement movement is being targeted. Now is the time to show your support!”