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A Shining Light in Nazareth and Bethlehem

Situated in the unlikely location of Nazareth’s industrial zone, you will find an evangelical Arab church dedicated to serving both the Arab and Jewish communities surrounding them.

During this time of Corona crisis, Pastor Saleem Shalash and his church are a shining light for this historic town, which today has Jewish and Arab neighborhoods. With mounting requests for assistance coming in, he recently arranged for church volunteers to help pack Rosh HaShana food baskets for distribution to Israeli families in need. Without hesitation, Nicole Yoder, Vice President of Aid and Aliyah, along with her assistant Jannie Tolhoek, took a road trip to Nazareth, where they too extended a helping hand.

Walking upstairs to the church’s packing area, Jannie was blessed to see a small humanitarian center offering clothes, shoes, and household supplies to those in need. Moving along, they found boxes laid out and many volunteers on hand, so the food packing process sped along joyfully, with much laughter filling the room.

Speaking with Pastor Saleem afterwards, Nicole Yoder shared how joyous it was for the ICEJ to partner with his congregation to help these families in need by providing some 100 food baskets. With much appreciation, Pastor Saleem responded that “God told me to feed His people and to do good in a practical way in bad times.”

This is a mission we certainly share at ICEJ, and Pastor Saleem’s Arab Christian congregation is carrying it out with passion there in Nazareth. Many requests for assistance are referred to the church by the Israeli social welfare department, and they reach out to as many as they can.

When asked by the Jewish mayor of nearby Nof HaGalil why they, as Arabs, are reaching out to the Jewish community, Pastor Saleem said: “We want to bless them as we are blessed by the Jewish Scriptures.” This began a wonderful relationship serving both the Arab community in Nazareth as well as Nof HaGalil, a neighboring Jewish town.

Not long after this visit by our AID team to Nazareth, Jannie Tolhoek drove to a church in Bethlehem along with ICEJ staff member Tricia Neighbors, this time to personally hand out 70 food bags packed at our Jerusalem offices. After a warm welcome by Pastor Naim and Elvira Khoury, they enjoyed fellowship in the evening church service before giving out the food bags. Tricia was especially moved by the expressions of gratitude for the gift baskets, which were received with many happy smiles, thank you’s, and “shukrans”.

During their visit, our team learned about the difficult times faced by the people of Bethlehem. Pastor Naim explained that many locals work in Israel, but with the Coronavirus lockdowns, many have not been able to work or have been sent on unpaid leave. Those who rely on Christian tourism to Bethlehem are also suffering. He thanked the ICEJ, emphasizing how necessary the aid was for them. “Our people are suffering with no work, no food and many are depressed. It is a disaster! Your support came in such a timely way”, he said.

Pastor Naim and Elvira also noted that over recent months, the ICEJ is the first organization which has reached out to see how they are coping during this difficult time, and to support them. He went on to say how the food bags are “an encouragement to each of us, a bag of hope and confirmation that God sees us and watches over us.” Jannie assured him that the ICEJ indeed cares for them and is standing with our Arab Christian brothers and sisters.

Thank you to those who have faithfully given so we can meet the needs of the less fortunate in Israeli society, especially in these difficult days. Your gifts to our “Israel in Crisis” fund at this time are doing a world of good!
 

Please consider donating once more to our “Israel in Crisis” fund. DONATE NOW

Spreading a Little Holiday Joy!

 

There is an excitement in the air and greetings of “Shana Tova” can be heard everywhere! On the eve of the holiday of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, there is new hope and optimism after a very trying year.

At Hineni, a soup kitchen in downtown Jerusalem, there is loads of activity happening as the holiday rapidly approaches. The aroma of nourishing food is cooking in the kitchen and ICEJ staff together with other helpers, are preparing take-away meal boxes and packing Rosh Hashanah gift parcels, to be given to those living below the poverty line.

Time is of the essence, as exactly at mid-day the doors open to a queue of people who have been gathering for an hour, so as not to miss out on their meals for the holidays. Each person who arrives at the door receives four packed meals to see them through the long Rosh Hashanah weekend, as well as a lovely gift parcel containing special holiday treats like a jar of honey, apple and honey cakes, dates, biscuits and tinned food.

Hineni’s founder and director, Benjamin Philip, says that over 700 gift parcels were made up for the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, and around 400 of those are being delivered to Holocaust survivors living in protective care facilities, along with lone soldiers, as well as other underprivileged families throughout Jerusalem who have contacted the Social Welfare department for help. “Many of these people do not have family to visit them, and especially at this time of Coronavirus they are left without support”, says Benjamin.

When the Coronavirus hit Israel last Spring, it was with much joy that the ICEJ stepped in to help Hineni continue to feed the less fortunate in society. With the closing of Israel’s borders, Hineni suddenly lost their many volunteer helpers who come from abroad. Without hesitation, the Christian Embassy saw the need and met it! From March until today, our staff have been assisting Hineni every day to feed those in need by packing approximately 400 take-away food boxes for distribution, and lovingly serving around 100 of those less fortunate who come into the restaurant in person to have their meal. Benjamin says that those coming to the restaurant “have the sense that they are being served by those who have a heart and love for them, which gives them strength.”

The busy preparations for Rosh Hashanah ended with Benjamin thanking all the Hineni staff and volunteers for their hard work and support this past year. He reminded everyone of the story of how God delivered His people from Egypt, as well as the story of Esther and Mordechai and how God saved His people then as well. In these holy days of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah, it is a time to reflect on the past year, ask for forgiveness, and look with hope to the year ahead. Everyone present celebrated by having a toast of grape juice and a sweet chocolate.

Benjamin also expressed his gratitude to the ICEJ for physically helping in preparing tens of thousands of meal packages this year, which he assured is “saving many people in a very difficult time.”

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of touching the lives of so many people living in need here in Israel. And please consider a generous gift towards our “Israel in Crisis” fund at this time, as we enter the new year still facing the challenge of Corona’s impact, especially on the poor.

A New Wave Of Ethiopian Aliyah

The Israeli government has just announced plans to bring at least 2,000 more Ethiopian Jews to Israel by the end of December 2020. The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem immediately welcomed this decision to accelerate the Ethiopian Aliyah and reaffirmed our commitment to do all we can to assist with their successful immigration and absorption in Israel.

While most of the Ethiopian Jewish community is now residing in Israel, some 8,000 Jews remain in transit camps in Addis Ababa and Gondar awaiting their chance to reunite with their families in the Promised Land. Most are living in impoverished conditions, but have refused to give up on their dream to re-join the Jewish people back in the Land of Israel.

After years of delays, the Israeli cabinet decided in 2015 to resume the Ethiopian Aliyah by bringing this last remnant home to Israel and reuniting them with their families on humanitarian grounds. In response to a request from the Jewish Agency for Israel, the ICEJ agreed to begin sponsoring their flights to Israel. Since then, the Christian Embassy has funded Aliyah flights for over 2,200 Ethiopian olim, including 268 this year – despite the Corona travel bans. And we remain committed to helping bring home as many as we can from among this latest wave of Ethiopian Jews.

Over the past forty years, we have assisted nearly 160,000 Jews to make the journey home to Israel, including 1,475 Jewish immigrants brought on ICEJ-funded flights so far this year, even amid the COVID-19 crisis. This is because Aliyah is clearly a biblical and historical mandate for the ICEJ.

Yet many times, Aliyah also is an urgent humanitarian mission, which is so obvious in the case of the Ethiopian Jewish remnant still living in rundown transit camps after all these years. We now want to maximise our efforts to help Israel carry through with these renewed plans to accelerate and complete the Ethiopian return.

Please pray about what you can do to help these very deserving people, many of whom have been waiting in transit camps for more than 20 years to re-join their families in Israel.
      

Please give generously towards our Ethiopian Aliyah efforts at: int.icej.org/civicrm

Haifa Home Residents Slowly Emerge From Lockdown

“All of the sudden I felt like I was imprisoned. I couldn’t do the things anymore that I used to do like visiting friends, going out for coffee… The light in the midst of this dark time was the daily knock on the door and the visit of the ICEJ team. They took me out for a walk, brightening up my day with good talks and laughter when I felt depressed and taking care of my needs. I am very grateful." - Rita, a resident at the ICEJ Haifa Home for Holocaust Survivors

The seventy elderly residents at the ICEJ’s assisted-living home for Holocaust Survivors in Haifa are slowly, cautiously emerging from the isolation of a nine-week Corona lockdown in their rooms. They are relieved to be alive and well, happy to see each other, and grateful for the daily loving care provided by our Christian team on-site all these many weeks.

Retirement homes in Israel and worldwide were hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis, with some decimated by the virus that has particularly targeted the elderly. But we are elated to report that not one of the Holocaust survivors under our care at the Haifa Home contracted the Coronavirus. And in fact, they have all been remarkably healthy for their age over the past two months of the lockdown, thanks to all the hearty meals, vitamins, medical checks and daily visits provided by Yudit Setz and her six Christian co-workers at the home.

When the quarantine period began in March, the residents had great difficulties with the sudden isolation. Instead of sharing meals together each day at the community cafeteria, they had to stay in their apartments and eat alone. Instead of celebrating Passover and Israel’s Independence Day with their families and friends, they had to celebrate alone. Their only contact was with our Christian staff and volunteers, who rotated shifts over the prolonged lockdown period to provide the care they needed.

“Our ICEJ team became their only lifeline to the outside world and their main caregivers seven days a week”, explained Yudit Setz, who heads our Haifa Home team.“We visited their homes daily to find out how they were coping, took them out for little walks, did physiotherapy, checked their medical needs, and repaired things in their homes. These may seem like small things, but they often made a huge difference in their day-to-day lives. They looked forward to our knock on their door and the human contact that broke the loneliness and brightened their day.”

As the health restrictions slowly lift, a new activity room has now opened which is giving the residents a welcome place to finally see each other again, play games, exercise, create art, and just come for a drink and normal conversation. The residents and staff are still abiding by the social distancing rules, but this wonderful activity center is providing a warm, safe, lively hub for camaraderie and fun.

Who Needs A Haircut?
Due to the quarantine conditions, many of the residents and even the staff are in dire need of a haircut. So, where do you go when your hair salon is closed? Well, no worries because one of the Haifa Home residents, 92-year-old Fanny, has been a hairdresser for almost 50 years! Eli, one of the volunteers, was desperate for a haircut, so Fanny happily and confidently gave him a nice trim. Even something so small was so rewarding for her!

Commemorations and Birthdays
In late April, the Haifa Home went ahead with hosting a ceremony to mark Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Instead of the usual crowd of survivors, family, police and soldiers, the ceremony was held with only a few residents and guests in attendance, sitting two meters apart. Shalom Stamberg (age 97) and Miriam Linial (98), both survivors of Auschwitz, lit the remembrance flame, and Shlomo Shertzer (94) recited the prayer of mourning.

Yudit Setz led off the ceremony with a heart-felt message.

“Dear Holocaust survivors, for you this is such a difficult day and I embrace you with a warm and huge embrace in the name of thousands of Christians who admire you, who think about you and pray for you at this time. I have the great privilege of seeing you almost every day, and you have taught me so many things ... How to never give up regardless of the difficult circumstances … To live with hope amid the biggest storm, knowing that one day the sun will shine again ... To love instead of hate…”

Just a few days later, the Haifa Home residents were able to enjoy a scaled-back celebration of Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day! The ICEJ team visited each resident, sang joyful songs, and talked with them about their hopes for Israel. Rita shared that she longs for the day when the Corona is fully behind us, “so that we will continue to be a free people in a free country.”

“I wish for peace and health for all of Israel and blessings to the IDF who protect us”, said Motke. “May we have less arguments together and agree more as a people”, he added.

Our Moral Duty to Help
Should the worst of the Corona crisis now be behind us, we will always look back at this unique moment as a special time when a handful of Christians were in the right place at the right time to help these dear Holocaust survivors through a very trying ordeal late in their lives. But the daily work of caring for these survivors continues, and the opportunity is there for you to show God’s love to the Jewish people by supporting the Haifa Home.

Galina, a resident from the Haifa Home expressed her deep gratitude for the help she has received: “This Corona time has been a very special time for me. I have felt so protected, safe and important because of all the attention and care I received. Meals were brought to my doorstep, all my personal needs were met and medically I was taken care of. I have felt so loved. It feels like one of the best times of my life! Thank you so much!”

“We have a moral duty, not only to remember the Holocaust, but also to take care of those who survived and are still with us today, to let them live out their lives in dignity, respect and love”, said Yudit Setz. “We will continue to do so with the help of God and of those He is calling to support this sacred work.”

We invite you to partner with us in making a difference in the lives of Holocaust survivors today. Learn more about how you can help by clicking here!

Southern Israel Ablaze in August

 

 

 

It is a beautiful blue-sky day with only a slight breeze. But wait, what is that in the distance? Coming closer… balloons, balloons, and more balloons gently floating through the air. The bright, colorful kind normally used for joyful occasions. But not this time, and certainly not for Israelis living near the Gaza border!

Sadly, as you read this, terrorists from Gaza are inflating balloons, attaching fire-bomb devices to them, and waiting for the sea breeze coming off the Mediterranean to carry them eastward across the border to sow destruction in nearby Israeli communities.

The Gazans who send them watch with glee as the incendiary balloons land in the farmlands of southern Israel, and set the fields and orchards alight. The month of August is the peak of the summer dry season in Israel, and the southwest trade winds pick up every day. Conditions are perfect for wildfires to ignite and spread quickly. It is hard to imagine the tension of living like this – not knowing where the next fire will start, or whether your child will be drawn to the colorful fire balloons or the kites laden with explosives that could detonate in their hands.

This is the third summer now that Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza have been using this twisted tactic to scorch the fields and orchards of their Israeli neighbors. The local security chiefs in southern Israel have had their hands full over the past month as the use of fire kites and balloons has jumped dramatically. In the Sha’ar HaNegev region, first responders have faced more than 425 brush fires in the last two weeks alone. Meanwhile in the adjacent Eshkol region, security officer Elan Isaacson confirmed that they too are experiencing 25 to 30 fires a day!

“Beautiful forests and nature reserves being ruined,” Isaacson told ICEJ. “Pomegranate and avocado orchards have been destroyed.”

For the local Israeli farmers, this is a devasting loss of the fruit of their labors. Pomegranate trees take at least two to three years to bear fruit and another seven months for the fruit to mature. The pomegranate also is an important symbol for the upcoming Jewish holidays of Rosh HaShana and Sukkot. And the loss of the avocado harvest is heart-breaking, as these fruit trees take up to six or seven years to bear fruit.

When these acts of arson first began in 2018, the ICEJ was asked to help the affected Israeli communities combat the fires destroying their livelihoods. Thanks to our many generous Christian donors, we were able to provide 18 fire-fighting trailers and five specially-equipped ATVs to the towns and villages along the Gaza border.

The fire-trailers are each equipped with a large water tank, pump, generator and hoses which can be hooked to 4x4 vehicles so they can reach all kinds of terrain. The ATVs also have similar fire-fighting equipment, and are quicker and even more agile to get to the back of the fields and orchards within minutes. These fire-fighter trailers and ATVs are now stationed every two kilometers or so along the Gaza border. And they are being put to daily and even hourly use to fight the on-going rash of fires started by incendiary balloons.

“It is so gratifying to know that all this fire-fighting equipment we provided over recent years in being put to such good use every day,” said Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President for Aid and Aliyah. “Our donations have enabled these communities to respond in real-time whenever emergencies arise, strengthening our friends and helping bring a sense of security to those living so close to danger.”

There is still a need for more fire-fighting trailers and other emergency equipment which will enable the local first responders to protect their fields and families even better. So please consider giving to our Israel in Crisis fund.

Your prayers also are greatly appreciated, as many of the fire-fighters and security officials in the region are near exhaustion due to the need to stay on a constant high alert for the fires.

So please pray! And also give your best gift today to the ICEJ’s Israel in Crisis fund.

Donate at: icej.org/crisis 
 

Why Christians Celebrate the Feast - FOT 2020

The presence of believers from around the world in Jerusalem at Sukkot is a great prophetic sign of the times in which we live. It is a powerful foreshadowing of even more glorious days ahead.

In 1979, as Merv and Merla Watson planned the first Feast of Tabernacles celebration in Jerusalem, they were uncertain about exactly how Gentiles should celebrate this biblical feast, so they asked the advice of a senior rabbi in Israel. After receiving his practical guidance, they were just about to leave when the rabbi called them back. 

“Mr and Mrs Watson”, he said. “That you, as Gentiles, came here to ask me how to celebrate Sukkot is quite unusual. Our prophets declare that in the Messianic times, all Gentiles will come to Jerusalem to celebrate this feast with us. When you asked me today how to celebrate Sukkot, I am hearing the footsteps of Messiah, that he is coming.” 

And this is what the Feast of Tabernacles is all about. The ICEJ has been privileged to organise this incredibly unique event for 40 years now. And it is indeed not just another Christian conference, but a prophetic declaration to Israel and the Church that Messiah is coming soon. In the end, it is all about Jesus. It is not about us, nor even about Israel, but about the returning King. 

And so, this Feast of Tabernacles 2020, ICEJ “Prepares the Way” for the return of Jesus, the King above all kings, to His city: Jerusalem.

 

PREPARE THE WAY - Feast of Tabernacles 2020

“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God… The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:1,3

For 2000 years, the stones of antisemitism blocked the path between Jews and Christians. How do we overcome that? 

Forty years ago, Christians from 32 nations gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles just as the last national embassies were abandoning the city. In response, these Christians stepped out and offered a hand of friendship and solidarity to Israel and the Jewish people. From this pivotal moment, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem was born. 

Today, we continue to follow the path of those Christians who have gone before us. Isaiah spoke of a ministry of comfort and a prophetic work to prepare a highway for the Lord – a work of removing the stones and obstacles which have, in the past, separated Jews and Christians. 

The prophet Isaiah also foretold of a day when a highway would connect Egypt and Assyria with Israel – and become a blessing in the midst of the earth. Today, we see believers from these nations coming together; pages of the Bible coming to life before our very eyes. The ancient division between Arab and Jew is being reconciled. 

“Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; The glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” - Isaiah 40:4-5 

At the Feast of Tabernacles 2020, the ICEJ will be marking 40 years of comforting and blessing Israel and working toward reconciliation between the Jewish people and the Gentile nations, especially in the Arab world. 

We invite you to come up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles with us. Come clear the path; remove every hindrance between you and an encounter with the God of Israel.

Helping Jewish Immigrants Find a Path Forward

In a time of rising antisemitism and economic uncertainty, the opportunity for Jewish people to make Aliyah to Israel is more important than ever. However, Israel also is struggling with high unemployment rates and other economic woes. Many families here are feeling the pinch of the Corona health restrictions, especially those just putting down roots in the Land.

As anyone who has made the move to a foreign land will know, successful integration in a new country usually takes more than a few months or even years. Often, immigrant families require steady support to overcome the many barriers – some of which may be internal. Recognizing this reality, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is not only bringing Jewish people home to Israel, but also helping them to get securely settled in the Land. To do this, the ICEJ is sponsoring professional mentors who are currently counselling dozens of immigrant families during their first years in Israel. The mentors are proving to be especially vital to these recently arrived families in such unstable times.

“Immigrants to Israel often have no family here and the social workers rarely call”, explained Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President for Aid and Aliyah. “If these mentors we sponsor do not help them, they have no one. It is a full-time job!”

For *David and *Hannah and their two children, life in Israel has not been easy. Caught in a bureaucratic snag over her residency, Hannah is still unable to legally work in Israel. Sadly, with just one wage-earner, the family found themselves in a downward spiral as their debts began piling up. As a result, any money deposited in their bank account was requisitioned to cover their debts, leaving the family in dire straits. David found employment in a confectionary factory willing to pay him directly, however, the commute distance meant he had to leave home at 4 AM, then work 10 to 12 hours a day, for just 7,500 shekels ($2,194) per month. For David and Hannah, joining the ICEJ-sponsored mentoring program for recent immigrants was a lifesaver.

David actually wanted to work at an outdoor market near his home but needed to be paid directly. His mentor advised David on reaching a debt consolidation agreement which allowed his bank account to be re-opened. This accomplished, David then scored another jubilant victory – he was hired at the nearby job he wanted for a higher salary and with reduced working hours!

Meantime, plans for Hannah to find employment have been put on hold due to the Coronavirus outbreak, which requires her to stay home with the children. However, a social worker is now involved and hopefully that situation also will improve soon. The support this family has received is quite literally changing their lives. Although David occasionally needs to work an extra day to bring in additional funds, being closer to home means he enjoys more quality time with his family.

Another recent arrival, *Avital, was a broken woman, both physically and emotionally, before getting help from a mentor. Going through a painful, complicated divorce, she found herself a single mother to three little children. Despite a court order for her to receive child support, the father refused to comply. Avital was afraid to pursue the matter as she feared the father would not want to have anything to do with their children. Besides having to provide for her family on her own, she also had strained relations with her mother and sisters.

Nevertheless, her mentor, *Bat-El, soon discovered that prior to having children, Avital had worked in the cosmetics industry. Good memories from her previous job made it clear this was her dream job. However, she knew nothing about how to start a business. Having a mentor to guide her along the process gave confidence and gradually Avital began to believe she could realize this dream. A donated computer now means Avital can begin working on a business plan. Meanwhile, she is looking for temporary work until the business takes off.

In addition, Avital now knows how to balance her budget and read her bank statement. With guidance from her mentor, she also got a reduction in insurance payments and bank charges. Her self-esteem vastly improved, Avital has learned to take the initiative to meet her needs, like purchasing a second-hand sofa and pro-actively writing to a social housing firm to request a higher rental stipend. Today, she also understands that the father has his own responsibility to their children, and after pursuing the matter she now receives child support. In addition, relations with her mother and sisters are slowly improving.

The Corona crisis has led to unemployment or under-employment for many, and it is difficult to get help. Nevertheless, Bat-El told the ICEJ AID team: “It is important to find a path forward, despite the challenges. We know that the crisis will get much worse before it gets better. The stress has caused additional problems to pop up in many families and most need basic assistance. We let people ask questions and try to direct them on moving forward. They need help to develop skills and increase opportunities.”

Your giving ensures that recent immigrants to Israel like these families are not alone in their struggles in a new land. Together, we can give them someone to walk alongside them as they navigate the many challenges of getting settled in Israel.

Please give today to the Aliyah and Absorption efforts of the ICEJ.

Donate Here: Immigrant assistance
 

[*Names and photos withheld by request to protect privacy.]

Prepare the Way – Part II

Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament in our Christian Bible. This prophet represents the very last words of the Old Testament era. Some theologians call the following 400 years the ‘time of silence’, when God would not speak again until His son Jesus came. This is how the Old Testament ends:

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Malachi 4:5-6/ESV)

It is the second “I will send” message in the book of Malachi. Already in verse 3:1, God declares: “I will send My messenger and he will prepare the way before Me” – a clear reference to John the Baptist (Matthew 11:10). At the very end of the book, God again declares: “Behold I will send!” – revealing another facet of the ministry of John the Baptist, the one who came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17).

There are two underlaying principles which define this Elijah ministry: First, it is a God-initiative. This is not a plan of man, but God says, “I will do it!” That leaves us with great hope, since it is not dependent upon man but God, its success is secured! We just need to align and submit ourselves to this great plan of God.

Secondly, this Elijah ministry needs the maximum attention possible. Malachi warns that the success of this Elijah figure will be of vital importance, otherwise God will “strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” That means we cannot underestimate the importance of the Elijah ministry in the end times. It requires everyone’s attention; not only pastors and leaders but every member of the body of Christ needs to submit to this heavenly agenda.

The mission of this Elijah spirit seems rather unexpected. Elijah’s calling is focused on family relations. He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Fathers and sons. Mothers and daughters. It is the generational and familiar relationships that matter to God in a great way.

In our individualistic Western societies, families are losing their importance. The family structure today is more under attack than ever before. Even the policies of many governments around the world undermine the biblical concept of a godly family, of a father and mother bearing and raising upright offspring. The biblical concepts of man and woman are under attack. Divorce rates are at record highs. Meanwhile, the mother’s womb was once a proverbial symbol of safety, but now it has become the most insecure place for an unborn child as millions of babies are killed in their mother’s womb before they have a chance to live.

The relationship between fathers and sons, and between God the Father and His children, can be defined through three different levels which all apply to our lives.

1) Personal Family Calling
When God called Abraham to be a blessing to the world and to father a people who would bring salvation and faith to the ends of the earth, He made it clear that this blessing was not just a blessing of a few individuals. Rather, God declared, “in you all the Families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).

It is important to note that even the very purpose of God in calling Abraham focused on his own family relationship: “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” (Genesis 18:19) It was essential for Abraham’s calling that he would not serve just as an individual, but God saw the generational family bond as central in that calling.

Undoubtedly, the Jewish people today are an example to all the world of a faith and tradition that is not just kept individually, but it is passed on to the next generation through study (the first book children in observant families learn to read is Leviticus) and ceremony (e.g., the bar mitzva).

This did not change when they got to New Testament times. Often, we hear that whole households got saved and baptized. When God called Cornelius, the very first Gentile to receive the Gospel, He promised him… “you shall be saved, you and your household” (Acts 11:14). Paul gave the same promise to the jailor at Philippi… “you will be saved, you and your household” (Act 16:31).

My own family experienced this when God invaded the Bühler home some 80 years ago. He sovereignly touched my grandmother, and her whole family got saved. And this blessing carries on even to all her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

As you read this, I ask you to have faith in God not just for your own salvation but for your whole household. God wants “all the families of the earth” to be blessed.

Also, it means fathers in particular, you must assume your role as a priest over your family. The priestly role is to pray for your children and to teach them the ways of God. Do not leave this important task just to the church in Sunday school. Fathers are the most important role models in the life of a child.

Of course, the same role applies to mothers regarding their children. As I write this, I am still mourning the passing of my mother just a few days ago. Both my parents were models to me as they followed Jesus. Make the decision today like Joshua did: “Me and my house, we will follow the Lord!”

And of course, the same passage also applies for children. God engraved the relationship of children to their parents at the center of the Ten Commandments. “Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). Paul makes a point that this commandment is the first one which carries a blessing – one of long life. He also reminds us that in the last days this biblical value and commandment will be undermined, as children will be “disobedient to parents” (Romans 1:30). As children, we are called to honour our fathers and mothers no matter how old we are or how old they are!

Much more can be said about this, but there is another level of this Elijah restoration that applies to us which we must consider.

2) The Faith of Our Fathers
There is another relationship concerning fathers, namely the “faith of our fathers”. In Malachi 2:10, God admonishes Israel about forsaking the “covenant of our fathers”.

Now the faith of the Bible is a faith of ‘new things’. It is a faith where every generation must find the way to serve God in their own way. God repeatedly announces throughout the prophets that He is doing a “new thing” (Isaiah 42:8; 43:19). He consequently rebukes people who never change but get stuck in their old traditions and ways of doing things (Jeremiah 48:11).

At the same time, change should never, ever alter or shake the foundations of our faith as revealed in the word of God. One thing which never changes is biblical truth, values and doctrines, simply because God does not change. Our means of communication, musical and rhetorical styles, or our order of service might change, but the message itself must never change. What God called “sin” two thousand years ago is still sin today. What God called “righteous and just” in the Bible will not be unrighteous and unjust today.

Churches and believers do well today to find their orientation in the early Church in Jerusalem, the model church established by the first apostles. The four great principles of the early Church – the apostles’ teachings, fellowship of the saints, the breaking of bread, and prayer – are indispensable for any church or community that seeks a move of God. This is why Israel’s prophets called upon “you who pursue righteousness […] look to the rock from which you were hewn […] look to Abraham your father and Sarah who bore you…“ (Isaiah 51:1f)

The truths that brought revival 200 years ago will not be abandoned today. Repentance and prayer are as essential today as they were in past revivals. There is no quick-fix, downloadable, instant revival which suits our modern lifestyle. The lives of John Wesley, George Whitefield, William J. Seymour or Reinhard Bonnke might significantly differ in style, but all carried the same DNA of a holy and dedicated life to Jesus. The old rugged Cross is still old and rugged today. But as we hold fast to it and proclaim it, the Cross will release its power full and fresh even in our post-modern world.

The call of Elijah is to uncover old wells that might have been stopped for decades and even centuries but, as we do, those wells will flow anew with fresh, living waters. This is what Elijah did when he re-erected the altar of God that was laying in ruins (1Kings 18:30).

Foundations are so central to our faith that the heavenly Jerusalem holds an unshakable and unchanging foundation of the twelve Apostles, and the twelve entry gates to the city are even more ancient as they have the names of the twelve tribal leaders of Israel.

It was likely for this reason that the angel who appeared to Zechariah slightly altered the quote of Malachi 4:5: “He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17). John the Baptist arrived in a generation that desperately needed to turn back to the principles of old. They had departed so much that the angel called them “disobedient”. John’s main message, therefore, was one of repentance. This ‘repentance’ in the Hebrew language means both to reverse and to turn in the direction you came from.

The spirit of Elijah thus represents not just a great hope and expectation for revival and signs and wonders, but it also represents lives of radically devoted believers who will uncompromisingly walk in the paths of the fathers and in doing so they will conquer new land!

3) The Fathers of Our Faith
The third implication relates to an area which the Church has struggled with for most of its history. It has to do with our relationship to the Jewish people.

A search in your computer Bible program or concordance will quickly show that the word ‘fathers’ (plural) is mainly used throughout the New Testament in a very particular way. From the 57 occurrences of “fathers” in the NKJV, for example, over fifty refer to the fathers of Israel. Thus, “the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers” (Acts 3:13); “your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness” (John 6:49); “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers” (Acts 28:25). Altogether, some fifty New Testament passages relate to the Jewish people of Old Testament times. Paul declares concerning Israel, “of whom are the fathers’ (Romans 9:5).

That means Israel in all their generations – from Abraham to Moses to the prophets – are to be considered as our fathers. This is a traditional understanding which has characterised Israel for centuries, to such a degree that the Talmud titles a whole book Pirkei Avod which means “the sayings of the fathers.”

Now you might argue that this may be true for only the ‘good Israelites’, like Abraham, Moses, etc. But two New Testament passages are especially noteworthy. In the book of Acts, both Stephen and Paul face very hostile crowds that want to kill them. Both preach to these mobs before they attack. And both address them the same amazing way: “Brothers and fathers, listen…” (Acts 7:2; 22:1). This reminds us of what Paul also declared about Israel: that even though they might be enemies of the gospel, they are “still beloved for the sake of the fathers” (Romans 11:28).

Further, when we look at how the New Testament portrays the Church, we find that Jesus called his disciples “children” (e.g., John 21:5) and Paul and John both address the Church as “children” (Galatians 4:19; 1 John 2:1).

This means the relationship between the Church and the people of Israel can be viewed as one between fathers and children. The recent line of Catholic popes often refers to the Jewish people as “our elder brothers”. Nor would it be incorrect to call them our fathers. This is how the Apostles called them.

Christianity was born out of the covenant of God with Israel. All that defines our faith today was given to us by the Jews. Our Bible was written by Jews – Jewish patriarchs, prophets and apostles all pointing us to a Jewish Messiah, who in heaven is still called the “Lion of the tribe of Judah”. That is why Jesus declared to the Samaritan woman that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22).

This means our relationship as the Church to Israel is as important as the relationship between fathers and children. Of course, the same is true the other way around. But it was mainly the Church which over the centuries dishonoured their fathers in many ways. It is time not only to repent but to show the “fruit of repentance”, as John the Baptist sought.

This Elijah ministry is an end-time ministry, and as such it means that no believer or church can ignore it in these last days. I believe the last-days Church, the Bride of Christ, cannot afford to ignore or side-line the family of Jesus, the Jewish people, any longer. The spirit of Elijah urges us to be in right relation with the fathers.

This relationship is unconditional and cannot depend on how good they are, if they believe like we want them to believe, or if the government in Israel is a perfect government. In the natural our fathers are not perfect, yet we are still commanded to honour them. The same applies to Israel. We must honour, love and bless them.

This spirit of Elijah will help us and teach us to be rightly connected with God’s people and to rightly relate to the Land of Israel which God promised to them through an eternal covenant. Otherwise, as Paul warns, we are endangering the very root of our existence – and that can be fatal (Romans 11:16ff). In light of the fifth commandment, we might forfeit the blessing that comes with honouring our father and mother.

The theme for this year’s Feast of Tabernacles is “Prepare the Way”, which has much to do with this Spirit of Elijah. It has to do with family and generational restoration. These are important to God because they are rooted in the very nature of God. He is our Father! And this fatherly concern is expressed most powerfully through the prophet Malachi:

“A son honours his father,
And a servant his master.
If then I am the Father,
Where is My honour?
And if I am a Master,
Where is My reverence?
Says the Lord of hosts…” (Malachi 1:6)

Honouring God as our father, honouring our natural fathers, reconnecting to the faith of our fathers, and honouring the fathers of our faith – this all has to do with reflecting God‘s character.

Let us together invite the Lord to release this Elijah anointing upon our lives and even nations. Please pray with us for the Feast of Tabernacles, that this word will be heard as a clear and loud shout around the world. Let us together ‘prepare the way’ of the Lord!      

If you would like to read "Prepare the Way – Part I" go to int.icej.org/news/special-reports/prepare-way

Register for the Feast of Tabernacles 2020 today!

Somebody to Lean On!

We all need somebody to lean on! This may sound like lyrics from a song, but these words ring true when you find yourself in a foreign country feeling completely overwhelmed by a different culture, especially if you barely know the language. Even simple tasks like making phone calls, reading a bill, or opening a bank account can suddenly become extremely challenging.

This is the case for so many new Jewish immigrants to Israel. Although the government provides some assistance to new arrivals, only a small percentage are taken to absorption centers which offer a softer landing. Having left family and friends behind, immigrants often feel alone and struggle to integrate into society. Many find their professional qualifications are not recognised in Israel. Needing to upgrade credentials or even change professions brings added stress to the job search – particularly for those still struggling to learn Hebrew.

Knowing these difficulties, the ICEJ is helping to sponsor four professional mentors across Israel who are currently counselling 55 immigrant families during their first years in the Land. “Appropriate assistance upon arrival can save families a lot of grief by helping them find opportunities and get on the right track from the start”, notes Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President for Aid and Aliyah.

Originally from South Africa, *Michael and *Leah and their two sons arrived in Israel in February 2019 and were sent to an absorption center in Beersheva. When we met them recently, they shared how their mentor had been a lifeline for them.

Settling their youngest son into school was very challenging. A quiet and introverted lad with few close friends, he suddenly found himself as the only English-speaking child in a Hebrew class filled with Russian-speaking immigrant children. The teacher also came from Russia and often gave explanations in Russian, so he missed out on learning and struggled to make friends. Before long, negative feelings about school and the family’s move to Israel began to creep in.

But when their mentor Lital came, she helped the family find a private Hebrew tutor. Soon, the son started making progress and friends, resulting in a much happier child. She also guided the eldest son through the bureaucracy of entering the army while also finding a temporary job.

In South Africa, the family could afford to live solely off Michael’s income, but in Israel this was not enough. With assistance, Leah also found work as an English teacher but soon lost it when Corona health rules shut down classes.

Lital told our AID team how complicated it is for new immigrants – especially during the Corona period. They already lack understanding on how to operate in the local culture, she explained, and once Corona hit any advances disappeared. They usually have no one to lean on, especially after leaving the absorption center.

“The truth is that the State doesn’t count immigrants now because there are so many other enormous and pressing needs”, Lital noted. “There is no specific help for them and their needs. Anyone working less than six months at their job when the crisis hit was laid off and are without an unemployment safety net to fall back on. Immigrants must put out a lot of effort to make it and it is not easy. You cannot just ignore the Corona crisis… it affects the whole integration process.”

Setting goals are an important part of the mentoring program, and despite some setbacks Michael and Leah are elated at each step of progress. Recently, they moved into their own apartment near other South African immigrants and are thrilled to have found a place in the neighbourhood they wanted. Leah described her relief to be there.

“We love being in Israel and are enjoying a new sense of freedom and security here. It is so wonderful to be able to walk home alone from the bus stop without fear”, she said.

Although they still have a long road ahead – learning Hebrew, finding the right job, getting settled in their new community – they are so grateful for the extra help and mentoring along the way, and look forward to exploring the country. Michael and Leah also added their warm thanks to all the Christian donors who made the mentoring program possible.

Meanwhile, *Dana is a 27-year old single mother to a four-year-old son with special needs. She made Aliyah from India as a teen with her parents, and now must live with them to make ends meet. In talking with her, another ICEJ-sponsored mentor discovered large gaps between Dana’s dreams for the future and her current situation. Together they set attainable financial goals, reviewed employment options, and explored her eligibility for other welfare benefits – such as a disability stipend for her son.

As a result, Dana has applied for public housing and rental assistance ahead of moving to her own place. Now an apartment search is underway, where the rent will be within her budget. Step-by-step, Dana is making a complete turn-around, reaching her goals and gaining self-confidence. Ready for a new chapter in her life, she also is overjoyed to have found a young man she hopes to marry soon.

The ICEJ is not only bringing Jewish people home to Israel, but also helping to plant them firmly in the Land – just as God promised to do (Jeremiah 32:41). Your giving ensures that newcomers like these are not alone, but have someone walking alongside them as they navigate the challenges of getting settled in Israel.

Please give today to the Aliyah and Absorption efforts of the ICEJ.

Donate Here: Immigrant assistance
 

[*Names have been changed to protect privacy.]

Timely help for aspiring Ethiopian Jewish students

When online studies suddenly became a forced reality this year, many Israeli students without computers quickly found themselves at a disadvantage.

Devorah, an English teacher at the Hebrew University preparatory program, promptly noticed that several of her students were unable to participate in remote lectures, as they did not have computers at home. The one-year program prepares aspiring students for university studies, and many come from Ethiopian Jews immigrant families who have found the program very helpful in opening new opportunities for them. By successfully completing a degree, they hope to have a profession which will provide for them and their families in the future. However, as anyone who has completed a university degree knows, these goals are difficult to achieve without a computer.

It happened that Devorah had favourable memories of working with the ICEJ from her previous employment over a decade ago, which prompted her to come back to the Christian Embassy for help. Our AID team heard her heart and quickly committed to providing computers for her three students in need – Eden, Meital and Rachel.

Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President for AID and Aliyah, recently had an amazing encounter with these young students, who shared about their dreams and aspirations, as well as their family backgrounds. Nicole also had the chance to explain why Christians love and support Israel and the Jewish people.

Eden has always known her future lies in serving in the medical field, and even though there is a long road ahead in studying dentistry, she is not dismayed. Born in Ethiopia, her family immigrated to Israel when she was two years old. In their conversation, Nicole was delighted to discover that Eden’s grandmother made Aliyah last year and realised the flight was sponsored by the ICEJ. She met her grandmother for the first time that day. Eden was grateful for that moment and for her laptop as well, saying, “Thank you so much. It is a very significant gift that you have given – one which will make a big difference in our studies.”

Meital, 19, was born in Israel, the fifth child in a family of ten children. Taking one step at a time, she is still deciding whether to complete a degree in mechanical engineering or chemical engineering. She will earn her degree as part of her military service, then serve in the IDF for six years using her expertise to benefit the country, while gaining practical experience that should pave the way for a good job.

A nursing student, Rachel recently had the opportunity to gain practical training in a psychiatric hospital. This experience anchored her decision to pursue nursing as a profession. She also realised the importance of listening to the people in her care and supporting them. Her family made Aliyah from Ethiopia in 1998, but they still are waiting for her uncle and his family to be approved to come home to Israel. Chances are they will come on an ICEJ sponsored Aliyah flight as well.

“It was such a joy to meet these dedicated students, to hear their dreams, and to do something towards helping them realise those dreams”, Nicole remarked afterwards. “Proper assistance given at the right time can make all the difference!”

Immigrants, minorities, the young, the elderly, and so many more are in need of our help to overcome the widespread impact of the Corona crisis. 

Your generous giving enables us to help Israelis like these build a brighter future. Please make a donation today!

Give today at: icej.org/crisis
 


Support the extensive ongoing work and witness of the ICEJ by helping us fund our core activities in fulfilling our mandate to support Israel, connect the church, provide education and promote justice.

Donations allow us to maintain funding for emergency projects, and embark on new initiatives to support Israel in these critical days.

Thank you for your ongoing support of ICEJ Canada!


 

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