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A Milestone in Aliyah

At the Feast of Tabernacles 2019, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem also celebrated reaching a new milestone in its Aliyah efforts, as the ICEJ has now assisted more than 150,000 Jews to make the journey home to Israel since our founding in September 1980.

In modern times, some 3.6 million Jews have returned to the Land of Israel from all over the world – from the north, south, east and west – in literal fulfilment of biblical promises. For example, a massive wave of over one million Soviet Jews have made their way home to Israel ever since the collapse of the Iron Curtain exactly thirty years ago in October 1989. In response, the ICEJ was there to help with this historic Ingathering, not only from Russia but from many other regions of the world as well.

The ICEJ has engaged in a wide variety of Aliyah efforts, working closely with the Jewish Agency for Israel and other partners to help with the Jewish return to the Land of Israel. As of October 2019, the ICEJ has provided substantial assistance to more than 150,000 Jews making the journey home to Israel. That represents more than ten percent of the Jews who have made Aliyah over the past four decades.

In addition to these Aliyah figures, the Christian Embassy has also provided generous assistance towards Absorption projects that have helped tens of thousands of new Jewish immigrants settle into their new homes and integrate into Israeli society.

Meet the New Immigrants
To mark the occasion, the Christian Embassy invited forty of our recent olim (new immigrants) to attend the traditional Israeli Guest Night during the Feast of Tabernacles. This included individuals or families from Belarus, Brazil, China (Kaifeng Jews), Colombia, Ethiopia, France, India (Bnei Menashe), Russia, South Africa, and the Ukraine.

The 150,000th oleh assisted by the ICEJ is Danyl Godim, a medical doctor from Ukraine who made Aliyah in 2019 with his wife Ana, a nurse, and their two children.

Their son Elia, 16, came ahead of the family on the Naale youth pre-army program supported by ICEJ. The parents and younger daughter Oliana, 10, came on the Jewish Agency's “Profession for a New Life” program for medical doctors, also supported by ICEJ. Thanks to this unique program, Danyl will receive his license to practice medicine in Israel in less than a year.

Danyl and his wife decided to make Aliyah because they feel Israel is their true
home and here they can give their children a better future.

“We are grateful for all the assistance we have received, and could not have made Aliyah without it”, said Danyl. “We now want to begin giving back – me as a doctor, Ana as a nurse, and Elia as a soldier in the Israeli army.”

“I really have a hope that my family will find a good future and a good education here”, added Ana. “And I’m really thankful so much for everyone who helped us. I’m talking now about not only [money], not only about some food, it’s also about moral support.”

An Array of Aliyah Efforts

Over the past forty years, the types of Aliyah assistance provided by the ICEJ have included:

• Sponsoring flights to Israel for Jews making Aliyah.
• Offering grants to needy Jewish families moving to Israel.
• Providing transport by bus, train and other means to the airport for Aliyah flights.
• Paying for travel, lodging and other expenses for Jews to complete their documentation with the Jewish Agency.
• Providing special medical care and ambulance service for the handicapped on their way to Israel.
• Organizing ‘fishing’ efforts, such as concerts, seminars and mobile exhibits, to locate Jewish communities and encourage their move to Israel.
• Sponsoring Aliyah seminars and camps organized by the Jewish Agency for Israel.
• Funding Hebrew language classes and computer courses for young Russian Jews preparing to make Aliyah.
• Sponsoring Aliyah Fairs, ‘Red Carpet’ welcomes, and other events for Jewish immigrants just arriving in Israel.

Main Routes of Aliyah
Meanwhile, the ICEJ’s main routes of Aliyah have included:

St. Petersburg-Helsinki: The ICEJ’s first major route of Aliyah was through St. Petersburg and Helsinki, and we have now transported over 35,000 Jews from Northwest Russia to airports in St. Petersburg and Helsinki and over 4,000 Jews to the airport in Belarus – all bound for Israel.

Kaliningrad: Another 5,000 Jews have been transported from the Kaliningrad enclave in Poland for flights to Israel since the early 1990s.

Ukraine: During the years when ICEJ was the main sponsor of Exobus in the 1990s, we bused over 35,000 Jews to Kiev and other locales for flights or voyages by ship to Israel. Since the crisis with Russia erupted in 2013, the ICEJ has sponsored flights, pre-Aliyah seminars, Aliyah programs and transportation efforts for over 2,000 Ukrainian Jews.

Central Asia – ICEJ has assisted over 8,000 Jews coming home from Uzbekistan and neighboring Muslim republics since 1996.

Western Aliyah – Over the past decade, ICEJ has assisted with the upswing in Aliyah from France and Germany, as well as from North and South America.

Ethiopia – After sponsoring numerous absorption projects for Ethiopian Jewish immigrants for many years, the ICEJ has sponsored direct flights to Israel for 1,920 Ethiopian olim arriving since 2016.

Bnei Menashe – ICEJ has partnered with Shavei Israel to bring 1,065 Bnei Menashe from northeast India since 2012.

Here is a sneak peak of the Aliyah Timeline in our WFJ November/December 2019 issue: 

Thank you for taking a deeper look into the beautiful work of Aliyah! Join us in continuing to help Jews come home to Israel!

Creator of Heaven & Earth

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

This is how our Bible, the Word of God, starts. These words are so significant, the crew of Apollo 8 read them to the world while orbiting the moon on Christmas Eve in 1968.

Yet the understanding that God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth is the one biblical concept which has come under the sharpest attack in modern times. In fact, many churchgoers today can believe much of what the Bible says, except that He is the Creator.

Not by chance
Since Charles Darwin published his work “On the Origin of Species” in 1859, countless scientists claim to have disproved the Bible and some even say the very existence of God. According to Darwin, ‘survival of the fittest’ was one of the main driving forces of Nature, not an all-creating God. Small changes within species gave one an advantage over the other. By a gradual and random process, these better-adapted species not only survived but eventually dislodged the weaker species.

At the time he proposed this theory, Darwin was unaware that such ‘small changes’ – like gradually growing wings, legs, eyes, etc. – was not just an accidental change in the physiology of a creature, but required a highly complex alteration in the DNA code of an organism. DNA codes are the building blocks for any living being and consist of massive arrays of highly complex molecules. Today, we know that Darwin‘s ‘small changes’ are in reality extremely improbable changes to elaborate systems.

In 2004, microbiologist Doug Axe demonstrated that to accidentally arrange the various elements of a protein called beta-lactamase (an enzyme which confers antibiotic resistance upon bacteria) would need an incredible amount of chance. Axe showed that to rearrange just this one particular enzyme by chance would be a probability of 1/1077. The number 1077 is an incredibly large number: A one followed by 77 zeros. To illustrate just how huge this number is – or how small its probability – consider that there are roughly 1080 atoms in the universe! This means the probability to form just this one protein by chance would be only slightly higher than finding one particular atom from all the particles that exist in the entire Universe; obviously a task infinitely less probable than finding the proverbial needle in the haystac.1

There are many more examples from science itself on how improbable life on earth truly is. Scientists today speak about the ‘fine tuning’ of the cosmos or about the ‘Goldilocks theorem’, meaning that our universe on so many levels seems to be incredibly fine-tuned just to make life on earth possible. From the size of the earth, its distance to the sun, the type and size of the sun, the tilt of our planet, etc., everything seems so perfectly tuned to make life on earth possible. Again, the probability that such conditions are found anywhere in the entire known universe is extremely unlikely. 2

All these factors make the notion of evolution by chance scientifically less and less plausible. The odds against it are mounting to such a staggering degree that a whole new theory is being formulated in order to maintain belief in Evolution – and to avoid acceptance of a Creator God.

In May 2007, Eugene Koonin of the National Center for Biotechnology stipulated that our known DNA-based world is inexplainable by current probability models. He thus proposed a totally new approach. But instead of considering the simplest and most logical of all explanations – that there is a omniscient and omnipotent God who created our amazing world – he suggested that since our own universe does not account for all the improbabilities of life on earth, there must exist an endless amount of parallel universes that would explain the infinitesimal chances of life here on earth.

A high view of Man
Years ago, I was discussing science and God with one of my fellow students at the Weizmann Institute. When I submitted to him that he would need more faith to believe in pure chance than I need to believe in the God of the Bible, he laughed. But today, this seems to be truer than ever.

Long ago, King David knew already what scientists are discovering only now: “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech,
and night unto night reveals knowledge.”
(Psalm 19:1-2)

To believe in God and science is not a contradiction, as many greatest scientists of the past were inspired by the Bible when developing their theories to describe the amazing order which God placed into creation.

However, the question remains: Why start the Bible with such a seemingly provocative statement: “In the beginning God created…”? Is it necessary to believe in a Creator God? Why would it matter to believe in evolution by chance? A leading megachurch pastor recently stated such a start to Scripture is confusing, at least to young modern-thinking people, and advised therefore to avoid reading the Old Testament in general.

But it does matter because the reality of God as Creator of the heavens and the earth is central to a biblical worldview and to the way God wants us to know Him.

Early on in Scripture, we find the core of mankind’s calling and identity. We are created – both male and female – in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). This separates and elevates us from the animal world and from the concepts of human origins in other religions. Being created in the image of God gives a tremendous calling to humanity to rule, cultivate and tend the earth (Genesis 1:28; 2:15). It is a calling which encourages science, research and technology to accomplish these ends. It gives us – even in our fallen state – the enormous hope that one day we will be like Him (1 John 3:2), and already in our fellowship with God here on earth we are being “transformed into the same image from glory to glory”. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

This truth of humans being created in God’s image also gives us something that no other creature on earth possesses. It gives tremendous value and dignity to every human life, whether a believer or not, rich or poor, regardless of race or gender.

Jürgen Habermas, one of the leading philosophers of our time, made a profound statement. In a lecture entitled “Glauben und Wissen” (Faith and Knowledge, 2001), this self-avowed atheist expressed concern about the increasing secularization in modern societies. The very understanding that mankind is created in the image of God, he said, gives each man and woman a unique dignity, so that every human deserves respect no matter what they believe. Even as an atheist, Habermas recognised that retaining the concept of Imago Dei acts as a humane safeguard for our modern society. And this very boundary he saw as eroding. Amazing words from someone who denies God!

The results of abandoning God
Habermas’ concerns were proven correct over 70 years ago in Germany. Some time back, I visited the exhibition at Villa Wannsee, just outside Berlin, where in January 1942 Hitler’s ‘final solution to the Jewish question’ was rubber-stamped by various government ministries. In this beautiful lakeside setting, the decision was made to eradicate all eleven million Jews in Europe, followed by a toast with glasses of cognac.

I was intrigued to find out what drove these well-educated participants at this notorious Nazi gathering. For many years I viewed Christian antisemitism as the main engine behind Hitler’s murderous plans. But at Wannsee, I learned these men were driven by a pseudo-scientific theory called “Social Darwinism”. In certain ways it was a logical extension of Darwin’s theory from animals to humans, and this led them into the depraved field of eugenics, championed by Eugen Fischer, Josef Mengele and other Nazi ‘scientists’.

According to many Social Darwinists, not all races were equally fit to live. Some were ahead of others in the evolutionary process, and the race which was endangering humanity with degeneration the most was the Jews. German universities had special research departments to study the application of Darwinism to human societies. ‘Racial hygiene’ and euthanasia were the tools to maintain racial purity. The result was the brutal murder of six million Jews. The piles of corpses from Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen show the depravity of humans who no longer saw themselves as created in the image of God, but an accident of nature. In such a world, morals had no place; man became a law unto himself and this led to the industrial slaughter of fellow humans.

Even today, man no longer considers himself as being created in the image of God but as elevated in the place of God. The moral ambiguity of our post-modern world carries few safeguards against evil. Years ago, the foreign policy chief of the European Union refused to recognise the terrorists of 9/11 as being evil. They were just misguided individuals, he said. Our world has become an increasingly dangerous place as it has thrown overboard the moral safeguards against human depravity.

The Maker of Israel
On the other hand, still seeing God as the Creator of the world gives us a sense of humility and accountability to our Maker. It gives ownership and final authority to Him. King David once again reminds us of these profound truths: “Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” (Psalm 100:3)

Consequently, the Creator of the heavens and the earth is also their Owner, which gives Him full authority to do “according to His good pleasure…” (Ephesians 1:9).

The noted 13th century Rabbi Ibn Ezra once posed the question: Why does the Bible start with “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth?” His answer: “Because a time will come when men will question the right of the Jewish people to live in their own land. But as the Creator of the world, He can do as He pleases.”

The prophet Isaiah returns to this very point again and again. “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless.” (Isaiah 40:22-23)

“Thus says God the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it, and spirit to those who walk on it: ‘I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles.’” (Isaiah 42:5-6)

God made everything! He is not just Creator of the heavens and the earth, but “I am the Lord your Holy One, the Creator of Israel…” (Isaiah 43:15).

This means the Maker of Israel is also the One who “made all things” (Isaiah 44:24). He who called Cyrus to rebuild Jerusalem is the One who “made the earth and man on it” (Isaiah 45:12). And the Saviour of Israel, and our own Redeemer, introduces Himself thusly:

“But Israel shall be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation; you shall not be ashamed or disgraced forever and ever. For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens, who is God, who formed the earth and made it, who has established it, who did not create it in vain, who formed it to be inhabited: ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other.’” (Isaiah 45:17-18)

That means the entire history and fate of Israel is in the hands of the God who made and possesses everything. While God wants us to reason with Him, to search His ways and have dominion on the earth, He also wants us to recognise that we all are accountable to our Creator. Paul gives us this healthy warning against the arrogance of our time: “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’” (Romans 9:20)

In summary, the amazing truth of the Gospel is God invites mankind to be reconciled with Him and to rule and reign with Him as the Creator of heaven and earth. This gives us both humility and confidence in our calling. It invites us to fight His battles, but also to rest assured that His purposes will stand even though we might not fully understand them.

Finally, it gives us incredible hope for the future, when once more the Creator of the heavens and the earth will majestically create a new heavens and a new earth “in which righteousness dwells”. (2 Peter 3:13)

1 Stephen C Meyer, Signature in the Cell, Harper Collins e-books
2 Eric Metaxas, Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life, Dutton Adult/Kindle Edition.

Dreaming Towards a New Horizon

Welcomed with a hug and a kiss, I felt instantly at home with Sigal Kanotopsky, a petite yet powerful woman with enough dreams to fill the horizon.

Sitting comfortably with a cup of tea, Sigal recalled her arrival in Israel from Ethiopia at age five. Since then she has completed an academic education, married, become a mother, and is now an imaginative leader helping other immigrants advance in Israeli society. In rapid Hebrew requiring my full attention, Sigal passionately described the frustration and vision shared by so many of her peers. If I had to sum it up, the bottom line is education, mentoring and mediation.

For Ethiopian immigrants, education and employment are a significant measure towards making them feel equal with other Israelis. Roni Akale, a colleague operating educational programs for Ethiopian youth, agreed, pointing out that successful integration means “learning professions that position you for a better job and salary. The more you prepare and move into an important position, then the gaps begin to close.”

Since most Ethiopian Jews arrived in Israel with little education amid enormous cultural upheaval, it will take time to catch up. Even second-generation Ethiopian-Israeli children enter school with huge gaps and cannot rely on educated parents to help. Support and mentors are necessary to help them dream and encourage them to believe success is possible and personally attainable.

Naturally, after investing efforts to learn a profession, one hopes to find suitable employment. Yet, for Ethiopian olim (newcomers), unexpected barriers often arise. Intense competition for a good job is difficult for immigrants who are less connected. In addition, it is easy to overlook how cultural misconceptions unexpectedly impede acceptance as well.

Ethiopian Israeli educator Takele Mekonen, when asked how cultural misunderstandings can impact opportunities, explained:

“In Ethiopia, the cultural code of honour was the most essential. They taught us not to make eye contact, to hide or restrain our feelings... to measure our words and to speak little. However, in Israel it is completely the opposite. ... You must enter with confidence and make eye contact. Here, you must speak a lot. The first words you tell about yourself must be right and authentic. ...If not, most interviews will end with this. ...If a person doesn’t believe in his own ability... he won’t pass the interview.”

Hearing this, I understood why educational workshops are so critical for these newcomers.

Later, while visiting an ICEJ-sponsored employment seminar, Ethiopian-Israeli Ezra Warku, pushed home the point. A recent law graduate who dreams of working in a private or public sector law firm, Warku described his struggle when in an Israeli courtroom, noting, “It is instinctive to look down and not meet the eye of the judge as a sign of honour and respect. ...However, this is seen in Israeli culture as weakness.”

With lightning clarity, I visualized the disastrous consequences of appearing weak as an attorney in Israel and agreed that - if not overcome - this would be a serious handicap.

ICEJ Aid seeks to mitigate these and other challenges by investing in a variety of educational enrichment programs for Ethiopian Jews.

Two years ago, Samaon (27 years old) and his sister Liquitu (24 years old) made aliyah with their wheelchair bound father on an ICEJ-sponsored flight. Due to the generosity of our Christian friends, both Samaon and Liquitu are currently working to complete an intensive pre-academic program to qualify for nursing studies. I met them in Beersheva, the city they now call home, and was able to gift them with a new computer to help with their studies.

Amazed by the help received, Samaon said with quiet conviction, “I want to say thank you. If you wouldn’t have helped us, our economic situation would be very difficult. I feel really good in this program. Every day I am meeting new people.” He further emphasized the importance of his mentors, saying: “When I came into this program, I started to feel hope. ...They advised me... and helped make my way clear.”

When asked about the big dream for her community, Sigal responded, “that we would be equals. That the judgment of Ethiopian-Israelis would be the same as for all other Israelis.” In other words, when Israelis look at Ethiopians, there would no longer be the immediate assumption they are uneducated, needy or incapable.

Considering all these voices, I thought to myself: “We can do this! We can ease their way by helping them lay a good foundation for their future.”

Over the years, ICEJ Aid has assisted new immigrants in Israel through crucial stepping stones on the path to successful integration by providing support for children’s educational enrichment programs, vocational training, support for single mothers, employment and other workshops, mentoring programs, youth programs and stipends for university students.

Today there is a fresh urgency to address Ethiopian integration needs so the next generation will have a solid foundation, and not be disenfranchised or relegated to the periphery of society.

Helping our Ethiopian friends make aliyah is just the beginning of their journey to return to their rightful place among the Jewish people. Continued assistance in the years following their arrival is a vital need – until their new homeland truly becomes home.


The Basics on Ethiopian Jews

The exact origin of the Ethiopian Jewish community remains unresolved. But there has likely been Ethiopian Jewish blood since the time of the Exodus, when Moses married an Ethiopian woman (see Numbers 12:1).

Today, there are approximately 148,000 Ethiopian Jews in Israel (1.75 % of total population).

Roughly two-thirds immigrated from Ethiopia while one-third were born in Israel.

In 1977, Israeli authorities approved their right to re-join the Jewish people in Israel.

Operation Moses (1984-1985) brought 6,500 Ethiopian Jews to Israel. The new movie “Red Sea Diving Resort” (Netflix, 2019) recounts this covert Mossad operation to rescue them from refugee camps in Sudan.

Operation Solomon brought home another 14,300 in a three-day, emergency airlift in May 1991, which took place amid a civil war in Ethiopia.

Some 9,000 Ethiopians were left stranded in transit camps in Gondar and Addis Ababa over questions they had converted to Christianity.

In 2015, the Israeli cabinet approved the return of these last 9,000 Falash Mura in order to reunite separated families.

Around 7,000 Ethiopians claiming Jewish descent remain in transit camps in Ethiopia, awaiting further government approval for them to come home to Israel.


Ethiopian Jews in Israel need our help now!
The problems of Ethiopian Jewish immigrants adjusting to life in modern Israel came to the fore once again this summer when many took to the streets in protest of their sense of alienation. Yet the ICEJ is uniquely positioned to help, as our AID director, Nicole Yoder, just completed a Master’s study on how best to assist the Ethiopian newcomers to fit in better. The main focus of our efforts going forward will be to provide them with better education and job training opportunities, from childhood through adulthood. These are the keys to unlocking the full potential of Ethiopians in Israel.

Help us make the future brighter for Ethiopian Jews in Israel.

And for more information on the unique history and challenges of Ethiopian Jewish aliyah and integration, watch the ICEJ’s powerful documentary film “Journey of Dreams” on YouTube at:

Have you not read?

In his eulogy to Billy Graham last year, Franklin Graham made one statement about his father which really touched me. He spoke about the deep love and respect his father had for the Word of God. “The Bible was his sole authority”, Franklin said, adding he remembers so many times his father would hold up the Bible while preaching and proclaim: “The Bible says…”

Over Christmas, I was troubled as I read Irresistible, a new book by Andy Stanley who is a cutting-edge preacher with significant influence in the Evangelical world today. In his book, Stanley advises preachers to drop such phrases as ‘the Bible says’ and ‘the Bible teaches’, claiming there is nothing to be gained by it and much to be lost. In addition, Stanley suggests reading the Old Testament with great caution, as it contains no doctrinal relevance to the Church today and represents a God that “appears uncivilized” to the modern reader.

This approach represents a growing phenomenon in the Church today. Though some may be less extreme than Andy Stanley’s views, there is a deliberate, growing move away from the Word of God and from the Old Testament.

When speaking in congregations around the world, I often ask: “How many have read at least once through the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation?” The answer is sobering. In most cases only a few hands go up; sometimes not even a single hand. I find the highest percent of Bible illiteracy among churches in Western countries. While the results are a little better when I ask who has read the entire New Testament, the Bible in general and the Old Testament in particular seems to be ignored, a black box for many believers. In one church, I was told by the pastor that I was quoting too many Scriptures. One, maximum two per sermon will do; otherwise, I would overly challenge the audience. A close friend told me that for years now he cannot remember hearing a single sermon in his church on any Old Testament passage.

This phenomenon is nothing new and can be traced back to the early Church. Marcion, an influential teacher in the church of Rome around 140 AD, rejected the Old Testament writings and even some New Testament books as being too Jewish and misrepresenting the loving God revealed by Jesus. While he was removed as a heretic, his ‘Marcionism’ would leave a wide imprint on the Church for centuries to come.

This all leads us to ask: What does the Bible say about its own relevance and authority? And how did the early Church approach Scripture? Indeed, the question often posed by Jesus to the scribes and teachers – “Have you not read?” – is more relevant than ever today (see Matthew 12:3; 19:4, etc.).

Tanach – the Old Testament
First of all, the early Church did not have a New Testament yet, as it was only written and canonized decades later. Thus, when New Testament writers refer to ‘Scripture’, they are clearly referencing the Old Testament.

Also, the early Church never used the term ‘Old Testament’. They referred to the Hebrew Scriptures as the Tanach. This is a three-letter acronym [T-N-K] containing the first letters of each section of the Old Testament. The ‘T’ is for Torah, or the Law contained in the five books of Moses, also referred to as the Pentateuch. The middle ‘N’ refers to the Prophets (Nevi’im in Hebrew) which includes all the prophets of the Old Testament, from Isaiah to Malachi (except for Daniel, which is counted among the Writings). The final ‘K’ is for Kotvim, or the Writings. The Writings contain all the other books from Joshua through Samuel, Job, Psalms and ‘Song of Songs’.

Thus, New Testament authors often refer to the Old Testament as “the Law and the Prophets” (e.g., Matthew 5:17; 11:13; 22:14; John 1:45; Acts 13:15; etc.); or “the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44). Only once in the Bible is the Old Testament referred to as ‘old testament’ – in 2 Corinthians 3:14. Here, the Greek text literally speaks of the “old covenant”, but Jerome’s Latin translation in the fifth century used the expression ‘old testament’ in this passage and the term stuck.

‘The Bible says’
The Bible never refers to itself as the ‘Bible’, but rather as the ‘Scriptures’. In more than 20 instances, Jesus affirmed his teachings by declaring, “It is written”, or “the Scripture says”, or “Have you not read?”

Think about it: Jesus was God incarnate. As Creator of heaven and earth, he could have established an entirely new framework and set of rules to define his role and mission. Yet he continuously accredited the Scriptures as the fixed point through which he identified himself.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refocused our approach to the Torah from mere external obedience of the letter to a transformative expression of the heart and mind. Yet he never discounted the Law or advocated for replacing it, choosing instead to expound upon and sharpen its meaning. “‘Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets’, Jesus told his disciples. ‘I did not come to destroy but to fulfil. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 5:17–19)

“It is written” was his chosen weapon to overcome Satan. And what was true for Jesus is true for the New Testament writers, who repeatedly refer to the then-existing Hebrew Scriptures – the Old Testament. The New Testament directly quotes or cites the Hebrew Scriptures more than 300 times and alludes to them over 1,600 times.

So Billy Graham’s practice of often referring to what “the Bible says” was not a quirky habit of an old-fashioned preacher, but was the same time-honoured custom followed by Jesus and the Apostles. And we do well to keep this practice alive today.

The Noble Church
The book of Acts honours one particular church as being ‘noble’ – the church of Berea, in Greece. Luke testifies of them: “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11) Paul must have loved this church. First, they readily received the preaching of the word of God. Yet they also went home and made sure the message matched with Scripture.

Please understand, they did not check Paul’s sermons against Peter’s epistles or the Gospels. All they had at the time was the Tanach – the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. In other words, if they could not find what Paul was preaching in the Old Testament, they likely would not have accepted his Gospel. This also means the original Apostles only preached the Gospel from the Old Testament (Acts 17:2-3; 18:28). Many Christians today would be lost if they had to share the Good News of Jesus solely from the Old Testament. And again – Paul did not consider the Bereans to be a particularly critical or backwards-minded audience; on the contrary, he called them more fair-minded and noble than the others.

Jesus in the Old Testament
Jesus did not come to start something completely new, but to affirm and fulfil what was written. For three-and-a-half years, John the Apostle watched Jesus teaching, engaging with men and women, and caring for children, the sick and the rejected. And then John described his experience with Jesus as “the word became flesh”. While hearing his words and watching his deeds, suddenly the passages of the Old Testament became a ‘red-letter edition’ for his disciples. In Jesus, they saw their Scriptures coming alive and understood the true meaning of God’s word. Jesus elevated the outward ritual of the Law in the Tanach to the level of transformed hearts. While his bold new approach to Scripture at times frustrated even the disciples (Matthew 19:10), he also promised the Holy Spirit would soon purify their hearts, just as the prophets foretold (Ezekiel 36:25-27).

Jesus also declared it was the “Scriptures who testify about me” (John 5:39). This is a concept Jews hold to this day. A rabbi once told me: “Jürgen, you can find Messiah on every page of the Bible (the Tanach). For example, the very first verses of the Bible say: ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, … and the Spirit was hovering over the waters.’ This was the spirit of Messiah! He already was there.” And this is exactly what we find in John chapter 1. “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God…” The places where Jesus can be found in the Hebrew Scriptures are countless. Whether in the story of Joseph who was rejected and sold by his brothers and became the redeemer of Israel, or through the lives of Moses, David and many other figures and stories which foreshadow the future Redeemer.

Thus, when Jesus met two disciples on the way to Emmaus after his resurrection, Luke tells us: “…beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). We also find Paul in Rome speaking thusly to the Jewish leaders: “So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening.” (Acts 28:23)

The main source of doctrine
For the early Church, the Tanach was considered the main source of doctrine and teaching. Regarding the Hebrew Bible, Paul counsels his spiritual son Timothy: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16). In fact, all the major doctrinal positions of the Church emerged from the Old Testament. The divinity of Jesus (Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:2), his atonement through suffering and death (Isaiah 53) and his resurrection (Psalm 16:10), the high priesthood of Jesus according to the order of Melchizedek (Genesis 14; Psalm 110), salvation by faith (Genesis 15:6; Habakkuk 2:4), the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28; Ezekiel 36 & 37), Gentile inclusion in the redeemed (Genesis 12:2; Isaiah 11:10), and so forth – all can be found in the Tanach. From start to finish, Hebrew Scriptures informed and inspired the theology of the early Church.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God… and it starts, not with the book of Matthew, but in Genesis. In so many ways, the New Testament can only be understood through the pages of the Old Testament. For example, it would be difficult to fully grasp the atoning power of the blood of Jesus without understanding the sacrificial system of the Tabernacle and Temple. The heroes of faith, from Noah and Abraham to Nehemiah and Ezra, serve as our examples to this day of how to trust in God. In the same way, the books of the New Testament and working of the Holy Spirit can shed light on the writings of the Old (2 Corinthians 3:14ff).

All this, of course, should not cause us in any way to abandon or devalue the New Testament. On the contrary, knowing and studying the Hebrew Scriptures helps us better understand Jesus and the New Testament. It should encourage us to take the entire word of God for what it is – the word of God! Indeed, the whole canon of Holy Scriptures deserves our fullest respect as God our Creator speaking to humanity.

So ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten your hearts and minds as you read your Bible. Ask Jesus to show you the wonders of his word. I encourage you to embrace and study all the books of the Bible. Decide even today to read through the entire Bible. I assure you, it will change your life. God promises us: “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

I pray this will be your experience as you study and absorb the whole counsel of God.


To learn more, watch our ICEJ video series called "Have you not read?"

Royal Welcome to Serbia

In July, ICEJ President Dr Jürgen Bühler, his wife Vesna (who is Serbian), and their family were hosted by the Royal Highnesses, Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia, at their Palace in Belgrade. Crown Prince Alexander was especially keen to share how, some 20 years ago, the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church arranged for his return from exile via Jerusalem, where the Crown Prince was blessed in a celebratory ceremony.

“The royal couple took time out of their very busy schedule to give us insights into their family history, their vision for the Serbian people, as well as their efforts towards peace and mutual understanding in the world,” said Dr Bühler. “They also were very interested to hear about the ministry of the ICEJ in Israel and worldwide.”

Dr Bühler was also hosted in the Serbian Parliament by the National Assembly Deputy Speaker, Dr Vladimir Marinkovic.

Sweden & Bolivia

Fresh wind for ICEJ in Sweden

By: Camille Troc

Recently, ICEJ VP and Senior Spokesman David Parsons travelled to Stockholm to assist ICEJ-Sweden’s new national director, Gitten Öholm, in her efforts to revitalize our branch there. David and Gitten first held meetings with Israeli Ambassador Ilan Ben-Dov, as well as five members of the Swedish parliament, before recording several TV shows with Anders Wisth, manager of TBN Nordic, on the prophetic fate of Jerusalem. He also spoke at the branches’ annual national conference and preached in several churches. David reports that while Sweden is considered very secular, there is a strong remnant of Christians there who stand for biblical morals and for Israel. Meantime, Gitten is a well-known pro-Israel voice and has the backing of the veteran ICEJ supporters there to press ahead with taking the branch to new levels.



Bolivia blessing Israel ‘year round’
By: ICEJ Staff

In August, thousands of Bolivian Christians gathered in Santa Cruz for an annual gathering convened by Apostle Alberto Magno, ICEJ-Bolivia national director, to proclaim their faith in Jesus and demonstrate support for Israel.

Apostle Alberto oversees the First Evangelical Baptist Church, a nationwide network of churches with over 50,000 members. Their annual congress seeks to have a positive spiritual impact on every sphere of life in Bolivia – including family, government and culture – and to express Christian solidarity with Israel. After several days of solid Bible teachings and inspiring worship, the conference was capped by a march through the streets of Santa Cruz by over 15,000 Bolivian Christians, who boldly declared their love for Christ and their stand for Israel.

Among the guest speakers and worship leaders invited to the gathering were Apostle Renê Terra Nova, national director of ICEJ-Brazil; Dorothy Bedford of the Feast worship team; Tiffany Mallillin of our Jerusalem staff; and the ICEJ’s Spanish-language coordinator Claudia Fierro. The audience was deeply touched as Claudia described first-hand how their support of the ICEJ was ministering to the needs of Holocaust survivors, new Jewish immigrants, farmers suffering from arsonists along the Gaza border, and many other Israelis.

“This congress was much bigger than what we could have imagined”, Claudia said. “Bolivia is usually our biggest Spanish-speaking delegation at the Feast, and also our largest and most faithful donor nation in Latin America. And it is because Apostle Alberto and his team work very hard all year round to be able to bless Israel the way they do.”

“Being here has allowed me to understand that this love for Israel is almost supernatural”, she added. “It is only possible if God puts it in their heart. And they accomplish all this despite Bolivia still being a developing country and having an anti-Christian and anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian government.”

Apostle Alberto insists that since he started to take Bolivian pilgrims to the Feast of Tabernacles in 1989, and to bring generous donations from his followers to the ICEJ in Jerusalem, his churches have multiplied – not only in terms of new members but financial prosperity as well.

New Beginnings in Africa

The Lord is birthing something new in East Africa!
By: Camille Troc

This summer, Dr Mojmir Kallus, the ICEJ’s VP for International Affairs, Barry Denison, VP for Operations, and Israeli pastor Birlie Belay travelled to Mwanza, Tanzania for a regional conference aimed at expanding the ICEJ’s impact in East Africa. The delegation from Jerusalem received an impressive welcome. Indeed, there is nothing quite like African hospitality! Local African Christians were singing and dancing and expressing their genuine excitement over greeting the ministry team from Israel.

Held on the shores of beautiful Lake Victoria, the conference drew hundreds of bishops, pastors and other church leaders and laymen from across East Africa, all with a burning desire to learn more about Israel and to see God’s purposes for their nations fulfilled. This gathering was the very first ICEJ regional conference in East Africa. Representatives came from the Swahili-speaking nations of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda to hear about God’s enduring covenant with the Jewish people and discover Africa’s important role in blessing Israel.

“It was encouraging to witness such great enthusiasm to learn about the things God is doing in Israel”, said Dr Kallus. “After much positive feedback from the participants, we know that the Lord is on the move. God is birthing something new in the hearts of these leaders.”

Word of the meeting spread quickly and a representative of the Regional Commissioner came to address the conference and greet the visitors from Jerusalem. Her visit was even covered by the national television.

The East Africa regional conference was a success because of the incredible work of our team in ICEJ-Tanzania, who prayed, fasted and put immense effort into organising this ground-breaking event. They even went above and beyond by traveling to neighbouring countries to recruit participants. In addition to covering all the costs of the conference, plus accommodations and meals for all the visiting pastors from the surrounding countries, they also collected offerings for Aliyah with such dedication that our team came back with more than US$18,000 in donations.

This conference not only bolstered the work of the ICEJ in Israel, it also blessed and encouraged unity among the local churches and leaders in East Africa. We anticipate opening several new branches in these East African nations unified by their common Swahili language, while special editions of the Word From Jerusalem magazine are also in the works in their native tongue.


A Fresh Start for ICEJ-South Africa
By: Dr Mojmir Kallus, VP for International Affairs

From the founding of the ICEJ in 1980, our national branch in South Africa has always been a source of strong support and unique contributions to our work and ministry. After a time of restructuring and transition to new leadership, the South African branch is poised for new growth and great things ahead.

“South Africa is a multi-cultural Christian country where many have a strong heart for God”, explains Vivienne Myburgh, the ICEJ-South Africa national director for the past two years. “We are experiencing open doors from a wide spectrum of believers who want to understand the heart of the Father for His son, Israel, and to hear more about the outworking of God’s plans for the Jewish nation in these days.”

Here are some achievements for which we are grateful:

First, ICEJ-South Africa has excellent relations with the local Jewish communities and leadership and its leaders have been invited to speak at their conferences on several occasions. Vivienne Myburgh even received the Jerusalem Prize from the World Zionist Organisation in recognition of her commitment to the nation of Israel and the South African Jewish community.

ICEJ-South Africa is partnering with committed Indian pastors who have opened a satellite ICEJ office in the Natal area.

We have experienced open doors in neighbouring Namibia to teach about Israel and to lay a foundation there for the establishing of the work of ICEJ.

Membership has increased more than four-fold to over 10,000 members within the last two years.

The branch has generated over $140,000 in donations towards the work of the ICEJ in the last 20 months.

Finally, we must give due recognition to all the faithful pioneers who ploughed the ground for the ICEJ in South Africa since the early 1980s.


ICEJ Impacting West Africa for Israel
By: David Parsons, VP & Senior Spokesman

Over the past decade, the ICEJ was able to establish a number of national branches in West Africa and to encourage attendance at our Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. These efforts have been bearing much fruit. For instance, over 600 pilgrims from French-speaking West Africa made the journey to Jerusalem last year to take part in the Feast. We were also blessed by the anointed preaching of Nigerian pastor Dr Enoch Adeboye, as well as the powerful singing of a gifted worship team from Togo.

This year, we are anticipating an even larger number of West African pilgrims, coming from such countries as Benin, Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo. Some are coming with the blessing and sponsorship of their governments, and we even expect several national delegations to include members of parliament and perhaps cabinet ministers. The ICEJ and our Feast celebration is becoming more widely known thanks to the cooperation of Christian broadcasters like Dieudonne Gollett of LMTV, based in the Ivory Coast.

With the able advice and ministerial experience of our all-Africa coordinator, Rev. Mosy Madugba of ICEJ-Nigeria, we expect the ICEJ’s impact in West Africa and all across the continent to continue growing in the years ahead, as more and more African Christians discover the blessings that come with blessing Israel.

Egyptian Christians awakening to Israel
By: David Parsons

There are exciting developments for the ICEJ in North Africa as well. National branches were already established over the past decade in several countries in the central and western Sahara. Now we have a fresh opening to believers in Egypt who are seeking to spiritually connect with Israel due to the prophetic vision of Isaiah 19. They also are being drawn to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles with us in Jerusalem because of the biblical invitation specifically to Egypt in Zechariah 14:16-18.

At this year’s Feast, we are expecting to host – for the very first time – a large group of Egyptian pilgrims, which just happens to coincide with the 40th anniversary since the signing of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty. Over recent years, the Holy Spirit has been working on the hearts of many born-again Christians in Egypt to explore and observe the biblical festivals and the Hebraic roots of our faith. They are now eager to ascend to Jerusalem and experience the Feast of Tabernacles with fellow Christians from all over the world. And we are looking forward to welcoming them to the City of the Great King at this divinely appointed time!

Great Zeal For God & For Zion in Brazil

Dr Jürgen Bühler was recently hosted by Apostle Renê Terra Nova, national director of ICEJ-Brazil, for a series of meetings in the city of Manaus which demonstrated the growing Christian support for Israel in this key Latin American country. Accompanied by local Israeli pastor Oded Shoshani, Jürgen addressed a summit for nearly 7,000 Brazilian pastors, as well as a mass rally in the local “sambadrome”, where a crowd of over 100,000 Christians joined together in prayer for Israel.

“It was a tremendous thrill to look out over the sea of flags and smiling faces and to sense the great zeal which these Brazilian Christians have for the Lord and for Israel” said Jürgen. “We came back to Jerusalem completely energised by their outpouring of love and support for the Jewish nation and people. Apostle Renê and his team are doing an amazing work there in Brazil.”

Apostle Renê is one of the most widely-recognised and respected Evangelical leaders in Latin America, with oversight of a growing Pentecostal movement which numbers over seven million believers. His home church alone has some 70,000 members, and he has instilled in them his great passions for building the Kingdom of God and for standing with Israel.

Brazilian and Israeli officials have duly honoured Apostle Renê for his strong support for the Jewish state. Several years ago, the Israel Ministry of Tourism recognised him for his stellar track record of bringing tens of thousands of Latino Christians to the ICEJ’s annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration in Jerusalem. Then in May, Israeli ambassador Yossi Shelley joined with the President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, in awarding him the “Jerusalem of Gold” medal for his many accomplishments in building stronger relations between the nations of Israel and Brazil.

Brazil is in a time of political and social transition, marked by a return to biblical values and closer alignment with Israel. This is largely due to the rapid growth of the Evangelical community, which now numbers almost 30% of the population. Many evangelical Christians supported the successful candidacy of Jair Bolsonaro in the recent presidential election. Apostle Renê has held meetings with President Bolsonaro and they both credit much of the positive changes happening in their country to prayer and to the government’s stronger stand with Israel.

In a recent video posted on his popular Instagram and Twitter accounts, President Bolsonaro congratulated Apostle Renê for hosting his 20th annual national prayer and missions conference. He also thanked God for sparing his life after an assassination attempt during last year’s presidential elections.

“I owe my life to God and also to your prayers”, said President Bolsonaro. “Congratulations for 20 years of this event interceding for Brazil. At this time also a very, very special hug to Apostle Renê Terra Nova.”

São Paulo officially celebrates Tabernacles

The Brazilian state of São Paulo has declared that the Feast of Tabernacles is an official government holiday. In a unique law, the state decreed that observances of the biblical festival of Sukkot will take place each year exactly 14 days after the Jewish new year of Rosh Hashana.

The person behind this law is the ICEJ regional director for the city and state of São Paulo, Apostle Fabio Alves Abbud. He is doing a great work to mobilise Christians to stand with Israel in his region of Brazil, and to bring Christians on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Apostle Fabio and his wife Claudia are leaders of the El Shaddai Church movement and have spiritual oversight of 300 churches in greater São Paulo. Descended from a traditional Arab Christian family who fled persecution in Syria for Brazil two generations ago, Apostle Fabio says he was the first one in his family to have a real encounter with Christ. He was raised up in ministry under Apostle Renê Terra Nova, which means he too loves Israel.

Raising Our Expectations

The ICEJ recently hosted its 2019 Arise Summer Youth Tour, and to say that it was life changing is no exaggeration. Forty-five Christian youth from ten different nations came together to experience Israel, most of them for the first time. Hailing from a variety of backgrounds, the group of 18 to 32-year-olds explored ancient biblical sites, served Israelis in practical ways, laughed and worshipped together, and became one family in the process.

You may be thinking: “Great! A bunch of kids ran around the desert and swam in the Dead Sea… What’s the point?”

The purpose of ICEJ’s Arise youth tours is not just to reach the younger generation to ensure the future of our ministry. The heart of the Christian Embassy’s calling is to awaken the Church today to the biblical, historical and political significance of the restored nation of Israel - both the Land and the People. The best way to achieve this kind of in-depth education, especially for the youth of today, is to walk, swim, and climb alongside them as they physically experience Israel for themselves.

Today’s youth face battles on every front, especially over faith and competing ideologies. And Israel is the most hotly debated 'foreign policy’ subject on college campuses in our day. In universities around the world, even respected professors routinely promote anti-Israel hatred and boycotts and vile antisemitic views in their lectures and publications. And what do our youth really know in order to respond? Maybe they know Christianity was birthed from Judaism? Maybe they know Jesus was a Jew? Or maybe, they don’t.

Many young Christians today have grown up in churches where the subjects of the Jewish people and the Land of Israel were totally neglected or worse, where Replacement theology was preached. They are ill equipped to step into a serious conversation on Israel with a solid understanding of the region’s modern history or the strong biblical credentials for Israel’s restoration.

This is why the ICEJ offers youth tours. In a world that runs on sound bites, tweets and hashtags, we must build their knowledge base on Israel brick-by-brick, starting with a biblical and moral foundation, the right historical background, and an up-to-date perspective. In this way, the ICEJ seeks to give young Christians the ability to think critically about Israel and to base their opinions on the Word of God.

Personally, my entire life changed after a two-week tour to Israel when I was still a young girl. The Lord used our tour leader, a great woman Bible teacher who did not dumb down the information for my young ears, to instil a passion for His land and His people. This is the same aim of the Arise youth tours. It is time to raise our expectations! God is doing a work in Christian youth around the world and He has given them an insatiable hunger for knowledge.

We saw this during the Arise Sumer Tour in July, with believers as young as 18 engaging in the debate over Israel and her many facets, old and new, biblical and modern. They asked tough questions and truly strove to understand Israel in its multiple layers. They were equally as thrilled with the City of David archaeological finds as with the security challenges on the Golan Heights and the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Their curiosity could not be tamed and many days it extended beyond our scheduled activities into evenings of exploring on their own.

Perhaps the most touching moment for me was a conversation at the end of the tour with Will, who is 19 and just finished his first year of college in California. I asked him what his favourite part of the tour was, fully expecting to hear snorkelling in the Red Sea or the camel ride in the desert. But this college freshman, who spent the tour bopping around with headphones and cracking jokes, looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “the Holocaust museum... it was really impactful and sobering”.

One might assume he only came to Israel for the free trip provided by his grandmother. But Will was deeply impacted and changed, and by a museum of all things!

Those who have devoted many years to visiting and standing with Israel can easily forget the power of this nation to impress and inspire when seeing it for the first time. The restored nation of Israel is not just a sunny vacation spot, home to rich archaeological treasures, a wellspring of biblical truth, or the subject of political controversy - it is all of these combined, and so much more!

Everywhere we went in Israel, we encountered God: From the dark night and countless stars of the Judean Desert, to the sunrise over Masada, the still waters of the Sea of Galilee, and even the crowded streets of Jerusalem. Among the special highlights this year, the Arise group spent a day helping to clean up the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

There also was a strong teaching and devotional component to the tour, as Arise director Jani Salokangas was assisted by Adam Gabeli of ICEJ-Canada, Peter Ecenroad of ICEJ-USA, and several young Finnish pastors.

In every moment the Lord was speaking, touching, and changing lives. Every participant, from the youngest to the oldest, from the most knowledgeable to the least, was transformed by the working of the Holy Spirit.

On the outside it may have looked like just a lot of fun - which it was. But the Arise tour’s full impact on its participants will only be measured in eternity. So, thank you for partnering with us here at the ICEJ as we impact the next generation with the message of God’s plan for Israel and the Jewish people.

The young generation is open to the wisdom of our elders. We are looking for guidance in a complex world. Sometimes we need confirmation, or an extra push in the direction the Lord is already leading us. Therefore, if you are a parent or a grandparent, you have the opportunity to do what Will’s grandmother did: Sponsor your child/grandchild on the next ICEJ Arise tour, which will forever change their life. Together, let us raise our expectations of this next generation, and watch them Arise to meet it.

Even more so, if you are a young person, I encourage you to join us in Israel next year and let God change your life through a trip to His special land. Say “yes” to the calling of the Lord to come to Israel and take a step towards His plan for your life.



Feast Youth Day
At the Feast of Tabernacles 2019, the ICEJ once again is sponsoring a special day of ministry, worship, fellowship and fun for young adult believers from across Israel and abroad. Feast Youth Day is scheduled for Tuesday, 15 October and will feature guest speakers and worship leaders at the morning sessions, an afternoon excursion, outdoor meal, and a special youth focus during the evening celebration. Musical artists will include Shiloh Ben-Hod, the most popular new Messianic singer/songwriter in Israel. It will be an exciting day of learning about Israeli history and culture, gaining a biblical perspective on the Land and people, and personal testimonies from different young leaders both in and outside Israel. For more information on how you can take part, contact

Nicole Yoder- The Heart Behind ICEJ Aid

When 22-year-old Nicole Yoder first stepped off the plane at Ben-Gurion Airport in the early 1990s, she never imagined Israel would become her home. Nor could she have dreamed that more than 20 years later she would serve as Director of ICEJ Aid, a position she has held since 2006.

Nicole’s early years were marked by a rich spiritual heritage and an understanding of the importance of Israel in God’s redemptive plan. For example, her grandfather was censured in 1946 for preaching in support of the rebirth of a Jewish state of Israel, a biblical dream which came to prophetic fulfillment only two years later. Nicole’s personal interest was piqued as a preteen by the Sound of Music and Corrie Ten Boom’s story, which led to her avid investigation into events surrounding World War II and the Holocaust.

Years later, while writing her Master’s thesis on the challenges faced by Ethiopian olim (new immigrants to Israel), Nicole drew heavily on her own personal journey to Israel to create a deeper connection. As recounted in her thesis:

“I remember that final wrenching goodbye as I turned to walk towards the plane with tears streaming. I wasn’t leaving on a typical vacation trip with the expectation of returning home in a few weeks, bubbling with new experiences to share. No, this trip was different. At twenty-two years old, I was moving half-way around the world to a country I had never visited before, and I was going alone.”

“I had seen it on television often the previous year, as relentless media coverage of the Gulf War revealed a populace that kept gas masks at the ready in case of a chemical attack. A million anxious questions pulled at my heart. Would I be safe there? Understood? Accepted? How would I live? Though I knew with unswerving certainty as I boarded that El Al flight to Tel Aviv that God had moved me to go serve in Israel, it would take time before I fully understood my purpose there. Nor did I suspect then that this trip was essentially one-way. Since I am not Jewish and am not entitled to make aliyah, for me being in Israel long-term would require divine intervention.”

“Reflecting on this today, however, I realize that the same is true for the Jewish people or any other people. Those who settle in this land, which God has called his own (Lev. 25:23), are here only at His invitation and for the time He has purposed.”

Nicole’s experience echoes throughout the ICEJ family. Our Jerusalem head office is staffed by Christians hailing from 17 different countries and six continents. With vastly different backgrounds, cultures and spiritual journeys, ICEJ’s team dynamic becomes, in some ways, an intercultural microcosm of the nation of Israel at large. ICEJ also reflects the ongoing realisation of biblical prophecies regarding the role of the nations in these days. As much as Jewish aliyah was prophetically foreseen throughout Scripture, so was the role of believing Gentiles: “Thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I will lift My hand in an oath to the nations, and set up My standard for the peoples; they shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders’.” (Isaiah 49:22)

This fall, Nicole will celebrate twenty years with the ICEJ. In her role with ICEJ Aid, she has witnessed the challenges, frustrations, and issues unique to the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel. Through her research and ongoing relationships, her now-completed Master’s thesis gives a voice to Ethiopian leaders, and demonstrates the crucial role which vocational training and higher education play in laying a solid foundation for the Ethiopian community in Israel going forward. Ethiopian immigrants who receive the ICEJ’s assistance today are on track to become the leaders, role models and visionaries to light the way for future generations.

Ethiopian Israelis have endured much, and yet they have big dreams and look to the future with optimism. David Elazar, director of an integration center in Rehovot, said it well: “In the early years we were very busy with survival. However, in recent years, [the idea] is catching on. . . . The [Ethiopian] community doesn’t just want to lead themselves. They see themselves as capable of leading others as well.”

Now is the time to walk alongside this community and strategically assist them in breaking free of the stigmas of discrimination, poverty and despair. At the same time, we want to raise up future leaders from within. Thanks to Christian donors worldwide, the ICEJ’s investment is sowing seeds which will reap an abundant harvest for Ethiopian olim for generations to come.


"A wind blew and we knew we had to come" - An excerpt on Ethiopian Integration

Having considered the many challenges inherent in uprooting one’s family and beginning afresh in a new land, one might be tempted to ask, “Is it worth it?” No doubt there are as many answers to this question as there are immigrants.

However, since most of the Beta Israel arrived [from Ethiopia] based on a deep faith conviction, a sense of identity and a purpose within the ancient narrative of the people of Israel, their arrival in the land represents the beginning of a long-yearned-for redemption. As such, it would have been unthinkable for them to forego this journey.

Nevertheless, the reasons people make aliyah vary. I once asked a secular Russian immigrant towards the end of the large Russian aliyah in the nineties why they chose to come to Israel. Their reply amazed me, “I don’t know. It was like a wind blew and we just knew we had to come” (unknown). It hit me then. This “wind” is essentially what brought me to this land, just as it has done and is doing in Jewish communities worldwide. Whether immigrants have arrived because they sought refuge from unwelcoming environments, aspired for the opportunity to re-join their people and rebuild their nation or whether they came because of something less definable – a wind that blew - each new wave of aliyah contributes something beautiful to the colorful mosaic that is Israel. 

**Excerpt from Ethiopian Immigrant Integration Strategies Within Israel’s Modern-Day Restoration: On Identity, Collective Leadership and Two-Way Integration that Bridges Cultural Differences, Develops Social Capital and Builds a Shared Narrative, by Nicole Y. Yoder, Northwest University, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Masters, International Community Development Thesis, Forrest Inslee, PhD, Adviser, 1 May 2019, page 56 **


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