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Israel Headed to Fourth Elections in Two Years

As we enter the new year 2021, Israel is heading to its fourth elections in the past two years. This election will yet again focus on whether to continue under the security and stability the country has known under longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or finally move on to a new national leader.

The campaign is still in its early stages, and several factors could tip the scales one way or another, including Israel’s coronavirus vaccination effort, Netanyahu’s pending trial, the Iranian threat, and the approach of the new Biden administration to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and especially to Tehran.

Netanyahu's Strengths and Weaknesses

The election is slated for March 23, and various parties are still jockeying to see who has the best chance to unseat Netanyahu, which remains a tall task. Netanyahu is widely known as “Mr. Security” here in Israel, and even the Blue & White alignment featuring three former IDF chiefs-of-staff could not dent that reputation in the last election.

He also has performed extremely well on economic affairs, championing free markets, and successfully promoting Israel as the Start-Up Nation. Netanyahu has shown incredible diplomatic skills that have elevated him to the status of a Western statesman. And he has enjoyed unprecedented longevity in office by his mastering of the game of domestic Israeli politics.

But Netanyahu is also seen by many as too focused on his own political survival, while his family is viewed as leading a privileged lifestyle. Taking advantage of the three-pronged corruption scandal now facing Netanyahu, the “Black Flag” protest movement has been holding boisterous demonstrations outside his official residence for months on end—and even stirred similar protests in other nations.

While he is preparing for that trial, which could begin before the March 23 balloting, Netanyahu also continues to build on what may be his most lasting legacy: the Abraham Accords. Indeed, the recent peace and normalization deals with several Sunni Arab states is a historic diplomatic breakthrough for Israel and the region.

Main Rivals

His main rivals in this election are not from the Left or the military but from his own Right flank. Both Naftali Bennett of Yamina and Gideon Sa’ar of the fledgling “New Hope” faction were close associates of Netanyahu within Likud. They have since parted ways and now present the biggest threat to toppling the five-time premier. They do not disagree so much with his policies but are banking on Israelis wearying of his personality.

Meantime, Benny Gantz of Blue & White lost public support when he broke his promise not to sit in a government with Netanyahu, even though it was for the good of the nation during a global pandemic. His old partners, Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid and Moshe Yaalon of Telem, have yet to broaden their support base enough to challenge for the top seat of power. And Gabi Ashkenazi has done well in his short stint as foreign minister but is currently still weighing his options.

Campaign Strategy

As the campaign heats up, Netanyahu will tout his ambitious plan for Israel to lead the world in the race for mass coronavirus vaccinations. And he will certainly explore whether more Arab nations are open to peace with the Jewish state—a breakthrough made possible by US President Donald Trump.

Trump may not be there this time to deliver Netanyahu some election-eve gifts, such as his well-timed recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights. Instead, the Biden administration could seek to impact the election by unnerving Israeli voters about Netanyahu being a liability to closer US-Israeli relations. Yet they could easily drive just enough Israelis into Bibi’s arms to return him to power, should Biden’s team come out too strongly against the settlements or too easy on Iran. After all, there is something to be said for security and stability in these very turbulent times.

— David Parsons, VP and Senior International Spokesman

ICEJ Helping Israeli Youths Reach for the Horizon

What is the ‘horizon’? Could it be a dream that seems so far off in the distance, that no matter how hard one tries it feels unattainable? Or perhaps the life one aspires to live, yet it seems impossible?

For many Israeli youth, they would simply stumble through life if they had not been given the opportunity to join a special enrichment program to help them navigate through life’s toughest stages and reach for the horizon.

The ICEJ has been involved with this unique educational enrichment program, called “Touching the Horizon”, ever since it was launched as a pilot project in a high school in Akko. Seeing its early and obvious success, the program has since been expanded to high schools across Israel. Presently the ICEJ supports the ‘Horizon’ program in three high schools, two in Jerusalem and one in Lod – each with about 25 students participating.

The aim is to help vulnerable youth struggling through life and in danger of dropping out of school, by providing mentors to help them persevere, overcome their personal obstacles, and complete their schooling. These young Israelis have talent and potential, but they lack the opportunities and support essential to succeeding.

Aimed primarily at grades 10 to 12, the youth attend small weekly meetings in a safe environment which includes personal mentoring, help developing leadership and social skills, tutoring in difficult subjects, community service opportunities, confidence-building team activities and several hot meals a week. Teachers and mentors also work with the parents to help these young people grow and develop. And even after graduation, the youth continue receiving support and guidance throughout their army service and one year beyond, until they enter a college study program or find employment.

For *Ayala, who never missed a ‘Horizon’ meeting, the enrichment program had a dramatic impact on her life.

“This program has changed me in the best possible way”, she told us. “In 10th grade, I was angry at the world without any desire to open up and grow, fearful of everything and particularly fearful of change. In general, I hated everyone and most of all myself. Now, in 12th grade, I am happy with life and have a great desire to experience new things. And even more than that, I love to go out and explore new things in new places and to learn as much as I can.”

“In the past, I wasn’t able to control my temper; today I know how to stop myself before it breaks out of control”, Ayala added. “Once I began to learn how to stay calm, my desires began to change, and I was able to deal with my fear of meeting new people or going outside of my comfort zone.”

Another student, *Shai, shared how privileged she felt to be part of the enrichment program and how it helped her gain confidence and open up to others.

“For the first time, I feel enough self-confidence to share my thoughts and feelings with others without fearing what people will say or if they will judge me,” said Shai.

Shai loves to sing, dances in the Jerusalem dance troupe, and often performs at school ceremonies. The extra assistance she received through “Touching the Horizon” has made all the difference. As she said: “I have the confidence to do what I love because this program gave me the tools and helped me believe in myself and my abilities.”

Thank you for supporting this program to help vulnerable Israeli youth chart a new course towards their horizon. Your support helps them reach their full potential on the way to becoming whole and independent adults.

Please continue to give at: on.icej.org/aid 

[*Names changed by request to protect the identities of the students.]
 

Remembering the Holocaust with survivors at the Haifa Home

This Wednesday is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, when we mark the anniversary once more of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp on 27 January 1945. One of the best ways to honor those who perished in the Nazi genocide against the Jewish people is to care for those who survived, which is what the ICEJ does at our Home for Holocaust survivors in Haifa.

The ICEJ has a team of dedicated Christian volunteers serving and comforting the elderly residents living in our Home for Holocaust survivors. This time of the coronavirus pandemic has been especially difficult for our aging residents. As Israel has experienced three long lockdown periods, the isolation and lack of freedom to meet with family, friends and each other has been the most difficult aspect over the last year. This has impacted many both mentally and physically. But renewed hope rolled in as 2021 began!

New Hope
Although Israel is currently in another lockdown, there are flickers of hope for protecting those in high-risk groups like the elderly, thanks to a fast-paced vaccination drive now underway. For residents in the Haifa Home, the idea of life returning to normal is certainly a comforting thought. Most of our residents have received their first and some even their second shot of the vaccine. By the end of January, the majority will be protected. And during February, we hope to open the community dining hall again, so the survivors can eat together, socialize, and feel alive again! That is a day that we are all so looking forward to!

Celebrating the many years
Meantime, birthdays do not go unobserved! Yaacov, originally from Poland, has been living at the Home since 2012 and just celebrated his 97th birthday! Although his birthday party was in the corona ‘complete-lockdown’ style, there was good reason to celebrate. In the past three years, Yaacov has had a live-in caregiver, who takes great care of him. He still walks every day and is grateful for the life he has at our assisted-living facility. Once he said: “It was a good idea to make Aliyah and come to Israel in 1948, but it was the best decision to move to the Haifa Home. It’s like a family here!”

Snippet of a conversation
That feeling of family expressed by Yaacov is shared by many other residents. One of the ICEJ volunteers, Kerstin, cleans their apartments, accompanies residents on their visits to the doctor and dentist, and helps wherever she is needed. She recently recalled a conversation with Judith on their recent trip to the doctor. Judith is a 92-year-old survivor from Auschwitz and here is a snippet of their sweet conversation:

Kerstin: “Judith, you are looking so beautiful again today. I especially like your scarf.”

Judith: “Really, do you know how old that scarf already is? For sure 20 or 30 years!”

Kerstin: “Wow, Judith, then is that scarf even older than I am?”

Judith: “It was given as a present from my friend. We were the same age, but she passed away already. All my friends have died. I am the only one remaining, but I am not alone. I have you and you are always there whenever I need you.”

Mania’s poem
So many of these tender interactions are experienced daily at the Haifa Home. Mania is an 87 year-old survivor from Bessarabia who became an artist and writer. Although this time of corona has been extremely difficult and lonely for her, she tries to keep herself busy by being creative. “We need to create and keep our minds busy and not sit passively behind a TV, which only depresses us”, she tells the others. An avid painter, she has now taught herself to paint on the computer. Every day, she draws a new picture and writes a poem with it. She was excited to share her latest poem:

Nostalgia
The school opposite my home
Watching children play outside my window.
Whose only worries are
To play, do homework and study
At my old age
I long again for those days…
(Translated from Hebrew)

We Remember
On the 27th of January, it will be exactly 76 years ago since Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and death camp, was liberated by the Russian Red Army. Like every year on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we will conduct a ceremony at the memorial flame of the Home. However, due to the strict lockdown regulations this year, it will be a very small ceremony. These days are always very difficult for our residents. Some of the survivors have seldom shared their experiences, but now they are more determined than ever to tell their stories, as they bear the weight of responsibility of being the last witnesses to the Holocaust.

Judith (92) and Miriam (98) both survived Auschwitz. Miriam often says: “Even one day in Auschwitz can not be described, no one is able to understand what happened there.”

It is such a great privilege for us to take care of these precious people, for as long as they are still with us. Your support goes a long way in helping us to do so. Please consider making a difference in the life of a Holocaust survivor today, while there is still time.
 

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ICEJ’s Envision Conference Inspiring Leadership Amid Crisis

This week, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is hosting its annual Envision Conference for pastors and ministry leaders, which has drawn over 650 participants from more than 50 nations, making the online event the largest Envision gathering ever.

Envision 2021, which runs from 25-28 January, is largely a live streaming and Zoom webinar conference this year, due to the corona pandemic, but the response from pastors and ministry leaders around the globe has been unprecedented.

The ICEJ usually holds its Envision conference to coincide with the International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th each year – the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz – so that Christian leaders can observe this event at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and learn more about Israel. However, with the corona threat still with us, along with its harsh economic impact and disruption of daily life, including weekly church services, this year’s conference also is seeking to inspire greater leadership in the Body of Christ as we confront the ongoing crisis.

This year’s line-up of Envision speakers includes Rev. Ingolf Ellßel (Germany), Dr Billy Wilson (USA), Rev. Mats Ola Ishoel (Russia), MP Kenneth Meshoe (South Africa), Rev. Peter Tsukahira (Israel), author Joel Rosenberg (Israel), and ministry/business consultants Phil Cooke and Stephen Mansfield (USA).

“The world around us is in crisis,” said Dr. Jürgen Bühler, ICEJ President. “The COVID-19 pandemic, the disputed American elections, a looming global recession, the erosion of Judeo-Christian values – all of these unsettling developments are causing people to lose the fixed points in their lives and look for real leadership in this season of great uncertainty. As church and community leaders, we are called to be lighthouses in these stormy times, and this year’s Envision conference is geared to help pastors and others in ministry to take courage and find a godly, sure path ahead for those we serve.”

Envision 2021 features daily live shows from locations in Jerusalem and around Israel, more than 30 seminar messages from proven church leaders, plus Q&A sessions and prayer times which will allow our guest speakers and pastors from around the globe to interact and fellowship together. Conference topics will include leadership in ministry, government and business, Israel in prophecy and current affairs, and the move of God in the Middle East.

You can still register for Envision at on.icej.org/Envision2021. And the program will be available for viewing on demand until April.

Quite a Year for ICEJ’s Aliyah Efforts!

Despite the global impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem assisted over 3,100 Jews in making the journey home to Israel in 2020, making it quite a remarkable year for our Aliyah efforts.

As we look back over 2020, it was a difficult year for everyone with all the corona surges, layoffs, lockdowns and travel bans. Yet one positive development was the continued flow of Jewish people moving to Israel, as some 21,000 new immigrants arrived in the country last year. And thankfully, the ICEJ was able to assist 3,141 of these olim (newcomers) from more than ten countries – one of the best years ever for our Aliyah efforts.

Among the highlights, the ICEJ sponsored flights for 1,645 Jews arriving from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Ethiopia, India and several other countries.

In May 2020, we funded a specially chartered emergency flight from Moscow to mark the 30th anniversary of our very first sponsored Aliyah flight in May 1990, which also arrived from Moscow with hundreds of Russian-speaking Jews following the collapse of Soviet communism.

We also launched the ‘Rescue250’ campaign last summer, challenging Christians to help us bring at least 250 Jews home per month while COVID-19 was still impacting the world.

In addition, the ICEJ sponsored Aliyah flights for 384 Ethiopian Jews last year. This included several hundred who came as part of the special “Operation Rock of Israel” airlift launched at the end of year to bring 2,000 Ethiopian Jews home to Israel.

Then in December, Israel welcomed a group of 248 members of the Bnei Menashe tribe from northeast India, 49 of whom were sponsored by the ICEJ. They come from are a unique tribe of Chinese Jews who claim descent from the Israelite tribe of Menashe exiled from the Land of Israel by the Assyrians more than 2,700 years ago. One of these new immigrants is a prize-winning martial arts competitor who hopes to join the IDF and represent Israel in international matches.

Meantime, we also helped hundreds of other Jewish immigrants with the costs of two-weeks of self-quarantine in corona hotels required by the Israeli government. There also were hundreds of Jewish youths who arrived last year after participating in Jewish Agency pre-Aliyah preparatory programs, summer camps and weekend Aliyah fairs sponsored by the ICEJ. Plus, the ICEJ provided absorption assistance to hundreds of other needy Jewish immigrant families, such as those who needed computers for their children to take part in school classes from home.

The ICEJ is off to a good start in the new year 2021 as well! On the first day of January, the Christian Embassy funded another flight of 100 Ethiopian Jews who landed at Ben-Gurion Airport, plus we have another flight coming up in early February which is expected to bring at least 200 more immigrants from the ancient Ethiopian Jewish community.

Also in January this year, the ICEJ sponsored Aliyah flights for five more women from the Bnei Menashe community who arrived in Israel despite the country-wide lockdown. They are really a blessing for Israel, as many Bnei Menashe end up serving in elite IDF units or working in high-tech factories, while others become nurses, dental hygienists, social workers and rabbis.

So what an amazing beginning for this year as well!

Since we were founded in 1980, the Christian Embassy has been helping Jews return to Israel from every corner of the earth. In total, the ICEJ has assisted more than 160,000 Jews from over 35 countries to make Aliyah to Israel. This includes sponsoring flights, helping with ground transportation, accommodations, and other logistical support to attend Aliyah fairs, Aliyah summer camps, Aliyah seminars, consular visits, ulpan (Hebrew language) classes, and many other programs.

We also must recognize that it is Christians like you, from around the globe, who have made all this possible by being faithful to answer God’s prophetic summons in Isaiah 49:22: “See, I will beckon to the nations, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their hips.”

There are exciting days ahead as the Aliyah is expected to surge in 2021. Please consider a generous donation as we work together to gather the Jewish people back to the homeland and thereby hasten God’s purposes for Israel.

Give to the ICEJ’s Aliyah efforts today at: on.icej.org/aliyah 


 

Peace-of-mind for Ashkelon girls

Many thoughts run through one’s mind when thinking about Ashkelon. This ancient Mediterranean city is situated in southern Israel. Sadly, Ashkelon is within reach of terrorist rocket attacks from Gaza, and regrettably far too many times finds itself on the receiving end of these barrages.

Moving away from the beach-front, one notices that Ashkelon is home to many lower income families. A lot of these families feel insecure as they do not have a safe-room in their apartment, and when the red-alert siren sounds they need to run to the nearest shelter. Schools operating in the area are required to have bomb shelters for the children, otherwise they are not allowed to operate during heightened tensions. Knowing a shelter is nearby may be the only peace-of-mind that local parents have when sending their children off to school.

The ICEJ recently visited the AMIT Fred Kahane Technological High School in Ashkelon, which has a good reputation for dedicated students and advanced learning. During the 2014 Gaza war with Hamas, this school took a direct hit from a rocket attack, destroying the entrance and several classrooms. Thankfully, none of the children were at school that day, as the attack took place on a Shabbat. However, what happened is engraved in the community’s memory and has left a long-lasting mark on the school.

This national religious school has around 400 students, mostly boys. Recently, however, they started a separate girl’s program, allowing approximately 60 Orthodox girls to study separate from the boys in their own school complex. As the girls’ complex was being remodeled with new bathrooms and paving outside of the classrooms, the ICEJ heard about the urgent need for bomb-shelters on the premises.

Through the generous donations received from Christians in the USA and Switzerland, the ICEJ was able to install two bomb shelters at the new Ulpana religious girls’ complex. At the dedication ceremony for the new bomb shelters, Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President of Aid and Aliyah, had an opportunity to speak to the director of this new program and several of the girls. Nicole explained that the shelters were a gift from Christians who love and care about Israel, and wished them a blessed year ahead. The ICEJ plaque on the shelters will serve as a continuous reminder of this demonstration of love.

The school director thanked our donors for this incredible gift, adding that they take security very seriously and without such shelters, they would not have been able to open the new program for observant young girls at all. Nicole responded that “although they now have the option to run to the shelter, may it be that they won’t ever need to!” At least knowing that the shelters are there, helps them to relax more and focus on their studies.

Thank you for being involved and partnering with us in protecting the lives of those living under this constant threat of terror rockets. Over recent years, the ICEJ has been able to place more than 110 bomb shelters in vulnerable Israeli communities along the Gaza border, thanks to our generous donors.

Please consider a generous donation to help protect the vulnerable communities in Israel.

Expect the Unexpected

The Seven Thunders

Reading recently through the book of Revelation, I had to stop at chapter 10. John the apostle sees a “mighty angel” coming down from heaven. Majestically, he places his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land. In his hand, he has an open scroll. He opened his mouth, and as he spoke, the “seven thunders” sounded. What a magnificent experience! Seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls, and seven thunders. John was just about to write what he heard from these seven thunders when he was instructed: “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down” (Revelation 10:4). I was always puzzled when I read this passage. I wanted to know: What did the thunders say and why was John not allowed to write it down? And why is it even recorded in the Bible if it all is a secret?

During the coronavirus crisis, I have sensed that this passage is there for a purpose. Through it, God wants to inform us that certain matters are deliberately hidden from mankind and even from the church. God placed this story deliberately so that it awakens our curiosity for exactly that purpose in the Bible. He wants us to know that we do not know everything. He wants us to know that despite all the Revelation and knowledge He might give us, there will always be the unknown and many surprises.

A Year of Surprises

Indeed, 2020 has been full of surprises, and not only in Israel. I well remember how the year started. Our theme for last year’s Feast was “Prepare the Way.” It was a theme that called for repentance, but it also connected us to Isaiah 40:1, the biblical mandate the Lord gave the ICEJ exactly 40 years ago, commanding us to “Comfort, yes, comfort My people, says your God!”

We started the year in prayer and fasting. An article from the American revivalist Charles Finney on repentance gave us all inspiration. It was an unusual yet very significant year for us, especially as 2020 was our 40th anniversary as a ministry. Some of our key branch leaders gathered in Jerusalem in February to envision our work for the years to come. We enjoyed wonderful times in prayer. Great ideas and visions were cast for the future. But nothing prepared us for the uncommon year of 2020, where everything happened so differently than we all anticipated.

However, I well remember at the closing session of our strategy meetings last February how Dag Øyvind Juliussen, leader of our Norwegian branch, said he wanted to share a word that had been resonating in his heart over recent months. It was from the prophet Haggai:

For thus says the Lord of hosts: “Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth, and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of host.” (Haggai 2:6–7)

And indeed, 2020 became a year of great shaking. The whole world was challenged with a global pandemic. It turned out to be a year that placed unprecedented restraints on all of us. We could not travel to visit our branches, the financial ramifications of lockdowns threatened to impact our income, and our Feast of Tabernacles celebration was in danger of being canceled for the first time in 40 years. Israel was in a total shutdown and even until today, does not allow tourists to visit the country. In March last year, the ICEJ Board held an emergency meeting to discuss the possible harm caused by the global lockdowns and other health restrictions.

But God used this shaking to bless us in unexpected ways. We accomplished many of the targets we set for ourselves for the coming years faster than we ever could have anticipated during those February strategy meetings. Challenged by the coronavirus, we have prayed more than ever. We wanted to meet and collaborate more with our branches, which happened once we began using Zoom. Our AID team in Israel managed to reach far more people during the virus than the year before. We assisted more Jewish immigrants with their Aliyah flights to Israel than since the massive wave of Soviet Jews in the 1990s. And the Feast of Tabernacles reached more people in 2020 than ever before.

We had to acknowledge that “our plans are many, but the purpose of the Lord will stand” (Proverbs 19:21). Man plans but God guides. Many times, the plans and expectations we have, even as believers, do not come to completion, and often we are confronted with new and unexpected situations. So I asked myself: Why was there was no clear prophetic warning about an event of such global proportions?

The Lord Comes!

Then I felt God speak to me that it is exactly in these unexpected and surprising situations when our faith is tested the most. It was in unforeseen challenges like the sudden advance of an opposing army (2 Chronicles 20:1ff) or unexpected sickness (2 Kings 20:1ff) and even unexpected death (John 11:14) when God’s power manifested itself.

It was exactly five years ago when—after a season of prayer and seeking the Lord—I was diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer. The doctors declared me to be an “inoperable case,” such that no doctor in Israel would operate on me. My life came to a halt, and my family was shaken to our very foundations. But it was exactly in this sudden, humanly impossible situation that God not only came through and powerfully preserved my life, but we also came to know him more deeply than ever before.

We should never forget that often God comes to meet His people while clothed in darkness (Psalm 18:9; Isaiah 19:1ff) and amid great challenges. This current season of darkness and testings can become the time of your greatest miracle.

We need to remind ourselves that God’s ways will never be revealed to us in their entirety. The apostle Paul declares that our knowledge is partial (1 Corinthians 13:9), and Moses declared to the people that there will always be a mysterious side to God who will leave us puzzled at times (Deuteronomy 29:29). A main thought from Jesus, which runs through his Olivet Discourse on the last days, is exactly that. Six times Jesus assures us: “You do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (see Matthew 24:36, 39, 42, 44, 50; 25:13).

Birth Pangs of Messiah

It is true that many developments will and can be expected in the end times because the Bible’s prophetic passages announce them. The physical rebuilding of Israel and her spiritual restoration, the return of the Jews back to their homeland, the rise of the antichrist, a global revival—all these things are clearly foretold in the Word of God. Yet at the same time, we need to expect the unexpected. John was not allowed to write what the seven thunders said, as some things may not be revealed to us before their time.

A word that resonated in my heart repeatedly in recent months is “Brace!” Brace yourself, not for a fatal impact, but for rough times ahead. I personally believe coronavirus is just a warm-up; it is just the beginning of the testings ahead. This is what we have heard from many leaders around the world. In a recent Global Prayer Gathering, our brother Peter Tsukahira called our times the “birth pangs of Messiah.” Birth pangs are all the same. The closer you come to birth, the more frequent and more intense they become.

Recent developments should make us all alert. As I write this article, the US election looks as if it will likely leave us with a new president in the White House who already has announced plans to reverse many of the Trump administration’s favorable policies, including toward Israel. So Israel is bracing for much cooler relations with a new US administration. At the same time, we are seeing an escalation of tension with Iran, with Israel being ready for “all options.”

Meantime, the coronavirus might lead to unprecedented regulations on a global scale, including a potential mandatory vaccination program. While we all appreciate the need for vaccines, which might have saved us from deadly diseases before, now, for the first time, we are being offered vaccines that directly impact our human genetic code and which might be forced upon the world population rapidly. With this, a dangerous line has been crossed—and not just for many Christians.

Also, evangelical believers are increasingly singled out as a threat to Western societies. Not only in America but in a growing number of Western countries, Bible-believing Christians who pray for their own nation, care for the well-being of their state, and uphold biblical moral and ethical standards are branded today as “Evangelical nationalists” who threaten the new world order. A German official recently singled out “Pentecostal churches” as one of the few virus super-spreaders that need to be watched.

The year 2021 is a year when the church needs to be on the alert. But not just on alert regarding the latest news—even more, we need spiritual alertness. It is a time when prayer, our commitment to the Word of God, and fellowship with other believers is more important than ever. A sad development around the world is that the move to online services has dramatically lowered attendance at church meetings—even online.

The parable of the ten virgins in Mathew 25 reminds us of the sudden appearance of the bridegroom. His arrival surprised all ten virgins. All were sleepy, but only five had enough oil in their lamps. When a discussion quickly arose about sharing each other’s oil, the five “foolish virgins” were told to “buy for themselves.” It is a time when you cannot rely on your pastor, parents, or spouse’s faith. Each one of us needs to be ready and braced for more shakings. It is a time when our walk with Christ needs to be intentional, bold, and wholehearted. Even as the world gets darker around us, we are called to arise and shine—because the Lord’s light has risen upon us! He is the unshakable rock that will preserve us even in a stormy 2021.

The worship song “The Blessing” has indeed blessed millions during the coronavirus crisis. It is a prayer that I offer for all of us as we enter an uncertain 2021. Despite all that may come, we know one thing will never change: that is Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, including in 2021!

— by Dr. Jürgen Bühler ICEJ President

Expanding creativity for the children of Jisr az-Zirka

Situated just north of the beautiful historical Mediterranean town of Caesarea, is the coastal town of Jisr az-Zirka, a small fisherman’s village which is home to around 15,000 Israeli Arabs and some Bedouin.

Considered among the poorest Arab communities in Israel, with unemployment being magnified especially during this time of Coronavirus, many of those living in this town live below the poverty line, even struggling to obtain the basic essentials needed in life.

With the Coronavirus running rampant throughout Israel, and extended lockdown periods hindering children from attending school or day care facilities, the ICEJ was approached to urgently help this community. The need was to provide activity packs for young children forced to stay home and maintain social distancing. Relying on the social welfare department to determine the families in need, the ICEJ recently had the opportunity of donating funds for children’s activity packs for 100 families in Jisr az-Zirka.

Volunteers helped in distributing the activity packs to families where thrills of excitement shrieked through the air as the children jumped for joy at receiving their packs. Bags filled with creative goodies, educational items, and interactive activity materials, are sure to keep these young children – and even older family members -- entertained while keeping boredom at bay during the lockdown periods, which even at present, continue with schools and businesses closed.

In addition, as part of our mandate to encourage reconciliation between the various communities throughout Israel, the ICEJ is pleased to sponsor the “Good Neighbors Network” - a collaboration of Jews and Bedouins who dream up and facilitate joint projects for the benefit of both communities. Throughout the crisis, this network provided the essential framework for thousands of Bedouins living in unrecognized villages in the Eastern Negev to receive government distributed food packages and essential health information. As Debbie Golan, a member of the network shared with us, “Thank you so much! Your support strengthened our network and was (and is) critical for the aid to get to where it was most urgently needed. Without it, these Bedouin families simply would not have received essential help. We were there at the right time and the right place. Neither community would have succeeded in carrying out this project on their own.”

The ICEJ is so grateful for your donation support, which enable us to make a difference to the lives of all sectors of Israeli society. Please continue to help us impact the lives of others.

Donate today

ICEJ’s Aid Work in the Year Ahead

Going into the new year 2021, it was clear the entire world would still be struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, an ongoing crisis which poses a serious threat to our national economies. Now, the turmoil from the disputed US elections is exposing censorship and information control by big tech and corporate media outlets who are driven by a troubling globalist agenda.

Amid these rapid and concerning developments, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is as determined as ever to follow the Lord Jesus and to press on with our ministry of comfort to Israel and the Jewish people. Amazingly, we were able to do more last year in many areas of our ministry than ever before, thanks to our faithful and generous Christian supporters worldwide, and that gives us hope we can help even more people in Israel in 2021.

The ICEJ Aid & Aliyah department oversees most of the practical charitable and humanitarian projects we engage in year-round. As we look ahead to the coming year, our main projects will once more fall into four main categories:

1) Aliyah & Integration: Bringing new Jewish immigrants to Israel and helping them get settled in the Land of their forefathers, as promised in Scripture.

2) Israel in Crisis: Assisting Israelis during times of conflict, natural disaster or other crisis, such as during the current coronavirus pandemic.

3) Holocaust Survivors: An urgently needed outreach to some of the elderly Holocaust survivors in Israel who are struggling to make ends meet, most notably through our special assisted-living home in Haifa.

4) Giving a Future and a Hope: Aid projects which focus on helping the next generation of Israelis meet their potential, as well as assisting disadvantaged and impoverished families.

Often these aid categories overlap, such as our help for Holocaust survivors who are now having to remain in isolation due to the COVID-19 menace. Or our assistance to new immigrants in need, who must now quarantine upon arrival in Israel, and then may need help with computers for their children to attend school classes online.

In addition, many of our projects are focused on helping Israel’s minority communities – such as Arab Muslims and Christians, the Bedouin and the Druze. Our aid to these often-ignored sectors of society not only gives witness to the love of God for all peoples, but it also helps bring strength and reconciliation to the nation of Israel as a whole.

In some recent examples of our aid projects in the Arab sector, we distributed food baskets and other household items through Christian Arab churches in Nazareth and Bethlehem. The ICEJ also provided food coupons and computers for disadvantaged Muslim families in Arrabe. We helped upgrade equipment and furniture in a center for Arab Christian and Muslim youths-at-risk through social welfare authorities in Eilaboun. We also provided aid for Palestinian Arabs employed in Israel who were put on unpaid leave due to corona lockdowns – this was done in partnership with a Jewish religious center in Efrat. And in one more example, in 2020 the Christian Embassy provided gift packages and hygienic products to Arab and Bedouin communities to help them cope with the virus threat.

The Arab sector, along with the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Israel, have been hit the hardest by the coronavirus over the past year. They will still need much help in the months ahead, and the ICEJ plans to continue looking for ways to assist them as requests come in and we are able. In addition, we will stay focused on helping with social needs related to the economic challenges of families resulting from the corona crisis.

With your help, we know we can make a difference in many lives, and do so in a way which assures the people of Israel that Christians care for them.

Please continue to support our AID & Aliyah work in the new year 2021.
 

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ICEJ supports Israeli social entrepreneurs

The ICEJ is supporting aspiring women entrepreneurs in Israel through a special program which requires that they add a ‘social twist’ to their new business concept which will help others in need.

Over the past two years, the Christian Embassy has sponsored a course for 11 women business owners living in the periphery of Israel, to help them advance their businesses and provide additional income for their families. The course involved five classes which give each woman business and marketing tips, while also including a competition to see who can develop a social element into their business plan for the betterment of the community. Each female entrepreneur was assigned a mentor to help in the process.

Ayala, an immigrant from Russia who is a puppet theatre artist, won first prize – which included a grant of 10,000 Israeli shekels to help further develop her business. In Ayala’s puppet show, she shares her personal journey as a way to encourage other struggling new immigrants.

Ayala’s story
Ayala was born in Russia to a Jewish mother and a Christian father, who named her Olga.

“My grandmother was Jewish, but being called a Jew in Russia is not a compliment”, she told us. “My family did not want to reveal their Jewish identity.”

In Russia families are mainly defined by the father, therefore Olga was baptized and went to church. But when children at school started to call her a “Jew” and sometimes kicked her, Olga was in shock - she always had believed herself to be Russian. Only at age twelve did Ayala finally recognize and accept her Jewish heritage. It was during a visit with her grandmother, who had moved to Israel.

“I loved Israel and decided that I will live here, even if I have to come alone”, Ayala recalled.

At age 14, she did come to Israel on a youth study program – and indeed alone, because her family was falling apart.

A new life in Israel
Not having grown up in a religiously Jewish home, Ayala was not familiar with Jewish rituals. When offered the chance to study in Israel, she leapt at the opportunity. However, it came as a big surprise when she found herself unexpectedly sent to a religious school.

“They said I only need to wear a skirt and there are no boys, and that was it”, she recalled with a smile.

After arrival at the school, she found there was a lot more to being religious than wearing a skirt and learning in an all-girls setting.

“Suddenly I couldn’t have meat and cheese together on my bread or turn lights on and off on Shabbat”, she stated. “I did not know anything about Shabbat or kashrut, but I knew I had to start a new life. Once I was here and knew Hebrew, it was easier for my mom and brother to join me in Israel – which they eventually did.”

Unfortunately, the identity confusion did not end upon arrival in Israel. As “Olga, the Russian immigrant”, Ayala experienced exclusion. She was told: “You are Russian, go back to Russia.” Yet in Russia, she had been told, “You are Jewish”, and was not accepted as Russian either. It was in 11th grade that Olga decided not to be Russian anymore. She changed her name to “Ayala” and became religiously observant, although her family in Israel was not religious.

“It wasn’t easy, and I often felt alone”, she said.

Finding her place
After doing national service for a year, Ayala studied theatre at university and specialized in puppet theatre. Through sports, she also gained self-confidence.

“I realized that I am a special girl who speaks three languages, and who came to Israel alone”, she explained.

Today, she is married to a “native Israeli”, as she always dreamed, and has four beautiful children.

Thinking through her own experiences, the idea of her business was born. She named her puppet theatre “Ayalushka”, stressing her Russian heritage.

“I share my story and encourage immigrants that everything will be fine. The start is difficult; You often feel lonely and you need help, but in the end it is fine. Look at me!”, she smiled. “Israelis should also understand the challenges of immigrants and be able to connect with them. I thank God for bringing me here and for the good people who helped me and opened up to me.”

Please partner with us to support Israelis like Ayala, who use their skills and experience to strengthen Israeli society. Help us give them a Hope and a Future. Thank you!

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