Africa opening up to Israel

New ICEJ-Tanzania branch shows Africa’s heart to bless Israel

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Posted on: 
15 Dec 2016
Africa opening up to Israel
In late September, Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu stood at the podium of the United Nations and delivered a shocking message: “Israel has a bright future at the UN.” Indeed the world body has been incessantly condemning Israel for decades, yet he now has good reason to believe things are changing. As an example Netanyahu cited his recent visit to Africa, where he was warmly welcomed by numerous national leaders and large crowds of admiring people.

In August, I was able to travel to the country of Tanzania and see firsthand the way Africa is now opening up to Israel as never before. I was joined by the ICEJ’s Nigerian director and our Coordinator for all Africa, Rev. Mosy Madugba, and together we inaugurated the new ICEJ-Tanzania branch. The official launch came during a nationwide conference on Israel attended by over 2,000 Christians from all across Tanzania as well as six other African countries. These believers were hungry for solid biblical teaching on Israel and the Church, and eager to bless Israel, which they did through much sacrificial giving. They also were very excited to learn more about modern Israel and its many innovations. Many proudly spoke of how the government of Tanzania is preparing to open a new embassy in Israel in order to improve relations between the two countries. This all demonstrated just how ready Africa is to renew and expand ties with the Jewish state.

The launch of the ICEJ’s new branch in Tanzania was spearheaded by our representative there for the past two years, evangelist Stanton Newton. He has spent the past decade educating himself about Israel and the ICEJ, especially about our biblical message and aid projects. Over the last year, Stanton travelled all across the country telling churches about the upcoming national conference on Israel and urging them to take up offerings for Israel and bring them to the gathering. As a result, almost US$9,000 was collected to “bless Israel.” Some of these donations were pledged towards our work to assist Holocaust survivors, while the bulk was designated to assist several families of Ethiopian Jews to make aliyah to Israel. As the different regions of the country lined up to present their offerings, time after time I knew I was holding the “widow’s mite” in my hand. Yet their profession of faith was very strong: If we bless Israel, we will be blessed.

Tanzania is a unique country in Africa as for several decades it was under the influence of communist China. This hindered development in some ways, but it also gave the people a collective sense of identity as one nation, so Tanzania has not experienced the same tribal conflicts which have plagued many other countries across the continent. There is also a unique sense of unity even within the Body of Christ in Tanzania, as the leading bishops from the Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Baptist and Pentecostal churches all stood in unison with Israel on the platform at the ICEJ conference.

This sent a strong message to their government leaders, who are already moving to strengthen ties with Israel. The president himself will travel to Israel to open the new embassy in November. Meantime a group of Christian business leaders, headed by the former foreign minister, has already acquired a 100-acre plot of land to build a model Israeli farm which will showcase all of the agricultural innovations available from the Jewish state. They expect government officials and farmers from all across Africa to visit the model farm in coming years.

In his UN address, Netanyahu highlighted Israel’s agricultural innovations as one of the reasons African leaders are now looking to the Jewish state for answers on how to feed and defend their people. He also cited Africa’s growing interest in Israel’s technological advances and its expertise in counter-terrorism and cyber-security. While in New York, he also held a summit with leaders from 15 African nations to discuss ways of increased cooperation.

Netanyahu’s remarks at the UN came on the heels of his historic visit to four East African nations this past summer to mark the 40th anniversary of the famous Entebbe raid in Uganda in which his older brother Yoni died. Heads of state from several other nations in the region also flocked to the ceremonies and engaged with the large Israeli delegation. Meantime, Israeli officials have entered negotiations with the main West African economic union to work out a favorable trade deal between them.

So the Israeli government has become very serious about restoring its historic ties with Africa, which were originally forged by Golda Meir in the 1950s and 60s. However, these ties were severed due to heavy Arab pressure following the 1967 Six Day War. But African leaders now realize that Israel has the innovations and technology their nations need to prosper and secure their own futures.

No doubt, the International Christian Embassy has been at the forefront of this recent development. Israeli leaders first saw the potential of renewed ties with Africa in 2011 when the ICEJ branch in Nigeria successfully lobbied their president not to recognize a unilateral Palestinian state in the UN Security Council, thereby blocking that diplomatic initiative. Since then, we have met with leaders of numerous African nations, including some with Muslim majorities, who have all asked us to take back messages to Jerusalem of their interest in restoring relations with Israel. Indeed, it is a day of great favor on Zion, and Africa’s time to be blessed!

 

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