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ICEJ welcomes last flights of special ‘Aliyah Week’

The ICEJ is still in the midst of a very busy flurry of flights bringing Jews home to Israel from all over the globe to mark the country’s special 'Aliyah Week’. Here is a quick recap and update on the more than 170 olim (newcomers) we are assisting with Aliyah in the last ten days.

We started out last week by sponsoring flights for 17 SELA students who arrived on Sunday, 10 October from Russian-speaking countries, followed by funding flights for another 16 SELA students who landed on Tuesday, the 12th of October. These participants in the SELA program operated by the Jewish Agency For Israel are the brightest and best students and will all make positive contributions to Israel in the years ahead.

The ICEJ also assisted in the Aliyah of another group of 22 SELA students from Belarus who arrived last Wednesday (13 October) at Ben-Gurion Airport, by funding their bus transportation, summer camps, documentation efforts and other pre-Aliyah preparation costs over recent years.

In addition, the Christian Embassy funded Aliyah flights for 50 members of a group of more than 250 Bnei Menashe immigrants from India who also arrived in Tel Aviv last Wednesday through the arrangements of JAFI and Shavei Israel.

This was followed by sponsoring flights for another 36 SELA students from the former Soviet republics who arrived yesterday (Monday, 18 October) as part of a larger group of 55 Jewish youths coming to Israel to start university studies, learn Hebrew and get settled in Israel before their parents arrive later.

Now today (Tuesday, 19 October), we are delighted to welcome yet another group of 22 SELA students who are arriving in Israel on an ICEJ-sponsored flight. The Christian Embassy also has supported these Jewish students over recent years since they started participating in Aliyah summer camps at the age of 10. It is a joy to see them finally arrive in Israel after all these years of preparation and hope!

With these latest arrivals over the past ten days, the ICEJ has now sponsored Aliyah flights for 1,468 Jewish immigrants from more than a dozen countries so far in 2021, despite the constraints and challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is exciting to be engaged in sponsoring Aliyah flights for over 150 Jewish immigrants during this special time of the year when Israel celebrates the great Ingathering of the Jewish people in modern times,” said ICEJ President Dr. Jürgen Bühler. “Christians around the world join with Israel in marking the miraculous modern-day return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland.”

While rejoicing in those who have just made it home, we also need to remember that part of the Bnei Menashe group who landed last week were unable to board the flight to Israel from India after testing positive for COVID-19. There are 26 members of the group – two families stuck in New Delhi and another family still back in Manipur – who are having to isolate in India before finishing the journey home because a couple of their children came down with corona. They need our support to cover the costs of their housing and meals, as well as arranging new flights to bring them home once they have recovered, which is now expected to happen on 25 October.

In Ezekiel 39:28, God gave a promise to His people: “Then they will know that I am the LORD their God, for though I sent them into exile among the nations, I will gather them to their own land, not leaving any behind.”

Let us take an active part in fulfilling this prophetic promise that God would not leave anyone behind. Please help them reach the Promised Land by giving a generous gift towards the great cause of Aliyah.

 

 

PHOTO CREDITS 

SELA photos courtesy of JAFI.
Bnei Menashe photo courtesy of Shavei Israel.
 

ICEJ orders 30 more bomb shelters for Israeli border towns

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem has recently ordered another thirty new portable bomb shelters which will be delivered in coming weeks to Israeli border communities which are especially vulnerable to rocket fire from Gaza and Lebanon, with an increased focus on protecting civilians in the northern Galilee and Haifa regions.

With these shelters, the ICEJ has now donated a total of 155 bomb shelters in the last 15 years to Israeli communities under rocket threat, with the majority (129) placed in towns along the Gaza periphery and the remaining 26 in the North.

Over the past decade, the Negev region has received most of the attention from government and private sources seeking to better protect the local civilian population from frequent rocket barrages. The Christian Embassy has placed dozens of mobile bomb shelters in the Gaza envelope, in communities stretching from Kerem Shalom in the south all the way up through Sderot and Ashkelon. Most have been donated to schools, daycare centers, medical clinics, youth centers, community halls, college campuses, factories and other public places which cannot operate during times of crisis without adequate bomb shelters.

However, the need for more bomb shelters in the North has become an increasing concern, especially due to the severe lack of public shelters and Lebanon’s growing economic crisis. Thus, the Christian Embassy is shifting its focus to assisting towns in the northern Galilee and Haifa regions to protect their most vulnerable communities.

A State Comptroller report issued last year warned that 2.6 million residents of northern Israel do not have access to functional bomb shelters. While there have been efforts to upgrade existing shelters, the state budget has provided little funding to add new and better shelters, due in part to the instability of Israel’s government over recent years and the priority given to resupplying the IDF’s Iron Dome batteries.

The need for more shelters is most acute in the towns right along the northern border with Lebanon, which are prone to shorter range rockets that cannot be stopped by the Iron Dome system. This hilly, forested area contains a diverse mosaic of Jewish, Arab and Druze towns which are desperately looking for funding to provide better protection for their communities. So over the past year, the ICEJ has begun delivering portable shelters to Hurfeish and other towns within kilometers of the Lebanese border.

More recently, the ICEJ has started placing shelters in another area of concern – the Jewish and Arab farming villages in the Zevulun regional council just east of Haifa. These towns are close to strategic facilities near Haifa Bay – such as oil storage tanks and chemical plants – which Hizbullah will likely target in any future conflict.

Last month, an ICEJ team visited Kibbutz Usha, in the Zevulun region, to dedicate a pair of bomb shelters donated to the community to protect children at a kindergarten and a daycare center. They were part of the Christian Embassy’s recent decision to place eight shelters in total in the Zevulun region, with more possibly to come. Regional council head Amos Netzer noted that the Zevulun region contains both Jewish and Arab towns and his concern is for everyone to have the protection they need from Hizbullah rockets. And indeed, local Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Druze representatives were on hand for the dedication ceremony to thank the ICEJ for assisting their communities (see photo and video report).

“We really appreciate the help we are receiving from Christians,” Netzer stated. “I’m so glad we have found a way to cooperate with Christians for a better future. This is our mission together.”

In the coming weeks, the Christian Embassy plans to deliver some of the newest shelters now on order to public places in Haifa, Nahariya, Akko, Kfar Maccabi and elsewhere – all in consultation with local security chiefs.

Over recent months, the ICEJ has received donations for these latest bomb shelters from Christians in dozens of countries, most notably from Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Fiji, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and United States.

“Many Israelis living along the Gaza border have told us that these mobile bomb shelters indeed save lives and give their families the peace of mind they need to continue their daily lives under the constant threat of rocket attacks,” said ICEJ President Dr Jürgen Bühler. “We now want to focus more on the need for additional bomb shelters to protect civilians in the North. The existing public shelters are not enough and these portable shelters are an effective way to provide greater security to the smaller towns and villages in the Galilee and Haifa regions that are often overlooked.”

Dr Bühler added that the Christian Embassy also is keen to promote Jewish-Arab coexistence with these shelters donations through local authorities in the North.

Please consider a generous gift towards the ICEJ’s efforts to provide better security for Israelis living under the constant threat of rocket attack from Hamas and Hizbullah. You may do so by giving through our ‘Israel in Crisis’ fund.
 

 

ICEJ Bringing 105 Jewish Youths to Israel During Aliyah Week

Israel’s official ‘Aliyah Week’ is in full swing, and the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is actively involved in helping Jewish people reach their ancestral homeland, including our sponsoring of Aliyah flights this week for 105 SELA students from the former Soviet republics who are coming ahead of their parents to study in Israel. In addition, the ICEJ is funding flights for 50 Bnei Menashe who are part of a large group expected to arrive from India this Wednesday – the country’s official ‘Aliyah Day’.

In 2016, the Knesset established ‘Aliyah Day’ to celebrate each year the Jewish return to their ancient homeland in modern times. This annual holiday was set for the seventh day of the Hebrew month of Heshvan, which ties it to the weekly Torah portion of ‘Lech Lecha,’ where God commanded Abraham in Genesis 12:1 to “get thee up” from his own country and go to the Land of Israel. Aliyah today is seen as an act of obedience to that divine command and as a fulfillment of Bible passages which prophesy of the Ingathering of the Exiled Jews back to Israel in our day. As Christians, we have a special privilege to help the Jewish people to keep this commandment and fulfill Bible prophecy.

This year, a whole ‘Aliyah Week’ has been planned around Aliyah Day, with hundreds of immigrants arriving from all directions this week. The ICEJ started its involvement on Sunday by bringing 17 SELA students from Russian-speaking countries, followed by a flight with another 14 SELA students on Tuesday. These are Jewish youths who have completed high school, taken part in special pre-Aliyah programs, and now will settle in Israel, learn Hebrew, and attend university in anticipation of the rest of their families making Aliyah later.

We are covering the flight costs for two more groups of SELA students from the Russian-speaking regions by week’s end, bringing the total to 105 Jewish youths we are enabling to begin their lives and university studies in Israel.

At the same time, the Christian Embassy is sponsoring 50 members of the group of 275 Bnei Menashe immigrating to Israel from India this week. Most are expected to land at Ben-Gurion Airport on Wednesday, in fulfillment of their dream to finally reach Israel, but several families are having to lay over in India after some of the children came down with coronavirus. Thus, extra funds are now needed to help cover their room and board and medical expenses until they can complete the journey to Israel in coming days.

The Christian Embassy has been asked for help to cover these added expenses during their temporary layover and then arranging new flights to bring them home at last. Please consider a generous gift to help with this urgent need, as we do not want to leave these Jewish families in limbo so close to home.

Your donation towards the ICEJ’s many Aliyah efforts will be used to continue bringing more Jewish families home in the coming weeks and months. We are on pace to bring over 1,700 Jewish immigrants on Aliyah flights to Israel this year, including support for a large group of Ethiopian Jews expected to arrive in a few weeks. So please give your best gift today.

 

 

New life is a heartbeat away

The ICEJ’s Giving a Future & a Hope campaign seeks to strengthen and support Israeli families reaching towards a better tomorrow. Where better to start than right at the very beginning of life!

The sad truth is that in Israel today, abortions are common and even legal until birth! So many precious lives are being taken and far too many women walk around with feelings of loss, guilt and brokenness which can torment them to their very core.

It is estimated that every year in Israel there are about 170,000 live births but also approximately 40,000 abortions. Last year alone, the state paid for 18,000 of abortions, regardless of the circumstances. Since 1948, more babies have been aborted in Israel than the number of Jewish children who died in the Holocaust.

This heartbreaking reality spurs on the ICEJ to support Pro-Life efforts in Israel, and recently ICEJ AID assistant Jannie Tolhoek spoke with Sandy Shoshani and Anat Brenner, both long-time advocates and directors of Pro-Life work in Israel.

Sandy explained why she is so passionate about pro-life work in Israel, where roughly one in every five babies are aborted.

“Nothing more grieves the Spirit of God than the shedding of innocent blood,” Sandy said. “Only 50% of the abortions are single women and 49% are married couples! It is mostly women between 20 and 35, a lot of divorcees, a lot of married couples who cannot afford another baby. Many of the abortions are done because of the mother’s health – including her mental health. If she says that she is not sleeping well, or she is stressed and she cannot cope, then she can have an abortion.”

Anat also became involved in directing Pro-life counselling and support programs for so many hurting women. Finding herself pregnant while serving in the Israeli army, she felt that a baby would simply ruin her life.

“I will not have a future,” she thought. “And I didn’t have the right person to walk alongside me to tell me that it can be different and that there are many other options. So, I had an abortion.”

“It really devasted me, because at one point in the pregnancy I felt so good,” Anat added. “I was holding my tummy and it was such a lovely feeling, but because I didn’t want to have the baby and I didn’t see myself as a mother, I just shut down these thoughts and ignored that good feeling.”

“Right after I had the abortion, I knew that the life I had inside of me would never come back,” she continued. “This is something that I did forever, and I was so broken. I couldn’t stop crying, and for many months after that I suffered from depression. I had to move in the army from the place where I was to another place, because everything reminded me of the abortion, and I just couldn’t handle life so well after that.”

“When I became a believer, this was one of the first things the Lord dealt with me about and healed me from my abortion experience. And I had such a strong desire to help other women who suffer from the consequences of abortion – who are broken and never had time to grieve at all over their baby that they lost in the abortion,” concluded Anat.

Today, Anat gives her all to ensure that pregnant women know that they have someone to support them. She became a pro-life counselor to help others decide not to have an abortion and established a hot-line so that women in crisis – not knowing what to do or facing an unwanted pregnancy – can call for help.

“I really believe that when the women have the right person to walk alongside them, when they think that abortion is the only option, God can do something else – and they can begin to see other options. They can feel that there is somebody who has empathy for them, can understand them and walk alongside them,” Anat explained.

Sandy agrees that these women desperately need emotional and practical support, adding: “We offer hope for the mom, and practical help and healing; these three things are so important. As many of the moms say, ‘you have given me the possibility to raise my child with dignity, not poverty’.”

More than 3,500 women have been helped to date through her work.

“Nobody should abort because of money,” Sandy insists.

“I really want to thank the ICEJ and the donors with all my heart because you have sponsored so many babies over the years, saved lives, protected women from abortions and made a difference! Praise the Lord! Thank you so much for your love, your care, your support, your prayers and God bless you for caring and loving the babies and moms in Israel,” said Sandy.

Anat also expressed her heartfelt gratitude.

“I really want to thank the Christian Embassy for standing with us in such a heart-touching way,” said Anat. “I know that God is using you all for us and we are so thankful for your prayers, for your support, for your love, for you standing with us in this fight for life. That you are tools for God to help raise our hands in this battle to fight for the babies in Israel. Thank you so much.”

The counseling and practical help offered to women in crisis pregnancy provides them with necessary baby items such as a crib, stroller, bathtub, or bedsheets, as well as practical financial assistance so that the mother can purchase diapers, formula, or anything else she may need.

The ICEJ is dedicated to strengthening families in Israel and invites you to help us provide these basic needs for many more little ones and their mothers. Please help us to preserve life and offer a Future and a Hope to many more Israelis by giving your best gift today.

 

A Busy Season For Aliyah

We have just concluded a wonderful celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles here in Jerusalem, and it was a great joy to see the Jewish people celebrating this biblical festival back in their ancestral homeland after centuries of exile among the nations. For forty years now, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem has been keeping the Feast while also assisting Jews to return to Israel from all around the world. And as we head into the fall, we are expecting a very busy season of Aliyah efforts, starting with a large flight next week from the Bnei Menashe community in India.

Like many Jews around the world, the Bnei Menashe gathered in their villages in north east India to celebrate Sukkot in September. During their prayers for the holiday, many offered up a special plea to fulfill their age-old dream to finally reach the Promised Land of Israel in the coming year.

The Bnei Menashe, or ‘Sons of Manasseh,’ claim descent from one of the ten tribes of Israel who were sent into exile by the Assyrian Empire more than 27 centuries ago. Their ancestors wandered through Central Asia and the Far East for nearly three millennia before settling in what is today an enclave of India along the borders of Burma and Bangladesh. Their community has continued to honor Shabbat, keep kosher, and observe other Jewish religious practices into modern times. And they have continued to hold on to their hopes of one day returning to the Land of Israel.

Over recent years, the ICEJ has made the dream of returning to Israel possible for over 1,200 Bnei Menashe, including our assistance for a group of some 275 who arrived in Israel on emergency flights this past summer during a major spike in the coronavirus pandemic in India. Now, plans are currently underway for another group of 275 Bnei Menashe to make Aliyah next week. Of this group, the ICEJ has committed to sponsoring flights for 50 of these new immigrants, but we can assist even more with your help.

This flight of Beni Menashe is kicking off what promises to be an exciting season for our Aliyah efforts worldwide. There are opportunities over the coming weeks and months for Christians to support the return of Jews from all directions back to the land of their forefathers – from the East, West, North and South, just as God promised (Isaiah 43:5-6).

One of these opportunities will come later in October when the ICEJ will be sponsoring the flights of more than 100 SELA high school graduates from Russia and other former Soviet republics. Over the past 15 years, the ICEJ has supported Jewish teenagers in these Russian-speaking countries to take part in the Naale and Sela programs operated by The Jewish Agency for Israel. Sela is a home-away-from-home program for high school students who are looking to pursue a prestigious international education, take lessons in Hebrew, engage with Israeli society and culture, meet new friends, and just experience life in Israel.

These Youth Aliyah programs have proven to have a high success rate in encouraging Aliyah over the years by bringing Jewish youth to Israel ahead of their parents. JAFI has found that it is often easier for the youngsters to learn a new language and adjust to new surroundings, and then they can help their parents acclimate better once they arrive. It has been a great blessing for the ICEJ to support these unique and highly effective Aliyah programs over the years.

Another opportunity will be the Aliyah seminars taking place this month. The Christian Embassy will be assisting with weekend Aliyah seminars in Georgia and Belarus. These ‘Shabbaton’ seminars provide comprehensive pre-Aliyah processing to alleviate concerns, answer questions, and educate participants using direct connection with trained counsellors. Some attendees are young family members who will move to Israel ahead of their parents and must be ready to live alone in the Land until the rest of the family arrives.

Later this fall, we also are expecting to be involved in another round of Aliyah flights of Ethiopian Jews, while other doors should be opening soon to sponsor Jewish immigrants from North America.

So, this is going to be an exciting time filled with many Aliyah activities, and we ask you to support the ICEJ as we undertake these efforts in fulfillment of biblical prophecies. Please give your best gift today to help more Jewish families return to their homeland in Israel.
 

 

 

ICEJ Helps Jewish Woman ‘On Fire’ to Move to Israel

Amid the ongoing corona travel bans and economic uncertainty, Jews are still finding their way home to the Promised Land and projections are that Aliyah will even accelerate over the coming months. So far in 2021, over 18,500 Jews have immigrated to Israel. And as always, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is right there in the midst of this Aliyah wave, helping to bring over 2,200 of these new Jewish immigrants home to Israel this year. This includes our sponsorship of Aliyah flights for more than 1,300 Jews coming home from all directions.

Talya Kestelman made Aliyah from South Africa this summer on an ICEJ-sponsored emergency flight. As a 23-year-old young woman, she came with joy and bright expectations for the start of a brand new chapter in her life. Talya visited Israel for the first time when she was 15 years old as part of a school program.

“I just absolutely fell in love with this country”, she recalled. “I felt so connected to Israel and my soul was on fire.”

She then came back for a second visit to Israel with her family, and there was no doubt about where she belonged. “God was sending me a message that I needed to live in Israel”, she said with a smile.

Talya shared her desire to live in Israel with her family and asked permission to move here. The response from her family was simply that she first needed to finish her university degree. So, she faithfully worked at her studies and received her diploma.

“I’m going to Israel. I need to be there”, she insisted afterwards. “I need to live my life and meet my people. I need to experience life as a true Israeli.”

Talya is the first member of her family to blaze the trail back to Israel. She is looking forward to seeing her father in December when he plans to come visit her and see what life in Israel really looks like.

“I really hope that my whole family will move to Israel within a couple of years”, Talya confided.

Talya also was thankful to know that Christians around the world are supporting the Jewish return and that the ICEJ helped with her life-changing flight to Israel.

“I’m so grateful to have been given this opportunity to come to Israel”, she said. “Knowing that I have a country that will accept me no matter what just because I’m Jewish is a real blessing, and this is very special for me.”

After coming out of quarantine, Talya’s first step in Israel was starting an intensive Hebrew language course at Ulpan Etzion in Jerusalem.

“It is something special to be in this group of people from all over the world. We all have the same visions and calls in our lives. We all left everything behind to come to this special place, to learn a new language, and we have all started our lives over here. It is very special to be a part of this”, she explained.

Taking one step at a time, Talya is settling into an apartment and is looking forward to beginning her master’s degree in environmental studies.

“There are a lot of opportunities in Israel in terms of green design and green architecture. That is the field I want to go into”, she said.

We pray this young Jewish lady from South Africa will achieve her dreams and aspirations in her new/old homeland of Israel.

Meanwhile, the months ahead will be packed with many more Aliyah flights. For instance, we have committed to helping with several hundred more immigrants coming from both the Ethiopian Jewish and Bnei Menashe communities this fall, plus additional flights from Russian-speaking countries and even from the United States of America.

One family we hope to help make Aliyah soon is the Singsit family from the Bnei Menashe community in northeast India. Osher Singsit, along with his wife, four sons and two daughters, all hope to arrive in Israel in a few weeks, and with your help we can make that happen. Osher has a brother he has not seen since he made Aliyah some 14 years ago and settled in the Israeli town of Maalot. He also has two sisters who made Aliyah more recently, plus several nephews who were born in Israel.

“With your help and prayers, my family will be making Aliyah to Eretz Israel this year”, said Osher. “My kids are very excited about it! We are the children of Menashe. Our tribe had been lost for many years and now we want to be re-connected to our roots in Israel”, he pleaded.

Together, we can finish this year strong with an amazing testimony of Christians bringing thousands of Jews safely home to Israel even in the midst of a global pandemic. So, please give your best gift today to support the ICEJ’s Aliyah efforts.
 

 

Rosh HaShana: The Day of Trumpets

The biblical holiday of Rosh HaShana, also known as the Jewish New Year, begins this coming Monday evening, 6 September, at sunset. It opens the fall High Holy Days, which also include Yom Kippur and the Feast of Tabernacles. So, what is the meaning of Rosh HaShana, where does it appear in the Bible, and what can we learn as Christians about its spiritual and prophetic significance.

First of all, Rosh HaShana is a special version of the monthly holiday called Rosh Chodesh, or beginning of the new lunar month. In Genesis 1:14, God said the sun and moon are for “signs and seasons”, and indeed the most important Jewish holiday seasons are determined by the moon. The moon also serves as a moed – a Hebrew word best translated as “appointed time”. This is the time God Himself set for an appointment with mankind. And what powerful appointments they are! Just think of it – the Exodus from Egypt, the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai, and Jesus dying on the cross – all of these seminal events happened exactly on the days appointed by God.

Now the significance of every Rosh Chodesh is mainly to determine the beginning of the month, which falls on the day of the new moon, and this also sets the dates for other important festivals in that month.

Every month, Rosh Chodesh is a time of drawing near to God, of blowing the trumpet, and a time of gladness and joy. Numbers 10:10 says this shall be a memorial (zikaron) for you. There also are many somber events which happened in many months in the Bible, as catastrophes befell the Jewish people due to their sins – reminding us of the righteousness and judgement of God.

At Rosh HaShana, this theme certainly comes out prominently. It is the biggest Rosh Chodesh, also called Yom ha Zikaron, and biblically the “Day of Trumpets”, or more precisely, the Day of Blowing on the Shofar (Yom Teruah).

The Special Month of Tishri
The Day of Trumpets is a celebration with mixed feelings: the joy of the Feast, the eating and drinking, mingled with the blowing of the shofar, but it also carries solemn tones. The Lord is remembered as the Judge, and the books of life are opened. It marks the beginning of the ten “Days of Awe”, (Yamim Noraim), which lead up to Yom Kippur. We celebrate the Lord as the Creator of the universe and at the same time ask for forgiveness and try to learn the lessons from the past. And we cry out for mercy. And then, on the full moon, on the 15th of Tishri, comes the most joyful of all Jewish festivals: Sukkot – the Feast of Tabernacles.

So why is it that this month is so packed with spiritually significant moadim, times of appointment? And does this month mark the beginning of the year or not? Rosh Chodesh Tishri is considered the beginning of the year, Rosh HaShana, but at the same time Tishri is called the seventh month. How should we understand this?

To grasp this concept, first know that Tishri marks the beginning of the year and imagine the agricultural cycle in ancient Israel. Every holiday has both a spiritual element and an agricultural one: Passover marks the liberation from the slavery of Egypt through the blood of the lamb but also the first fruits of barley; Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah and also the first harvest; and at the Feast of Tabernacles the Jews remember how they wandered in booths in the desert but they also celebrate the final harvest, the ingathering of everything that grew and ripened during the long summer.

According to this agricultural calendar, the Biblical year indeed begins in Tishri because this is the month when the winter rainy season is about to begin. It is the period that determines the fate of the entire region for the rest of the year. If the early rains fail to come, the nation faces drought. In ancient times, wars would break out as nations struggled over the limited resources. And not only in ancient times: some people say that one of the reasons for the outbreak of the recent civil war which devastated Syria was a prolonged drought which forced the farmers to leave their fields and go to cities where the unrest started.

In this light, we can better understand the full impact of the three-and-a-half years (James 5:17) of drought under Elijah. For four years, each year at this time, they expected rain, but it did not come. It caused a nationwide crisis, and a great famine in Samaria. King Ahab blamed Elijah, but he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and have followed the Baals.” (1 Kings 18:17-18)

The drought in Elijah’s time was linked to sin of the people. Instead of finding fault with Elijah, Ahab should have repented. And Elijah then calls on the people to repent, to take a stand (1 Kings 18:21).

We have selected “The Days of Elijah” as the theme for this year’s Feast of Tabernacles. We sense that developments over the past year show similarity to those days of drought under Elijah. The global pandemic has changed the way we live in many aspects and it is not yet over. All this underlines our complete dependency on God and His full sovereignty. We have no control over the future, but God does. Therefore, the call to repentance, to return to the Lord with all our hearts and minds is in order.

And this is very much the message of the month of Tishri and the fall holidays. The Bible commands a special month of appointed times before the onset of the new agricultural year. It is to reaffirm the faith that the Lord is the sole force behind the fate of the coming season. We do not look to Nature, we do not worship Mother Earth, nor do we let the perceived changes of climate control us – instead, we put our trust in God who decides how the rainy season will unfold.

The idea of dependency on God and trust in Him permeates the whole fall holiday season: the main theme of Sukkot is to remember how God protected the Israelites on their way from Egypt. During Sukkot, people are commanded to get out of their comfortable dwellings, be exposed to the elements and trust in God rather than man-made protection. We cannot rely on our real estate, our money, even on our skills or health. We are fully dependent on God.

The Wake-Up Blast
What else can we learn from Scripture concerning Rosh HaShana? First of all, surprisingly the Bible does not call it the NEW YEAR, but rather just the first day of the SEVENTH month. The only commandments are to refrain from work and blow the trumpet.
The defining passage is found in Numbers 29:1-2: “And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work. For you it is a day of blowing the shofar (Yom Teruah). You shall offer a burnt offering as a sweet aroma to the Lord: one young bull, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year, without blemish.”

Another relevant passage is found in Leviticus 23:23-25: “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying: “In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of shofar (Zichron Teruah), a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.”’”

So, the main commandment is to blow the trumpet, or shofar, which also is sounded on every new moon, as the aspect of zikaron, or memorial, is also present every month. But in the seventh month, everything is more intense. The sound of the shofar serves as a wake-up call.

The medieval Jewish scholar Maimonides, or Rambam, writes in his Laws of Repentance, 3:4: "Although the blowing of the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah is a chok [a law issued without an accompanying reason], there is also a remez [a hint of meaning] within it, as if it were saying, 'awake, sleeping ones, from your slumber, and those napping arise from your naps, examine your actions and return sincerely to God, and remember your Creator.’”

We can find an interesting parallel in the New Testament. Paul writing to the Ephesians uses a very similar exhortation: “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” The verse comes from Ephesians 5:14, and the context for this passage is one of repentance and walking in the light, and the sound of the shofar says: ‘Awake from your slumber, cast away darkness, and walk in the light.’

Indeed, light seems to be an important theme at this season. According to Jewish tradition, on Rosh Hashana new light enters the world. It is a day in which we can evaluate who we are, where we are going, and to what degree our lives are truly lived in accordance with God’s will.

In Psalm 89:15, the original Hebrew actually says, “blessed are the people who know the sound of teruah”, or the sound of the shofar. In other words, there is blessing in heeding the call for repentance. These are the people who walk in the light of His countenance. This is exactly the message of 1 John 1:5-8: “… God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

The sound of teruah is a wake-up call, inviting us to leave darkness and walk in His light. Repentance in Hebrew is teshuva, and it literally means “return, come back”. Change your direction and turn around.

The rabbis also say that many of the laws concerning blowing the shofar are derived from the laws of the Jubilee Year. It is based on the text from Leviticus 25:8-9: “And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. Then you shall cause the shofar of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the shofar to sound throughout all your land.”

In the 50th year, all land returned to the family that originally inherited it, and slaves went free. The blast of the shofar to mark the Jubilee signified freedom. What is the connection between repentance and the Jubilee, regaining freedom? When we repent, the power of sin is broken and we enter into true freedom. Jesus said in John 8:32, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

This is a very Jewish concept. The whole history of the Jewish people can be seen as struggle for freedom. God freed them from slavery in Egypt and brought them to Mt. Sinai, where He gave them His word, which has the power to set free. And ultimately, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus did what we could never do in our own strength. Now we can experience his liberating power. “When the Son sets you free, you are free indeed” (John 8:36). Jesus also referenced the Jubilee when he launched his public ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:18-21).

So, when you hear the shofar, remember that it is calling you to freedom in Jesus.

Trumpeting His Return
The shofar blast also is connected to God’s judgement, as it will be revealed in the last days, and also to the restoration and regathering of Israel. Both Zechariah 9:9-14 and Isaiah 27:12-13 link the blowing of the shofar with the salvation of Israel, the Ingathering of the exiles, and the coming of their King.

The blowing of the trumpet also is given important prophetic significance in the New Testament. For instance, in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, we read that it will signify the return of Jesus: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God (teruah). And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

In addition, Revelation 11:15 says: “Then the seventh angel sounded (the shofar): And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”

So, as we blow the shofar these days, let us do it intentionally, as a prophetic sign of the wonderful things to come.
 

FOR MORE on this topic, make sure to watch the ICEJ Special Webinar on Rosh Hashana from Thursday, 2 September 2021, featuring Dr. Mojmir Kallus. WATCH HERE! 

ICEJ Homecare delivers a sweet holiday surprise!

The gift bags were set out and ribbons perfectly measured for tying around 120 beautiful holiday presents in anticipation of Rosh Hashanah in early September. Each gift bag contained a magnetic fridge notepad, a lovely handmade mug, specialty teas grown around Israel, and a jar of honey, thoughtfully wrapped together in a new dishtowel and finished with a ribbon and little pomegranate symbolising this special holiday season. The gifts also came with a unique card designed by ICEJ Homecare nurse Corrie van Maanen with a scripture verse from Isaiah 12:2.

Corrie soon started making her way across Israel to visit single mothers, the disabled, Holocaust survivors and others she cares for. The Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah is a highlight of the year for those under her care. “As they receive this gift of love, they know that they are remembered during this holiday time”, explained Corrie. “Many come from the former Soviet Union, where they were not allowed to celebrate the Jewish holidays.”

“This is a rich and special season, and the gift card will be treasured”, Corrie added, recalling how one lady she visits wished for a special box to store all her ICEJ Homecare cards. For her next birthday, Corrie gave her a beautiful storage box and now, whenever she feels lonely, she takes it out and reflects on all the words of encouragement she has received from Corrie over the years.

The pomegranate symbolises righteousness, knowledge and wisdom, while the honey symbolises a wish for a sweet new year. “Over this Rosh Hashanah season, this is certainly what we want to bless them with”, said Corrie.

Your giving enables Homecare to extend personal hands-on support to elderly and disabled Jewish immigrants in need.

   

Dr Bühler speaks to German nation on ‘Israel Sunday’

Germany has a long-standing tradition for churches to hold an “Israel Sunday” one week in the annual liturgy. The tradition dates back to the early decades of the Reformation, when it was called the “Jew Sunday” and often featured antisemitic messages. It was scheduled for around Tish B’Av, the date on the Hebrew calendar when Jews commemorate the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem. The liturgy eventually changed, especially after World War II and the Holocaust. It was renamed ‘Israel Sunday’ and now serves as a day for churches to underline God’s eternal faithfulness to the people of Israel.

This year, ICEJ-Germany national director Gottfried Bühler was asked to provide for the first time on television an ‘Israel Sunday’ service to be broadcast across Germany. This weekly service reaches up to 300,000 people and it presented a great opportunity for the Christian Embassy to share about God’s plan for Israel. ICEJ President Dr Jürgen Bühler flew to Germany for this service to preach a message on the Shema, the central prayer of Israel and the Jewish people. He was accompanied by his wife Vesna with Hebrew songs.

The location for the televised service was very special. It took place in the Mauritius Church in Reichenbach. During the Nazi era, this church was pastored by Theodor Dipper, who repeatedly spoke against Hitler in his sermons and oversaw a network of around 40 pastors of the Confessing Church who hid Jews during the Holocaust. The church compound served as a safe haven for many Jews who were hidden there, each for several days to weeks, during Hitler’s reign of terror.

Pastor Heinrich Hoffman, who serves today as the church’s pastor, said it was very appropriate to host the first televised Israel Sunday service in his church. Jürgen Bühler added that it was a tremendous privilege to preach in a location with such a legacy of heroism and of blessing God’s people.

Besides the televised service at the Mauritius Church, Jürgen and Vesna ministered in several other places during their visit to Germany, which was their first trip outside Israel since the coronavirus pandemic arose last year. This included ministering in word and song at a large Israel gathering organised by the Saxonian Friends of Israel. They also spent several days in Stuttgart at the new offices of the German branch, which has seen tremendous growth and impact in recent years under the leadership of Gottfried Bühler, Jürgen’s brother.

ICEJ gearing up for Aliyah surge from all directions

Late summer is normally a peak time for Jewish immigration to Israel, as many families plan their arrival here in time to enroll their children in school for the fall. But the weeks ahead are expected to see an unusual surge in Aliyah, as a large backlog of Jewish families who have put off their move to Israel due to the corona pandemic are now trying to make it into the country in time to get their children in school. And the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is currently positioned as never before to assist with Aliyah flights for Jews arriving from all directions at once – east, west, north and south.

We live in a unique time in history, as Christians in unprecedented numbers are helping restore the Jewish people to their ancestral homeland – all in keeping with the centuries-old Biblical prophecies about Gentiles helping with the return of the Jews to the Promised Land from the four corners of the earth. As Christians, we have the privilege not only to witness this modern-day miracle, but also to take an active role in making it happen. Thus, the ICEJ has been working for decades with the Jewish Agency for Israel and other partners to help with this historic Jewish return.

Yet in all our years of working in Aliyah, this moment stands out! Never before has the ICEJ had the chance to assist with Aliyah flights from so many countries at once. We are committed to helping with upcoming flights of hundreds of Ethiopian Jews and the Bnei Menashe from India over the next two-to-three months. We will still be helping with Aliyah flights from the North – Russia, Belarus and other former Soviet republics – as we have for decades. We just helped with large Aliyah flight groups from France and South Africa. But now the door has opened for us to also sponsor flights bringing American Jews home to Israel in greater numbers than ever.

There is a large buildup of Jewish families from North America seeking to reach Israel in coming weeks, just as some of the traditional funding sources for this Aliyah route have tapered off. And the Jewish Agency is asking the Christian Embassy to help with this expected surge of American Jewish immigration – which is already on target to be one of the biggest years ever for Aliyah from North America. Approximately 5,000 Jews from the USA and Canada are expected to immigrate to Israel in 2021, a 42% increase over the annual average.

This presents us with a wonderful opportunity to increase our Aliyah efforts in the area with the largest remaining population of Jews outside of Israel. There are an estimated 5.7 million Jews currently living in North America, and when adding in their close relatives the number of people eligible for Aliyah under the Law of Return jumps to 12.7 million.

The present surge in Aliyah is due to several factors, with one primary reason being that Israel is perceived as having done well so far in handling the coronavirus threat. Israel’s economy is also seen as stronger and more able to recover from the impact of the pandemic. For many in the younger generation, Israel holds better career opportunities, especially in the hi-tech sector. And there are growing concerns among Jews worldwide about the sharp rise in antisemitism over recent months, as many are falsely blaming the Jewish people for the corona pandemic, even while the recent Gaza rocket war and the racial tensions rocking the US and many other nations are also driving antisemitism. According to the ADL, there have been 8,004 incidents of antisemitism or extremism against Jews in the United States in 2020 and 2021.

In July, the ICEJ already responded to an urgent request from the Jewish Agency to help with the surge in Aliyah from the USA, as we sponsored flights for 30 olim (newcomers) from New York, New Jersey, California, Illinois, Florida and other states. Here are some of their personal stories.

Ari L. 24-year-old, from Maryland: "I made Aliyah to be a part of the Jewish future. I hope to contribute towards building the people of Israel in the Land of Israel."

Glen M. 27-year-old, from Texas: "I made Aliyah because I feel like I belong here and no one will judge me if I have my tzizit tucked out and kippa showing. And I wanted to be with people more my age and I thought Israel was the best place for me to meet young professionals my age. I hope to help make children happy and enjoy the work I do like working with people with unique needs and abilities."

Hadar B. 32-year-old, from New York: "Since before I can remember I wanted to live in Israel. Israel has always felt like home to me. I hope to contribute in building Israel up in its economy and assist with its overall success as a country.”

Josh A. 27-year-old, from Illinois: “I made Aliyah because it was my dream to come to Israel and live where my family came from generations ago and to be more a part of the Jewish people. I made Aliyah because I want to volunteer in the army and to one day raise my kids here.”

These young people have completed their quarantine and are now starting their new lives in Israel attending a five-month program at Ulpan Etzion Jerusalem – Israel's flagship intensive Hebrew learning program.

So far in 2021, there have been 14,723 new immigrants who have arrived in Israel over the first seven months. The ICEJ has assisted 2,175 of these new arrivals to make Aliyah, which represents some 15% of the Jews who have made the journey home to Israel this year. These Jewish newcomers have come from all over the world, including Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ethiopia, France, Finland, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, United States, Russia and other former Soviet republics.

But with your help, we are only getting started. Stand with us at this incredible moment when we have the chance to bring more Jews home to Israel from more directions than ever before. There are many making plans to arrive over coming weeks, but they need our help. Support the ICEJ’s Aliyah efforts today!
 

 

 

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