Special Reports

Christian Leadership Seminar At Yad Vashem

The Christian Friends of Yad Vashem was established in 2006 in cooperation with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ). As the Yad Vashem partner, the ICEJ sponsors selected educational activitiesat Yad Vashem, including the Christian Leadership Seminars.

Twenty-seven Christian pastors and leaders of organizations from across the United States attended the seventh Christian Leadership Seminar at Yad Vashem from November 29 to December 7, 2015. The seminar was organized jointly by The International School for Holocaust Studies of Yad Vashem and the Christian Friends of Yad Vashem with the financial support of The Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C.  The seminar's focus was on the Holocaust, anti-Semitism, and Israel today.

Aimed at equipping Christian leaders – both formal and informal - to speak about the history and facts of the Shoah and anti-Semitism, the seminar included in-depth tours of the Yad Vashem museums and campus as well as meetings with Holocaust survivors, leading historians and experts in the field of Holocaust education.  Topics included: The Bible (including a tour of the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem), anti-Semitism and its different manifestations throughout history, literary responses to the Holocaust, Yad Vashem's educational philosophy, the Allies and Nazi Germany, the Righteous Among the Nations, and other related issues.

Among the participants was Pastor Chris Edmonds, whose father the late Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds has just been recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations. Pastor Edmonds shared the story of his father with the participants and staff of Yad Vashem. His presence added a very tangible dimension of history to the seminar.

Many participants were profoundly moved and challenged throughout the week. As one leader said: "We came to Jerusalem seeking a revelation of the Divine—only to be immersed by God in a revelation of what it means to be truly human. Seeking Him, finding us."

Please support the vital work of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem. Give generously now at www.icej.org/yadvashem

Our Mission is Compassion

As the Lord regathers his people from around the world, the words of the prophet Isaiah point to a special calling for us in our day: “The sons of foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you…” (Isaiah 60:10). In 2016, the ICEJ looks forward to a continued partnership with Israel in order to build up her walls through social initiatives that strengthen her people.
 
These initiatives impact every sector of Israeli society, offering life-changing opportunities for a better future through educational programs, vocational training courses, and mentorship towards employment. Through these efforts, we hope to help build a better future for the disadvantaged, youth at risk, new immigrants, and minorities; while also caring for holocaust survivors and providing immediate aid for crisis situations which arise.

BE A BLESSING IN 2016!

Throughout the year, and across the land of Israel, ICEJ Aid represents you by channeling Christian compassion to those who need it most. Your generous gifts enable us to communicate to Israel in word and deed that she is not alone. Together let’s bless the Lord who is doing miracles in our day and who has given us the opportunity to participate in His wonderful works!
 
Have you considered coming to Israel in 2016 and allowing us to connect you and your Church family with the people of Israel? 
 
As you interact with the people through hands-on service projects, you’ll gain a greater understanding of the complex reality and the miraculous unfolding story of Israel. Compassionate, practical action by Christians in the land brings much-needed encouragement, while also fostering reconciliation, which breaks down barriers that have been built over centuries.   
 

From Israel To The USA

It was my privilege to visit several beautiful places in the United States this past November, to strengthen the believers in their support for Israel and God’s purposes for His people. In partnership with our branch, ICEJ-USA, I had the joy to meet with Christ-followers in Huntsville, AL, Atlanta, GA and West Palm Beach, FL. 

In Huntsville with Pastors Patrick and Andrea Penn, I ministered at Church services, attended summits for leaders and shared about the work of ICEJ at a special Israel Day. Patrick Penn, who actively represents ICEJ in his city, is regularly meeting with other spiritual leaders to inspire them to stand with Israel, and has successfully reached out to the local Jewish community to establish a relationship between their community and the church. 

It was my honor to share the vision and mission of ICEJ at a “Quarterly Pastors’ Roundtable” with more than 30 local pastors and leaders. The event was hosted by Pastor Rusty Nelson from the multicultural Rock Family Worship Centre.

John and Sally Howard, ICEJ USA Representatives in Atlanta, are active members at Mount Paran Church and, having a huge heart for Israel, are working hard to spread the biblical message on Israel far and wide. I was warmly welcomed at a special reception concerning Israel and the ministry of ICEJ at their home. The Associate Pastor of their church, Todd Rainwater, received me at the midweek service and the men’s Bible Study where I introduced our work to their congregation, and was also invited to teach a Bible Class.

I also visited the Lost Mountain Church of God led by pastor Keith Bates, a community in Powder Springs, GA, with a passion for missions and for Israel. My next destination was West Palm Beach in Florida. I was hosted by the Olive Tree Congregation and Pastors Michael & Fausta Maass, as well as the AOG Lighthouse Christian Center International Church with Pastor Bill Ilnisky. I was blessed to speak the Word and to see the open hearts receiving God’s message, from my heart to theirs.  

 

Prestigious award bestowed upon ICEJ-USA Director

Director of the ICEJ-USA branch, Susan Michael, was recently honored with the Woman of Impact Award at the annual conference of Women Impacting the Nation (WIN) in Boca Raton, Florida. WIN’s “Raising the Bar 2015: The Next Generation” Conference was held at Palm Beach Atlantic University and was attended by some 200 women including a contingency of university students. 

“We are excited and honored to give our third Woman of Impact Award to Susan, because she is a woman who is truly making a difference in educating, equipping, encouraging, and empowering men and women in a field where there is much divisiveness and misinformation,” said Sue Trombino, Founder and Director of WIN. “She is incredibly knowledgeable on the topic of Israel, anti-Semitism and Islam, and is an amazing teacher. She teaches on truth and fact vs. emotion and conjecture, and opens eyes to the misinformation that has been purported in the media about Israel.”

Past recipients of the award are Karen Vaughn, National Spokeswoman and Senior Military Families Advisor for Concerned Veterans for America and the mother of fallen Navy SEAL, Aaron Carson Vaughn (SEAL Team VI); and Vonette Bright, co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ along with her late husband Dr. William R. Bright.

You can support our work in the nations by clicking the link below:

 

International Holocaust Memorial Day

The 27th of January each year marks International Holocaust Memorial Day, commemorating the Soviet Army's liberation of the largest Nazi death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, on that day in 1945. Whilst it is a solemn occasion, this year was also a particularly special one for the Holocaust survivors of the ICEJ's Home for Holocaust Survivors in Haifa, as they had the unique opportunity to meet with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The next day included another meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.
 
A group of 15 Holocaust residents of the Haifa Home, escorted by ICEJ Aid Director Nicole Yoder, met with Prime Minister Netanyahu at his Tel-Aviv office on 26 January.  It would be an understatement to say that the survivors were excited to meet Mr. Netanyahu- many said that they had never imagined in their wildest dreams that they would have the chance to meet the Prime Minister of the country closest to their hearts. 
 
Whilst the residents were full of excitement to meet Mr. Netanyahu, it was clear that this feeling was mutual. The Prime Minister expressed his honor and feeling of privilege to meet the people who did so much to build up the Jewish state. Mr. Netanyahu listened attentively as he gave each one of the survivors the chance to recount their story to him, with his limitless respect for them etched upon his face. Following this, the Prime Minister memorably told them that when he sees them, he feels more than ever that the Jewish People is alive - “Am Yisrael Chay”. 
 
He also bestowed lofty praise on the Haifa Home for the incredibly vital work it does for the heroes of Israel. During the visit, he also thanked the Christian Embassy several times for blessing the Nation of Israel through the support of Christians worldwide. The result was an unforgettable experience for the residents. When word got around through the Israeli media about their special meeting with the Prime Minister, they were delighted to make known that their phones had not stopped ringing thanks to calls from excited family members overflowing with pride.
 
As if the thrill of meeting with the Prime Minister was not enough, the next day on International Holocaust Memorial Day itself, the residents set out to meet the President of Israel at his residence in Jerusalem. They were first treated to a luxury reception, including the chance to have photos taken in the opulent rooms of the President’s Residence which regularly hosts heads of state and other international dignitaries. 
 
When President Rivlin arrived he greeted the survivors with warmth and a full heart, and there was a striking unspoken bond between the survivors and their country’s President, with many of the survivors hugging Mr. Rivlin in a display of overwhelming excitement and appreciation towards him. Rivlin explained to the survivors that while thinking back to the events of the Holocaust brings such sorrow and pain, he also was able to feel such hope for the future of Israel by seeing them.
 
Like Netanyahu, President Rivlin did not hold back in his praise for the monumentally important purpose that the Haifa Home serves, and in response the Haifa Home’s director Mr. Shimon Sabag thanked the President for sharing with the Holocaust survivors what had been for them a day to live long in the memory. 

 

Please join the ICEJ in supporting this special project.

Miracles in India

In addition to being one of the largest countries in the world with one of the oldest civilizations, India is also the country with the largest number of mosques. In spite of a significant Islamic influence, this densely populated nation in Asia has been an important friend to Israel over the years, but not merely on a political level. Young Israelis often travel to India to get away, and in the past years a small minority of Jews in India, known as the Bnei Menashe, have been returning home to Israel.

The ICEJ has been actively involved with the church in India, and in November Pal Pedersen of ICEJ-Norway visited the local Body of Christ to encourage and teach Biblical perspective on Israel and God’s purposes for mankind. Pedersen’s extensive travels and multiple conferences organized by ICEJ leaders in India were a time of great fruit!

Pedersen came to India to meet with numerous pastors and Christian leaders who partner with ICEJ and want to see their country thrive for the Kingdom of God. He first arrived in Delhi, and after ministering to local pastors, he travelled to Punjab, where an ICEJ-sponsored conference was organized for Christian supporters of Israel in the region.

In the state of Chandigarh, Pedersen and Rev. Daniel Padma Rao, the Director of ICEJ-India, ministered to about 200 church pastors and leaders. Some of them heard messages on the calling of Israel for the first time in their lives and they made a commitment that their churches would pray regularly for God’s chosen nation. Another ICEJ conference brought together more pastors in Maharashtra, another state in India, many of whom experienced a miraculous, healing touch from the Lord!

Over the following days Pedersen and Padma Rao travelled to numerous states in India, preaching the Gospel, teaching them about the promises of God and His love for Israel. The city of Chennai in the state of Tamilnadu hosted an astounding conference, with nearly 3000 people in attendance! It seemed miraculous to see Israeli flags waving and hear the shofars in the middle of India at a Christian conference!

Rev. Padma Rao said the extensive trip around his home country with Pal Pedersen was a tremendous blessing to his people, and they are expecting a great increase in Christian support for Israel in India. The believers in the country were encouraged in their walk with their Savior, but now also dream of visiting Israel, the land of God’s people.

“We were able to preach the Gospel and show the importance of standing together with Israel and the Jewish people in these days,” said Rev. Padma Rao. “We also had very good conversations with the leaders [who] asked many questions about the ICEJ, about Israel and the situation in the Middle East.”

You can support our work in the nations by clicking the link below:

 

Envision: changing the nations through Jerusalem

Over 140 church leaders from around the world convened in the city of Jerusalem to attend the ICEJ’s third annual Envision Pastors and Leaders Conference late in January. Delegates represented 18 different nations, and included our group of 13 pastors whom we were blessed to bring from the UK and Ireland. None returned home unchanged.

The conference was held at the excellent 4-star Hotel Yehuda whose staff looked after us all admirably. The week was characterised by a great sense of fellowship between the various delegates, and many relationships were formed which will last a lifetime and produce much fruit for the Kingdom.

We experienced times of refreshing worship and excellent teaching from a variety of perspectives. A central theme throughout the conference was the ‘one new man’ in Christ, and both the reality and necessity of this in Israel was powerfully presented through three panel discussion sessions made up of both Jewish and Arab local pastors.

Underpinning the entire conference was the solid Biblical foundation laid by the world-class teaching of Pastor Peter Tsukahira of Mount Carmel Assembly, Haifa. A consistent refrain among our group was how impacted they were by his messages on Romans 11; the importance of calling, Israel and the Kingdom, and the power of law and grace when properly understood together.

Delegates also heard about the economic and political successes and challenges facing Israel, with thought-provoking perspectives on Israeli industry from Eli Fischer of Dr. Fischer, and through the political eyes of ICEJ’s former Media Director, David Parsons, and activist Yehuda Glick.

In addition to the in-house sessions, delegates travelled to several local sites to experience various aspects of the land. All were moved by the visit to Israel’s national Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem on the eve of international Holocaust Remembrance Day, during which ICEJ representatives had the honour of laying a memorial wreath and rekindling the ‘Eternal Flame’ in the sober surroundings of the Hall of Remembrance.

Delegates also received a taste of Biblical history with a fascinating tour of the ancient City of David, and experienced the growing sense of unity and appreciation between leaders of Christian and Jewish groups through an informative visit to the Knesset. The conference finale was a dinner at the luxury Waldorf Astoria hosted by the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus and the World Jewish Congress.

As one of our leaders remarked, “How do you unpack this week?” Another declared that, “I’ve just been blown away by this trip!” All were powerfully impacted, but none more than the denominational leader who, after confiding at the start of the week to not being sure why he was there, remarked at week’s end: “We need to pray and fast, and encourage people to be involved. I’m going away encouraged to do more. We need more and more pastors to come out here and catch the vision.”

To learn more about the ENVISION Conference for Pastors and Leaders, visit: 

Gatherings in Brazil and Ireland

In late November, the ICEJ Irish Branch organised a solidarity rally outside the national Parliament building in Belfast to show support for Israel during the current wave of terror attacks. Several Irish lawmakers joined the rally to express their full support for Israel’s right to defend itself and to protest the recent EU labelling guidelines against Israel. More than 100 Christians from across Ireland took part in the pro-Israel demonstration, spearheaded by ICEJ-Ireland national director Brian Silvester.

ICEJ’s David Parsons addressed the crowd, stating the free world needs to stand with Israel in its fight against terror just as it did with France in the wake of the recent Paris terror attacks. He noted that when France closed its borders, no one accused its leaders of imposing “collective punishment” like they often do with Israel.

Local MP David McIlveen stated that on a recent visit to Ramallah he was shocked to hear a Palestinian official say that it was justified to kill Jews in order to gain an advantage at the negotiating table. “This is not the sort of people you can deal with,” McIlveen insisted. He added that it was hypocritical of Westerners to call for a boycott of Israeli products which he saw were readily available on the shelves of stores in Ramallah.

MP Jim Shannon assured the gathering that he takes every opportunity in the House of Commons to uphold Israel’s right to defend its citizens. Shannon stated that as the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel deserves much more support from the UN than it receives.

 

Gathering In Brazil

By Barry Denison

In November I was privileged to travel to Brazil to represent the ICEJ and speak on behalf of our ministry. In the city of Sao Luiz, Maranhao, on the northeastern coast of Brazil, I addressed participants of the annual conference of “Igreja da Colheita” (Church of the Harvest) founded by Bishop Renato Chaves. The three speaking engagements each had 2-3,000 in attendance. In Sao Luis I was honored to speak and share about God’s heart for Israel with the church “Ministerio Apostolico Internacional Shalom” (International Apostolic Ministry Shalom), founded by Apostolo Silvio Antonio.

I then traveled to Brasilia, where the churches of Sara Nossa Terra, founded by Bishop Robson Rodovalho, welcomed me and the mission of ICEJ with great expectancy. I spoke six times over five days in Brazilia and Ceilandia, where the largest meeting was attended by approximately 3,000 Brazilians. My trip ended in Araguari, MG, where I ministered to the “Igreja Crista Apostolica” (Christian Apostolic Church), led by Pastor Fernanda.

The spiritual hunger of these Brazilian churches was astonishing. Their passion in worship and their response to the teachings of the Word of God were both humbling and impressive. In many of the services the congregation came forward to pray or receive prayer, as they humbly embraced the Word and asked the Lord for help to live out these truths in their lives.

You can support our work in the nations by clicking the link below:

 

You Are So Beautiful

Surrounded by thunderous applause and a rain of confetti, the winner of this year’s Beauty Pageant for Holocaust Survivors, Rita Berkowitz is a picture of happiness. Arms open wide, taking the moment in with a big smile. Still vivacious at 83, no one would have guessed that Berkowitz, now declared Queen, once had to hide from the SS soldiers under the bed at the home of her Christian neighbors.

You could say that the Beauty Pageant, hosted by the ICEJ-sponsored Haifa Home for Holocaust Survivors, was first created for these type of elated moments. Now in its third iteration, the event gathered large crowds at the Haifa Garden Congress Hotel in November, including other Holocaust Survivors, their families and even the local media.  

A concept of Isabella Greensberg – a psychiatrist devoted to working with Holocaust Survivors in Haifa – this beauty pageant is as polarizing as it is emotional for everyone involved. Deemed controversial by its detractors, the event is in its essence a celebration of the undying nature of the human spirit.

Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Aid Director, shrugs at the opinions on the event’s divisiveness. “This evening is for the survivors. The 13 ladies [who took part in this year’s Pageant] were never spoiled, some of them never even wore a dress! We’re here to celebrate their lives, to redeem their youth. It’s a fun, classy evening.”

The ICEJ Executive Director Dr. Jürgen Bühler, presented at the event with an award for ICEJ for “Acting in accordance with Social Justice”, reiterated the great purpose of this initiative: “There are millions of Christians around the world who want to make a difference today in Israel. When I was watching the Holocaust Survivors dancing tonight, I was reminded of what the prophet Isaiah in chapter 61 said: ‘I came to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning.’ And that’s what we have seen tonight.”

With a glittering crown and a pageant sash across her chest, Rita Berkowitz addressed the audience: “I wish we all come to know peace, and are given the opportunity to quietly live in our country. Never forget even today, never forget the Shoah and what this older generation went through.”

Towards the end of the event, when asked for more comments, Berkowitz adjusts the flower bouquet in her arms and said with a smile: “We should do this every year.”

Surge in Russian Aliyah

Aliyah from Russia is rapidly increasing due to a major recession triggered by falling oil prices and sanctions resulting from the Ukrainian civil war. If you can believe it, Russian Aliyah is now increasing faster than Ukrainian Aliyah!

In the past year, Aliyah from Russia rose by nearly 44%, while Aliyah from Ukraine increased by 34%, due to the continuing skirmishes and a bad economy. Both statistics remind us of the dreadful facts: The situation of Jews in both countries is foreboding. Overall, Aliyah from the former Soviet Union nations increased by about 36%.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, ICEJ supporters have been faithful in helping the former Soviet Jewry return home to Israel, and today our help is continuously needed!

In many places in the Bible the Lord calls out to the Gentiles to help bring His people home. In Isaiah 49:22 we read: “See. I will beckon to the Gentiles, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will carry your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their shoulders.”

Just as it was in the time of exodus from Egypt, the homecoming of the children of Israel is a witness to the world, and a testimony of the faithfulness of the one true God who keeps His promises.

Russian Reality

Today Russian Jews are moving to Israel in greater numbers mainly because of economic hardships. The Russian ruble is a “petro-currency” which means that as oil loses value on the market, so does the ruble. Since the slide began over a year ago, the Russian ruble has lost more than half of its value, which devalued everyone’s savings accounts by 50% or more.

This also means every square meter of Russian real estate has lost more than half of its real value. Traveling abroad has become twice as expensive and foreign vacations have become out of reach for most Russians.

One of the hardest hit sectors is commercial aviation, where costs are counted in dollars and euros because most of the airplanes are leased, but people’s income remains in rubles. Wages and salaries have not increased in this period, so airline tickets and accommodations have doubled.

This financial situation has also led some airlines to cancel or cut back on unprofitable flight routes. For instance, Israel’s main airline El Al canceled flights to St. Petersburg and Transaero, a major Russian airline, went bankrupt and ceased operations.

All these factors have impacted not only the Jewry in this geographical region, but also the process of bringing them home to Israel. Arranging flights for Russian Jews to their homeland has become a challenge, as signing contracts for their Aliyah flights has become difficult. Another challenge is increasingly tighter baggage allowance policies, which is a critical element of every family’s journey.

Help through ICEJ

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem was quick to respond and generously sponsored luggage for many of the Jewish families needing assistance at this time. Additionally, the ICEJ increased its program “Aliyah through Finland,” which was in operation already in the 1990s, to relieve some of the pressure in traveling from Russia to Israel.

For more than 25 years Finnish Christians have been inviting Russian Jews to come to Finland on their way to Israel. Today all of the expenses of this journey are paid by an organization in Finland led by the ICEJ. The sponsorship covers all travel costs, including the flight, up to three bags, bus transportation to the airport, and three nights in the homes of Finnish Christians.

The ICEJ has a base in St. Petersburg, which was established in the early 1990s for the purposes of Aliyah. This allows us to help not only the Jewish families in the northwestern region of Russia, but also in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Belarus. Each year the ICEJ assists more than one thousand new immigrants from this region, and the numbers continue to increase. 

Please join the ICEJ in responding to this urgent need!

 

Do Not Forget the Father of Christian Zionism

As Theodor Herzl’s close partner in the early Zionist movement, his activism helped lay the groundwork for establishing a Jewish state in their historic homeland.

He used his connections with European royalty to help Herzl secure meetings with key world leaders. Few people were as passionate and intense in working for Zionism and the Jewish people. Yet even fewer people know his name.

We are speaking of the Reverend William Hechler, a devout Christian who befriended Herzl and became the “foreign minister” of the Zionist movement.

Eighty-five years after his death - the date of which will be remembered this coming January – Hechler is not commemorated across the country that he helped to found. No street bears his name, no structure, no institution. One of the key leaders of the early Zionist movement, and one of the fathers of Christian Zionism, the man that serves as an inspiration for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, is almost forgotten. Now is the time for the State of Israel to recognize its debt to this man who worked so hard for its establishment.

William Hechler was not the first Christian who recognized the religious importance of the Jewish return to their homeland, but he was the first to work actively alongside the newly-formed Zionist movement. Born in 1845 to a devout Anglican family, Hechler took up the cause of Zionism years before Herzl began his activity. As an Evangelical Christian, Hechler saw the return of Jews to their homeland as a biblical imperative.

Faithful to this commandment, he was looking for Jewish leaders who would get behind the return to Zion. When he read Herzl’s booklet on “The Jewish State,” Hechler went immediately and knocked on his door to meet this visionary and encourage him to pursue his dream.

In those days, Hechler served as chaplain of the British Embassy in Vienna, and he used his connections with the German royal family to open doors for Herzl across Europe. It started with a meeting with Frederick I, Grand Duke of Baden, to lay out his plan for Jewish resettlement in Eretz Israel. Hechler also accompanied Herzl on a journey to Palestine, and helped him meet the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II. Hechler also served as a special envoy on behalf of the British prime minister in connection with Herzl's efforts.

Hechler took part in the early Zionist Congresses - and even received special words of gratitude from Herzl for his work. Herzl noted that Hechler and his biblical inspiration had a great impact on his efforts, giving him a sense that he was a modern-day Moses leading his people back to the Promised Land.

Hechler remained an ardent Zionist after Herzl's passing, and was in contact with Jewish and Christian leaders until his death. In the years before World War II, he called for Jews to leave Europe and warned of impending catastrophe. Unfortunately, no one heard him. The story of the close partnership between Herzl and Hechler is told in the book "The Prince and the Prophet," by Claude Duvernoy.

The legacy left by Hechler has not disappeared. Zionist Christian organizations, led by the ICEJ as well as millions of Christians around the world, continue to walk in the path of William Hechler, a great friend of the Jewish people. 

 

Share this: