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ICEJ welcomes Ethiopian Jews arriving in urgent airlift

Last Friday, an ICEJ team was waiting at Ben-Gurion Airport to welcome a flight of 116 Ethiopian Jews arriving on an Aliyah flight sponsored by the Christian Embassy. It was a moving moment as they kneeled down to kiss the ground of the Promised Land, ending decades and even generations of longing to reach the Jewish homeland.

The new arrivals were part of a group of 432 Ethiopian Jewish immigrants who landed last week in the first phase of “Operation Rock of Israel”, a special airlift being carried out by Israel and the Jewish Agency to bring home 2,000 Ethiopian Jews by the end of January. The ICEJ is supporting this Aliyah operation as worsening conditions in Ethiopia have given new urgency to bringing home the last remnant of this ancient Jewish community.

The Israeli cabinet committed in 2015 to bring home the final remnant of Ethiopian Jewry, who have been living in poor conditions in transit camps in Gondar and Addis Ababa, some waiting there for up to 20 years to make Aliyah. The Christian Embassy has sponsored Aliyah flights for over 2,300 Ethiopian Jews who have arrived in Israel since then, including 384 olim this year – despite the Corona travel bans. But the immigration process has been slow and the challenges to those left behind are mounting.

There are still approximately 7-8,000 members of the community remaining in Ethiopia, which has been suffering under a prolonged drought, while a massive plague of locust also has hit East Africa over the past year. As a result, food supplies are running short and prices are spiraling upward. Many Jews in the transit camps are malnourished, especially children. And Ethiopia is now facing the spread of coronavirus. Add to this an armed rebellion which erupted in early November in the breakaway province of Tigray, just 45 miles across the border from the Gondar transit camps, and the situation has become quite worrisome.

So this airlift operation comes at a critical moment for those Ethiopian Jews still living in the transit camps of Gondar and Addis Ababa. Israel has decided to bring them home to Israel, and it is a privilege for the ICEJ to support this historic and humanitarian effort to reunite Ethiopian families and fulfill the dreams of many generations to finally reach the Jewish homeland.

The opportunity is here to help bring home several thousand more Ethiopian Jews who are desperate to reach Israel. It is time for us to act!

Please consider a generous donation to help these very deserving people re-join their families in the Jewish homeland. May the Lord bless you richly as you donate towards this very urgent and worthy cause!

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Marking 25 Years of Homecare

There is an excitement in the air, with much reason to celebrate!

Twenty-five years ago, the ICEJ’s Homecare program for Russian Jewish immigrants was launched when nurse Corrie Van Maanen joined the staff in Jerusalem. Corrie says that “numerous Russian immigrants have been helped during the years ever since”. Indeed, the Homecare program is still going strong, displaying a practical demonstration of love. Many deserving people receive help, nursing care, and a dose of hope and encouragement with each visit of the Homecare team. Your faithful support throughout the years makes this possible.

For the past 18 years, Homecare has built a precious relationship with a family whose daughter is dependent on full-time care. The parents, who suffered during the Second World War, have looked after their daughter with such love and dedication – as only a parent can do. But they are both 80 years old now. Seeing this need, Homecare respectfully came alongside the family over the years to help them in a practical way, giving nursing care to their daughter. Recently, the mother said: “So much can go wrong during the week but when you come, we know that everything will be all right and we are able to continue into a new week.” With the tender relationship built over the years, the regular visits become a weekly highlight for them. The mother sighs when the visit ends, saying “Oy, if I didn’t have you!”

For another lady who made Aliyah from the Ukraine together with her husband, and sick and fragile parents in the 1990s, the Homecare visits have been so appreciated. Homecare got to know her when asked to lovingly take care of her sick father. Later, both she and her husband became sick and then he passed away. Now as a widow and living alone, she sat on her bed recently and expressed her gratitude, saying: “I have no words to thank you. We have known each other for more than twenty years. And when my need is the biggest, when I have no answer for my trouble, you have always been there for me and helping me out.” The Homecare team just helped to pack up her home as she had to move to another apartment.

A warm bond also can be seen between Homecare and an elderly gentleman in his 90s who is blind. Nearing the end of a Homecare visit just a few weeks ago, he sat at his kitchen table and leaned forward to ensure his words would not be missed. “Do you know why I am waiting for you to visit me every week?” he asked. While waiting for him to answer his own question, he continued, “because you are willing to listen when I tell you my stories.” Shortly after the International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January, this same gentleman said, “I listened to the special program on television for the remembrance of the Holocaust. But no television can ever tell or show what I saw as an eyewitness in the darkness of the war.” He often talks about that dark time and is still suffering severely from the war, more than seventy-five years later. Every week, the ICEJ Homecare team buy groceries from him, as he cannot make ends meet on his small pension. He is so thankful that he lives in Israel, adding that “it gave me life”.

These are only a few examples of the work of Homecare, as our team encourages, brings hope, and gives joy to all they care for. For many, the Homecare visit is the highlight of their week, especially during this time of the Coronavirus pandemic, when isolation, loneliness and depression are extremely tough for the elderly and those who suffered during the Second World War.

The source of our caring is limitless, as it is the love of the God of Israel Who has commanded us believers from the nations to “comfort His people Israel.” We do it with thankfulness for the privilege it is. Thank you for the past twenty-five years.

We invite you to continue to partner in this precious work of ICEJ Homecare.

 

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Preparing for a Surge in Aliyah

Over the past forty years, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem has been privileged to bring home to Israel more than 160,000 Jewish immigrants from around the world, usually in partnership with the Jewish Agency for Israel. This includes the 3,141 Jews we assisted with Aliyah last year, despite all the coronavirus lockdowns and travel bans. So, what can we expect in the months and years ahead?

Like other Israeli officials, JAFI chairman Isaac Herzog is very upbeat about the prospects for Jewish return to Israel in the near future. At the ICEJ’s Envision Conference last week, he forecast that up to 250,000 Jewish immigrants will arrive in Israel within the next 3-to-5 years. This surge in Aliyah is being triggered by several factors, including the corona threat, the way Israel has responded effectively to it, the spike in corona-related antisemitism, and the way many have discovered they can work from home and even remotely from a distant land. As a result, Herzog said most of the expected 250,000 new arrivals will be young adults with so-called ‘free professions’.

Herzog explained that last year there was a dramatic rise in the number of Jewish families who inquired with JAFI about immigration to Israel, with 90,000 calls coming in from around the world, including many from the West. This has led to the opening of some 25,000 new immigration files, with a 91% increase from Western countries, including a 400% jump from North America. Herzog added that the number of people who have contacted the Jewish Agency about Aliyah from English-speaking countries has increased by 50%, and by 70% from French-speaking countries.

“Undoubtedly, we are fulfilling biblical prophecy and the Christian world has a major role to play in bringing about the fulfillment of these prophecies”, Herzog told hundreds of pastors attending Envision online. “We are grateful to Christians who support the idea of bringing Jewish people back to their ancient homeland. And I again want to thank the International Christian Embassy for the outstanding work you are doing to help with this.”

Danielle Mor, who oversees JAFI’s outreach to Christians, recently expressed her thanks as well, telling ICEJ Aliyah coordinator Howard Flower: “It is remarkable that we could bring such a large number of immigrants in a time of closed borders, almost a standstill in dozens of government offices around the world, the cancellation of thousands of flights, and so many other hardships. ICEJ played a major part in this and for that, as always, we thank you.”

So which countries will all these expected Jewish immigrants come from? The world’s Jewish population currently is estimated at 14.7 million. Israel is now home to over 45% of these Jews, while 90% of the remaining Jewish communities outside of Israel reside in Western countries – including the Americas, Europe, and the Commonwealth nations (Britain, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, etc.).

  

JAFI has specific partners assisting with Aliyah in various regions of the world, and in recent years they have looked to the Christian Embassy for help with Jewish families returning from the former Soviet republics, eastern and western Europe, Ethiopia, and at times from Latin America. The ICEJ also has been helping to bring the Bnei Menashe tribe from India and the Kaifeng Jews from China. All of these Aliyah routes remain open for us in the year ahead.

So far in 2021, we have sponsored flights for 100 Ethiopian Jews who arrived in Israel on New Year’s Day. We are now poised to bring another 200-to-300 Ethiopian Jews as soon as Ben-Gurion Airport is re-opened. The airport has been temporarily shut down – for the first time since Israel’s founding in 1948 – due to concerns that one of the new variants of the coronavirus would enter the country and undermine the government’s ambitious efforts to mass vaccinate the entire population by April. But as soon as the airport reopens, hopefully next week, we can expect that flight from Addis Ababa. That would mean the ICEJ will have sponsored flights for 500 of the 2,000 Ethiopian Jews airlifted to Israel over recent months as part of “Operation Rock of Israel.”

With your help, the Christian Embassy will continue to play a central role in the historic and prophetic Ingathering of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland in the months and years ahead. A new surge of Aliyah is on the way, so please give generously to support the ICEJ’s Aliyah efforts in 2021.
 

Donate today at: on.icej.org/aliyah 


 

ICEJ Helping Israeli Youths Reach for the Horizon

What is the ‘horizon’? Could it be a dream that seems so far off in the distance, that no matter how hard one tries it feels unattainable? Or perhaps the life one aspires to live, yet it seems impossible?

For many Israeli youth, they would simply stumble through life if they had not been given the opportunity to join a special enrichment program to help them navigate through life’s toughest stages and reach for the horizon.

The ICEJ has been involved with this unique educational enrichment program, called “Touching the Horizon”, ever since it was launched as a pilot project in a high school in Akko. Seeing its early and obvious success, the program has since been expanded to high schools across Israel. Presently the ICEJ supports the ‘Horizon’ program in three high schools, two in Jerusalem and one in Lod – each with about 25 students participating.

The aim is to help vulnerable youth struggling through life and in danger of dropping out of school, by providing mentors to help them persevere, overcome their personal obstacles, and complete their schooling. These young Israelis have talent and potential, but they lack the opportunities and support essential to succeeding.

Aimed primarily at grades 10 to 12, the youth attend small weekly meetings in a safe environment which includes personal mentoring, help developing leadership and social skills, tutoring in difficult subjects, community service opportunities, confidence-building team activities and several hot meals a week. Teachers and mentors also work with the parents to help these young people grow and develop. And even after graduation, the youth continue receiving support and guidance throughout their army service and one year beyond, until they enter a college study program or find employment.

For *Ayala, who never missed a ‘Horizon’ meeting, the enrichment program had a dramatic impact on her life.

“This program has changed me in the best possible way”, she told us. “In 10th grade, I was angry at the world without any desire to open up and grow, fearful of everything and particularly fearful of change. In general, I hated everyone and most of all myself. Now, in 12th grade, I am happy with life and have a great desire to experience new things. And even more than that, I love to go out and explore new things in new places and to learn as much as I can.”

“In the past, I wasn’t able to control my temper; today I know how to stop myself before it breaks out of control”, Ayala added. “Once I began to learn how to stay calm, my desires began to change, and I was able to deal with my fear of meeting new people or going outside of my comfort zone.”

Another student, *Shai, shared how privileged she felt to be part of the enrichment program and how it helped her gain confidence and open up to others.

“For the first time, I feel enough self-confidence to share my thoughts and feelings with others without fearing what people will say or if they will judge me,” said Shai.

Shai loves to sing, dances in the Jerusalem dance troupe, and often performs at school ceremonies. The extra assistance she received through “Touching the Horizon” has made all the difference. As she said: “I have the confidence to do what I love because this program gave me the tools and helped me believe in myself and my abilities.”

Thank you for supporting this program to help vulnerable Israeli youth chart a new course towards their horizon. Your support helps them reach their full potential on the way to becoming whole and independent adults.

Please continue to give at: on.icej.org/aid 

[*Names changed by request to protect the identities of the students.]
 

ICEJ’s Envision Conference Inspiring Leadership Amid Crisis

This week, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is hosting its annual Envision Conference for pastors and ministry leaders, which has drawn over 650 participants from more than 50 nations, making the online event the largest Envision gathering ever.

Envision 2021, which runs from 25-28 January, is largely a live streaming and Zoom webinar conference this year, due to the corona pandemic, but the response from pastors and ministry leaders around the globe has been unprecedented.

The ICEJ usually holds its Envision conference to coincide with the International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th each year – the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz – so that Christian leaders can observe this event at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and learn more about Israel. However, with the corona threat still with us, along with its harsh economic impact and disruption of daily life, including weekly church services, this year’s conference also is seeking to inspire greater leadership in the Body of Christ as we confront the ongoing crisis.

This year’s line-up of Envision speakers includes Rev. Ingolf Ellßel (Germany), Dr Billy Wilson (USA), Rev. Mats Ola Ishoel (Russia), MP Kenneth Meshoe (South Africa), Rev. Peter Tsukahira (Israel), author Joel Rosenberg (Israel), and ministry/business consultants Phil Cooke and Stephen Mansfield (USA).

“The world around us is in crisis,” said Dr. Jürgen Bühler, ICEJ President. “The COVID-19 pandemic, the disputed American elections, a looming global recession, the erosion of Judeo-Christian values – all of these unsettling developments are causing people to lose the fixed points in their lives and look for real leadership in this season of great uncertainty. As church and community leaders, we are called to be lighthouses in these stormy times, and this year’s Envision conference is geared to help pastors and others in ministry to take courage and find a godly, sure path ahead for those we serve.”

Envision 2021 features daily live shows from locations in Jerusalem and around Israel, more than 30 seminar messages from proven church leaders, plus Q&A sessions and prayer times which will allow our guest speakers and pastors from around the globe to interact and fellowship together. Conference topics will include leadership in ministry, government and business, Israel in prophecy and current affairs, and the move of God in the Middle East.

You can still register for Envision at on.icej.org/Envision2021. And the program will be available for viewing on demand until April.

Quite a Year for ICEJ’s Aliyah Efforts!

Despite the global impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem assisted over 3,100 Jews in making the journey home to Israel in 2020, making it quite a remarkable year for our Aliyah efforts.

As we look back over 2020, it was a difficult year for everyone with all the corona surges, layoffs, lockdowns and travel bans. Yet one positive development was the continued flow of Jewish people moving to Israel, as some 21,000 new immigrants arrived in the country last year. And thankfully, the ICEJ was able to assist 3,141 of these olim (newcomers) from more than ten countries – one of the best years ever for our Aliyah efforts.

Among the highlights, the ICEJ sponsored flights for 1,645 Jews arriving from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Ethiopia, India and several other countries.

In May 2020, we funded a specially chartered emergency flight from Moscow to mark the 30th anniversary of our very first sponsored Aliyah flight in May 1990, which also arrived from Moscow with hundreds of Russian-speaking Jews following the collapse of Soviet communism.

We also launched the ‘Rescue250’ campaign last summer, challenging Christians to help us bring at least 250 Jews home per month while COVID-19 was still impacting the world.

In addition, the ICEJ sponsored Aliyah flights for 384 Ethiopian Jews last year. This included several hundred who came as part of the special “Operation Rock of Israel” airlift launched at the end of year to bring 2,000 Ethiopian Jews home to Israel.

Then in December, Israel welcomed a group of 248 members of the Bnei Menashe tribe from northeast India, 49 of whom were sponsored by the ICEJ. They come from are a unique tribe of Chinese Jews who claim descent from the Israelite tribe of Menashe exiled from the Land of Israel by the Assyrians more than 2,700 years ago. One of these new immigrants is a prize-winning martial arts competitor who hopes to join the IDF and represent Israel in international matches.

Meantime, we also helped hundreds of other Jewish immigrants with the costs of two-weeks of self-quarantine in corona hotels required by the Israeli government. There also were hundreds of Jewish youths who arrived last year after participating in Jewish Agency pre-Aliyah preparatory programs, summer camps and weekend Aliyah fairs sponsored by the ICEJ. Plus, the ICEJ provided absorption assistance to hundreds of other needy Jewish immigrant families, such as those who needed computers for their children to take part in school classes from home.

The ICEJ is off to a good start in the new year 2021 as well! On the first day of January, the Christian Embassy funded another flight of 100 Ethiopian Jews who landed at Ben-Gurion Airport, plus we have another flight coming up in early February which is expected to bring at least 200 more immigrants from the ancient Ethiopian Jewish community.

Also in January this year, the ICEJ sponsored Aliyah flights for five more women from the Bnei Menashe community who arrived in Israel despite the country-wide lockdown. They are really a blessing for Israel, as many Bnei Menashe end up serving in elite IDF units or working in high-tech factories, while others become nurses, dental hygienists, social workers and rabbis.

So what an amazing beginning for this year as well!

Since we were founded in 1980, the Christian Embassy has been helping Jews return to Israel from every corner of the earth. In total, the ICEJ has assisted more than 160,000 Jews from over 35 countries to make Aliyah to Israel. This includes sponsoring flights, helping with ground transportation, accommodations, and other logistical support to attend Aliyah fairs, Aliyah summer camps, Aliyah seminars, consular visits, ulpan (Hebrew language) classes, and many other programs.

We also must recognize that it is Christians like you, from around the globe, who have made all this possible by being faithful to answer God’s prophetic summons in Isaiah 49:22: “See, I will beckon to the nations, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their hips.”

There are exciting days ahead as the Aliyah is expected to surge in 2021. Please consider a generous donation as we work together to gather the Jewish people back to the homeland and thereby hasten God’s purposes for Israel.

Give to the ICEJ’s Aliyah efforts today at: on.icej.org/aliyah 


 

Peace-of-mind for Ashkelon girls

Many thoughts run through one’s mind when thinking about Ashkelon. This ancient Mediterranean city is situated in southern Israel. Sadly, Ashkelon is within reach of terrorist rocket attacks from Gaza, and regrettably far too many times finds itself on the receiving end of these barrages.

Moving away from the beach-front, one notices that Ashkelon is home to many lower income families. A lot of these families feel insecure as they do not have a safe-room in their apartment, and when the red-alert siren sounds they need to run to the nearest shelter. Schools operating in the area are required to have bomb shelters for the children, otherwise they are not allowed to operate during heightened tensions. Knowing a shelter is nearby may be the only peace-of-mind that local parents have when sending their children off to school.

The ICEJ recently visited the AMIT Fred Kahane Technological High School in Ashkelon, which has a good reputation for dedicated students and advanced learning. During the 2014 Gaza war with Hamas, this school took a direct hit from a rocket attack, destroying the entrance and several classrooms. Thankfully, none of the children were at school that day, as the attack took place on a Shabbat. However, what happened is engraved in the community’s memory and has left a long-lasting mark on the school.

This national religious school has around 400 students, mostly boys. Recently, however, they started a separate girl’s program, allowing approximately 60 Orthodox girls to study separate from the boys in their own school complex. As the girls’ complex was being remodeled with new bathrooms and paving outside of the classrooms, the ICEJ heard about the urgent need for bomb-shelters on the premises.

Through the generous donations received from Christians in the USA and Switzerland, the ICEJ was able to install two bomb shelters at the new Ulpana religious girls’ complex. At the dedication ceremony for the new bomb shelters, Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President of Aid and Aliyah, had an opportunity to speak to the director of this new program and several of the girls. Nicole explained that the shelters were a gift from Christians who love and care about Israel, and wished them a blessed year ahead. The ICEJ plaque on the shelters will serve as a continuous reminder of this demonstration of love.

The school director thanked our donors for this incredible gift, adding that they take security very seriously and without such shelters, they would not have been able to open the new program for observant young girls at all. Nicole responded that “although they now have the option to run to the shelter, may it be that they won’t ever need to!” At least knowing that the shelters are there, helps them to relax more and focus on their studies.

Thank you for being involved and partnering with us in protecting the lives of those living under this constant threat of terror rockets. Over recent years, the ICEJ has been able to place more than 110 bomb shelters in vulnerable Israeli communities along the Gaza border, thanks to our generous donors.

Please consider a generous donation to help protect the vulnerable communities in Israel.

Expanding creativity for the children of Jisr az-Zirka

Situated just north of the beautiful historical Mediterranean town of Caesarea, is the coastal town of Jisr az-Zirka, a small fisherman’s village which is home to around 15,000 Israeli Arabs and some Bedouin.

Considered among the poorest Arab communities in Israel, with unemployment being magnified especially during this time of Coronavirus, many of those living in this town live below the poverty line, even struggling to obtain the basic essentials needed in life.

With the Coronavirus running rampant throughout Israel, and extended lockdown periods hindering children from attending school or day care facilities, the ICEJ was approached to urgently help this community. The need was to provide activity packs for young children forced to stay home and maintain social distancing. Relying on the social welfare department to determine the families in need, the ICEJ recently had the opportunity of donating funds for children’s activity packs for 100 families in Jisr az-Zirka.

Volunteers helped in distributing the activity packs to families where thrills of excitement shrieked through the air as the children jumped for joy at receiving their packs. Bags filled with creative goodies, educational items, and interactive activity materials, are sure to keep these young children – and even older family members -- entertained while keeping boredom at bay during the lockdown periods, which even at present, continue with schools and businesses closed.

In addition, as part of our mandate to encourage reconciliation between the various communities throughout Israel, the ICEJ is pleased to sponsor the “Good Neighbors Network” - a collaboration of Jews and Bedouins who dream up and facilitate joint projects for the benefit of both communities. Throughout the crisis, this network provided the essential framework for thousands of Bedouins living in unrecognized villages in the Eastern Negev to receive government distributed food packages and essential health information. As Debbie Golan, a member of the network shared with us, “Thank you so much! Your support strengthened our network and was (and is) critical for the aid to get to where it was most urgently needed. Without it, these Bedouin families simply would not have received essential help. We were there at the right time and the right place. Neither community would have succeeded in carrying out this project on their own.”

The ICEJ is so grateful for your donation support, which enable us to make a difference to the lives of all sectors of Israeli society. Please continue to help us impact the lives of others.

Donate today

ICEJ’s Aid Work in the Year Ahead

Going into the new year 2021, it was clear the entire world would still be struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, an ongoing crisis which poses a serious threat to our national economies. Now, the turmoil from the disputed US elections is exposing censorship and information control by big tech and corporate media outlets who are driven by a troubling globalist agenda.

Amid these rapid and concerning developments, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is as determined as ever to follow the Lord Jesus and to press on with our ministry of comfort to Israel and the Jewish people. Amazingly, we were able to do more last year in many areas of our ministry than ever before, thanks to our faithful and generous Christian supporters worldwide, and that gives us hope we can help even more people in Israel in 2021.

The ICEJ Aid & Aliyah department oversees most of the practical charitable and humanitarian projects we engage in year-round. As we look ahead to the coming year, our main projects will once more fall into four main categories:

1) Aliyah & Integration: Bringing new Jewish immigrants to Israel and helping them get settled in the Land of their forefathers, as promised in Scripture.

2) Israel in Crisis: Assisting Israelis during times of conflict, natural disaster or other crisis, such as during the current coronavirus pandemic.

3) Holocaust Survivors: An urgently needed outreach to some of the elderly Holocaust survivors in Israel who are struggling to make ends meet, most notably through our special assisted-living home in Haifa.

4) Giving a Future and a Hope: Aid projects which focus on helping the next generation of Israelis meet their potential, as well as assisting disadvantaged and impoverished families.

Often these aid categories overlap, such as our help for Holocaust survivors who are now having to remain in isolation due to the COVID-19 menace. Or our assistance to new immigrants in need, who must now quarantine upon arrival in Israel, and then may need help with computers for their children to attend school classes online.

In addition, many of our projects are focused on helping Israel’s minority communities – such as Arab Muslims and Christians, the Bedouin and the Druze. Our aid to these often-ignored sectors of society not only gives witness to the love of God for all peoples, but it also helps bring strength and reconciliation to the nation of Israel as a whole.

In some recent examples of our aid projects in the Arab sector, we distributed food baskets and other household items through Christian Arab churches in Nazareth and Bethlehem. The ICEJ also provided food coupons and computers for disadvantaged Muslim families in Arrabe. We helped upgrade equipment and furniture in a center for Arab Christian and Muslim youths-at-risk through social welfare authorities in Eilaboun. We also provided aid for Palestinian Arabs employed in Israel who were put on unpaid leave due to corona lockdowns – this was done in partnership with a Jewish religious center in Efrat. And in one more example, in 2020 the Christian Embassy provided gift packages and hygienic products to Arab and Bedouin communities to help them cope with the virus threat.

The Arab sector, along with the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Israel, have been hit the hardest by the coronavirus over the past year. They will still need much help in the months ahead, and the ICEJ plans to continue looking for ways to assist them as requests come in and we are able. In addition, we will stay focused on helping with social needs related to the economic challenges of families resulting from the corona crisis.

With your help, we know we can make a difference in many lives, and do so in a way which assures the people of Israel that Christians care for them.

Please continue to support our AID & Aliyah work in the new year 2021.
 

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ICEJ supports Israeli social entrepreneurs

The ICEJ is supporting aspiring women entrepreneurs in Israel through a special program which requires that they add a ‘social twist’ to their new business concept which will help others in need.

Over the past two years, the Christian Embassy has sponsored a course for 11 women business owners living in the periphery of Israel, to help them advance their businesses and provide additional income for their families. The course involved five classes which give each woman business and marketing tips, while also including a competition to see who can develop a social element into their business plan for the betterment of the community. Each female entrepreneur was assigned a mentor to help in the process.

Ayala, an immigrant from Russia who is a puppet theatre artist, won first prize – which included a grant of 10,000 Israeli shekels to help further develop her business. In Ayala’s puppet show, she shares her personal journey as a way to encourage other struggling new immigrants.

Ayala’s story
Ayala was born in Russia to a Jewish mother and a Christian father, who named her Olga.

“My grandmother was Jewish, but being called a Jew in Russia is not a compliment”, she told us. “My family did not want to reveal their Jewish identity.”

In Russia families are mainly defined by the father, therefore Olga was baptized and went to church. But when children at school started to call her a “Jew” and sometimes kicked her, Olga was in shock - she always had believed herself to be Russian. Only at age twelve did Ayala finally recognize and accept her Jewish heritage. It was during a visit with her grandmother, who had moved to Israel.

“I loved Israel and decided that I will live here, even if I have to come alone”, Ayala recalled.

At age 14, she did come to Israel on a youth study program – and indeed alone, because her family was falling apart.

A new life in Israel
Not having grown up in a religiously Jewish home, Ayala was not familiar with Jewish rituals. When offered the chance to study in Israel, she leapt at the opportunity. However, it came as a big surprise when she found herself unexpectedly sent to a religious school.

“They said I only need to wear a skirt and there are no boys, and that was it”, she recalled with a smile.

After arrival at the school, she found there was a lot more to being religious than wearing a skirt and learning in an all-girls setting.

“Suddenly I couldn’t have meat and cheese together on my bread or turn lights on and off on Shabbat”, she stated. “I did not know anything about Shabbat or kashrut, but I knew I had to start a new life. Once I was here and knew Hebrew, it was easier for my mom and brother to join me in Israel – which they eventually did.”

Unfortunately, the identity confusion did not end upon arrival in Israel. As “Olga, the Russian immigrant”, Ayala experienced exclusion. She was told: “You are Russian, go back to Russia.” Yet in Russia, she had been told, “You are Jewish”, and was not accepted as Russian either. It was in 11th grade that Olga decided not to be Russian anymore. She changed her name to “Ayala” and became religiously observant, although her family in Israel was not religious.

“It wasn’t easy, and I often felt alone”, she said.

Finding her place
After doing national service for a year, Ayala studied theatre at university and specialized in puppet theatre. Through sports, she also gained self-confidence.

“I realized that I am a special girl who speaks three languages, and who came to Israel alone”, she explained.

Today, she is married to a “native Israeli”, as she always dreamed, and has four beautiful children.

Thinking through her own experiences, the idea of her business was born. She named her puppet theatre “Ayalushka”, stressing her Russian heritage.

“I share my story and encourage immigrants that everything will be fine. The start is difficult; You often feel lonely and you need help, but in the end it is fine. Look at me!”, she smiled. “Israelis should also understand the challenges of immigrants and be able to connect with them. I thank God for bringing me here and for the good people who helped me and opened up to me.”

Please partner with us to support Israelis like Ayala, who use their skills and experience to strengthen Israeli society. Help us give them a Hope and a Future. Thank you!

Donate today

 

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