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ICEJ brings another 41 Jews home to Israel

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem brought another 41 Russian-speaking Jewish immigrants to Israel on Tuesday, many on connecting flights that originated in cities all across the vast former Soviet Union. The ICEJ has now brought home nearly 900 Jews on Aliyah flights over the past three months of the Corona travel bans.

As the Coronavirus spread earlier this year and international flights were cancelled around the globe, it appeared that Aliyah to Israel would be suspended. Yet surprisingly, interest among Jewish families in coming to Israel has actually increased, and the ICEJ has been in a unique position to help the Jewish Agency bring them home on emergency chartered flights.

The flight on Tuesday included Jews from across the former Soviet republics. Many had to first take connecting flights of six to eight hours from eastern Siberia and other distant regions to reach Moscow, before the entire group could make the final leg to Tel Aviv together. Since this involves a permanent move to a new country, the Christian Embassy also has paid for extra luggage allowances for these families.

With this week’s flight group, the ICEJ has now sponsored Aliyah flights for 896 Jewish immigrants to reach Israel during the past three months of the Corona crisis. And many more are waiting to come.

In fact, Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog recently said that there will very likely be “a big wave in Aliyah” in coming weeks and months, as many Jewish families abroad view Israel’s situation as better than their current countries – both health-wise and economically.

The Jewish Agency also is requesting that the ICEJ assist with yet another Aliyah flight next week from the Russian-speaking regions to our North, but we need your help! The door of Aliyah is still open, and you can make a major difference in the life of a Jewish family today.

Please support the Aliyah efforts of the ICEJ by giving today!

Deleting 'Israel' from the Bible

In April, Christians in Denmark raised the alarm about a new translation of the Bible published by the Danish Bible Society which omits or replaces hundreds of references to “Israel” in both the Old and New Testaments.

In the new Contemporary Danish Bible 2020, the name “Israel” is deleted in all but two of the sixty places it appears in the New Testament, and in some instances it is replaced with phrases like “the Jews” or “land of the Jews.” In the revised Old Testament, some 250 references to Israel are similarly erased or replaced, amounting to just under 10% of all such references in the Tanakh.

The Danish Bible Society contends that these changes were necessary so that ordinary Danes will not mistakenly connect Biblical Israel with modern Israel. However, this can never justify such an assault on the integrity of the Holy Scriptures and their eternal truths. And because most national Bible societies around the world receive broad support from Evangelical believers, it is important that we raise our voices about this errant work of Bible translation.

First of all, we must uphold the Holy Scriptures as inviolable – their original, essential meaning must never be changed. Now translating the Bible into various languages can present many challenges, especially when it comes to certain Hebrew or Greek words in rare use or with multiple meanings. But “Israel” is “Israel”, and there is no need or rationale for ever changing it.

Secondly, it is impossible to remove the nation and people of Israel from their central role in God’s redemptive plan for all humanity, as is so consistently affirmed throughout the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. The New Testament concurs with theOld Testament that God’s election over both the land and people of Israel are inseparable and enduring. But the Danish Bible Society is seeking to sever that connection in people’s mind, which would render of no effect the many divine promises of Israel’s last-day restoration to the land. This would mean God is unfaithful or untrustworthy concerning His promises, and even turn Him into a liar. Heaven forbid!

In an exchange of letters between the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and the director general of the Danish Bible Society, they have insisted that the Danish public has a problem when they read the Bible, see the word “Israel,” and immediately equate it with the modern-day state of Israel. It seems that today’s Israel is viewed in such a negative light throughout Denmark (thanks largely to the Danish media’s incessant bias against Israel), making any connection to it skews the average Dane’s understanding of the historic Israel of the Bible.

Their answer is to steer the reader’s attention away from Israel as a nation inhabiting a particular land, and focus it instead on the ancient (and modern) Jewish people. But, more often than not in the Bible, “Israel” refers to both the land and the people – that is, the nation of Israel. This is an inescapable truth! And the two cannot be separated so easily, as it does incalculable harm to its original, fundamental meaning – and to the immutable counsel and purpose of God (Hebrews 6:13-20).

Now what the Danish Bible Society has sought to accomplish, they easily could have done in column or foot notes alongside the Bible text, which has become the accepted practice in the field of Bible translation. But here, the sacred words themselves were changed in order to accommodate shifting secular views.

It is one thing to seek to interpret biblical passages in a way which divests the Jewish people of their unique place in Scripture or their irrevocable heritage in the Land of Israel. This is a grave mistake which many Christians have been making for centuries now. But to translate actual passages of the Bible by erasing key references to Israel in this way is an even greater travesty.

Where does this folly end? Will they one day replace the word “Church” in Scripture with the name of some popular socialist movement? Will they replace the name of Jesus with some false savior?

And how can you rob God of His very own identity, seeing that He repeatedly describes Himself in Scripture as the “God of Israel”? (See e.g., Exodus 5:1; 2 Samuel 12:7; Psalm 72:18; Isaiah 45:3; Jeremiah 31:23; Ezekiel 44:2; Malachi 2:16; Matthew 15:31; Luke 1:68; Acts 13:17). Sure, He was the God of an ancient people known as Israel, but He also gave this people a specific land as an “eternal possession” (Genesis 17:8), planted them in that land so they could become a unique nation in the earth, and promised to watch over them in that land. Some may not be comfortable with what the contemporary nation of Israel is doing today, but God has brought the Jewish people back to their eternal homeland to do great and marvelous things with them here which will bless the whole world. This is not something to run from but to embrace, and to take the time to explain as best we can to every Dane and anyone else who will listen.

The international network of Bible Societies around the world are widely respected within the Christian world for their noble mission of making the Word of God available to all peoples and nations in their native languages. But the Danish Bible Society has now brought disgrace upon its own chapter of this revered association by its disturbing and unacceptable actions. They need to honor the integrity of the Holy Scriptures by withdrawing this seriously flawed Bible translation from circulation.

Please sign our online petition to the Danish Bible Society

David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and Senior Spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. 

A Tribute to Dr. David Pawson

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem mourns the passing of our dear friend David Pawson, even as we celebrate his exemplary life and rich legacy as a Bible teacher par excellence.

Dr. J. David Pawson (25 February 1930 – 21 May 2020) was a noted Bible expositor and leading Evangelical theologian for the Christian Zionist movement. His global teaching ministry impacted Christian believers all around the world, and the ICEJ was privileged to have a special ministry connection with him as a frequent speaker at our events, including the annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration in Jerusalem.

“We greatly honour David Pawson as one of the most outstanding Bible teachers within the Christian world over the past half-century”, said Dr. Jürgen Bühler. “He was especially appreciated by our global constituency for his firm theological stand with Israel, which he always presented in such clear, understandable terms.”

Dr. Pawson was a featured speaker at the very first Feast of Tabernacles in September 1980, and thus was present at the founding of the Christian Embassy in Jerusalem. He last spoke at the Feast in 2016, when the ICEJ presented him with the Olive Tree Award in special recognition of his strong biblical stand with Israel. In 2009, the ICEJ also bestowed upon him its annual Nehemiah Award in recognition of his lifetime achievements in building support and understanding for Israel.

Born in England in 1930, Pawson came from a long line of farmers and Methodist ministers dating back to John Wesley. He first earned a degree in Agriculture from Durham University, but soon answered the call into ministry and studied theology at Cambridge. He subsequently served as a chaplain in the Royal Air Force, and then as a parish minister in Methodist and Baptists churches in the United Kingdom. While pastoring Guildford Baptist Church in the 1970s, his recorded sermons became popular with listeners around the globe, leading him to launch an itinerant teaching ministry which would soon have a global impact.

During his career, Pawson was highly sought-after as a speaker in churches and conferences worldwide, while authoring 81 books and producing over 300 teaching videos that eventually sold millions of copies globally. Many of his books were transcribed from his pulpit messages, which often tackled such difficult subjects as hell, salvation, divorce, male leadership and Israel. His preaching style was both authoritative and humble, forthright and witty, clear and uncompromising. Pawson always encouraged Christians to read the Bible for themselves, to discern whether his explanations of Scripture were true.

His most popular work, Unlocking the Bible (2006), presents a book-by-book study of the background, purpose, meaning and relevance of every book in the Bible. It remains one of the best and most widely-read Bible study tools available today.

In Defending Christian Zionism and Israel in the New Testament, Pawson set out the theological and prophetic significance of Israel’s modern-day restoration and why Christians should support the renewed Jewish presence in the land of their forefathers.

One of his latest books is Where Is Jesus Now?, in which Pawson explains why the Ascension of Jesus is an often neglected event in salvation history and how it can still be a source of inspiration to every Christian believer.

In recent years, Pawson had to curtail his travels and public ministry due to health challenges, such as cancer and the early onset of Parkinson’s symptoms. Having reached 90 years of age, he passed away on Ascension Day, which many admirers noted was appropriate for this devout and beloved servant of the Lord.

Our condolences go out to his wife, Enid, and their entire family.

ICEJ Assisting With Surprise Surge in Aliyah

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is currently helping Israel and the Jewish Agency with an unexpected wave of Aliyah even during the Coronavirus crisis, as the ICEJ has already sponsored flights for 601 Jewish immigrants since February, and will bring another 160 Jews to Israel this week.

The newest arrivals include a group of 41 Russian Jews flying in on Tuesday (19 May) from Moscow, with another ICEJ-sponsored flight carrying 119 Ethiopian Jews scheduled to land at Ben-Gurion Airport on Thursday (21 May).

This will raise the total to 761 Jewish immigrants the ICEJ has brought on flights to Israel since Corona travel bans were first imposed worldwide in February. For many of these recent arrivals, the ICEJ also is helping to cover the added costs of their post-flight quarantine, in support of the Jewish Agency.

As global travel has ground to a halt over recent months, many in Israel were expecting a pause in Jewish immigration due to the COVID-19 threat. But the nation is currently experiencing a surprising surge in Aliyah, as many Jewish families worldwide are moving up plans to immigrate to a country they view as safer and better positioned for economic recovery.

The present influx of Jewish immigrants is coming from around the world, including Ethiopia and the former Soviet republics, among other regions. With most regular international flights still suspended at this time, Israeli and Jewish Agency officials have been working to arrange emergency charter flights which are bringing back stranded Israeli citizens as well as Jews from abroad who are approved for immigration to Israel.

Many of these recent Jewish arrivals are coming from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, where the local economies are struggling and the Corona threat is just peaking. Even travel within these countries is difficult and in some areas not even allowed. Yet we are hearing stories of Jewish families making incredible efforts to board flights for Israel, with some even walking great distances with children in tow. In other instances, pregnant mothers nearing term were suddenly determined to reach Israel in time to give birth in the Jewish homeland. And Israeli and Jewish Agency officials are exploring all avenues to safely funnel these people through airports even when most people are not allowed to fly.

On Tuesday, a flight will arrive from Russia with 41 Jewish immigrants sponsored by the ICEJ. One Jewish couple on board has sped up their move here to be with their daughter, an Israeli mother of two who has been diagnosed with advanced brain cancer and will undergo emergency surgery in coming days.

 

Meantime, some 7,000 Ethiopian Jews have been living for years in difficult conditions in transit camps in Gondar and Addis Ababa, and concern is growing that they will be hit hard by the Coronavirus as it spreads through Africa. Thus, those Ethiopian Jews previously approved for Aliyah are being brought now, including Thursday’s flight of 119 olim, while the new Israeli government will have to decide on possible emergency measures to process and safeguard the rest. We expect swift government action to start bringing more to Israel in coming weeks.

Ever since the Ethiopian Aliyah resumed in 2015, the ICEJ has been the exclusive sponsor of flights for the historic return of this ancient Israelite community, and we need your help to sponsor these upcoming flights. Meantime, the Jewish Agency has also approached the ICEJ with a request to help cover the flight costs for another 150 Russian Jews they hope to bring to Israel by early June.

Assisting Israel with Aliyah is always exciting and prophetic. But how much more of a privilege and joy it is for the Christian Embassy and our supporters to play a central role in this extraordinary wave of Aliyah, which is taking place at a time when a global pandemic has brought the world to a standstill, but it could not stop the Jews from coming home to Israel.

Please consider what you can do to bring Jewish people to Israel at this truly unique moment in history. God is urgently calling them home and He is calling on you to help!

Give your best gift today!

Haifa Home Residents Slowly Emerge From Lockdown

“All of the sudden I felt like I was imprisoned. I couldn’t do the things anymore that I used to do like visiting friends, going out for coffee… The light in the midst of this dark time was the daily knock on the door and the visit of the ICEJ team. They took me out for a walk, brightening up my day with good talks and laughter when I felt depressed and taking care of my needs. I am very grateful." - Rita, a resident at the ICEJ Haifa Home for Holocaust Survivors

The seventy elderly residents at the ICEJ’s assisted-living home for Holocaust Survivors in Haifa are slowly, cautiously emerging from the isolation of a nine-week Corona lockdown in their rooms. They are relieved to be alive and well, happy to see each other, and grateful for the daily loving care provided by our Christian team on-site all these many weeks.

Retirement homes in Israel and worldwide were hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis, with some decimated by the virus that has particularly targeted the elderly. But we are elated to report that not one of the Holocaust survivors under our care at the Haifa Home contracted the Coronavirus. And in fact, they have all been remarkably healthy for their age over the past two months of the lockdown, thanks to all the hearty meals, vitamins, medical checks and daily visits provided by Yudit Setz and her six Christian co-workers at the home.

When the quarantine period began in March, the residents had great difficulties with the sudden isolation. Instead of sharing meals together each day at the community cafeteria, they had to stay in their apartments and eat alone. Instead of celebrating Passover and Israel’s Independence Day with their families and friends, they had to celebrate alone. Their only contact was with our Christian staff and volunteers, who rotated shifts over the prolonged lockdown period to provide the care they needed.

“Our ICEJ team became their only lifeline to the outside world and their main caregivers seven days a week”, explained Yudit Setz, who heads our Haifa Home team.“We visited their homes daily to find out how they were coping, took them out for little walks, did physiotherapy, checked their medical needs, and repaired things in their homes. These may seem like small things, but they often made a huge difference in their day-to-day lives. They looked forward to our knock on their door and the human contact that broke the loneliness and brightened their day.”

As the health restrictions slowly lift, a new activity room has now opened which is giving the residents a welcome place to finally see each other again, play games, exercise, create art, and just come for a drink and normal conversation. The residents and staff are still abiding by the social distancing rules, but this wonderful activity center is providing a warm, safe, lively hub for camaraderie and fun.

Who Needs A Haircut?
Due to the quarantine conditions, many of the residents and even the staff are in dire need of a haircut. So, where do you go when your hair salon is closed? Well, no worries because one of the Haifa Home residents, 92-year-old Fanny, has been a hairdresser for almost 50 years! Eli, one of the volunteers, was desperate for a haircut, so Fanny happily and confidently gave him a nice trim. Even something so small was so rewarding for her!

Commemorations and Birthdays
In late April, the Haifa Home went ahead with hosting a ceremony to mark Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Instead of the usual crowd of survivors, family, police and soldiers, the ceremony was held with only a few residents and guests in attendance, sitting two meters apart. Shalom Stamberg (age 97) and Miriam Linial (98), both survivors of Auschwitz, lit the remembrance flame, and Shlomo Shertzer (94) recited the prayer of mourning.

Yudit Setz led off the ceremony with a heart-felt message.

“Dear Holocaust survivors, for you this is such a difficult day and I embrace you with a warm and huge embrace in the name of thousands of Christians who admire you, who think about you and pray for you at this time. I have the great privilege of seeing you almost every day, and you have taught me so many things ... How to never give up regardless of the difficult circumstances … To live with hope amid the biggest storm, knowing that one day the sun will shine again ... To love instead of hate…”

Just a few days later, the Haifa Home residents were able to enjoy a scaled-back celebration of Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day! The ICEJ team visited each resident, sang joyful songs, and talked with them about their hopes for Israel. Rita shared that she longs for the day when the Corona is fully behind us, “so that we will continue to be a free people in a free country.”

“I wish for peace and health for all of Israel and blessings to the IDF who protect us”, said Motke. “May we have less arguments together and agree more as a people”, he added.

Our Moral Duty to Help
Should the worst of the Corona crisis now be behind us, we will always look back at this unique moment as a special time when a handful of Christians were in the right place at the right time to help these dear Holocaust survivors through a very trying ordeal late in their lives. But the daily work of caring for these survivors continues, and the opportunity is there for you to show God’s love to the Jewish people by supporting the Haifa Home.

Galina, a resident from the Haifa Home expressed her deep gratitude for the help she has received: “This Corona time has been a very special time for me. I have felt so protected, safe and important because of all the attention and care I received. Meals were brought to my doorstep, all my personal needs were met and medically I was taken care of. I have felt so loved. It feels like one of the best times of my life! Thank you so much!”

“We have a moral duty, not only to remember the Holocaust, but also to take care of those who survived and are still with us today, to let them live out their lives in dignity, respect and love”, said Yudit Setz. “We will continue to do so with the help of God and of those He is calling to support this sacred work.”

We invite you to partner with us in making a difference in the lives of Holocaust survivors today. Learn more about how you can help by clicking here!

Finding A Home in the Storm

Five months into 2020 and the world is an entirely different landscape than when the year began. However, in the midst of closed borders, lockdowns and social distancing, one door in Israel has remained open – the door of Aliyah! Jews are still coming home to Israel from the nations, and once again Christians worldwide are playing a role in this prophetic fulfillment through the work of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

Since Coronavirus travel bans were first imposed in February, the ICEJ has sponsored Aliyah flights for 601 new Jewish immigrants, including families like Yaroslav and Victoria from Ukraine, who are expecting their first child.

Because of the advanced stage of Victoria’s pregnancy, it would have been very difficult to get her out of Ukraine in coming months. There also are no regular flights out of the region at this time. So Israeli officials and our Aliyah partners at the Jewish Agency have been working with the governments of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus to arrange special emergency charter flights each week which are bringing back Israeli citizens as well as Jews approved for immigration to Israel. This is an amazing opening in the middle of the Corona crisis, and the ICEJ is pleased to be a part by sponsoring flights for these Jewish families making the move to Israel.

When Yaroslav and Victoria arrived in mid-April on an ICEJ-sponsored flight from Kiev, they immediately went into a two-week mandatory quarantine. Now released, they are busy settling into their new home in the city of Ramla, in central Israel.

Married for little more than a year, Victoria explained why they decided to come and why now?

“We were not afraid in the face of the growing Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the fact that travel between cities and countries was stopped, we continued to prepare for the move [to Israel] and the care from the Aliyah coordinators helped a lot. I really wanted our child’s birth to take place in Israel. Now that we have made it safely here, our parents can stop worrying.”

This journey of Aliyah began early in life for Victoria. “From my childhood, I had the feeling that I did not belong in the place where I was. When I grew up, I discovered my Jewish roots, which confirmed the truth of my experiences.”

In 2017, Victoria traveled to Israel for the first time with her dad to see relatives. “When I visited this country, I had a feeling in my soul that I found the answer to my question: This is the place where I want to be, the place that I belonged. A new calm settled over my soul.”

After that trip, Victoria moved to the capital of Kiev and began attending Hebrew courses as well as Jewish cultural events to get better acquainted with her future surroundings in Israel. Victoria soon met Yaroslav, the love of her life, and not long after she became a happy bride. With Yaroslav fully supportive of her desire to start their new life together in the Jewish homeland, the young couple even chose Israel for their two-week honeymoon destination.

“When we spent our honeymoon in Israel, these were two unforgettable weeks that gave us the motivation to do our best to live and build a family in Israel,” Yaroslav shared.

As they settle into their new life in central Israel, what is ahead for this wonderful couple?

“We will live, we will work and try to give a decent life to our future generation”, said Yaroslav.

Victoria plans to study languages, while Yaroslav will make professional use of his artistic skills. And this is only the beginning. Amid the pandemic, this young family is full of bright plans for life here in Israel.

“This is our love story and our way of making Aliyah,” Victoria summed up with her natural enthusiasm. 

“We are so happy to be here, and we want to say ‘thank you’ to everyone who helped us! Because it was our dream and such a deep desire in our hearts.”

There are many more Jews in the nations wanting to come home now, in spite of the Coronavirus threat. In fact, many see Israel is keeping its public safer from the virus than their current countries. Others believe Israel’s economy will recover faster than their locales, so they actually want to speed up the immigration process.

Indeed, there is a fresh wave of Aliyah expected over coming months from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, from Ethiopia, from the West, and many other regions of the world. And the ICEJ wants to be there to help! Currently, we are raising funds to bring 150 Jews from Russian-speaking nations to the north, and 120 Ethiopian Jews home from the south, all within the next few weeks.

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

Prepare the Way

Driving up to Jerusalem, we have seen many changes over the past ten years. Heavy earth-moving equipment has levelled the steep ascents and straightened the curves of Highway One connecting Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Hilltops have been radically shaved off and valleys bridged or filled to ease the daily traffic congestion making its way up to Israel‘s capital.

The Bible says that such a massive undertaking will also take place in the spiritual realm. Not to smooth the way for the ever-increasing flow of tourists to Jerusalem, or to account for growing infrastructure needs in the fast-growing ‘Start Up Nation’, but it will be a spiritual highway which makes a path for something far more important. It will be a highway project to prepare the coming of the glory of the Lord.

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’” (Isaiah 40:3-5)

The current highway construction around Jerusalem is a state-initiated project. But Isaiah speaks about a heavenly-initiated highway project. He hears a voice like a trumpet blast inviting everyone, everywhere, to take part in this prophetic mission.

This voice was already heard 2000 years ago through John the Baptist. And I believe this voice is being heard again today.

Back then, it was indeed a controversial call. John the Baptist, in many ways, was a strange character. He did not meet the mainstream expectations of his time. His meeting places were not the polished marble halls of the Temple, but the rough and hostile terrain of the desert. His speaking style was not trained by the great orators of his time, but he used rough language and did not mince words. He openly criticised the religious rulers of his day as a “brood of vipers” and challenged the king to repent of his personal lifestyle of immorality (Matthew 14:4). His apparel was rustic at best and, according to Jesus, unsuited for the halls of power (Matthew 11:8). And his diet was definitely peculiar – locust with honey.

John the Baptist was a preacher who upset people both in his appearance and message. Yet many loved him and felt this strange firebrand in the desert had the word of the Lord for their generation. They sensed that God had again sent a man like Elijah of old, challenging their lukewarm-ness and wayward lifestyles. From all over Israel, they came to listen to him and to undergo the baptism of John. Jesus himself later gave him the highest compliment a man could expect: “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist.” (Matthew 11:11)

But when asked by the people who he really was, John was surprisingly unpretentious and declared that it was not at all about him but the One who would come after him. “I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” as the prophet Isaiah said.’” (John 1:23)

His message struck at the very heart of the religious establishment and the notion that belonging to God‘s chosen people, the Jews, was a free ticket to heaven (Luke 3:7-9). Rather, God was looking for a people of broken spirit, ready to repent, and not by mere words only. If necessary, God could raise a people for Himself out of stones, John declared. Repentance for John was not just reading a confession in church (or the temple), but required a radical change of lifestyle. “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance.” (Matthew 3:8)

John was the way-maker for Messiah. He carried out his ministry “in the spirit and power of Elijah… to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17) Or as Jesus himself would later say: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.” (Matthew 11:10)

Elijah Must Come
The prophet Malachi links this ministry of the way-maker to Israel’s great prophet, Elijah. Even until today, the Jewish people have a tradition of keeping a seat open at the Passover seder table for Elijah in anticipation of his coming. At one point, the door also is opened just in case Elijah has come.

When Jesus and his disciples were on the way back from the Mount of transfiguration. They had just encountered Elijah and Moses talking to Jesus, and the disciples asked him: “‘Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.” (Matthew 17:10-13)

Jesus answered in an almost cryptic manner. “Elijah is coming” and “Elijah has already come.” He indicates that there is a twofold ministry of Elijah. One took place through the person of John the Baptist. This ministry was very powerful but at the same time it ended with John the Baptist being beheaded. “They… did with him whatever they wished.”

Yet Jesus also states that there will be a future ministry of Elijah, “Elijah is coming!” According to the Lord, this Elijah ministry will be different in the outcome. This future Elijah ministry “will restore all things.”

The re-emergence and ongoing restoration of the modern state of Israel, the unprecedented growth of the Church around the world, and the global shakings (like the current Corona crisis) all indicate that we are living in times of great spiritual significance. Jesus is coming soon! Yet if that is true, we all need to revisit the ministry of John the Baptist. I personally believe that this current crisis is a call from heaven to all of us to “Prepare the way of the Lord!”

This time it is not the voice of one individual person, church or ministry, but a call from the Spirit of God which is heard across the world by those who hunger and thirst for more of His glory and for the coming of their Saviour. Today, we hear that the Bible is sold out in many bookstores around the world. In spite of the quarantine, Zoom prayer meetings are mushrooming near and far. This current crisis undoubtedly is challenging and transforming the Church – and Israel. It will help prepare the way of the Lord.

A Highway of Holiness

God is building a highway in our times. Whoever I talk to around the world, they feel that God is doing something new and fresh in our days. New wine skins! And this new highway being built is not named after denominations or ministries. It is not the highway of a man, but the ‘Highway of the Lord’.

In Isaiah 35:8, the prophet describes it as a “highway of holiness”. This move of God requires us to adopt a new lifestyle of holiness and repentance. Both words – holiness and repentance – have become dangerously rare in many Christian circles today, but they were at the heart of the messages of both Elijah and John the Baptist.

John’s call for repentance was not a call to heathen nations or the Roman Empire, but it was a call to his own people, the people of God. He was calling Israel to get right with their God and today the Lord is calling us, the Church, to get right with God. Of the seven churches in the Book of Revelation (chapters 2 to 3), God was fully pleased with only two of them. The majority (five out of seven!) urgently needed to repent.

Like Israel at the time of John the Baptist, we need to rid ourselves of the notion that the Church has a free ticket to heaven. A powerful move of God in our times requires a powerful change in our lives.

When this year started, our staff in Jerusalem felt God was calling us to repentance. Not that blatant sin was raging among us, but we felt God was calling us to greater separation from the world and closer communion with Him. Charles Finney, one of America’s greatest revival preachers, writes in his classic “Lectures on Revival” that every revival is preceded and paralleled by a wave of repentance. Let us rediscover this holy virtue!

A Voice in the Desert
This call to build this highway of the Lord will not necessarily grab the attention and approval of the world. Like the times of John the Baptist, it will be a voice calling in the desert. It might not be heard by our friends and family. It might not happen on the platforms of social media and large gatherings. But it will be an intimate move of God between you and Him. One blessing that this current Corona crisis is bringing to us is it has reduced us to our homes, our family relationships, and our relationship to God. The Bible promises us that if we draw near to Him, He will also draw near to us.

Mountains, Valleys and Crooked Ways
God is not going to deal with our valleys. In the time of John the Baptist, his message brought God’s people out of the valley of complacency and compromise. It fills out what is missing in our lives. The things that are missing can be a loss of our first love and passion for Jesus. It can mean the neglect of the ‘means of grace’, which are the means through which God chooses to build His kingdom – the fellowship of the saints, communion, time spent in the word of God or invested in our personal prayer life.

In many hearts, there are mountains of pride, human philosophies and religiosity that keep God from moving. Paul writes to the church in Corinth that he is using his spiritual weapons against every high place that rises against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). These are not physical mountains, but they can be as daunting as the great peaks of the Rockies or Himalayas.

We have to straighten the crooked, distorted paths of our hearts in order to allow the glory of the Lord to arrive in full measure! The Hebrew word for crooked is ‘yakav’. The same word is used by the prophet Jeremiah: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?“ (Jeremiah 17:9)

The late Derek Prince always liked to point out that the adjective ‘deceitful’ is not in the passive but the active voice. This means it is not so much that our hearts can be easily deceived, but that our heart is an active agent wanting to deceive us. That is why the prophet, a few verses later, cries out to God: “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; Save me, and I shall be saved.” (Jeremiah 17:14)

To prepare the way of the Lord is a matter of our hearts. Jeremiah – and with him other prophets – understood that our hearts are incurably sick and need a heavenly heart transplant through the Holy Spirit. Ezekiel prophesies about it (Ezekiel 36:24ff). Jeremiah said it will be a new covenant of God dealing with our hearts (Jeremiah 31:31ff). And Jesus said this promised change of heart through the Holy Spirit will be so radical, one will feel like they are being born again (John 3:6).

Precisely herein lays the secret of why the ministry of John the Baptist was so different to what God will be doing in our days. In his day, countless people were affected by him and got baptized, but it did not produce a lasting change in the heart of the nation. Likewise, Elijah’s challenge to the nation on Mt. Carmel only produced a short-lived change. As the prophet Hosea truly recognised: “O Ephraim, what shall I do to you? O Judah, what shall I do to you? For your faithfulness is like a morning cloud, and like the early dew it goes away.” (Hosea 6:4)

That is why this final cry in the desert will be and needs to be a powerful, heart transforming move of the Holy Spirit, otherwise it cannot succeed! The big difference between the time of John the Baptist and today is that during his time the Holy Spirit was not poured out yet. But it is precisely because of Pentecost and the great expectation of a latter day outpouring of God’s Spirit that allows us to expect an exciting move of God in our days. My friend Angus Buchan said in one of our recent Global Prayer Gatherings that he expects the greatest revival in history to be unleashed after this Corona crisis is over.

We are indeed living through a time that is unprecedented in history – with four billion people impacted by various levels of quarantine caused by the Coronavirus. Therefore, let us not waste this time but rather let us redeem this time for God‘s purposes. It is again a time when God is speaking from heaven. It is a time when God declares “once more I will shake the heavens and the earth.” It is through this shaking that God causes “the removal of things that are shaken – that is, things that have been made – in order that the things which cannot be shaken may remain”. (Hebrews 12:27)

All things built on man’s glory and on human efforts will have to fail, so the things built on God’s unshakable Kingdom will remain. If we all join in preparing this divine highway, we will see the glory of the Lord arriving with power. It will be a greater glory than the former house and all the earth shall see it!

“Prepare the Way” was given to us as the theme of this year’s Feast of Tabernacles. When we chose it, we could not have known how relevant this theme would be for 2020! It is indeed the year of a voice crying “Prepare the way of the Lord.”

Please pray for this year’s Feast of Tabernacles. May it be a time of an unprecedented outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Please prayerfully make plans to join us in Jerusalem, and check our website for updates and news on our Feast plans.

In the next issue: “Prepare the Way,” part 2, we will discover more about how the Elijah ministry impacts the relationship between Israel and the Church.

Register for the Feast of Tabernacles 2020 today!

ICEJ Meets Mounting Needs as Israel Hit by Coronavirus Crisis

As the coronavirus threat spread around the world in late February, it became clear that the strict measures governments were taking to stop the pandemic would impact the ICEJ’s work in Israel just as the Passover season approached—when we are normally quite busy with numerous holiday assistance projects. Despite having to work from home, our staff in Israel rose to the challenge of meeting the needs of thousands of Israeli families even as the coronavirus crisis brought the nation’s economy to a standstill. Thanks to the faithful and generous support of Christians worldwide, the ICEJ helped even more Jewish families than usual over the Passover season.

VIRAL CRISIS PEAKS AT PASSOVER

This was indeed a most difficult Passover in Israel, as life and work were totally disrupted by the coronavirus health crisis. The elderly were told not to leave their homes for their own safety. Incoming flights were banned, and tourism flatlined. All non-essential businesses were closed. Unemployment in Israel suddenly jumped to over 25 percent. As Passover neared, the social needs across the country only multiplied. In Ashdod alone, over half the families applied to city social workers for Passover assistance.

With dozens of urgent requests for help flooding into our offices from across Israel, our staff rose to the occasion. Because Christians from around the world also responded to the need, we were able to help thousands of Holocaust Survivors, other elderly citizens, new immigrants, needy families, and many others who were desperately in need of assistance this Passover season.

It turned into a special moment when Christians showed their care and concern for our Israeli friends right when they needed us the most! No doubt, “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

“When the coronavirus began spreading in Israel, it made our work much more difficult, but it did not stop the mandate of the Christian Embassy to comfort the people of Israel. Rather, it provided a unique and timely opportunity to expand our ministry to meet critical needs and help many more families as Passover approached,” said ICEJ AID Director Nicole Yoder.

Here is a sampling of what we were able to accomplish together to make the Passover season brighter for thousands of individuals and families under added distress due to the coronavirus crisis. As you can see, we provided timely aid to more people at Passover than ever before, including Holocaust Survivors, other elderly Israelis, and new immigrants and children—while also helping emergency relief teams and community workers in need of special medical equipment remain on the job.

CARE FOR ELDERLY AND HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS

ICEJ team members at our Haifa Home for Holocaust Survivors were designated the primary caregivers for the 70 residents confined to their apartments due to the coronavirus crisis. This included delivering meals, providing medical checkups, doing handiwork around their homes, and paying daily visits to break their sense of isolation. The Christian volunteers under the direction of veteran ICEJ staffers Yudit and Will Setz also helped pack and deliver meals to hundreds of other Holocaust Survivors and senior citizens all around Haifa. 

In Jerusalem, some 12 members of the ICEJ staff were permitted to leave their homes to assist the elderly and other vulnerable people required to stay in their apartments. Many volunteered with Hineni—a Christian-supported Jerusalem soup kitchen—where they helped pack and deliver some 2,000 hot meals to elderly residents of the city over several weeks, as well as 650 Passover food and gift packages.

The ICEJ Homecare team also cared for some elderly and disabled Russian Jewish immigrants, buying them groceries and medicines, delivering Passover packets, and much more.

PASSOVER ASSISTANCE

The ICEJ began its annual Passover holiday distributions in early March by delivering Pesach packages for dozens of needy families in Netanya. The gift baskets included food vouchers for the holiday season, along with kitchenware, pans, and towels. This was a normal activity for ICEJ AID at this time of year, but soon the Passover needs were multiplying, and nothing remained normal.

Despite the stay-at-home orders, the ICEJ also funded and helped with the distribution of Passover gift boxes, including food and hygienic products, as well as daily meals to over 400 elderly and needy Soviet Jewish immigrants—including many Holocaust Survivors, who live in the Jerusalem suburbs of Pisgat Ze’ev and Ma’ale Adumim.

Meantime, we normally sponsor community Passover seders for hundreds of newly-arrived Jewish immigrants. However, since large gatherings were not allowed, the ICEJ provided holiday assistance to more individual immigrant families this year. This included 269 Ethiopian newcomers who were celebrating their first Passover in the Land of Israel. We also assisted these families with extra absorption assistance while they were in a mandated two-week quarantine upon entering the country.

Elsewhere, we worked with the Jewish Agency to assist 50 other newly-arrived families from other countries who had made the trip to Israel despite the coronavirus threat and went straight into quarantine. This extra absorption aid included vouchers to buy food and other basics as they start a new life in Israel under difficult circumstances.
Also, ICEJ funds made it possible for the Jewish Agency to run holiday day camps for children of new immigrant families in quarantine. This project included providing games, crafts, and toys for the kids to play at home or in small supervised groups.

Finally, the ICEJ furnished games, art supplies, and help with online learning for 95 at-risk youths in a special children’s home during the Passover season.

EMERGENCY WORKERS

For families living in southern Israel under the constant threat of rockets from Gaza, life became even harder due to the threat of COVID-19. The ICEJ provided local medical and emergency teams there with sterile gloves, filtration masks, protective suits, disinfectants, and other medical gear to allow them to continue making home visits to treat and care for children traumatized by years of rocket fire. They also arranged food and medicine to those in isolation or unable to shop, while also working with Magen David Adom to administer blood tests for coronavirus.

Meantime, first responders in the Gaza border area repurposed the special ATV firefighting equipment recently donated by the ICEJ to clean and sanitize public areas from the virus, including playgrounds, schools, and parks.

OTHER DISTRESSED COMMUNITIES

As unemployment rose due to the coronavirus lockdowns, the ICEJ reached out to other communities in need all across Israel.

The ICEJ responded to urgent requests for help on behalf of dozens of Bnei Menashe, Chinese, and Hispanic Jewish families who arrived in Israel within the past year or so and were struggling due to job layoffs and other economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis. We were able to provide them with grants and food vouchers to assist the newly unemployed and those in dire need before the Passover holiday.

The ICEJ also helped sponsor a brand-new emergency hotline for families with disabled and autistic children, which proved timely and effective—especially as anxiety among children and domestic violence began rising across Israel, as elsewhere. With guidance and training from professionals, phone counselors began taking 50–100 calls per day, in both Hebrew and Arabic, to deal with cases of fear and emotional trauma associated with the coronavirus among special-needs children.

Many in Israel’s Arab and Bedouin communities were late in learning about the dangers posed by COVID-19, and when public schools were suddenly closed and many breadwinners in these communities were suspended from their jobs, many families were greatly impacted. In response, the ICEJ provided 100 Arab and Bedouin families with hygiene supplies and culturally sensitive explanatory materials on how to protect your person and home against the virus, how to practice social distancing, and other helpful information.

Lastly, Israel’s Christian Arab community also has been impacted by the coronavirus threat, including many workers who have lost their jobs. In the mixed Christian/Muslim town of Eilaboun, in the Galilee, the ICEJ donated computers to 36 families so that their children could access distance learning. Other families with small children also received games and toys for the little ones to relieve stress in the home during the long school closures.

THE NEEDS CONTINUE

We are most grateful that Christians around the globe responded so quickly and generously over recent weeks, enabling the ICEJ to meet more needs than ever over the Passover season.

But the coronavirus health crisis is not over, and the needs created by this pandemic will continue to mount—both in Israel and in many other nations. We are thankful that so many Christians are so dedicated to helping Israel, even though they have urgent needs in their own families, communities, and nations. May the Lord richly bless you as you continue to comfort Israel in her time of need.

GIving Extra Aid to New Olim During Corona

Despite all the travel bans due to the Coronavirus, Israel is still welcoming new immigrants. Another group of 45 Russian-speaking Jewish immigrants made Aliyah last week, just in time for the nation’s Independence Day celebrations. The ICEJ sponsored some of the flights for this group and helped to cover extra costs made necessary by the Coronavirus health rules.

For Jews coming from the former Soviet republics, the added expenses at present include both a pre-flight quarantine period and then a two-week post-flight quarantine in a hotel before finally being able to enter an absorption center. These added health precautions have made the actual move to Israel more expensive than the normal Aliyah process. But many Jews in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other FSU republics are moving up their Aliyah plans to come to Israel now. So, we are grateful to be in a position, thanks to the support of so many Christians, to help them come home to Israel now, even in the midst of this pandemic!

Most of the Jews we have assisted in making Aliyah over recent weeks are from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, where the Coronavirus threat is just starting to peak. Many were going to make Aliyah this summer but they decided to move up their plans to come home to Israel now. They have concluded they will be immediately safer in Israel. There are very few flights out of these countries right now, meaning fewer people in the airports and less risk of catching the virus in route. In addition, the economies of these countries are tanking due to conflicts and the steep drop in oil prices, and they simply want to start over in Israel as soon as possible.

Here are photos of some of the newly-arrived Jewish families we helped as they celebrate their first Yom Hatzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day) in their new land, even while in quarantine.

 

The ICEJ has now assisted 580 Jewish immigrants to make Aliyah to Israel since travels bans were first imposed in February. Israeli officials are anticipating a large wave of Jewish Aliyah from many directions in coming months, as Corona travel and health restrictions begin to ease worldwide. We need to be ready to help these Jewish people come home.

Please give to the ICEJ’s Aliyah efforts at: on.icej.org/aliyah

Despite Travel Bans, Aliyah Continues!

As air travel restrictions were imposed worldwide over recent months due to the Coronavirus, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem still has been able to assist 565 new Jewish immigrants in making Aliyah to Israel.

In early February, various nations began to issue entry bans which greatly impeded international travel. Yet even as flights were being grounded everywhere, the Christian Embassy still has succeeded in bringing a total of 450 Russian Jewish immigrants on flights from various parts of the former Soviet republics. Most immediately went into a two-week self-quarantine due to the COVID-19 threat. A flight from St. Petersburg with 26 Russian Jewish olim on March 22 marked the 30th anniversary of the ICEJ’s sponsorship of Jewish Aliyah from the former Soviet Union.

Two days later, the ICEJ sponsored flights for 72 Ethiopian Jews who arrived from Addis Ababa. They were taken to an absorption center in kibbutz Beit Alfa and entered quarantine for 14 days as well. In addition, the ICEJ funded Passover gift baskets with food, games, learning materials and other items for these and many other recently arrived Ethiopian Jewish families as part of their integration process during the Passover holidays.

Together with an earlier group of Ethiopian immigrants in February, the ICEJ has now assisted 115 Ethiopian Jews in making Aliyah during the Corona health crisis.

“Despite all the bad news with the Coronavirus, the good news is that Jews are still coming home to Israel”, said ICEJ President Dr. Jürgen Bühler. “It has been amazing to see the strong desire of these Jewish families to make it to Israel, as many even moved up their Aliyah plans despite the requirement of two weeks in self-quarantine. It is our privilege and our calling to help them and all of Israel pull through this difficult time.”

The Christian Embassy also helped dozens of other recent immigrant families through the Passover holidays, providing them with food vouchers and vital assistance as they remained isolated in Jewish Agency centers. They would normally attend ulpan classes and community events, including day camps for the children. But since they could not gather in large groups, we purchased games, crafts and toys for the children, while also funding small group activities for them.

Meantime, the ICEJ responded to urgent requests for help on behalf of a number of Bnei Menashe, Chinese and Hispanic Jewish families who arrived in Israel within the past year or so and were struggling due to job layoffs and other economic fallout from the Corona crisis. We were able to provide them with grants and food vouchers to assist the newly unemployed and those in dire need before the Passover holiday.

With Israel soon hoping to gradually lift travel bans and home lockdowns, the Aliyah is expected to quickly resume over coming months. To begin with, the Christian Embassy is committed to supporting the on-going Ethiopian Aliyah, with another 150 Ethiopian Jews already approved and awaiting their turn to journey home to Israel.

Meantime, there are many more Aliyah applicants from Russia ready to come as the Russian economy is faltering due to the collapse of the ruble, the Corona threat, and the steep drop in world oil prices. Latest reports also indicate a huge wildfire in the forests near Chernobyl is blanketing Kiev in smoke. Summer is usually the high season for Jewish families moving to Israel, so the children can start the new school year in Israel in the fall. But the situation for many Jewish families in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus has become urgent, and they are asking to move up their travel plans to reach Israel as soon as they can.

So please stand with us by supporting the ICEJ’s Aliyah efforts today!

 

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