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Bringing Hope to Christians in Nazareth

Nazareth is the city where Jesus grew up, and it once boasted a Christian majority. But now it is predominantly (69 percent) Muslim. Nevertheless, a Christian minority (30 percent) remains, and they are currently facing the many challenges of the coronavirus crisis, like everyone else. Government-mandated quarantines for the elderly and the closure of businesses has caused economic and emotional suffering for many. Our ICEJ AID team visited Nazareth just as Israel began to lift restrictions. 

 

We met elderly Christian residents, many with health challenges, who were greatly in need of encouragement and extra help. On this visit, we assisted 20 Arab Christian families with boxes of groceries and food coupons. Despite their hardships, each home offered warm hospitality with cake and coffee. However, the most precious part of our visit by far was the prayer and worship time we shared in three languages—Arabic, Hebrew, and English! 

 

One older couple thanked us for the gifts with tears and smiles. It lifted them amid a difficult time: the father has cancer, the mother recently underwent hip surgery and can only walk with crutches, the daughter’s husband is out of work, and a nephew was recently diagnosed with a serious illness. Their faith remains strong and was strengthened even more to have brothers and sisters come alongside them with encouragement, made possible through the generosity of Christians from around the world.   

Southern Israel Ablaze in August

 

 

 

It is a beautiful blue-sky day with only a slight breeze. But wait, what is that in the distance? Coming closer… balloons, balloons, and more balloons gently floating through the air. The bright, colorful kind normally used for joyful occasions. But not this time, and certainly not for Israelis living near the Gaza border!

Sadly, as you read this, terrorists from Gaza are inflating balloons, attaching fire-bomb devices to them, and waiting for the sea breeze coming off the Mediterranean to carry them eastward across the border to sow destruction in nearby Israeli communities.

The Gazans who send them watch with glee as the incendiary balloons land in the farmlands of southern Israel, and set the fields and orchards alight. The month of August is the peak of the summer dry season in Israel, and the southwest trade winds pick up every day. Conditions are perfect for wildfires to ignite and spread quickly. It is hard to imagine the tension of living like this – not knowing where the next fire will start, or whether your child will be drawn to the colorful fire balloons or the kites laden with explosives that could detonate in their hands.

This is the third summer now that Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza have been using this twisted tactic to scorch the fields and orchards of their Israeli neighbors. The local security chiefs in southern Israel have had their hands full over the past month as the use of fire kites and balloons has jumped dramatically. In the Sha’ar HaNegev region, first responders have faced more than 425 brush fires in the last two weeks alone. Meanwhile in the adjacent Eshkol region, security officer Elan Isaacson confirmed that they too are experiencing 25 to 30 fires a day!

“Beautiful forests and nature reserves being ruined,” Isaacson told ICEJ. “Pomegranate and avocado orchards have been destroyed.”

For the local Israeli farmers, this is a devasting loss of the fruit of their labors. Pomegranate trees take at least two to three years to bear fruit and another seven months for the fruit to mature. The pomegranate also is an important symbol for the upcoming Jewish holidays of Rosh HaShana and Sukkot. And the loss of the avocado harvest is heart-breaking, as these fruit trees take up to six or seven years to bear fruit.

When these acts of arson first began in 2018, the ICEJ was asked to help the affected Israeli communities combat the fires destroying their livelihoods. Thanks to our many generous Christian donors, we were able to provide 18 fire-fighting trailers and five specially-equipped ATVs to the towns and villages along the Gaza border.

The fire-trailers are each equipped with a large water tank, pump, generator and hoses which can be hooked to 4x4 vehicles so they can reach all kinds of terrain. The ATVs also have similar fire-fighting equipment, and are quicker and even more agile to get to the back of the fields and orchards within minutes. These fire-fighter trailers and ATVs are now stationed every two kilometers or so along the Gaza border. And they are being put to daily and even hourly use to fight the on-going rash of fires started by incendiary balloons.

“It is so gratifying to know that all this fire-fighting equipment we provided over recent years in being put to such good use every day,” said Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President for Aid and Aliyah. “Our donations have enabled these communities to respond in real-time whenever emergencies arise, strengthening our friends and helping bring a sense of security to those living so close to danger.”

There is still a need for more fire-fighting trailers and other emergency equipment which will enable the local first responders to protect their fields and families even better. So please consider giving to our Israel in Crisis fund.

Your prayers also are greatly appreciated, as many of the fire-fighters and security officials in the region are near exhaustion due to the need to stay on a constant high alert for the fires.

So please pray! And also give your best gift today to the ICEJ’s Israel in Crisis fund.

Donate at: icej.org/crisis 
 

Why Christians Celebrate the Feast - FOT 2020

The presence of believers from around the world in Jerusalem at Sukkot is a great prophetic sign of the times in which we live. It is a powerful foreshadowing of even more glorious days ahead.

In 1979, as Merv and Merla Watson planned the first Feast of Tabernacles celebration in Jerusalem, they were uncertain about exactly how Gentiles should celebrate this biblical feast, so they asked the advice of a senior rabbi in Israel. After receiving his practical guidance, they were just about to leave when the rabbi called them back. 

“Mr and Mrs Watson”, he said. “That you, as Gentiles, came here to ask me how to celebrate Sukkot is quite unusual. Our prophets declare that in the Messianic times, all Gentiles will come to Jerusalem to celebrate this feast with us. When you asked me today how to celebrate Sukkot, I am hearing the footsteps of Messiah, that he is coming.” 

And this is what the Feast of Tabernacles is all about. The ICEJ has been privileged to organise this incredibly unique event for 40 years now. And it is indeed not just another Christian conference, but a prophetic declaration to Israel and the Church that Messiah is coming soon. In the end, it is all about Jesus. It is not about us, nor even about Israel, but about the returning King. 

And so, this Feast of Tabernacles 2020, ICEJ “Prepares the Way” for the return of Jesus, the King above all kings, to His city: Jerusalem.

 

PREPARE THE WAY - Feast of Tabernacles 2020

“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God… The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:1,3

For 2000 years, the stones of antisemitism blocked the path between Jews and Christians. How do we overcome that? 

Forty years ago, Christians from 32 nations gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles just as the last national embassies were abandoning the city. In response, these Christians stepped out and offered a hand of friendship and solidarity to Israel and the Jewish people. From this pivotal moment, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem was born. 

Today, we continue to follow the path of those Christians who have gone before us. Isaiah spoke of a ministry of comfort and a prophetic work to prepare a highway for the Lord – a work of removing the stones and obstacles which have, in the past, separated Jews and Christians. 

The prophet Isaiah also foretold of a day when a highway would connect Egypt and Assyria with Israel – and become a blessing in the midst of the earth. Today, we see believers from these nations coming together; pages of the Bible coming to life before our very eyes. The ancient division between Arab and Jew is being reconciled. 

“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 40:4-5 

At the Feast of Tabernacles 2020, the ICEJ will be marking 40 years of comforting and blessing Israel and working toward reconciliation between the Jewish people and the Gentile nations, especially in the Arab world. 

We invite you to come up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles with us. Come clear the path; remove every hindrance between you and an encounter with the God of Israel.

Helping Jewish Immigrants Find a Path Forward

In a time of rising antisemitism and economic uncertainty, the opportunity for Jewish people to make Aliyah to Israel is more important than ever. However, Israel also is struggling with high unemployment rates and other economic woes. Many families here are feeling the pinch of the Corona health restrictions, especially those just putting down roots in the Land.

As anyone who has made the move to a foreign land will know, successful integration in a new country usually takes more than a few months or even years. Often, immigrant families require steady support to overcome the many barriers – some of which may be internal. Recognizing this reality, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is not only bringing Jewish people home to Israel, but also helping them to get securely settled in the Land. To do this, the ICEJ is sponsoring professional mentors who are currently counselling dozens of immigrant families during their first years in Israel. The mentors are proving to be especially vital to these recently arrived families in such unstable times.

“Immigrants to Israel often have no family here and the social workers rarely call”, explained Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President for Aid and Aliyah. “If these mentors we sponsor do not help them, they have no one. It is a full-time job!”

For *David and *Hannah and their two children, life in Israel has not been easy. Caught in a bureaucratic snag over her residency, Hannah is still unable to legally work in Israel. Sadly, with just one wage-earner, the family found themselves in a downward spiral as their debts began piling up. As a result, any money deposited in their bank account was requisitioned to cover their debts, leaving the family in dire straits. David found employment in a confectionary factory willing to pay him directly, however, the commute distance meant he had to leave home at 4 AM, then work 10 to 12 hours a day, for just 7,500 shekels ($2,194) per month. For David and Hannah, joining the ICEJ-sponsored mentoring program for recent immigrants was a lifesaver.

David actually wanted to work at an outdoor market near his home but needed to be paid directly. His mentor advised David on reaching a debt consolidation agreement which allowed his bank account to be re-opened. This accomplished, David then scored another jubilant victory – he was hired at the nearby job he wanted for a higher salary and with reduced working hours!

Meantime, plans for Hannah to find employment have been put on hold due to the Coronavirus outbreak, which requires her to stay home with the children. However, a social worker is now involved and hopefully that situation also will improve soon. The support this family has received is quite literally changing their lives. Although David occasionally needs to work an extra day to bring in additional funds, being closer to home means he enjoys more quality time with his family.

Another recent arrival, *Avital, was a broken woman, both physically and emotionally, before getting help from a mentor. Going through a painful, complicated divorce, she found herself a single mother to three little children. Despite a court order for her to receive child support, the father refused to comply. Avital was afraid to pursue the matter as she feared the father would not want to have anything to do with their children. Besides having to provide for her family on her own, she also had strained relations with her mother and sisters.

Nevertheless, her mentor, *Bat-El, soon discovered that prior to having children, Avital had worked in the cosmetics industry. Good memories from her previous job made it clear this was her dream job. However, she knew nothing about how to start a business. Having a mentor to guide her along the process gave confidence and gradually Avital began to believe she could realize this dream. A donated computer now means Avital can begin working on a business plan. Meanwhile, she is looking for temporary work until the business takes off.

In addition, Avital now knows how to balance her budget and read her bank statement. With guidance from her mentor, she also got a reduction in insurance payments and bank charges. Her self-esteem vastly improved, Avital has learned to take the initiative to meet her needs, like purchasing a second-hand sofa and pro-actively writing to a social housing firm to request a higher rental stipend. Today, she also understands that the father has his own responsibility to their children, and after pursuing the matter she now receives child support. In addition, relations with her mother and sisters are slowly improving.

The Corona crisis has led to unemployment or under-employment for many, and it is difficult to get help. Nevertheless, Bat-El told the ICEJ AID team: “It is important to find a path forward, despite the challenges. We know that the crisis will get much worse before it gets better. The stress has caused additional problems to pop up in many families and most need basic assistance. We let people ask questions and try to direct them on moving forward. They need help to develop skills and increase opportunities.”

Your giving ensures that recent immigrants to Israel like these families are not alone in their struggles in a new land. Together, we can give them someone to walk alongside them as they navigate the many challenges of getting settled in Israel.

Please give today to the Aliyah and Absorption efforts of the ICEJ.

Donate Here: Immigrant assistance
 

[*Names and photos withheld by request to protect privacy.]

An Ethiopian family’s bittersweet reunion

Kasia Workanech, along with her husband and two small children, were among the 119 olim who arrived from Ethiopia on a specially chartered Aliyah flight sponsored by the ICEJ. The coronavirus crisis has only added to their ordeal, but for Kasia and her family this has been an especially bittersweet time.

The bitter comes from the fact that Kasia’s mother was finally approved to board a plane for Israel last year but fell ill and passed away a few days short of her flight. The sweet arises because Kasia has finally been reunited with her five brothers and sisters already living in Israel.

Kasia’s mother was meant to make Aliyah with her four unmarried children in February 2019. At that time, Kasia and her family planned to soon follow her mother to Israel. This would have ended many years of the family being separated from their eldest sister who was already in Israel. But tragedy struck just before their flight last year, as their mother became gravely ill. The Jewish Agency did its best to move up the date of her flight, but regrettably she died just a few days short of takeoff. Her four unmarried children boarded the homecoming flight in clothes of mourning, without their mother.

This left only Kasia in Ethiopia with her husband and two small children. Her relatives in Israel were constantly praying for their arrival. Then came the coronavirus outbreak, which has hit hard in Ethiopia. Hopes of seeing their sister faded day by day. But the door of Aliyah miraculously opened once more, when they got the news that Kasia would be coming home to Israel.

Upon their arrival, Kasia and her family spent two weeks in quarantine in northern Israel, and then were taken south to an absorption center in Beersheva. This also happened to be the facility where her siblings have been staying since they landed last year. As Kasia entered the gates of the absorption center, she was welcomed and embraced with tears of joy by her siblings.

“I truly did not expect that this Aliyah flight could be arranged during coronavirus. I was so surprised,” said Getanech, her oldest brother. “Once we knew this miracle would happen, we counted each day until Kasia’s arrival.”

The apartment assigned to Kasia and her family was on the same floor as her brothers and sisters, and Getanech said they were cleaning and preparing it every day for their sister’s arrival.

The family’s joyous reunion was still tempered by the absence of their mother, but they were comforted knowing her greatest wish was that all her children would make it to the Promised Land.

“Our mother always said her dream was for us all to be together in Israel. Unfortunately, she did not live to experience this dream with us. But now, thanks to her, we are all here, together,” said Getanech. “I am sure she is looking down at us from heaven, and is so very happy.”

There are more Jewish families like Kasia’s awaiting the chance to be reunited with the Jewish people in their ancient homeland. The coronavirus crisis has not stopped the Aliyah, but it has made life much for difficult for many, and the answer is helping them reach Israel.

Please join our special ‘Rescue250’ campaign by helping us bring at least 250 more Jews to Israel this month. You can reserve a place on an Aliyah rescue flight for a deserving Jewish person or family in need.

  

Prepare the Way – Part II

Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament in our Christian Bible. This prophet represents the very last words of the Old Testament era. Some theologians call the following 400 years the ‘time of silence’, when God would not speak again until His son Jesus came. This is how the Old Testament ends:

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Malachi 4:5-6/ESV)

It is the second “I will send” message in the book of Malachi. Already in verse 3:1, God declares: “I will send My messenger and he will prepare the way before Me” – a clear reference to John the Baptist (Matthew 11:10). At the very end of the book, God again declares: “Behold I will send!” – revealing another facet of the ministry of John the Baptist, the one who came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17).

There are two underlaying principles which define this Elijah ministry: First, it is a God-initiative. This is not a plan of man, but God says, “I will do it!” That leaves us with great hope, since it is not dependent upon man but God, its success is secured! We just need to align and submit ourselves to this great plan of God.

Secondly, this Elijah ministry needs the maximum attention possible. Malachi warns that the success of this Elijah figure will be of vital importance, otherwise God will “strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” That means we cannot underestimate the importance of the Elijah ministry in the end times. It requires everyone’s attention; not only pastors and leaders but every member of the body of Christ needs to submit to this heavenly agenda.

The mission of this Elijah spirit seems rather unexpected. Elijah’s calling is focused on family relations. He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Fathers and sons. Mothers and daughters. It is the generational and familiar relationships that matter to God in a great way.

In our individualistic Western societies, families are losing their importance. The family structure today is more under attack than ever before. Even the policies of many governments around the world undermine the biblical concept of a godly family, of a father and mother bearing and raising upright offspring. The biblical concepts of man and woman are under attack. Divorce rates are at record highs. Meanwhile, the mother’s womb was once a proverbial symbol of safety, but now it has become the most insecure place for an unborn child as millions of babies are killed in their mother’s womb before they have a chance to live.

The relationship between fathers and sons, and between God the Father and His children, can be defined through three different levels which all apply to our lives.

1) Personal Family Calling
When God called Abraham to be a blessing to the world and to father a people who would bring salvation and faith to the ends of the earth, He made it clear that this blessing was not just a blessing of a few individuals. Rather, God declared, “in you all the Families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).

It is important to note that even the very purpose of God in calling Abraham focused on his own family relationship: “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” (Genesis 18:19) It was essential for Abraham’s calling that he would not serve just as an individual, but God saw the generational family bond as central in that calling.

Undoubtedly, the Jewish people today are an example to all the world of a faith and tradition that is not just kept individually, but it is passed on to the next generation through study (the first book children in observant families learn to read is Leviticus) and ceremony (e.g., the bar mitzva).

This did not change when they got to New Testament times. Often, we hear that whole households got saved and baptized. When God called Cornelius, the very first Gentile to receive the Gospel, He promised him… “you shall be saved, you and your household” (Acts 11:14). Paul gave the same promise to the jailor at Philippi… “you will be saved, you and your household” (Act 16:31).

My own family experienced this when God invaded the Bühler home some 80 years ago. He sovereignly touched my grandmother, and her whole family got saved. And this blessing carries on even to all her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

As you read this, I ask you to have faith in God not just for your own salvation but for your whole household. God wants “all the families of the earth” to be blessed.

Also, it means fathers in particular, you must assume your role as a priest over your family. The priestly role is to pray for your children and to teach them the ways of God. Do not leave this important task just to the church in Sunday school. Fathers are the most important role models in the life of a child.

Of course, the same role applies to mothers regarding their children. As I write this, I am still mourning the passing of my mother just a few days ago. Both my parents were models to me as they followed Jesus. Make the decision today like Joshua did: “Me and my house, we will follow the Lord!”

And of course, the same passage also applies for children. God engraved the relationship of children to their parents at the center of the Ten Commandments. “Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). Paul makes a point that this commandment is the first one which carries a blessing – one of long life. He also reminds us that in the last days this biblical value and commandment will be undermined, as children will be “disobedient to parents” (Romans 1:30). As children, we are called to honour our fathers and mothers no matter how old we are or how old they are!

Much more can be said about this, but there is another level of this Elijah restoration that applies to us which we must consider.

2) The Faith of Our Fathers
There is another relationship concerning fathers, namely the “faith of our fathers”. In Malachi 2:10, God admonishes Israel about forsaking the “covenant of our fathers”.

Now the faith of the Bible is a faith of ‘new things’. It is a faith where every generation must find the way to serve God in their own way. God repeatedly announces throughout the prophets that He is doing a “new thing” (Isaiah 42:8; 43:19). He consequently rebukes people who never change but get stuck in their old traditions and ways of doing things (Jeremiah 48:11).

At the same time, change should never, ever alter or shake the foundations of our faith as revealed in the word of God. One thing which never changes is biblical truth, values and doctrines, simply because God does not change. Our means of communication, musical and rhetorical styles, or our order of service might change, but the message itself must never change. What God called “sin” two thousand years ago is still sin today. What God called “righteous and just” in the Bible will not be unrighteous and unjust today.

Churches and believers do well today to find their orientation in the early Church in Jerusalem, the model church established by the first apostles. The four great principles of the early Church – the apostles’ teachings, fellowship of the saints, the breaking of bread, and prayer – are indispensable for any church or community that seeks a move of God. This is why Israel’s prophets called upon “you who pursue righteousness […] look to the rock from which you were hewn […] look to Abraham your father and Sarah who bore you…“ (Isaiah 51:1f)

The truths that brought revival 200 years ago will not be abandoned today. Repentance and prayer are as essential today as they were in past revivals. There is no quick-fix, downloadable, instant revival which suits our modern lifestyle. The lives of John Wesley, George Whitefield, William J. Seymour or Reinhard Bonnke might significantly differ in style, but all carried the same DNA of a holy and dedicated life to Jesus. The old rugged Cross is still old and rugged today. But as we hold fast to it and proclaim it, the Cross will release its power full and fresh even in our post-modern world.

The call of Elijah is to uncover old wells that might have been stopped for decades and even centuries but, as we do, those wells will flow anew with fresh, living waters. This is what Elijah did when he re-erected the altar of God that was laying in ruins (1Kings 18:30).

Foundations are so central to our faith that the heavenly Jerusalem holds an unshakable and unchanging foundation of the twelve Apostles, and the twelve entry gates to the city are even more ancient as they have the names of the twelve tribal leaders of Israel.

It was likely for this reason that the angel who appeared to Zechariah slightly altered the quote of Malachi 4:5: “He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17). John the Baptist arrived in a generation that desperately needed to turn back to the principles of old. They had departed so much that the angel called them “disobedient”. John’s main message, therefore, was one of repentance. This ‘repentance’ in the Hebrew language means both to reverse and to turn in the direction you came from.

The spirit of Elijah thus represents not just a great hope and expectation for revival and signs and wonders, but it also represents lives of radically devoted believers who will uncompromisingly walk in the paths of the fathers and in doing so they will conquer new land!

3) The Fathers of Our Faith
The third implication relates to an area which the Church has struggled with for most of its history. It has to do with our relationship to the Jewish people.

A search in your computer Bible program or concordance will quickly show that the word ‘fathers’ (plural) is mainly used throughout the New Testament in a very particular way. From the 57 occurrences of “fathers” in the NKJV, for example, over fifty refer to the fathers of Israel. Thus, “the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers” (Acts 3:13); “your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness” (John 6:49); “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers” (Acts 28:25). Altogether, some fifty New Testament passages relate to the Jewish people of Old Testament times. Paul declares concerning Israel, “of whom are the fathers’ (Romans 9:5).

That means Israel in all their generations – from Abraham to Moses to the prophets – are to be considered as our fathers. This is a traditional understanding which has characterised Israel for centuries, to such a degree that the Talmud titles a whole book Pirkei Avod which means “the sayings of the fathers.”

Now you might argue that this may be true for only the ‘good Israelites’, like Abraham, Moses, etc. But two New Testament passages are especially noteworthy. In the book of Acts, both Stephen and Paul face very hostile crowds that want to kill them. Both preach to these mobs before they attack. And both address them the same amazing way: “Brothers and fathers, listen…” (Acts 7:2; 22:1). This reminds us of what Paul also declared about Israel: that even though they might be enemies of the gospel, they are “still beloved for the sake of the fathers” (Romans 11:28).

Further, when we look at how the New Testament portrays the Church, we find that Jesus called his disciples “children” (e.g., John 21:5) and Paul and John both address the Church as “children” (Galatians 4:19; 1 John 2:1).

This means the relationship between the Church and the people of Israel can be viewed as one between fathers and children. The recent line of Catholic popes often refers to the Jewish people as “our elder brothers”. Nor would it be incorrect to call them our fathers. This is how the Apostles called them.

Christianity was born out of the covenant of God with Israel. All that defines our faith today was given to us by the Jews. Our Bible was written by Jews – Jewish patriarchs, prophets and apostles all pointing us to a Jewish Messiah, who in heaven is still called the “Lion of the tribe of Judah”. That is why Jesus declared to the Samaritan woman that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22).

This means our relationship as the Church to Israel is as important as the relationship between fathers and children. Of course, the same is true the other way around. But it was mainly the Church which over the centuries dishonoured their fathers in many ways. It is time not only to repent but to show the “fruit of repentance”, as John the Baptist sought.

This Elijah ministry is an end-time ministry, and as such it means that no believer or church can ignore it in these last days. I believe the last-days Church, the Bride of Christ, cannot afford to ignore or side-line the family of Jesus, the Jewish people, any longer. The spirit of Elijah urges us to be in right relation with the fathers.

This relationship is unconditional and cannot depend on how good they are, if they believe like we want them to believe, or if the government in Israel is a perfect government. In the natural our fathers are not perfect, yet we are still commanded to honour them. The same applies to Israel. We must honour, love and bless them.

This spirit of Elijah will help us and teach us to be rightly connected with God’s people and to rightly relate to the Land of Israel which God promised to them through an eternal covenant. Otherwise, as Paul warns, we are endangering the very root of our existence – and that can be fatal (Romans 11:16ff). In light of the fifth commandment, we might forfeit the blessing that comes with honouring our father and mother.

The theme for this year’s Feast of Tabernacles is “Prepare the Way”, which has much to do with this Spirit of Elijah. It has to do with family and generational restoration. These are important to God because they are rooted in the very nature of God. He is our Father! And this fatherly concern is expressed most powerfully through the prophet Malachi:

“A son honours his father,
And a servant his master.
If then I am the Father,
Where is My honour?
And if I am a Master,
Where is My reverence?
Says the Lord of hosts…” (Malachi 1:6)

Honouring God as our father, honouring our natural fathers, reconnecting to the faith of our fathers, and honouring the fathers of our faith – this all has to do with reflecting God‘s character.

Let us together invite the Lord to release this Elijah anointing upon our lives and even nations. Please pray with us for the Feast of Tabernacles, that this word will be heard as a clear and loud shout around the world. Let us together ‘prepare the way’ of the Lord!      

If you would like to read "Prepare the Way – Part I" go to int.icej.org/news/special-reports/prepare-way

Register for the Feast of Tabernacles 2020 today!

Somebody to Lean On!

We all need somebody to lean on! This may sound like lyrics from a song, but these words ring true when you find yourself in a foreign country feeling completely overwhelmed by a different culture, especially if you barely know the language. Even simple tasks like making phone calls, reading a bill, or opening a bank account can suddenly become extremely challenging.

This is the case for so many new Jewish immigrants to Israel. Although the government provides some assistance to new arrivals, only a small percentage are taken to absorption centers which offer a softer landing. Having left family and friends behind, immigrants often feel alone and struggle to integrate into society. Many find their professional qualifications are not recognised in Israel. Needing to upgrade credentials or even change professions brings added stress to the job search – particularly for those still struggling to learn Hebrew.

Knowing these difficulties, the ICEJ is helping to sponsor four professional mentors across Israel who are currently counselling 55 immigrant families during their first years in the Land. “Appropriate assistance upon arrival can save families a lot of grief by helping them find opportunities and get on the right track from the start”, notes Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President for Aid and Aliyah.

Originally from South Africa, *Michael and *Leah and their two sons arrived in Israel in February 2019 and were sent to an absorption center in Beersheva. When we met them recently, they shared how their mentor had been a lifeline for them.

Settling their youngest son into school was very challenging. A quiet and introverted lad with few close friends, he suddenly found himself as the only English-speaking child in a Hebrew class filled with Russian-speaking immigrant children. The teacher also came from Russia and often gave explanations in Russian, so he missed out on learning and struggled to make friends. Before long, negative feelings about school and the family’s move to Israel began to creep in.

But when their mentor Lital came, she helped the family find a private Hebrew tutor. Soon, the son started making progress and friends, resulting in a much happier child. She also guided the eldest son through the bureaucracy of entering the army while also finding a temporary job.

In South Africa, the family could afford to live solely off Michael’s income, but in Israel this was not enough. With assistance, Leah also found work as an English teacher but soon lost it when Corona health rules shut down classes.

Lital told our AID team how complicated it is for new immigrants – especially during the Corona period. They already lack understanding on how to operate in the local culture, she explained, and once Corona hit any advances disappeared. They usually have no one to lean on, especially after leaving the absorption center.

“The truth is that the State doesn’t count immigrants now because there are so many other enormous and pressing needs”, Lital noted. “There is no specific help for them and their needs. Anyone working less than six months at their job when the crisis hit was laid off and are without an unemployment safety net to fall back on. Immigrants must put out a lot of effort to make it and it is not easy. You cannot just ignore the Corona crisis… it affects the whole integration process.”

Setting goals are an important part of the mentoring program, and despite some setbacks Michael and Leah are elated at each step of progress. Recently, they moved into their own apartment near other South African immigrants and are thrilled to have found a place in the neighbourhood they wanted. Leah described her relief to be there.

“We love being in Israel and are enjoying a new sense of freedom and security here. It is so wonderful to be able to walk home alone from the bus stop without fear”, she said.

Although they still have a long road ahead – learning Hebrew, finding the right job, getting settled in their new community – they are so grateful for the extra help and mentoring along the way, and look forward to exploring the country. Michael and Leah also added their warm thanks to all the Christian donors who made the mentoring program possible.

Meanwhile, *Dana is a 27-year old single mother to a four-year-old son with special needs. She made Aliyah from India as a teen with her parents, and now must live with them to make ends meet. In talking with her, another ICEJ-sponsored mentor discovered large gaps between Dana’s dreams for the future and her current situation. Together they set attainable financial goals, reviewed employment options, and explored her eligibility for other welfare benefits – such as a disability stipend for her son.

As a result, Dana has applied for public housing and rental assistance ahead of moving to her own place. Now an apartment search is underway, where the rent will be within her budget. Step-by-step, Dana is making a complete turn-around, reaching her goals and gaining self-confidence. Ready for a new chapter in her life, she also is overjoyed to have found a young man she hopes to marry soon.

The ICEJ is not only bringing Jewish people home to Israel, but also helping to plant them firmly in the Land – just as God promised to do (Jeremiah 32:41). Your giving ensures that newcomers like these are not alone, but have someone walking alongside them as they navigate the challenges of getting settled in Israel.

Please give today to the Aliyah and Absorption efforts of the ICEJ.

Donate Here: Immigrant assistance
 

[*Names have been changed to protect privacy.]

Timely help for aspiring Ethiopian Jewish students

When online studies suddenly became a forced reality this year, many Israeli students without computers quickly found themselves at a disadvantage.

Devorah, an English teacher at the Hebrew University preparatory program, promptly noticed that several of her students were unable to participate in remote lectures, as they did not have computers at home. The one-year program prepares aspiring students for university studies, and many come from Ethiopian Jews immigrant families who have found the program very helpful in opening new opportunities for them. By successfully completing a degree, they hope to have a profession which will provide for them and their families in the future. However, as anyone who has completed a university degree knows, these goals are difficult to achieve without a computer.

It happened that Devorah had favourable memories of working with the ICEJ from her previous employment over a decade ago, which prompted her to come back to the Christian Embassy for help. Our AID team heard her heart and quickly committed to providing computers for her three students in need – Eden, Meital and Rachel.

Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President for AID and Aliyah, recently had an amazing encounter with these young students, who shared about their dreams and aspirations, as well as their family backgrounds. Nicole also had the chance to explain why Christians love and support Israel and the Jewish people.

Eden has always known her future lies in serving in the medical field, and even though there is a long road ahead in studying dentistry, she is not dismayed. Born in Ethiopia, her family immigrated to Israel when she was two years old. In their conversation, Nicole was delighted to discover that Eden’s grandmother made Aliyah last year and realised the flight was sponsored by the ICEJ. She met her grandmother for the first time that day. Eden was grateful for that moment and for her laptop as well, saying, “Thank you so much. It is a very significant gift that you have given – one which will make a big difference in our studies.”

Meital, 19, was born in Israel, the fifth child in a family of ten children. Taking one step at a time, she is still deciding whether to complete a degree in mechanical engineering or chemical engineering. She will earn her degree as part of her military service, then serve in the IDF for six years using her expertise to benefit the country, while gaining practical experience that should pave the way for a good job.

A nursing student, Rachel recently had the opportunity to gain practical training in a psychiatric hospital. This experience anchored her decision to pursue nursing as a profession. She also realised the importance of listening to the people in her care and supporting them. Her family made Aliyah from Ethiopia in 1998, but they still are waiting for her uncle and his family to be approved to come home to Israel. Chances are they will come on an ICEJ sponsored Aliyah flight as well.

“It was such a joy to meet these dedicated students, to hear their dreams, and to do something towards helping them realise those dreams”, Nicole remarked afterwards. “Proper assistance given at the right time can make all the difference!”

Immigrants, minorities, the young, the elderly, and so many more are in need of our help to overcome the widespread impact of the Corona crisis. 

Your generous giving enables us to help Israelis like these build a brighter future. Please make a donation today!

Give today at: icej.org/crisis
 

Serving Meals That Make a Difference

Hineni, a community kitchen in the center of Jerusalem, offers hot daily meals for the elderly and poor, serving hundreds of needy recipients every day, both on-site and through home deliveries. (The name Hineni comes from the Hebrew word for “Here am I”).

Normally, this social outreach restaurant has a small full-time staff of a couple managers and cooks, and they rely on foreign Christian volunteers to come in from abroad and assist with preparing and serving the meals. Many of their volunteers are Dutch Christians, who faithfully serve at different times of the year in Jerusalem.

But the Coronavirus lockdowns and travels bans have prevented some of the regular staff from getting to work, while the foreign Christian volunteers have been unable to reach Israel to serve their time at Hineni. Without the normal staff and these Christian helpers, the kitchen would have to close down, and hundreds would be without food. This is where the staff of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem comes in!

Over recent months, the ICEJ staff have been rotating in to serve each day at Hineni and keep it open to feed the hungry and unfortunate, including a number of Holocaust survivors. Each day, at least three or four Embassy staffers are on-site, cutting vegetables, scooping up plates of food, and packing meals for home delivery. Even during the strictest lockdowns, the ICEJ staff were still considered essential workers and could come serve and package meals.

Benjamin Philip, the founder and director of Hineni, has been thrilled and relieved by the help of the ICEJ.

“Truthfully, I must say that you have been sent by God. I cannot say it differently,” he recently stated. “At the time when Corona started, we would have had to close down because our own workers and regular volunteers were unable to help due to various reasons. But the ICEJ came every day, which allowed us to stay open and continue to provide Israelis in need with daily help even in remote areas.”

“Hineni works closely with the Jerusalem social welfare department to provide hot meals and daily necessities to those in need,” Benjamin added. “Without the help of the ICEJ, it would have been literally impossible to do.”

Ryan Tsuen, the ICEJ’s graphic designer, has been excited to serve the Lord here in Jerusalem in this different way.

“For myself, the opportunity to volunteer with Hineni was an immediate Yes!,” said Ryan. “Back in Canada, I volunteered with a small charity which also served meals to those in need. We saw the immediate impact of providing food to those living below the welfare margin. So, when the chance to do something like that here in Jerusalem came up, I did not hesitate.”

“I realize the need for a nutritious meal, and Hineni does not disappoint,” he added. “They provide take-away trays as well as a sit-down meals for their patrons. Seeing the different ones come in is very special, because we don’t know the details of their background, or their challenges, but we know we are called to love others as Christ loves us. And when given the opportunity to love through this act of service, what more can you ask for?”

Irene Sands, housing manager for the ICEJ staff, is also grateful for this unique opportunity to serve the needy in Jerusalem.

“It has been special over the past few weeks to serve at Hineni,” said Irene. “Our work includes cutting vegetables and the ‘hugest’ sweet potatoes I have ever seen, packing boxed lunches for delivery, serving meals and helping to clean the venue afterwards. It has been refreshing and enlightening, working with the staff there and it is wonderful to see Jews, Christians and even their Arab Muslim cooks working together in unity.”

“It is always a blessing to serve those less fortunate than ourselves, and it warms my heart to see a smile appear from offering them more soup or pouring their water for them. As Mother Theresa said: ‘It’s the small acts of kindness that echo into eternity’. To treat them with dignity and to show love, is so important.”

Irene also noted: “I have enjoyed working with other ICEJ staff members who I do not usually work with that much, learning more about their lives and discussing their latest activities, all while dishing up food! It can be more physically trying than office work, but great teamwork helps.”

She added: “I want to say a word of thanks to the ICEJ’s supporters worldwide for enabling our staff to have this special opportunity at this unique time. I am most grateful.”

Indeed, it is such a blessing for the ICEJ to be the hands and feet of our Christian supporters here in Israel. Thanks to you, we are able to answer the Lord: “Here am I.”

Please consider a generous gift to the ongoing social aid work of the ICEJ during this time of the Corona crisis.

The God Who Heals Nations

"For thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land" (Haggai 2:6).

The prophet Haggai foresaw a time of global shaking. He saw not only the earth but also the heavens shaken. A shaking heaven does not mean that the heavenly dwelling place of God would be shaken in any way. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. His rule and throne is everlasting. It rather refers to the heavenly realms where principalities and rulers of darkness influence our world (Ephesians 6:12), which shall be in an uproar such that demonic principalities even over nations become unsettled, possibly leading even to changes in government.

We are definitely in a time of unprecedented global shaking. The COVID-19 virus is causing global upheaval, resulting in an unseen flood of unusual government decisions worldwide. Like never before, a plague is impacting every part of our planet and affecting every nation on earth all at once.

Also the riots and demonstrations caused by the recent death of an African-American man, George Floyd, are spreading like a wildfire around the world. Its greatest, most disconcerting impact is felt in the USA, where it has already enflamed the existing polarization within society and even could sway the upcoming presidential elections. Many of these demonstrations have been taken over by destructive forces that do not seek racial harmony and the peace of a nation, but rather their destruction. I personally sense much of the violent fallout is of an evil spiritual origin and thus needs to be addressed in spiritual battle through prayer.

Both the COVID-19 pandemic and the riots together are opening a national wound in America and around the world that cries out for healing. And it is exactly here that the word of God gives us hope.

“[If] My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

This verse teaches us that prayer can lead to the healing and restoration of entire nations. Prayer is not just a weapon to fight our own personal wars regarding our finances, health or family. Prayer can be a strategic missile with national impact and combined with fasting it can break any yoke and stronghold. God inspires us to think on these levels.

“Ask of me,” God says, “and I will give you the nations for your inheritance.” (Psalms 2:8) When Daniel prayed in Babylon for the dispersed people of Israel, his prayer impacted angelic principalities which ruled in the heavenly realms over the world empires of Greece and Persia. That means focused and intentional prayer can shift the atmosphere in nations and regions.

One example of this is what happened in Germany during the late 1980s. After World War II, Germany was severely judged and experienced a national division into two parts. East Germany was controlled and suppressed by the Soviet Union (with the East German region eventually overseen by a KGB officer named Vladimir Putin). The other side was part of the free Western world led by the United States of America. The fault-line of the Cold War, between East and West, ran right through Germany and especially through the city of Berlin. Germans spied on each other and were even trained to fight each other in case of war.

Even still in mid-1989, the reunification of Germany looked impossible. Some of the prophetic voices who foresaw a unification like the British Bible teacher David Pawson and Loren Cunningham of YWAM were laughed at by pastors in Germany. What separated Germany was not just a national rift, but global political blocks that were willing to defend and fight for their piece of Germany. As a child, I well remember the US military maneuvers close to my home town near Stuttgart.

When I was in Germany last summer, it was 30 years after reunification, so I talked to pastors and leaders from east and west and was greatly encouraged by what I heard. Already in the late 1970s, prayer groups emerged in particular in Eastern communist Germany who prayed for the healing of our land. In the year before reunification, various individuals and prayer groups, led by God and unbeknownst to the others, went to the wall and prayed that it might fall. On both sides people held Communion at the Berlin Wall, not knowing others were doing the same.

The demonstrations that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall actually started out of the Monday prayer meetings of the Nikolai church in Dresden, a weekly prayer gathering that started already in 1986. And God answered these prayers!

What really happened on the night of 9 November 1989, no one knows until today. But everyone agrees it was a miracle when an East German high-ranking official declared the border to be open.

I am writing this today as the nations of the world need healing. There is a wall going through the United States – and I am not talking about the wall that secures the southern border of the USA. But it is a wall that separates and polarizes the nation and can endanger not only the fabric of America but the global leadership of the USA as a “nation under God.” America needs our prayers more than ever before. In particular, we Christians in the Western world owe this to the USA more than any others as they stood with us for decades.

God also can heal and reunite Korea as he healed and reunited Germany. North Korea was once known as the “Jerusalem of Asia” as a revival greatly touched that nation. What looks today impossible is possible with God.

The key, however, lays not with politicians but with the people of God. Note that it does not say “If the President” or “if the government” or “if the parliament”, but God says “If my people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray …. I will heal their land.”

The key to the healing of our nations lays in the hands of ordinary people like you and me who will stand at these walls of division and call for them to fall in the name of Jesus!

Please join us in prayer for the USA, for Korea and for Israel. Maybe your own nation needs a touch of God. God is the healer of nations. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much,” says James 5:16. Our prayers can break the demonic powers of division, liberalism and racism, because Jesus is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Nothing is impossible for him when his people pray. Let us join hands and do this together!

God bless you from Jerusalem as we change the world together!


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