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Special Reports

Comforting Israel Through Aliyah

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is currently marking 4o years 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.

In looking back over the past four decades, we can see how God has used the Christian Embassy in many ways to comfort Israel, including through our efforts to bring the Jewish people back to their ancient homeland. The ICEJ has helped the Jewish exiles come home because the Hebrew prophets promised that God would use Gentiles to gather His people back to the Land of Israel in the last days (for example, see Isaiah 49:22-23). It is also back in the Land where the Lord has promised to pour out His Spirit upon the Jewish people (for example, see Ezekiel 36 & 37).

Here are highlights of the ICEJ’s Aliyah efforts over the past 40 years.

1981 – The ‘Mordechai Outcry’
During the 1980s, the Soviet Union refused to allow Jews to emigrate to Israel. In 1981, just months after our founding, the ICEJ responded by launching the “Mordechai Outcry” campaign, a series of demonstrations by Christians in numerous world capitals to protest the plight of Soviet Jewry, under the slogan: “Let My People Go!” By the end of the decade, the Iron Curtain was falling and hundreds of thousands of Jews began to flood home to Israel.

 

1984 – ICEJ Pioneers Aliyah and Absorption Efforts
By the mid-1980s, the ICEJ became increasingly involved in assisting Jews quietly making the journey home to Israel, mainly from behind the Iron Curtain. Even during the 1970s, Dr. Ulla Järvilehto, founder of the ICEJ’s Finnish branch, already was supporting Christian-run hospitality centers in Budapest and Vienna which helped Soviet Jews emigrating through the only route open to the West at the time. ICEJ branches in Germany and the Netherlands joined these Finnish Christian efforts in 1984, and soon the ICEJ headquarters in Jerusalem fully committed the whole movement to assisting with the Aliyah and Absorption of Jews in Israel. Over the decade of the 1980s, the ICEJ assisted more than 60,000 Russian Jewish immigrants to Israel with food, clothes, shoes, toiletries and other essentials items.

 

1989 – Gates Open for Exodus of Soviet Jews
By late 1989, the Soviet Communist bloc was on the brink of collapse, as symbolised by the fall of the Berlin Wall. With the breach of the Iron Curtain, the gate swung open for a massive Jewish exodus from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. There were no direct flights allowed yet between the Soviet republics and Israel, but members of the ICEJ-Finnish branch worked with Jewish leaders to open an early route of Aliyah from the St. Petersburg area, by bus to the Helsinki airport, and on to Israel. Other routes began to open as well, and tens of thousands of Soviet Jews began to pour into Israel, where the ICEJ was already starting to help them with practical aid.

 

1990 – ICEJ’s First Aliyah Flight
With the collapse of Soviet Communism, thousands of Russian-speaking Jews began pouring into Israel in the early 1990s. ICEJ branches in Germany and Finland quickly offered the Jewish Agency to pay for a flight of Soviet Jews. On 28 May 1990, a specially chartered flight funded by ICEJ and carrying several hundred Russian Jews landed at Ben-Gurion Airport. This was the first Aliyah flight fully sponsored by Christians and thus it stands as a unique milestone for our ministry. In the thirty years since, the Christian Embassy has funded hundreds of direct flights for Jews coming home to Israel. Counting other means of immigration assistance, the ICEJ has now helped nearly 160,000 Jews in making the journey home to Israel. This includes Jews from Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Belorussia, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Czech Republic, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Moldova, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uzbekistan and Venezuela, among others.

 

1990 – Opening of Soviet Jewry Department
With so many Russian-speaking Jews flooding into Israel, there was a growing need to help them get settled in the Land. When a young believer in Jerusalem collected shekels on Ben Yehuda street with a coffee can and brought it to the Embassy for new immigrants, this inspired ICEJ leaders to establish a special “Soviet Jewry Department” to assist Jewish immigrants with absorption into Israeli society. Long lines of Russian Jewish families soon formed every week outside the Christian Embassy’s headquarters at 10 Brenner Street to receive assistance with food, dental work, eyeglasses, school books, clothing, shoes, and other necessities.

 

1991 – Medical Aid for Ethiopian Jews
In May 1991, Israel took in nearly 15,000 Ethiopian Jews in a 36-hour emergency airlift code-named “Operation Solomon”. When many were found to have leprosy and other serious medical problems, Israel’s Foreign Ministry asked if the ICEJ could locate a doctor who spoke the Amharic language to treat these new immigrants. Dr. Campbell Millar and his wife Fern had served many years on a medical mission in Ethiopia, and they agreed to come on staff to treat Ethiopian patients. At the same time, the Finnish Parliament donated a mobile medical clinic to the ICEJ, which we used for the next decade to treat Ethiopian Jews, as well as many Bedouin communities in the Negev.

 

1992 – Sponsoring ‘Exobus’
The ICEJ began ground operations in 1992 to assist Jews in the former USSR to reach airports for flights to Israel. At first, the “Exobus” program brought Jews by bus to Budapest and Warsaw for flights to Israel. As more direct flights became available, Exobus also transported them from Ukraine and Eastern Europe to airports in Kiev and Odessa. Overall, the ICEJ assisted more than 35,000 Jewish immigrants via Exobus in the 1990s. And our Swiss branch began sending van convoys to these regions every month to transport Jews to airports on their way to Israel.

 

 

 

 

1992 – Dramatic Rescue in Moldova
When Jews were caught in the crossfire of a regional conflict in Moldova in 1992, the Jewish Agency asked the ICEJ to help evacuate them from danger. Despite the serious risks, ICEJ-sponsored bus teams passed through rival checkpoints in the war-torn Trans-Dniester region and over a three week period extracted some 400 Jewish refugees for transport on to Israel.

 

1998 – ‘Fishing’ and Transport For Russian Jews
After opening an Aliyah office in St. Petersburg in 1996, the ICEJ began to expand its “fishing” and other Aliyah efforts throughout the vast reaches of the former Soviet Union. In 1998, the Embassy initiated the ‘Far Distant Cities’ program to help Jewish families moving to Israel from Siberia and other remote areas of Russia. The ICEJ also donated two buses for transporting Jews from the Central Asian republics to airports and on to Israel.

 

2000 – Aliyah of Kaifeng Jews

In the year 2000, the ICEJ brought home to Israel (via Finland) the first family to make Aliyah from the Kaifeng Jewish community. A Christian Embassy delegation located the remnant of the once thriving Chinese Jewish community in the historic capital city of the ancient kingdom.

 

 

2011 – Assisting Ethiopian Aliyah
A year of drought and political turmoil forced Israel in 2011 to speed up the return of the last remnant of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. In August of that year, the ICEJ sponsored its first Aliyah flight from Ethiopia. In more recent years, the Christian Embassy has brought some 2,200 more Ethiopian Jews on Aliyah flights to Israel, while also expanding our previous efforts to assist the Ethiopian community already in Israel. In 2019, ICEJ AID director Nicole Yoder completed a master’s thesis detailing steps needed to improve Ethiopian integration into Israeli society.

 

2012 – Bringing Home the Bnei Menashe
After years of delay, Israeli officials finally agreed in 2012 to resume the Aliyah of the Bnei Menashe community in northeast India, who claim descent from the ‘lost’ tribe of Menashe. The ICEJ sponsored its first Aliyah flight for the Bnei Menashe in December of that year, and in the time since has brought over 1,000 members of this ancient Israelite community home.

 

2014 – Rescuing Ukrainian Jews From Conflict
In 2014, a bitter civil war broke out in eastern Ukraine sparked by pro-Russian separatists. When the fighting threatened Jewish communities in the region, the ICEJ funded emergency flights to bring hundreds of endangered Ukrainian Jews to Israel. The ICEJ also started bringing more Jewish immigrants from the West to Israel around this time, including from France and Sweden where they were facing threats from radical Muslims.

 

2019 – New Milestone in Aliyah of 150,000 ‘Olim’
At Feast 2019, the ICEJ celebrated a new milestone of assisting more than 150,000 Jews in making Aliyah to Israel since our founding in 1980. Most have come from the former Soviet Union, but we also are assisting Jews from Europe, North and South America, Ethiopia, India and China, among other regions. Last year, Keren HaYesod honoured the Christian Embassy with its annual Yakir Award in recognition our long record of supporting and befriending Israel, most notably by funding Aliyah and Absorption projects of the Jewish Agency.

 

2020 – Embassy Flies Jews Home Despite Corona
As the Corona crisis grounded most international flights in 2020, the ICEJ has still been able to bring almost 1400 Jewish immigrants on Aliyah flights to Israel between February and July. Most came from Russia, Belarus and Ethiopia. Based on this remarkable success, the Embassy launched the ‘Rescue250’ campaign, challenging Christians to help us keep up the pace of bringing at least 250 Jews home per month while COVID-19 was still impacting the world. And in the latest development, the ICEJ is currently raising funds to assist with the 2,000 Ethiopian Jews that the Israeli government has just decided to bring home by the end of this year.

 

 

 

 

Please consider what you can do to help with our current Aliyah initiatives:

1) By supporting our Rescue250 campaign, you will be helping bring Jews home primarily from the former Soviet republics. Donate at: on.icej.org/rescue250

2) By supporting our Ethiopian Aliyah efforts, you will be helping with flights for Jews coming from transit camps in Addis Ababa and Gondar, many of whom have been stuck in these camps for over 20 years. Donate at: icej.org/ethiopia

Finally, 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


 

  

Send your Feast Offering to Jerusalem!

The Feast of Tabernacles is just around the corner, and the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is preparing for a very special online Global Feast 2020.

Ever since our Tabernacles celebration was launched in 1980, many of our Feast pilgrims have discovered the blessing of bringing a special offering to present before the Lord in Jerusalem at Sukkot, just as the ancient Israelites were commanded to do (Deuteronomy 16:16). Each year at this time, Christians from many nations have come up to Jerusalem with their Feast offerings in hand, to express gratitude to God for His faithfulness and provision in their daily lives. And we have heard testimony after testimony of how God has blessed and rewarded them far beyond what their own hands could produce.

In this year of crisis, Christians from the nations will not be able to join us here in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. But you can still turn this into a year of blessing and harvest for you and your family. We recently heard from our branch in Costa Rica about the first person to register for this year’s online Feast. This sister had lost her job due to COVID-19, and she could not really afford the registration. But she planted a seed of faith, trusting God to provide in the midst of a crisis, just as Isaac sowed in a year of famine and “reaped that same year a hundredfold” (Genesis 26:1, 12).

Please prayerfully consider making this a year of sowing in faith and reaping in abundance, by putting a generous seed into the land of Israel through our Feast offering. We believe there is a special blessing appointed just for you in giving out of obedience and a grateful heart at this time!

Your special gift to the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem will help us give a strong Christian witness to the people of Israel at this difficult time. The ICEJ has more ministry opportunities before us right now than ever before, whether it is bringing Jews on Aliyah flights to Israel, assisting Holocaust survivors and other elderly Israelis, providing life-saving bomb shelters for communities under rocket attack, or meeting many of the other urgent needs in Israel. And we encourage you to stand with us by sowing your seed in the fertile soil of Israel’s restoration. There is a great harvest ahead for Israel, and for you!

And make sure to join us for this year’s online Global Feast 2020, live from Jerusalem. REGISTER today at: on.icej.org/FOT2020
 

 


 

  

Spreading a Little Holiday Joy!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feast Testimonies from the Nations!

Although Christians could not come to Jerusalem in person for our annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration in early October, the ICEJ’s innovative online Global Feast reached its largest audience ever, with many attending hundreds of Sukkot gatherings and watch parties in dozens of countries worldwide. The testimonies we have received from Feast viewers around the world indicate the online gathering truly had a global impact, as many were touched and even healed by the Lord, strengthened by the worship and preaching of the Word, and inspired to stand with Israel.

The ICEJ’s online Feast in early October featured seven daily live programs from Jerusalem, which were broadcast to large audiences on GOD TV, Daystar, Vision Norway and other Christian TV networks worldwide. Plus another 7,500 Christians from 109 nations accessed the Feast through our online platform. Finally, hundreds of churches also hosted Sukkot celebrations and watch parties linked to our live daily Feast broadcasts from Jerusalem. These Sukkot gatherings drew crowds ranging from small groups in underground churches in China and Iraq to several thousand in large churches in Bolivia and the Ivory Coast. This all means the total audience for this year’s online Global Feast was in the hundreds of thousands – the largest we have ever reached.

In many of these places, the organizers not only screened the daily Feast broadcasts for their local attendees, they also built and decorated sukkah booths, waved palm branches, blew shofars, invited their own speakers and worship leaders for extended services, prayed, sang Hatikvah, and took up offerings for ICEJ projects in Israel.

Two of of the largest Feast celebrations drew several thousand believers each in Bolivia and Ivory Coast, and they quickly became gatherings to pray and intercede for Israel and their own countries.

In China, one small congregation sent us video clips of 30 believers who had joined together for a Sukkot service and to watch the Feast on cell phones. It was very touching given the monitoring of church activities in China and the hurdles they needed to overcome to be able to watch religious programming from abroad.

A prayer group in Iraq also held a Sukkot gathering, and when we recognized their national flag for attending the Feast, ten Iraqi believers were so thrilled they immediately registered as individuals for the online Feast.

In India, a number of churches and ministries held daily Feast watch parties, including a large fellowship in Chennai. ICEJ-India national director Pastor Danny (Meka Padmo Rhea) reports that many were inspired for the first time to stand with Israel, and that many people received healings.

In the Philippines, a Feast daily watch party was hosted at the Mt Moriah Prayer Mountain which drew around two hundred people each day over the course of the week. This included dozens of local pastors with little prior interest in Israel. After watching the opening live show from Jerusalem on the first day of the Feast, the gathering quickly was transformed by the Holy Spirit into an unplanned, round-the-clock seven-day prayer vigil for their nation and for Israel. The prayer vigil was notable for the number of pastors who came to join in after hearing of what God was doing and the unity among them for reaching their region and country for the Lord. Healings were also reported at the meetings.

“Praise God for the work of the Holy Spirit,” wrote ICEJ-Philippines national director Pastor Steve Mirpuri. “God is indeed boosting the ministry of the ICEJ.”

Aaron Wright of ICEJ-Liberia sent photos of a large, enthusiastic Sukkot gathering in Monrovia which also staged a march through the streets of the capital to express love and support for Israel.

In Singapore, ICEJ national director Jehu Chan reported that the daily watch parties introduced the Feast of Tabernacles to many new people, and he could sense the gatherings had expanded the reach of our ministry in their nation.

ICEJ-Portugal national directors Antonio and Carla Melo delivered a glowing praise report on behalf of several Portuguese-speaking countries, saying: “We still cannot find enough words to thank and congratulate all that made this so unique and outstanding Feast happen, invading nations, cities, congregations, families and hearts with the Word of the Living God, [and] the vision of Zion.”

In Denmark, a Christian youth group took part in a large Feast watch party and were introduced to the ICEJ and the biblical reasons for supporting Israel for the first time.

In Papua New Guinea, ICEJ representative Peter Harut sent a report and photos of dozens of Christians attending the daily watch parties arranged by his branch and giving to the work of our ministry.

In Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Elizabeth Hynde shared that several Feast watch parties drew fifty people or more. “The opening desert experience was out shone by the Parade of Nations, and praying for the nations (from the Southern Steps to the Temple) was superb,” she said.

In South Africa, ICEJ branch leaders Vivienne and Marc Myburg and other supporters arranged well-attended daily watch parties all across the country, including in East London, George, Paarl and Vanderbijlpark. They were especially thrilled by the Feast worship sessions of native South African singer Trevor Sampson and the teachings by evangelist Angus Buchan.

We also received photos, videos and reports from Feast celebrations and watch parties in many other places, such as Albania, Brazil, Canada, Central African Republic, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Fiji, Finland, Gabon, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Macedonia, Mexico, Norway, Samoa, Taiwan, United Kingdom, the USA, and many, many more. See more photos here.

YOU CAN STILL ENJOY THE FEAST
All the Feast content – including the seven live shows, 100+ seminars, 25 virtual tours, the worship afterglows, Garden Tomb Communion service and more – will remain available on our conferencing platform well into next year. Our $99 and $149 premium Feast packages are still available for purchase, giving you full access until next October 2021, plus special gifts from our online shop. See more at: on.icej.org/FOT2020

 

  

Shielding northern Israel’s vulnerable border towns

Within four kilometers of Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, the village of Hurfeish is home to a mix of Israeli Druze and Christians. The Druze minority are exceptionally loyal to Israel and consider it a great honor to serve in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Many continue in security professions after completing their service with the IDF.

While the Druze and Christian residents of Hurfeish live in peaceful coexistence, the community does face a serious external threat. They live under the constant fear that Hezbollah terrorists operating freely on the Lebanese side of the nearby border will decide to fire rockets into Israel, with Hurfeish right in the line of fire! They literally have seconds to find shelter.

Israel’s entire northern border region is hilly, forested terrain dotted with picturesque villages like Hurfeish. The area is home to around 250,000 residents – an ethnic mosaic of Jewish, Druze and Arab Christian towns and farming communities. One thing they all have in common is a lack of adequate bomb shelters for the local inhabitants.

During a recent spike in tensions with Hizbullah across the border, local council heads learned that the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem had placed over 110 portable bomb shelters in Israeli communities along the volatile southern border with Gaza. So they invited an ICEJ delegation to visit the area and consider donating shelters in the North as well.

After assessing the need, the ICEJ decided that Hurfeish would be the first village to receive shelters. The heartbeat of Hurfeish is its community cultural center. Usually a hive of activity, it is comprised of an outdoor sports complex and the indoor community center which hosts public events, daily activities, and educational courses. Through the generous donations received from our Christian supporters, the ICEJ recently was able to place two bomb shelters at the facility, giving peace of mind to those who use and enjoy it.

Unfortunately, the delivery of the bomb shelters was not without incident. As the truck carrying the two heavy portable bomb shelters made its way through the hills on the way up to Hurfeish, the driver had to break and swerve to avoid a motorcyclist who suddenly cut in front of him. The biker was spared any harm, but the truck’s heavy load – each shelter weighing 23 metric tons - went flying into a nearby field! Thankfully, no one was injured, but the shelters were now flat on their sides.

A police investigation ensued, while an independent engineer examined the shelters for structural damage. To our relief, the damage was only cosmetic, confirming the resilience of these shelters to protect lives! After repainting the bomb shelters, they soon were re-loaded onto a truck and safely delivered to the eagerly awaiting Hurfeish community.

Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President of Aid and Aliyah, was thrilled to finally see the shelters in place next to the cultural center and the adjacent sports field, complete with dedication plaques crediting ICEJ-Germany for the donations that made it possible.

Hurfeish also has a village church where local Arab Christians congregate and participate in activities. The ICEJ hopes to embark on a second project in this village, which will see additional shelters being installed at other defenseless sites.

The need remains acute, as Lebanon is in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis due to Hizbullah’s misuse of public funds, and some analysts believe the Shi’ite terror militia may seek to extricate itself by starting a war with Israel. The IDF is holding a large training exercise this very week to prepare for such a conflict, but the local residents need more time to install shelters.

A recent State Comptroller report warned that 2.6 million residents of northern Israel do not have access to functional bomb shelters. The need is most acute in the towns right along the border, where shorter range rockets cannot be stopped by the IDF’s Iron Dome batteries. These villages are desperately looking for funding to provide better protection for their communities, and the ICEJ is grateful for our friends worldwide who are enabling us to offer them these urgently-needed bomb shelters.

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

Worth the Wait: One Family’s Delayed Journey to Israel

This has been a most unusual and exciting year for the ICEJ in our Aliyah efforts. Despite the Coronavirus travel bans, we have been able to sponsor Aliyah flights to Israel for nearly 1,500 Jews – the most in a single year since the 1990s, and the year is not over yet! This includes 268 Ethiopian Jewish immigrants, and the rest from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

The Aliyah from the North is continuing every week. And now, the Israeli government has approved plans to bring another 2,000 Ethiopian olim over coming months, and the Jewish Agency has requested our assistance in sponsoring their journey home.

Here is the story of one of the families we recently brought on an Aliyah flight to the Land of Israel.

Dmitry and Alexandra Tyrtyshny, and their son Svyatoslav, came to Israel from Russia on an ICEJ-sponsored flight on August 31. Just a couple years ago, Alexandra was ready to make Aliyah with her son, but then a delightfully unexpected event happened. She met her future husband, and he was ready to follow her to a new life in Israel. It took over a year to arrange everything for the move to Israel. Yet despite the Corona crisis, they were able to take this important step in their lives with the help of the Christian Embassy, partnering with the Jewish Agency.

“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to move away from Samara, my home city. I lived with a dream to go somewhere, I even had the idea of going to China to work there as an English teacher,” said Alexandra. “But when I found out about my pregnancy, naturally the attempt ‘to conquer the world’ had to be postponed,” she explained.

After the birth of her son, Alexandra faced an unpleasant turn of events when she became divorced from her husband. Afterwards, she devoted herself to caring for her child and the dream of moving had to be put on hold. Then she remembered her Jewish roots and realised: “Where else will I be welcomed as if I was coming home? Only in Israel!”

By this time, Svyatoslav was two years old and he had a year left before enrolling in pre-kindergarten. “I had a whole year ahead of me to find out all the details regarding my opportunities in Israel,” she recalled.

Alexandra had already visited Israel through the Taglit-Birthright program and began to study Hebrew, but there was still much to learn and plan. Then in the midst of her planning, change came again.

“During the year I had planned to make Aliyah, I found Dmitry, a loving husband and a wonderful father for my son!” shared Alexandra. “But it meant our move was postponed for another year.”

Even though Israel is ready to accept Jews with their non-Jewish spouses, the couple must live a year in marriage before getting approved for Aliyah. During that year, Alexandra with her husband studied Hebrew, prepared documents, and thought about things they would take with them to Israel.

“The most difficult thing was probably to convince our parents that we wanted to make our lives better, not worse,” recounted Alexandra. “For them, Israel is another world, full of problems and dangers, into which they were not ready to release their children.”

There were many obstacles in their way while making Aliyah, including the Coronavirus pandemic. “We had already begun to fear. Do we really have to postpone our dream again, for an indefinite period?” Alexandra confided. “But no virus could scare us. The Jewish Agency, the Israeli Embassy, the Ministry of Integration, and all who are involved in our Aliyah, they were all there to help!” she stated. “And now our dreams have come true!”

After making Aliyah on the ICEJ-sponsored flight, Alexandra and her family stayed at a special quarantine hotel in Israel, which gave her time to look back on her recent journey in life.

“As we reflect on the path we have traveled and try to imagine our future here, Israel is a country that made the impossible possible to bring us here,” said Alexandra. “We will have six months to learn the language and at the same time create new dreams and make new plans!”

There are many more Jewish families with dreams to come home to Israel, and they need our help as well. The Ethiopian Aliyah has become especially urgent, as hundreds are expected to start coming on flights in early December. But it will only be possible if Christians like you join with us in bringing them back to the Promised Land.

So please give your best gift today to support the ICEJ’s Aliyah efforts.

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 

  

 

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