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Special Reports

Lifting the Domari People

Have you heard of the Domari people? They are a small tribe of Gypsies who made their way from India to the Middle East around 800 years ago, as opposed to the Romani people who migrated into Europe. Today, approximately 1,000 Domari live in a small Arab quarter within the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.

These Domari families consider themselves an ethnic minority living within a minority. Although they dwell among Arabs, they do not fully identify as Arabs. They also do not feel recognised as Israelis. Falling somewhere in-between, they find themselves often forgotten by society, which has made them a very close-knit and protective community. They have their own Domari language, which does not use an alphabet. Many of the children drop out of school at an early age and as a result, many are illiterate and uneducated.

When approached by Amoun Sleem, director of the Domari Community Centre in eastern Jerusalem, the ICEJ immediately sought ways to help this minority people struggling to survive during the Coronavirus pandemic. Although their needs are many, we promptly packed food boxes and provided food vouchers for delivery to dozens of Domari families through the community centre.

Walking into the very colorful facility, we were welcomed with Domari hospitality and offered fragrant sage tea and date biscuits. Amoun explained that as a child, she too dropped out of school early because she so often felt discriminated against. Wanting to make a difference for future generations, she started the community centre 20 years ago in her home. Together with Domari children, she learned to read and write. The centre eventually grew and moved into its current location in 2007.

With a focus on educational programs, the Domari centre is a place of hope for some 20 children from six years old upwards. The Dom children participate in after-school activities and are encouraged to persevere to complete their studies. They attend the centre from kindergarten through high school, and only when they graduate does the centre take on new children.

“Many of the children who have graduated, have gone on to complete university degrees or have found good careers,” Amoun said. She even recalls one child becoming a musician! The hope is that these children will continue to support their community as adults.

The Domari centre also provides adult literacy courses and empowers women in their small community. Many of the women are illiterate, downcast, often rejected by men, and dependent on substance abuse. They are taught to make typical Gypsy handicraft items, thereby preserving their culture. When the items are sold, it gives the women an income and helps them gain independence. The beautiful, bright and colorful handiwork is on display at the centre, including embroidered items, fabric painted cushion covers, jewelry, fabric bags, and many more creative works.

“We are so thankful to be able to offer support to the Domari Gypsies,” said Jannie Tolhoek from the ICEJ AID department.

“Thank you to the Christians for coming alongside to help our community”, responded Amoun.

Indeed, thank you to everyone who has supported the AID projects of the Christian Embassy, which are touching and lifting those at the lowest levels of Israeli society.

Please consider making a gift today.

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

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

Comforting Israel during Crisis and Conflict

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is currently marking the 40th anniversary since our ministry was established in September 1980 at the first public Christian celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. From the start, the founders of the ICEJ received a clear calling from Isaiah 40:1-2 that we were to be a “ministry of comfort” to Israel and the Jewish people.

As we reflect back over the past four decades, we see how God has used the Christian Embassy to comfort the Jewish people in many ways, especially in times of crisis and conflict. Here are brief accounts of some of Israel’s more difficult moments when Gentile mercy and favor upon Zion really stood out to the Israeli people.

1980-1983 – Menachem Begin and the ICEJ
An early test of the Christian Embassy’s resolve to stand with Israel came during “Operation Peace for Galilee” in summer 1982. Prime Minister Menachem Begin sent Israeli troops into southern Lebanon to protect the Galilee from PLO rockets and terror attacks. But the incursion soon embroiled Israeli forces in Lebanon’s dismal civil war. When the military campaign lost public support back home, Begin ordered a retreat. But early in the Lebanon operation, the ICEJ arranged a special bus tour for foreign journalists to visit the northern border area for a closer look at the conflict and its underlying causes. The fact-finding mission helped clarify certain realities about the situation which positively impacted some of the media reporting on the IDF’s reasons for entering Lebanon. ICEJ leaders also quietly liaised at the time between Israeli officials and leaders of the Lebanese Christian community. Later, when Begin resigned from office, the Christian Embassy sent him a letter of gratitude for his friendship, and for his endorsement of the ICEJ’s founding in 1980. In response, Begin wrote: “Your decision to establish your Embassy in Jerusalem at a time when we are being abandoned because of our faith was an act of courage and a symbol of the closeness between us. Your acts and gestures gave us the feeling that we were not alone.”

1991 – Responding to Iraqi Scuds
When the US-led coalition pushed Iraqi forces out of Kuwait during the First Gulf War in January 1991, Saddam Hussein fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel in a bid to break up the coalition and also scare off the mass influx of Soviet Jews then entering Israel. Several Scuds landed in Ramat Gan, next to Tel Aviv, damaging rows of apartments and leaving 5,000 Israelis homeless. Thanks to the ICEJ’s long-time Israeli liaison, Gen. Zvi Givati, the Embassy was first on the scene the next day with running suits, emergency kits and toiletries for the displaced families. Israel TV Channel One broadcast a feature report on our rapid response and the decision of our entire Embassy staff not to flee the country like the diplomatic corps had done.

1996 – Third Christian Zionist Congress
In February 1996, the ICEJ convened the Third International Christian Zionist Congress in Jerusalem during what turned out to be a brutal week of deadly suicide bombings across Israel, including a bus bombing just outside the Congress venue one hour before the meetings began. The Congress resolutions made front page news nationwide for their strong stand with Israel and condemnation of Islamic suicide terrorism. The Congress concluded with a prayer and solidarity march from the Great Synagogue to the Tower of David and finally to the Western Wall plaza.

2001 – ‘The Covenant’ Lifts Israeli Spirits
After the collapse of the Oslo talks, the Palestinians launched an armed intifada in September 2000. The escalating terror campaign claimed many lives on both sides, and many Israelis were growing despondent with the terror threat on every corner. But a talented Christian couple in Jerusalem, Robert and Elizabeth Muren, wrote a musical drama meant to lift the spirits of Israelis by recounting the story of God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises to Israel since Abraham. The ICEJ began producing the colorful biblical drama, entitled “The Covenant”, which debuted during the 2001 Feast. Quickly translated into Hebrew, the musical was seen by over 50,000 Israelis, including many soldiers and school children, while several world tours took the play to dozens of cities worldwide, including to Los Angeles for the Azusa Street Centennial in 2006.

The ICEJ took many other actions to bring comfort to Israelis in those difficult years of the second Palestinian intifada, such as donating a bullet-proof bus for school children in Efrat, and bomb-sniffing dogs for security forces across the country. Dozens of ICEJ branches also held public rallies worldwide to defend the Jewish state and people from a wave of rampant antisemitism cloaked as anti-Zionism. Meantime, a number of our European branches organized a symposium in the European Parliament in Brussels and successfully confronted the EU Commission on its policy of handing over foreign aid to the PLO in cash.

2006 – Relief During the Second Lebanon War
In summer 2006, northern Israel was pounded by over four thousand rockets launched by Hizbullah in the Second Lebanon War. The ICEJ responded by providing food for needy families and recreational escapes for children stuck in sweltering bomb shelters during the five weeks of conflict. In one memorable outing, several buses of Galilee youths were able to enjoy a day at a popular water park near Herzliya.

2008 – Bomb Shelters for Gaza Border Towns
For years, Israeli communities in the western Negev were suffering under the constant threat of rocket attacks by Hamas in neighboring Gaza. In response, the ICEJ began raising funds to place portable bomb shelters in the embattled city of Sderot, in partnership with Operation Lifeshield. With only 15 seconds to find safety once the sirens sound, the bomb shelters are a life-saving measure for these embattled Israelis. In the twelve years since, the Christian Embassy has now donated 110 reinforced bomb shelters to Israeli towns and villages along the Gaza border.

2009 – Relief for Israelis During Gaza Rocket War
In late December 2008, Israeli forces were finally ordered to confront Hamas over its increased rocket attacks. As tensions escalated, the ICEJ swiftly came to the aid of the besieged Israeli communities along the Gaza border. Our efforts in early 2009 enabled hundreds of battle-weary teens, seniors and low-income families from the Gaza periphery to enjoy quiet reprieves in the Galilee and Eilat, far away from the frontlines. Meanwhile, ICEJ branches around the globe staged mass rallies in their nations to support Israel’s right to defend its citizens from Hamas.

2010 – Branches Rally Over Gaza Flotilla
When Israel was widely condemned for intercepting the Gaza flotilla in May 2010, ICEJ branches around the globe organised rallies in support of Israel’s actions of self-defence. These included a rally of 35,000 Christians in Brazil, a march of 5,000 Christians in Finland, and a gathering of 4,000 Christians in Norway. Similar pro-Israel demonstrations were held in Canada, Czech Republic, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, and the USA, among other nations.

2012 – Defending Israel During Another Gaza War
In November 2012, Israel faced yet another rocket war with Hamas in Gaza, but this time the whole southern half of Israel was under fire, including Jerusalem. The ICEJ’s rapid response included providing food, clothing, first aid kits, blankets, toiletries, toys and games, and shelter to those most affected by the hostilities, while helping elderly Holocaust survivors relocate to safe housing in Haifa and Netanya. The ministry’s global network of national branches also leapt into action once again to advocate for Israel’s right to defend itself.

2014 – ICEJ Rallies Again During Third Gaza Conflict
In summer 2014, a third major rocket war erupted between Israel and Hamas along the Gaza border. During the 50-day conflict, the ICEJ delivered ten more portable bomb shelters to vulnerable communities, took groups of children and the elderly on respites to safer areas of the country, and sponsored a trip abroad for 40 youths from hard-hit Ashkelon. Meanwhile, numerous ICEJ branches rallied once more to defend Israel against the threat of Islamist terror.

2018 – Fire Equipment for Gaza Border Towns
As Israel marked its 70th anniversary in 2018, the Hamas regime in Gaza launched the “March of Return”, a series of daily violent protests along the border meant to break through the security fence and attack Israeli communities. Palestinian protesters eventually began launching incendiary balloons and kites with explosives to cause wildfires and other harm on the Israeli side. In response, the ICEJ and its Christian partners donated 18 all-terrain firefighting trailers and five specially designed ATVs to equip Israeli first responders with the means to effectively deal with the arson threat. The ICEJ also continued placing portable bomb shelters in the western Negev to protect local civilians.

These are just some of the instances when the ICEJ has been a timely source of comfort, encouragement and relief to Israelis caught in crisis and conflict. The ICEJ has proven again and again that Christians genuinely care for and support the Jewish state and people.

 

If you would like to learn more about the history and legacy of the ICEJ in standing with Israel, please check out our 40th Anniversary Journal today. You can order it at: icejstore.com

And make sure to join us for the upcoming online Global Feast of Tabernacles 2020. Learn more and register today at: feast.icej.org 

  

Preparing for a Feast Like No Other!

Late last year, the ICEJ began to prepare for the Feast of Tabernacles 2020, which would be special as it marks our 40th Anniversary. Yet little did we know then the impact COVID-19 would have on Israel and the entire world just a few months later. As Israel’s borders remained closed to tourism month after month, the ICEJ leadership sought the Lord on how to “keep the Feast”, as Zechariah 14:16 commands, even with the shutdowns and travel restrictions.

“If people cannot come to celebrate Sukkot with us in Jerusalem, we felt to broadcast the Feast from Jerusalem and make it available for viewing in every living room, church and nation”, said ICEJ President Dr Jürgen Bühler. “We quickly saw the opportunity with an online Global Feast to reach more people with more Feast content than we have ever offered before. This now will include seven daily live worship services from Jerusalem and over 80 seminar sessions, all featuring an anointed array of Israeli and international speakers and worship artists.”

See List of Feast Speakers 
See List of Feast Worship Artists 
See List of Feast Seminars

To bring this vision to pass, the ICEJ has been working with major Christian TV channels TBN and GOD TV, among other partners, and employed the skills of Israeli software experts to create an online conference platform which will not only take the Feast around the world, but also serve the ministry for years to come.

Taking it ‘Global’
What exactly does it look like to take Israel’s largest annual Christian gathering, which has attracted thousands of Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem from over 100 nations every year since 1980, and now adapt it to become a virtual, online event?

With Israel’s borders closed to foreign visitors this year, it fell on every department to shift the way we prepare for this Feast: From the TV team scouting venues and our social media team producing new virtual promotional content, to the contributions of ICEJ branches producing seminar videos in various languages, this Feast is truly a global collaborative effort.

Feast webinars recount Feast miracles
In another ‘first’ for Feast 2020, we have been hosting special local and international guests for a weekly Feast Webinar, streamed on ICEJ social media. These episodes have featured South African evangelist Angus Buchan, Egyptian worship leader Hossam Nabil, Hananya Naftali of the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, Apostle Alberto Magno from ICEJ-Bolivia, James Lunney and Adam Gabeli from Canada, and Jani Salokangas from ICEJ-Finland, and many others.

Local partners and hi-tech solutions
At the center of this transition to a virtual Feast is an online conference platform designed specifically for the ICEJ in cooperation with Sar-El Media, an Israeli production company operated by local believers. Once complete, the ICEJ will utilise this platform for future Feasts and other special events and initiatives as well, making our Israel-related content from Jerusalem more widely available than ever before!

Developing a platform like this from scratch in two months is a major feat. For this year’s Feast, we will be able to offer simultaneous translations of live events in 10 languages, plus additional language capabilities, making sure the content is widely available around the globe. The live shows plus the seminars and all other special content also can be viewed on demand through the end of 2020 (or October 2021, depending on your selected Feast package).

This year’s Feast also will feature virtual tours of Bible sites throughout Israel, as well as a 24/7 Zoom Virtual Prayer Room, with watches focusing on different language groups and regions of the world. If you would like to represent your nation during one of these prayer watches please contact ICEJ Prayer Coordinator Joshua Gooding at Joshua.gooding@icej.org.

Even with all the new and daunting challenges of producing this year’s Feast, its essence will remain the same. Believers from many nations will still gather together, albeit online, to worship the Lord and to keep this Feast of joy, of God’s faithfulness, and of the soon coming of Jesus.

We invite you to “appear in Zion” this year by joining us for the online Global Feast of Tabernacles 2020, as we all “Prepare the Way of the Lord!”

Register Today at: on.icej.org/FOT2020

 

 

 

  

Comforting Israel at the Feast

This month, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is marking the 40th anniversary since our ministry was founded at the first public Christian celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles in September 1980. The ICEJ was established with a clear calling from Scripture to be a ministry of comfort and blessing to the restored nation of Israel, based on the prophetic mandate of Isaiah 40:1-2.

“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; For she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”

As we look back over the past four decades, one of the remarkable ways God has used the Christian Embassy to comfort the Jewish people is through the Feast itself. Each year, thousands of Christian pilgrims have faithfully come up to Jerusalem to express their love and solidarity for the Jewish state and people. And some years have especially stood out for the way they have brought comfort to Israel in troubled times. As we recall a few of these very special moments at the Feast, we hope it will stir you to make sure to join us for this year’s online Global Feast 2020. [Learn more at: feast.icej.org]

Feast 1980 – Christian Embassy Founded in Solidarity with Israel
The ICEJ actually was birthed out of the first Feast of Tabernacles held in Jerusalem in September 1980. As the Feast organizing committee was preparing for this gathering that summer, a diplomatic storm erupted over the Israeli government’s declaration that reunited Jerusalem was the eternal capital of the Jewish state. By the time Christians showed up in Jerusalem for the Feast, the last 13 national embassies had left the city for Tel Aviv under the threat of an Arab oil embargo. In response, the Feast organizers quickly decided to establish a permanent expression of Christian support for Israel and its claim to Jerusalem. By the third day of that week-long biblical festival, a building was located to serve as the new “International Christian Embassy Jerusalem”. The city’s venerable mayor Teddy Kollek presided over the dedication ceremony, which was attended by 1,000 Christians from 32 nations. He described it as one of the most moving experiences in his entire life. And Israel’s chief rabbi Shlomo Goren blessed the Christian pilgrims with the traditional Feast greeting from Psalms 118:26 – “Blessed are those who come in the name of the Lord.”

Feast 1982 – Feast Grows to 5,000 Despite Lebanon War
Ahead of the third Feast in 1982, the event was moved to the large Jerusalem Convention Center, but ICEJ leaders did not expect a big crowd once the First Lebanon War broke out that summer. However, some 5,000 Christian pilgrims from nearly 100 nations showed up, many at the last minute, which gave a huge boost to the Israeli public – especially in the Jerusalem March. Israelis had held the traditional March through the streets of Jerusalem during Sukkot since the early 1970s, but by this time it was losing steam. In fact, the IDF said they had no budget for bringing troops to the city to join the March as usual, and the Jerusalem police preferred to be with their families during the holidays rather than on overtime duty guarding the March. So city officials were ready to cancel the Jerusalem March. Yet once our Christian delegations started joining the March, it became an attraction again. And in 1982, with the nation anxious about the fighting in Lebanon and facing heavy criticism abroad, thousands of friendly Christians marching through the streets of Jerusalem at Sukkot was an incredibly uplifting sight. Ever since, the Jerusalem March has become a very popular Feast event for Christian pilgrims and Israelis alike.

Feast 1991 – Record Crowd Despite Intifada
The first Palestinian intifada erupted in late 1987 and by 1991 it had taken a toll on Israeli tourism. In addition, that was the year of the First Gulf War, when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein fired dozens of Scud missiles at Israel, and everyone had to wear gas masks. Yet the 1991 Feast of Tabernacles drew a record crowd of nearly 8,000 participants. The Feast had become Israel’s largest annual tourist event – even in times of terror and rocket threats.

Feast 1996 – PM Netanyahu Delivers Key Message at ICEJ Feast
Just ahead of the 1996 Feast, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had authorized the opening of the Western Wall tunnel through a doorway onto the Via Dolorosa. Palestinian leaders used it as a pretext to incite violent protests, which left some 100 Palestinians and 25 Israeli soldiers dead. Once again, thousands of Christians showed up in Jerusalem for the Feast, despite the outbreak of hostilities. Under mounting international pressure to close the Western Wall tunnel, Netanyahu chose his appearance at that year’s Feast of Tabernacles to announce that the Hasmonean-era tunnel would remain open for tours, and the riots quickly subsided.

Feast 2000 – Packed Gathering Despite Palestinian Uprising
In late September 2000, Palestinian leaders launched an armed uprising against Israel following the collapse of the Oslo peace talks. Despite the raging violence in the Land, thousands of courageous Christians showed up at our Feast of Tabernacles just a few weeks later to express solidarity with Israel. The Embassy presented Mayor Ehud Olmert with a petition signed by more than 120,000 Christians from over 100 nations in support of a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. Israeli Opposition leader Ariel Sharon, who many were blaming for the outbreak of the “second intifada”, ended two weeks of media silence on the issue by coming to address the Feast gathering and to thank Christians for their support. “We regard you to be our best friends that we have around the world”, said Sharon.

Feast 2002 – Brave Pilgrims Encourage Israelis
The 2002 Feast was held during the peak of the armed Palestinian uprising, which had chased away nearly all foreign tourism to Israel. However, more than 2500 Christians showed up for the Feast that year. When a suicide bomber slipped into Jerusalem to target our Feast pilgrims in the Jerusalem March, all the major world media were on hand expecting a significant terror incident. But our national delegations bravely marched anyway, and the demonstration of support and courage not only touched Israelis, but also gained respect from the global press. “Through the streets of Jerusalem, a powerful movement, marching for the Jewish state”, a CNN reporter said in his coverage of the Feast broadcast worldwide.

Feast 2014 – Pais Arena Filled Despite Gaza Rocket War
The Feast of 2014 was the first international gathering in the spacious new Jerusalem Pais Arena. The move to the just-completed facility required faith as it was not sure if the Arena would be finished in time. In addition, there was some uncertainty just how many Christians would come to the Feast, since there was a prolonged rocket war with Hamas in Gaza that summer which saw Jerusalem also targeted for the first time. But the crowds of Christians came once more from all over the world to express their love and concern for Israel. That year, the Embassy welcomed on stage Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder, 25 pro-Israel parliamentarians from 17 nations, and 300 IDF troops who had just fought in the Gaza conflict.

These are just some of the instances when the ICEJ’s Feast celebration proved to be a timely comfort and encouragement to Israelis, even when Jewish people were afraid to visit the country. It has proven over and over again that we are not just fair weather friends, but genuine and caring supporters of the Jewish state and people.

No doubt, if Israel would allow foreign guests into the country right now, thousands would come despite the Coronavirus outbreak. But for the first time, we will all have to celebrate the first from our own countries. Yet you can “appear in Zion” this Sukkot by joining us for the online Global Feast 2020. You will be blessed by the powerful preaching and anointed worship experience, and you will enable us to bless and comfort Israel once more this Feast of Tabernacles.

Learn more about this year’s Feast and register today at: feast.icej.org
 

 

  

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 
 

The Christian role in the great Ingathering of Israel

Since our founding in 1980, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem has assisted nearly 160,000 Jewish people in making Aliyah to Israel. That represents more than ten percent of the Jews who have made the journey home to Israel in the past four decades. They are coming from the north, south, east and west – just as the Bible promised.

These Aliyah efforts were largely done in close cooperation with the Jewish Agency for Israel, a unique quasi-governmental organization which has overseen Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel since even before the state was founded in 1948. Last week, JAFI chairman Isaac Herzog hosted ICEJ President Dr Jürgen Bühler in his offices to talk about the history of the organization and its work with Christians to help Jews returning to the land of their forefathers.

Herzog recounted that it was actually the League of Nations in 1922 which mandated that a “Jewish agency” be created to help secure the Jewish homeland. This agency was to represent Jewish interests in the Land of Israel, on behalf of both those living there as well as Jews still in the Diaspora.

“We have brought in almost 4 million new olim – Jews immigrating back home”, explained Herzog. “Last year, we brought in 35,000 from 45 countries. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we only have had 3,500 from about 25 countries. Yet the engine of Aliyah goes on and on and on, and this is our main mission.”

“That’s interesting”, said Dr Bühler. “We have sponsored flights for 1,350 of those Jewish immigrants this year. So that’s over one-third of the new arrivals in 2020.”

“I respect the Christian Embassy for the great work you are doing. Thank you”, Herzog responded.

Herzog stressed the strategic importance of working with the ICEJ and other Christian groups to fulfill the prophetic Return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland.

“I believe the Christian world has a major role to play in bringing about the fulfillment of the [biblical] prophecies”, Herzog stated. “And we are grateful to kind Christians who support the idea of bringing Jews back to their ancient homeland and in the Ingathering of the exiles.”

That Christian assistance is going to be more important than ever, Herzog added, since the Jewish Agency is forecasting a huge wave of Aliyah ahead. In fact, they expect as many as 250,000 Jews to move to Israel over the next three to five years, as the Corona crisis eases.

“From the beginning of this year, we had almost 100,000 phone calls inquiring about Aliyah”, Herzog said. “Much of this 400% rise in interest in Aliyah came from North America, and we have a rise in requests for Aliyah coming from all over the world. We are working with the Israeli government to complete a national plan for the next five years to meet this challenge.”

When Herzog described how he believes Christians have a major role to play in the Ingathering of the Jewish exiles, this thought comes straight from the pages of Scripture. Indeed, the prophet Isaiah foresaw a time when God would “beckon to the nations” to “bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their hips.” (Isaiah 49:22-23)

Indeed, we are invited to partner with God in the modern-day restoration of Israel. This has been a core mission of the Christian Embassy for forty years now, and it has not stopped during the COVID crisis. We are still bringing Jews home to Israel every week, and we invite you to be a part of this prophetic work by joining our “Rescue250” campaign.

The Rescue250 campaign is a challenge to Christian supporters of Israel around the globe to partner with the ICEJ in keeping up our current pace of flying at least 250 Jews home to Israel each month. With most global travel halted, these “evacuation flights” are bringing Jews caught in desperate circumstances due to Corona. Many had already quit their jobs and left their apartments expecting to move to Israel and then Corona hit and left them in limbo. So this is both a prophetic mandate and a humanitarian mission, and we welcome your generous help in bringing them home to Israel as soon as possible.

Give to our Rescue250 campaign today at: on.icej.org/rescue250

 

  

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.

 

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