Change Region:South Africa

Special Reports

From the Frozen land to the Promised land

“I didn’t want to come to Israel at first, but I am very happy to be here. Soon after I arrived I felt at home and that I had been here all my life,” says Polina, an elderly immigrant from the FSU.
Polina and other members of her extended family had never discussed going to Israel, but one day her son’s friend told her son, “I will go there because my mother is Jewish.” Polina’s son replied, “And my mother is Jewish!” This was the beginning of Aliyah for Polina’s family. Even when Israel is not part of a Jewish person’s thinking, God draws them back home.

Years earlier, three-year-old Polina, her baby sister, mother and other family members had fled from Ukraine ahead of the advancing German army and its accompanying ‘Final Solution’. The oncoming winter’s cold and German bombardment were part of that terrifying flight, first by foot and later by train. 

The family eventually found two rooms in Ural, in which the ten family members could live. Polina’s mother found work that took her away from early morning to late at night, and with her father in the Red Army the little girls were looked after by uncles, aunts, and grandparents. Polina remembers the pain of being cold and hungry. Potatoes dug out of the frozen ground kept the family alive. After the war her father returned, but they continued to live in Ural, where Polina started school. Finally, they returned to Ukraine although nothing remained of their former life. They shared a small house with their grandparents in a forest village, and Polina recalls the dirt floor being cleaned before each Sabbath.

Poverty and hardship continued. At 6am Polina would line up to buy bread hoping there would still be loaves, or even part of a loaf left, when it was her turn. The cold and hungry eight-year-old dared not to nibble at the bread on the way home, because it had to feed five people. Poverty meant only a few new dresses as she grew, and shoes were saved to wear only in the winter. But amazingly, Polina said, “In spite of poverty and war, we were very close to each other and that meant my childhood was a good one!”

In 1958, Polina moved to Siberia and after further education became a meteorologist. Hard times continued under the Soviet Government which made all items scarce, including children’s clothing. One time, Polina purchased large woollen socks and unravelled the wool to reknit it into a warm item of clothing for her son.

Although aware of being Jewish, the communist regime in which she grew up meant she learned nothing of Judaism. Here in Israel, though she keeps only a basic observance of traditions, she has learned to turn to Israel's God when things are difficult. And through Homecare’s assistance to family members, Polina has learned about Christian love and care.

Coming Home Alone

The ICEJ recently sponsored two special children’s Aliyah seminars in Ukraine. The Naale Seminars are for young people who are preparing to make Aliyah to Israel without their parents. The seminars prepare them and their parents for the logistical and emotional challenges they will face. The youth will finish high school through the Naale program, and 96% of them will make Aliyah. At least 60% of their parents will make Aliyah later on, but initially the child must be prepared to make the journey home to Israel alone. Many of the youth will be in the same schools in Israel, and they will need to depend on each other for support without their parents. The seminars use several types of group cohesion activities to build a support system within their group.

The picture above shows the children in an exercise to increase trust with one another. The word “Naale” is an acronym in Hebrew for “Youth Coming Before Parents.” The official program started in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1992 in the tumultuous days following the fall of the Soviet Union, when public schools were dysfunctional and Jewish parents requested that Israel receive their kids for better schooling. It was inspired by the Youth Aliyah Movement, which developed during WWII when parents who were concerned about the rise of Nazism sent their children to safety, hopeful they might be able to join them later. The program has continued and serves distressed communities such as the Jewish community in Ukraine. The situation is quite bad there, and many families want a better life for their children in Israel but do not feel the whole family can make the move at the moment. So far, more than 17,000 children have made Aliyah to Israel through the Naale program. The majority of them have come from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine where the future today is uncertain and parents hope for a better life for their children in Israel. Israel’s future is bright and many opportunities await them there.

Help the ICEJ sponsor five Naale seminars in 2019:

Mentoring in Israeli social businesses

It was a pristine spring day in Israel’s south as ICEJ AID staff hosted German and Swiss Christians who came to see how their giving is impacting those in need and to learn about everyday life in Israel directly from the people.

Our tour included a visit to Pinat HaOchel (“Kitchen Nook”), a popular sandwich shop on a side-street in one of Beersheva’s more disadvantaged areas. Our host was Chai, the young proprietor. He described himself as a former youth-at-risk who had the benefit of learning the trade at Café Ringelblum just up the street. It was exactly what he needed at the time – to be mentored on the job. Café Ringelblum was established as a social business to help youths-at-risk learn responsibility, employment expectations and other life skills.

A ‘social business’ focuses on two bottom lines. One is to make a profit to keep the business viable. The other is to benefit the community in some way.

Chai’s life was changed through the things he learned at the mentoring café, and today he passes forward the good he received by helping other youth. One day, Chai hopes to have a whole chain of restaurants, and perhaps one of the youths he trains today will become a partner tomorrow. One thing he knows for sure, he wants his sandwich stop to make his neighbourhood a better place.

 ICEJ AID is excited to sponsor mentoring programs for social businesses that are just starting out, when our support is needed most. These businesses not only provide employment in the periphery of the country, but they also strengthen and contribute to the communities where they live and work.

If you are in Beersheva, visit Pinat HaOchel and taste one of Chai’s delectable sandwiches for yourself. You will not only enjoy an affordable meal, but also have the satisfaction of knowing that, as a customer, you are helping one former youth-at-risk realise his dream while helping others begin to dream as well.

You also can help Israeli social businesses today thru ICEJ AID! Visit us at:

Sorrow of Death & Sweetness of Community

Can you imagine spending 67 years with your best friend and loved one, and then one day they are gone? This is the sorrowful reality for Naomi, a precious Holocaust Survivor who just lost her husband and closest friend, Avraham.

Death is difficult to face for everyone at the ICEJ’s Home for Holocaust survivors in Haifa: for the residents who are losing their spouses and dearest friends, for the staff who are losing patients that have become like family, and for the actual families of the survivors who are losing beloved parents and grandparents. Since most of the more than 70 Holocaust survivors at the Home are now in their 80s and 90’s, such losses have been unfortunately occurring quite often over recent years due to their advanced age. Yet, they always seem to band together and pull one another through it all.

During the week of sitting shiva for Avraham - a time when family and friends mourn the passing of a loved one according to Jewish tradition - Naomi was visited not only by her own relatives, but also by her friends from the Haifa Home for Holocaust Survivors. The cook even made special visits to the family home to provide food for everyone.

ICEJ staff members Yudit Setz and Jannie Tolhoek warmly embraced their friend Naomi at the shiva. Due to the friendship and trust established over the years, Naomi shared from her broken heart that she did not know how she would live without her husband after 67 years of life together. Naomi’s tearful granddaughter also showed us one of her favourite memories, which was a photo of her dancing with grandpa Avraham on her wedding day.

The sweet comfort of community shared among the survivors, staff, and family members at the Haifa Home is tangible, especially in such times of grief.

These losses also are a reminder of the opportunity we have right now to show all the love and comfort we can to those Holocaust survivors still alive and under our care at the Haifa Home!

Please support the ICEJ’s Haifa Home for Holocaust Survivors. Make your donation today at:

Druze school grateful for new computer room

The Christian Embassy has always sought to reach out to all the different people groups in the Land of Israel – whether Jewish, Arab, Christian, Muslim, Bedouin or Druze. In February, an ICEJ leadership delegation visited a special project in the Upper Galilee which we undertook at the request of a Druze welfare society. Over the past decade, we have partnered with this charity by sponsoring several youth-oriented educational projects, including a school library, a music room, and a high school robotics team that won a nation-wide competition. This time, we dedicated a new computer room with two dozen computer work stations, located in a mixed high school for Christian, Druze and Muslim students.

Upon arrival we were treated with utmost respect, as if we were royal dignitaries. Besides all the students and faculty, the local Druze mayor and regional council head also were waiting at the school to welcome our delegation. There were packed assemblies, speeches and musical performances, plus a bountiful lunch. It was truly impressive! We had a clear sense that this community does not take our gifts for granted. And our investment will bear fruit for years to come, giving these young minority citizens of Israel a better chance to succeed in this hi-tech nation.

ICEJ Meets Investors at OurCrowd Summit

The ICEJ was thrilled to take part in the 2019 OurCrowd Summit in Jerusalem for the second year in a row, our first with a promotional booth. OurCrowd founder Jon Medved launched the summit to showcase the latest advances in Israel’s hi-tech industry and to encourage direct foreign investment in Israeli start-ups. Medved urges his investors to give 10% of their exit profit to a charity of their choosing. The ICEJ qualified as one of these charities within the Land of Israel and was able to share some of the life-changing work being done by the donations of Christians all over the country. The ICEJ staff serving at our booth made numerous new connections among the over 18,000 business people from all over the world attending the summit. We were blessed to be the only Christian charitable organisation represented at the summit. The ICEJ team shared the heart and vision of our ministry and watched as people from every sphere of business were impacted upon hearing about our biblical mandate in Israel and worldwide. We look forward to seeing what develops from these new connections in 2019 and beyond!

Christian Friends of Yad Vashem

A Special Message from Rev. Malcolm Hedding
Key Originator of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem

The ICEJ’s former executive director, Malcolm Hedding, was one of the key initiators behind the establishment of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem. He will be participating as a speaker at the upcoming Christian Leadership Seminar in early May. He recently shared with the Word From Jerusalem a preview of the message he will convey to this year’s participants.

Over the years I have encountered many Holocaust Survivors and these encounters have profoundly impacted my life and ministry. I will be sharing these at the upcoming Christian Leadership Seminar at Yad Vashem and in such a way that we rededicate ourselves to telling the story of the Shoah accurately and powerfully. This is most urgent and important because many of the Survivors are now sadly leaving us and the truth about what happened to them must live on in order to ensure that the Shoah never happens again.

The Christian Desk at Yad Vashem was founded in order to harness and give expression to the love and support that a new generation of Christian Evangelicals have for Israel and the Jewish people. The shadow of the Holocaust still hangs over the Christian world because the underpinnings of this evil endeavour were Christian. This has to be recognised, repented of and confronted by those Christians interested in learning the truth and equipping themselves in a manner that they can rekindle genuine remembrance in a redemptive way. Forgetfulness will lead to “exile” and we refuse to forget for the benefit and good of our children and for the well-being of Israel. Herein lies the importance of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem.


Meet the New Director at Christian Friends of Yad Vashem
By: ICEJ Staff

In early May, Israel will mark Yom HaShoah – the nation’s annual Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is a solemn occasion with many unique traditions which pay tribute to the six million victims of the Holocaust. There is no entertainment on television. Movie theatres and dance clubs are closed. In the morning, a nationwide siren brings all traffic to a complete stop and everyone stands to attention. And the president, prime minister and other senior leaders assemble at Yad Vashem to lay wreaths in honour of those who perished in the Nazi genocide against the Jews.

For Christians, a new tradition has developed around Yom HaShoah as well. The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, through its unique partnership with Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, helps sponsor an annual Christian Leadership Seminar during the week of Holocaust Remembrance Day. This special educational program draws Christian pastors and ministry leaders from all over the world to Yad Vashem for a week of lectures by experts on the Holocaust and antisemitism, encounters with Holocaust survivors, and related field trips around the country.

This year’s Christian Leadership Seminar will be the first one held under the new Director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, Ms. Sari Granitza. She has been working in the International Relations Division at Yad Vashem since 2003 and took over the reins of the Christian Desk from Dr. Susanna Kokkonen in mid-2018. 

Ms. Granitza was born into an observant Jewish family in Jerusalem and was raised both in Israel and the United States. She received her BA in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Haifa and her MBA from Tel Aviv University. For ten years, she worked in Israel’s thriving hi-tech industry. From there, she assisted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in foreign relations during his first term in the premiership in the late 1990s, developing key contacts with government officials and leaders in the Jewish Diaspora from around the globe.

Ms. Granitza now comes into her new position with 15 years of valuable experience in building support for Yad Vashem and explaining its important mission to a variety of audiences. As Deputy Director of the International Relations Division, she was involved in every aspect of the events and visits of Yad Vashem’s supporters from around the world, including many Christian leaders throughout the years. She also frequently presented lectures on the Holocaust in both Hebrew and English, including on behalf of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem at prestigious events, such as the National Religious Broadcasters convention in the US. Ms. Granitza was also responsible for planning and executing Yad Vashem’s International Missions to Europe and Israel, hosting donors of all faiths, backgrounds and nationalities.

Having lost family members in the Holocaust, Ms. Granitza takes her job very seriously. As an ambassador for Yad Vashem to the Christian world, she will continue to promote Holocaust education as an important means for ensuring that the atrocities of the Shoah never happen again.

Founded in 1953 by an act of Israel’s parliament, Yad Vashem was entrusted with the mission of safeguarding the memory of Jewish victims of the Holocaust and imparting its meaning to future generations. Christian Friends of Yad Vashem was established in October 2006 in cooperation with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem to raise awareness about the Holocaust and its universal lessons within the Christian world. Today, CFYV is active in many countries worldwide and works with a variety of denominations and Christian ministries to build bridges between Jews and Christians.

For more information or to support the work of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, please go to 

Also feel free to write the Christian Desk at: 


Grip of the Golan

Israelis were thrilled when US President Donald Trump recently recognised the Golan Heights as part of Israel. Some called it a surprise “gift” for Purim. But it would be amiss to claim Trump just “gave” the Golan to Israel, since God already did that long ago. Besides, Israel has been in possession of the Golan fair-and-square for decades and will never surrender its grip on the them.

Now most world powers insist Israel has illegally “occupied” the Golan since capturing the area from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War. This makes it sound like it was always Syrian territory.

In fact, the Golan is part of the land God promised to Abraham in Genesis 15:18-21 and elsewhere in Scripture. Also known by its biblical name “Bashan”, it was conquered by the Israelites under Moses and Joshua some 3500 years ago and allotted to the tribe of Manasseh. There is ample evidence of a continuing Jewish presence there over the ensuing centuries.

In modern times, Britain and France wrestled over the Golan when dividing the vacated Ottoman territories after World War I. An elevated plateau, it was valued more at that time for its water resources, and eventually got included in France’s mandate for Syria. This despite the fact that Jewish benefactors – mainly through the Jewish National Fund – had already purchased large tracts on the Golan to settle Jews there, since they considered it part of biblical Israel.

But Syria wound up with the Golan and turned it into one massive military base, brimming with bunkers, trenches and artillery positions all facing down on northern Israel. From these fortified positions, Syrian gunners routinely made target practice of Jewish farms and villages below. Tensions escalated further in 1964 when the Syrians dug channels in the Golan to divert the headwaters of the Jordan River, a move which some historians say helped spark the 1967 conflict.

In the Six-Day War, Israel indeed captured the Golan from Syria. But only after Egypt and Syria unified forces, blockaded the Straits of Tiran, kicked UN observers out of Sinai, amassed troops along their borders with Israel, and threatened a war of extermination. Israeli leader Levi Eshkol spent several tense weeks exhausting all avenues of diplomacy to avert war, before ordering a pre-emptive strike. Thus, Israel has every right and reason to contend they took the Golan in a legitimate act of self-defence.

After gallantly holding onto the Golan in the Yom Kippur War of October 1973, Israel has transformed it into a peaceful, prosperous agricultural region and popular tourist destination. Israelis – left and right – are proud of what they have made of the Golan, with its vineyards, wineries, fruit orchards, dairy farms, horse ranches and wind turbines. Israelis flock to its log cabins and the Hermon ski resort. They repel and hang glide off its cliffs, hike its scenic trails, and relax in its warm springs.

Most Israelis also know the Golan has immense strategic value due to its commanding terrain, and this advantage should never be surrendered voluntarily. What if Syria were still ensconced on the Golan over the past eight years of the Syrian civil war? No doubt Assad’s troops, rebel forces, ISIS jihadists and Hezbollah units would all have relished the chance to fire away at Israel from its lofty heights. It also would have seriously compromised the IDF’s ability to strike Iranian positions inside Syria.

Israelis also know that, unlike the West Bank, there are no masses of Arab refugees clamouring to return to their homes in the Golan, because the Assad regime never allowed them to live there in the first place.

So whether one approves of Trump’s decision or not, Israelis agree that the Golan always has and always will belong to them.

Netanyahu Stages Historic Comeback

It was vintage ‘Bibi’. For the third time in his record five election victories, Israelis went to bed thinking Benjamin Netanyahu was vanquished only to awaken the next morning and discover he was their prime minister.

It first happened in 1996, when Netanyahu trailed in the late night returns before narrowly eclipsing Shimon Peres by 30,000 votes come morning. Again in 2015, the evening exit polls had the National Union edging Likud before the next day’s official tally showed Netanyahu handily winning by six Knesset seats. Even in 2009, when Kadima bested Likud by one seat, Netanyahu still managed to outflank Tzipi Livni and retain the premiership.

His victory on April 9th was equally dramatic – especially given the forces arrayed against him. For starters, he was facing indictment in three corruption probes. The Israeli media was decidedly against him. And three former IDF chiefs-of-staff banded together to topple Netanyahu, calculating that their combined military experience would neutralise his advantage as “Mr. Security”.

Yet Netanyahu managed to shock the nation and the world by scoring what looks to be an historic fifth term in the Prime Minister’s Office. He must still forge a coalition government with majority support in the new Knesset. But with this triumph, Netanyahu has achieved legendary status as modern Israel’s most victorious and longest-serving premier – surpassing David Ben-Gurion’s four victories and 13 years in office.

The close results, with the two central parties splitting the lion’s share of ballots, indicates the campaign indeed boiled down to a referendum on Netanyahu. The three IDF generals, led by Benny Gantz, united with Yair Lapid’s faction to form the upstart Blue & White list, whose sole agenda was to send Bibi packing. The new alignment did not assail his economic or security policies, and they even acknowledged his competency in running the country and handling foreign affairs. Rather, they denounced his “divisiveness” and his sense of entitlement after holding onto power for so long.

Netanyahu did upset many Israelis, and many American Jews as well, by repeatedly bowing to the ultra-Orthodox parties on Western Wall prayers and Haredi draft exemptions. He also drew complaints for legitimising the anti-Arab Kahanists on the far-Right.

But his recent accomplishments, most notably on the world stage, also gave many voters added confidence in his stable leadership. Just days before the election, Netanyahu was invited to Washington, where US President Donald Trump handed him a timely boost by recognising Israel’s claim to the Golan. He then was hosted by Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Moscow and came back with the long-sought remains of an IDF soldier missing for 37 years.

Certainly, no other aspiring Israeli leader at present could pull off such diplomatic feats. Thus, in the waning days of the campaign Netanyahu and his Likud party picked up crucial extra votes at the expense of other factions to his right. Even so, Netanyahu and his “natural partners” in the Right bloc will hold 65 seats in the new Knesset, giving him the clearest path to head the government. But each will try to exact a price for their loyalty.

For example, he will need support from Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteinu, who bolted the last government due to Netanyahu’s perceived weakness towards Hamas in Gaza. Lieberman and his secular Russian immigrant party also do not relish sitting in a coalition with the religious factions Shas and United Torah Judaism.

Netanyahu also must rely on the staunchly pro-settlement Union of Right-Wing Parties, which could insist that he keep his promise, made in desperation late in the campaign, to annex parts of Judea/Samaria. Yet such a move could undermine the long-awaited Trump peace plan and Israel’s overall relations with a very friendly US president.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu must fend off the expected indictments for bribery and fraud now hanging over his head. The parties on the Right are reportedly prepared to stand by him as prime minister until he is actually convicted of a crime. But another alternative could eventually present itself by way of a national unity government with Blue & White, if they are willing to protect him from removal from office so long as he is pursuing a viable US-led peace process with the Palestinians.

So the 2019 elections may be over, but uncertainties abound as the legendary career of Bibi Netanyahu continues.


2019 Election Results
Likud: 35
Blue and White: 35
Shas: 8
United Torah Judaism: 8
Hadash-Ta’al: 6
Labour: 6
Union of Right-Wing Parties: 5
Yisrael Beiteinu: 5
Kulanu: 4
Meretz: 4
Ra’am Balad: 4

ICEJ challenging UN abuse of Israel

The United Nations has a long record of abusing Israel, and this happened again recently when the UN Human Rights Council passed five resolutions condemning the Jewish state on various trumped-up charges. Yet there are positive signs that key Western democracies are starting to challenge this deplorable UN fixation with Israel, and the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is reaching out to them to encourage this shift in attitude towards Israel.

In March, the UNHRC vilified Israel for daring to defend its citizens from violence and terror. It also wrongly described as “peaceful” the Gaza border protests of the past year. Emboldened by the friendly message coming from Geneva, Hamas immediately stepped up the violent protests and launched rockets deeper into Israel.

It has become far too easy for the Palestinians to manipulate UN forums to go along with their agenda, which aims to deny Israel its right of self-defence and ultimately its right to exist. Yet thankfully, some moral, sane countries are waking up to this twisted reality, and decided not to support any resolutions submitted under Agenda Item 7, the UNHRC’s annual session which permanently singles out Israel for abuse. They realise this undermines the cause of peace and the credibility of the UN.

The next big test at the UNHRC will be over its plans to publish a blacklist of companies doing business in Israeli settlements. The HRC was founded to deal with human rights violations by sovereign states, so this would mark the first time it has sought to sanction private actors. By singling out Israel, it is also violating its mandate to protect human rights on a universal basis “for all people”.

In response, the Christian Embassy has written to the heads of the UNHRC and also activated our national branches in key member states of the Council to press for a halt to this UN blacklisting effort. We are approaching officials in Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Hungary, Italy, Philippines, Slovakia, South Africa and Ukraine. We are hopeful these democratic nations will persuade the Human Rights Council to abandon this misguided anti-Israel initiative.


Share this: