Change Region:Papua New Guinea

Special Reports

The Story of Homecare

“Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the ends of the earth…” (Jeremiah 31:8a)

Sometimes a story begins even before its beginning. This is the story of Homecare. After the Six-Day War in June 1967, Soviet Jews were stirred to return to their roots and immigrate to Israel. There were no direct flights and many obstacles were imposed by Soviet authorities. Miraculously, ICEJ became part of the story of this modern-day exodus when God provided pathways to Israel through our international branches.

Then in 1996, in response to a wave of about 5,000 olim coming into Israel every month, the ICEJ took over an initiative started by Dutch nurses who recognised the great needs of these new immigrants. This basic home nursing program for Russian Jewish immigrants initially became part of ICEJ’s Soviet Jewry Department. “Homecare” has since come to the aid of scores of people who have made Aliyah but struggled with serious health challenges. Many are elderly, sick and often traumatised by the darkness of the Second World War.

God says in Jeremiah 32:41: “Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul.” Homecare reflects this verse and the Father’s heart for His beloved people.

Aliyah is a beautiful fulfilment of God's purpose. Jews come to Israel full of hope, yet because of difficult circumstances, discouragement can overwhelm them. Homecare steps in when nobody else is there to help, and has been a channel of comfort and hope for over thirty years.

For many, the visits from Homecare are a highlight of their week. Eyes light up when a Homecare worker comes in, and joy and compassion enter their rooms and hearts.

Please join us in making an impact on elderly Russian Jews today. When you send your generous gift to ICEJ Homecare, you make a difference one life at a time!

Donate today at: int.icej.org/homecare

Royal Welcome to Serbia

In July, ICEJ President Dr Jürgen Bühler, his wife Vesna (who is Serbian), and their family were hosted by the Royal Highnesses, Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia, at their Palace in Belgrade. Crown Prince Alexander was especially keen to share how, some 20 years ago, the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church arranged for his return from exile via Jerusalem, where the Crown Prince was blessed in a celebratory ceremony.

“The royal couple took time out of their very busy schedule to give us insights into their family history, their vision for the Serbian people, as well as their efforts towards peace and mutual understanding in the world,” said Dr Bühler. “They also were very interested to hear about the ministry of the ICEJ in Israel and worldwide.”

Dr Bühler was also hosted in the Serbian Parliament by the National Assembly Deputy Speaker, Dr Vladimir Marinkovic.

Sweden & Bolivia

Fresh wind for ICEJ in Sweden

By: Camille Troc

Recently, ICEJ VP and Senior Spokesman David Parsons travelled to Stockholm to assist ICEJ-Sweden’s new national director, Gitten Öholm, in her efforts to revitalize our branch there. David and Gitten first held meetings with Israeli Ambassador Ilan Ben-Dov, as well as five members of the Swedish parliament, before recording several TV shows with Anders Wisth, manager of TBN Nordic, on the prophetic fate of Jerusalem. He also spoke at the branches’ annual national conference and preached in several churches. David reports that while Sweden is considered very secular, there is a strong remnant of Christians there who stand for biblical morals and for Israel. Meantime, Gitten is a well-known pro-Israel voice and has the backing of the veteran ICEJ supporters there to press ahead with taking the branch to new levels.

 

 

Bolivia blessing Israel ‘year round’
By: ICEJ Staff

In August, thousands of Bolivian Christians gathered in Santa Cruz for an annual gathering convened by Apostle Alberto Magno, ICEJ-Bolivia national director, to proclaim their faith in Jesus and demonstrate support for Israel.

Apostle Alberto oversees the First Evangelical Baptist Church, a nationwide network of churches with over 50,000 members. Their annual congress seeks to have a positive spiritual impact on every sphere of life in Bolivia – including family, government and culture – and to express Christian solidarity with Israel. After several days of solid Bible teachings and inspiring worship, the conference was capped by a march through the streets of Santa Cruz by over 15,000 Bolivian Christians, who boldly declared their love for Christ and their stand for Israel.

Among the guest speakers and worship leaders invited to the gathering were Apostle Renê Terra Nova, national director of ICEJ-Brazil; Dorothy Bedford of the Feast worship team; Tiffany Mallillin of our Jerusalem staff; and the ICEJ’s Spanish-language coordinator Claudia Fierro. The audience was deeply touched as Claudia described first-hand how their support of the ICEJ was ministering to the needs of Holocaust survivors, new Jewish immigrants, farmers suffering from arsonists along the Gaza border, and many other Israelis.

“This congress was much bigger than what we could have imagined”, Claudia said. “Bolivia is usually our biggest Spanish-speaking delegation at the Feast, and also our largest and most faithful donor nation in Latin America. And it is because Apostle Alberto and his team work very hard all year round to be able to bless Israel the way they do.”

“Being here has allowed me to understand that this love for Israel is almost supernatural”, she added. “It is only possible if God puts it in their heart. And they accomplish all this despite Bolivia still being a developing country and having an anti-Christian and anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian government.”

Apostle Alberto insists that since he started to take Bolivian pilgrims to the Feast of Tabernacles in 1989, and to bring generous donations from his followers to the ICEJ in Jerusalem, his churches have multiplied – not only in terms of new members but financial prosperity as well.

New Beginnings in Africa

EAST AFRICA
The Lord is birthing something new in East Africa!
By: Camille Troc

This summer, Dr Mojmir Kallus, the ICEJ’s VP for International Affairs, Barry Denison, VP for Operations, and Israeli pastor Birlie Belay travelled to Mwanza, Tanzania for a regional conference aimed at expanding the ICEJ’s impact in East Africa. The delegation from Jerusalem received an impressive welcome. Indeed, there is nothing quite like African hospitality! Local African Christians were singing and dancing and expressing their genuine excitement over greeting the ministry team from Israel.

Held on the shores of beautiful Lake Victoria, the conference drew hundreds of bishops, pastors and other church leaders and laymen from across East Africa, all with a burning desire to learn more about Israel and to see God’s purposes for their nations fulfilled. This gathering was the very first ICEJ regional conference in East Africa. Representatives came from the Swahili-speaking nations of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda to hear about God’s enduring covenant with the Jewish people and discover Africa’s important role in blessing Israel.

“It was encouraging to witness such great enthusiasm to learn about the things God is doing in Israel”, said Dr Kallus. “After much positive feedback from the participants, we know that the Lord is on the move. God is birthing something new in the hearts of these leaders.”

Word of the meeting spread quickly and a representative of the Regional Commissioner came to address the conference and greet the visitors from Jerusalem. Her visit was even covered by the national television.

The East Africa regional conference was a success because of the incredible work of our team in ICEJ-Tanzania, who prayed, fasted and put immense effort into organising this ground-breaking event. They even went above and beyond by traveling to neighbouring countries to recruit participants. In addition to covering all the costs of the conference, plus accommodations and meals for all the visiting pastors from the surrounding countries, they also collected offerings for Aliyah with such dedication that our team came back with more than US$18,000 in donations.

This conference not only bolstered the work of the ICEJ in Israel, it also blessed and encouraged unity among the local churches and leaders in East Africa. We anticipate opening several new branches in these East African nations unified by their common Swahili language, while special editions of the Word From Jerusalem magazine are also in the works in their native tongue.

 

SOUTH AFRICA
A Fresh Start for ICEJ-South Africa
By: Dr Mojmir Kallus, VP for International Affairs

From the founding of the ICEJ in 1980, our national branch in South Africa has always been a source of strong support and unique contributions to our work and ministry. After a time of restructuring and transition to new leadership, the South African branch is poised for new growth and great things ahead.

“South Africa is a multi-cultural Christian country where many have a strong heart for God”, explains Vivienne Myburgh, the ICEJ-South Africa national director for the past two years. “We are experiencing open doors from a wide spectrum of believers who want to understand the heart of the Father for His son, Israel, and to hear more about the outworking of God’s plans for the Jewish nation in these days.”

Here are some achievements for which we are grateful:

First, ICEJ-South Africa has excellent relations with the local Jewish communities and leadership and its leaders have been invited to speak at their conferences on several occasions. Vivienne Myburgh even received the Jerusalem Prize from the World Zionist Organisation in recognition of her commitment to the nation of Israel and the South African Jewish community.

ICEJ-South Africa is partnering with committed Indian pastors who have opened a satellite ICEJ office in the Natal area.

We have experienced open doors in neighbouring Namibia to teach about Israel and to lay a foundation there for the establishing of the work of ICEJ.

Membership has increased more than four-fold to over 10,000 members within the last two years.

The branch has generated over $140,000 in donations towards the work of the ICEJ in the last 20 months.

Finally, we must give due recognition to all the faithful pioneers who ploughed the ground for the ICEJ in South Africa since the early 1980s.

 

WEST AFRICA
ICEJ Impacting West Africa for Israel
By: David Parsons, VP & Senior Spokesman

Over the past decade, the ICEJ was able to establish a number of national branches in West Africa and to encourage attendance at our Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. These efforts have been bearing much fruit. For instance, over 600 pilgrims from French-speaking West Africa made the journey to Jerusalem last year to take part in the Feast. We were also blessed by the anointed preaching of Nigerian pastor Dr Enoch Adeboye, as well as the powerful singing of a gifted worship team from Togo.

This year, we are anticipating an even larger number of West African pilgrims, coming from such countries as Benin, Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo. Some are coming with the blessing and sponsorship of their governments, and we even expect several national delegations to include members of parliament and perhaps cabinet ministers. The ICEJ and our Feast celebration is becoming more widely known thanks to the cooperation of Christian broadcasters like Dieudonne Gollett of LMTV, based in the Ivory Coast.

With the able advice and ministerial experience of our all-Africa coordinator, Rev. Mosy Madugba of ICEJ-Nigeria, we expect the ICEJ’s impact in West Africa and all across the continent to continue growing in the years ahead, as more and more African Christians discover the blessings that come with blessing Israel.


NORTH AFRICA
Egyptian Christians awakening to Israel
By: David Parsons

There are exciting developments for the ICEJ in North Africa as well. National branches were already established over the past decade in several countries in the central and western Sahara. Now we have a fresh opening to believers in Egypt who are seeking to spiritually connect with Israel due to the prophetic vision of Isaiah 19. They also are being drawn to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles with us in Jerusalem because of the biblical invitation specifically to Egypt in Zechariah 14:16-18.

At this year’s Feast, we are expecting to host – for the very first time – a large group of Egyptian pilgrims, which just happens to coincide with the 40th anniversary since the signing of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty. Over recent years, the Holy Spirit has been working on the hearts of many born-again Christians in Egypt to explore and observe the biblical festivals and the Hebraic roots of our faith. They are now eager to ascend to Jerusalem and experience the Feast of Tabernacles with fellow Christians from all over the world. And we are looking forward to welcoming them to the City of the Great King at this divinely appointed time!

Great Zeal For God & For Zion in Brazil

Dr Jürgen Bühler was recently hosted by Apostle Renê Terra Nova, national director of ICEJ-Brazil, for a series of meetings in the city of Manaus which demonstrated the growing Christian support for Israel in this key Latin American country. Accompanied by local Israeli pastor Oded Shoshani, Jürgen addressed a summit for nearly 7,000 Brazilian pastors, as well as a mass rally in the local “sambadrome”, where a crowd of over 100,000 Christians joined together in prayer for Israel.

“It was a tremendous thrill to look out over the sea of flags and smiling faces and to sense the great zeal which these Brazilian Christians have for the Lord and for Israel” said Jürgen. “We came back to Jerusalem completely energised by their outpouring of love and support for the Jewish nation and people. Apostle Renê and his team are doing an amazing work there in Brazil.”

Apostle Renê is one of the most widely-recognised and respected Evangelical leaders in Latin America, with oversight of a growing Pentecostal movement which numbers over seven million believers. His home church alone has some 70,000 members, and he has instilled in them his great passions for building the Kingdom of God and for standing with Israel.

Brazilian and Israeli officials have duly honoured Apostle Renê for his strong support for the Jewish state. Several years ago, the Israel Ministry of Tourism recognised him for his stellar track record of bringing tens of thousands of Latino Christians to the ICEJ’s annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration in Jerusalem. Then in May, Israeli ambassador Yossi Shelley joined with the President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, in awarding him the “Jerusalem of Gold” medal for his many accomplishments in building stronger relations between the nations of Israel and Brazil.

Brazil is in a time of political and social transition, marked by a return to biblical values and closer alignment with Israel. This is largely due to the rapid growth of the Evangelical community, which now numbers almost 30% of the population. Many evangelical Christians supported the successful candidacy of Jair Bolsonaro in the recent presidential election. Apostle Renê has held meetings with President Bolsonaro and they both credit much of the positive changes happening in their country to prayer and to the government’s stronger stand with Israel.

In a recent video posted on his popular Instagram and Twitter accounts, President Bolsonaro congratulated Apostle Renê for hosting his 20th annual national prayer and missions conference. He also thanked God for sparing his life after an assassination attempt during last year’s presidential elections.

“I owe my life to God and also to your prayers”, said President Bolsonaro. “Congratulations for 20 years of this event interceding for Brazil. At this time also a very, very special hug to Apostle Renê Terra Nova.”
 

São Paulo officially celebrates Tabernacles

The Brazilian state of São Paulo has declared that the Feast of Tabernacles is an official government holiday. In a unique law, the state decreed that observances of the biblical festival of Sukkot will take place each year exactly 14 days after the Jewish new year of Rosh Hashana.

The person behind this law is the ICEJ regional director for the city and state of São Paulo, Apostle Fabio Alves Abbud. He is doing a great work to mobilise Christians to stand with Israel in his region of Brazil, and to bring Christians on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Apostle Fabio and his wife Claudia are leaders of the El Shaddai Church movement and have spiritual oversight of 300 churches in greater São Paulo. Descended from a traditional Arab Christian family who fled persecution in Syria for Brazil two generations ago, Apostle Fabio says he was the first one in his family to have a real encounter with Christ. He was raised up in ministry under Apostle Renê Terra Nova, which means he too loves Israel.
 

Raising Our Expectations

The ICEJ recently hosted its 2019 Arise Summer Youth Tour, and to say that it was life changing is no exaggeration. Forty-five Christian youth from ten different nations came together to experience Israel, most of them for the first time. Hailing from a variety of backgrounds, the group of 18 to 32-year-olds explored ancient biblical sites, served Israelis in practical ways, laughed and worshipped together, and became one family in the process.

You may be thinking: “Great! A bunch of kids ran around the desert and swam in the Dead Sea… What’s the point?”

The purpose of ICEJ’s Arise youth tours is not just to reach the younger generation to ensure the future of our ministry. The heart of the Christian Embassy’s calling is to awaken the Church today to the biblical, historical and political significance of the restored nation of Israel - both the Land and the People. The best way to achieve this kind of in-depth education, especially for the youth of today, is to walk, swim, and climb alongside them as they physically experience Israel for themselves.

Today’s youth face battles on every front, especially over faith and competing ideologies. And Israel is the most hotly debated 'foreign policy’ subject on college campuses in our day. In universities around the world, even respected professors routinely promote anti-Israel hatred and boycotts and vile antisemitic views in their lectures and publications. And what do our youth really know in order to respond? Maybe they know Christianity was birthed from Judaism? Maybe they know Jesus was a Jew? Or maybe, they don’t.

Many young Christians today have grown up in churches where the subjects of the Jewish people and the Land of Israel were totally neglected or worse, where Replacement theology was preached. They are ill equipped to step into a serious conversation on Israel with a solid understanding of the region’s modern history or the strong biblical credentials for Israel’s restoration.

This is why the ICEJ offers youth tours. In a world that runs on sound bites, tweets and hashtags, we must build their knowledge base on Israel brick-by-brick, starting with a biblical and moral foundation, the right historical background, and an up-to-date perspective. In this way, the ICEJ seeks to give young Christians the ability to think critically about Israel and to base their opinions on the Word of God.

Personally, my entire life changed after a two-week tour to Israel when I was still a young girl. The Lord used our tour leader, a great woman Bible teacher who did not dumb down the information for my young ears, to instil a passion for His land and His people. This is the same aim of the Arise youth tours. It is time to raise our expectations! God is doing a work in Christian youth around the world and He has given them an insatiable hunger for knowledge.

We saw this during the Arise Sumer Tour in July, with believers as young as 18 engaging in the debate over Israel and her many facets, old and new, biblical and modern. They asked tough questions and truly strove to understand Israel in its multiple layers. They were equally as thrilled with the City of David archaeological finds as with the security challenges on the Golan Heights and the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Their curiosity could not be tamed and many days it extended beyond our scheduled activities into evenings of exploring on their own.

Perhaps the most touching moment for me was a conversation at the end of the tour with Will, who is 19 and just finished his first year of college in California. I asked him what his favourite part of the tour was, fully expecting to hear snorkelling in the Red Sea or the camel ride in the desert. But this college freshman, who spent the tour bopping around with headphones and cracking jokes, looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “the Holocaust museum... it was really impactful and sobering”.

One might assume he only came to Israel for the free trip provided by his grandmother. But Will was deeply impacted and changed, and by a museum of all things!

Those who have devoted many years to visiting and standing with Israel can easily forget the power of this nation to impress and inspire when seeing it for the first time. The restored nation of Israel is not just a sunny vacation spot, home to rich archaeological treasures, a wellspring of biblical truth, or the subject of political controversy - it is all of these combined, and so much more!

Everywhere we went in Israel, we encountered God: From the dark night and countless stars of the Judean Desert, to the sunrise over Masada, the still waters of the Sea of Galilee, and even the crowded streets of Jerusalem. Among the special highlights this year, the Arise group spent a day helping to clean up the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

There also was a strong teaching and devotional component to the tour, as Arise director Jani Salokangas was assisted by Adam Gabeli of ICEJ-Canada, Peter Ecenroad of ICEJ-USA, and several young Finnish pastors.

In every moment the Lord was speaking, touching, and changing lives. Every participant, from the youngest to the oldest, from the most knowledgeable to the least, was transformed by the working of the Holy Spirit.

On the outside it may have looked like just a lot of fun - which it was. But the Arise tour’s full impact on its participants will only be measured in eternity. So, thank you for partnering with us here at the ICEJ as we impact the next generation with the message of God’s plan for Israel and the Jewish people.

The young generation is open to the wisdom of our elders. We are looking for guidance in a complex world. Sometimes we need confirmation, or an extra push in the direction the Lord is already leading us. Therefore, if you are a parent or a grandparent, you have the opportunity to do what Will’s grandmother did: Sponsor your child/grandchild on the next ICEJ Arise tour, which will forever change their life. Together, let us raise our expectations of this next generation, and watch them Arise to meet it.

Even more so, if you are a young person, I encourage you to join us in Israel next year and let God change your life through a trip to His special land. Say “yes” to the calling of the Lord to come to Israel and take a step towards His plan for your life.

 

***********************************

Feast Youth Day
At the Feast of Tabernacles 2019, the ICEJ once again is sponsoring a special day of ministry, worship, fellowship and fun for young adult believers from across Israel and abroad. Feast Youth Day is scheduled for Tuesday, 15 October and will feature guest speakers and worship leaders at the morning sessions, an afternoon excursion, outdoor meal, and a special youth focus during the evening celebration. Musical artists will include Shiloh Ben-Hod, the most popular new Messianic singer/songwriter in Israel. It will be an exciting day of learning about Israeli history and culture, gaining a biblical perspective on the Land and people, and personal testimonies from different young leaders both in and outside Israel. For more information on how you can take part, contact feastreg@icej.org

Dreaming Towards a New Horizon

Welcomed with a hug and a kiss, I felt instantly at home with Sigal Kanotopsky, a petite yet powerful woman with enough dreams to fill the horizon.

Sitting comfortably with a cup of tea, Sigal recalled her arrival in Israel from Ethiopia at age five. Since then she has completed an academic education, married, become a mother, and is now an imaginative leader helping other immigrants advance in Israeli society. In rapid Hebrew requiring my full attention, Sigal passionately described the frustration and vision shared by so many of her peers. If I had to sum it up, the bottom line is education, mentoring and mediation.

For Ethiopian immigrants, education and employment are a significant measure towards making them feel equal with other Israelis. Roni Akale, a colleague operating educational programs for Ethiopian youth, agreed, pointing out that successful integration means “learning professions that position you for a better job and salary. The more you prepare and move into an important position, then the gaps begin to close.”

Since most Ethiopian Jews arrived in Israel with little education amid enormous cultural upheaval, it will take time to catch up. Even second-generation Ethiopian-Israeli children enter school with huge gaps and cannot rely on educated parents to help. Support and mentors are necessary to help them dream and encourage them to believe success is possible and personally attainable.

Naturally, after investing efforts to learn a profession, one hopes to find suitable employment. Yet, for Ethiopian olim (newcomers), unexpected barriers often arise. Intense competition for a good job is difficult for immigrants who are less connected. In addition, it is easy to overlook how cultural misconceptions unexpectedly impede acceptance as well.

Ethiopian Israeli educator Takele Mekonen, when asked how cultural misunderstandings can impact opportunities, explained:

“In Ethiopia, the cultural code of honour was the most essential. They taught us not to make eye contact, to hide or restrain our feelings... to measure our words and to speak little. However, in Israel it is completely the opposite. ... You must enter with confidence and make eye contact. Here, you must speak a lot. The first words you tell about yourself must be right and authentic. ...If not, most interviews will end with this. ...If a person doesn’t believe in his own ability... he won’t pass the interview.”

Hearing this, I understood why educational workshops are so critical for these newcomers.

Later, while visiting an ICEJ-sponsored employment seminar, Ethiopian-Israeli Ezra Warku, pushed home the point. A recent law graduate who dreams of working in a private or public sector law firm, Warku described his struggle when in an Israeli courtroom, noting, “It is instinctive to look down and not meet the eye of the judge as a sign of honour and respect. ...However, this is seen in Israeli culture as weakness.”

With lightning clarity, I visualized the disastrous consequences of appearing weak as an attorney in Israel and agreed that - if not overcome - this would be a serious handicap.

ICEJ Aid seeks to mitigate these and other challenges by investing in a variety of educational enrichment programs for Ethiopian Jews.

Two years ago, Samaon (27 years old) and his sister Liquitu (24 years old) made aliyah with their wheelchair bound father on an ICEJ-sponsored flight. Due to the generosity of our Christian friends, both Samaon and Liquitu are currently working to complete an intensive pre-academic program to qualify for nursing studies. I met them in Beersheva, the city they now call home, and was able to gift them with a new computer to help with their studies.

Amazed by the help received, Samaon said with quiet conviction, “I want to say thank you. If you wouldn’t have helped us, our economic situation would be very difficult. I feel really good in this program. Every day I am meeting new people.” He further emphasized the importance of his mentors, saying: “When I came into this program, I started to feel hope. ...They advised me... and helped make my way clear.”

When asked about the big dream for her community, Sigal responded, “that we would be equals. That the judgment of Ethiopian-Israelis would be the same as for all other Israelis.” In other words, when Israelis look at Ethiopians, there would no longer be the immediate assumption they are uneducated, needy or incapable.

Considering all these voices, I thought to myself: “We can do this! We can ease their way by helping them lay a good foundation for their future.”

Over the years, ICEJ Aid has assisted new immigrants in Israel through crucial stepping stones on the path to successful integration by providing support for children’s educational enrichment programs, vocational training, support for single mothers, employment and other workshops, mentoring programs, youth programs and stipends for university students.

Today there is a fresh urgency to address Ethiopian integration needs so the next generation will have a solid foundation, and not be disenfranchised or relegated to the periphery of society.

Helping our Ethiopian friends make aliyah is just the beginning of their journey to return to their rightful place among the Jewish people. Continued assistance in the years following their arrival is a vital need – until their new homeland truly becomes home.

 

The Basics on Ethiopian Jews

The exact origin of the Ethiopian Jewish community remains unresolved. But there has likely been Ethiopian Jewish blood since the time of the Exodus, when Moses married an Ethiopian woman (see Numbers 12:1).

Today, there are approximately 148,000 Ethiopian Jews in Israel (1.75 % of total population).

Roughly two-thirds immigrated from Ethiopia while one-third were born in Israel.

In 1977, Israeli authorities approved their right to re-join the Jewish people in Israel.

Operation Moses (1984-1985) brought 6,500 Ethiopian Jews to Israel. The new movie “Red Sea Diving Resort” (Netflix, 2019) recounts this covert Mossad operation to rescue them from refugee camps in Sudan.

Operation Solomon brought home another 14,300 in a three-day, emergency airlift in May 1991, which took place amid a civil war in Ethiopia.

Some 9,000 Ethiopians were left stranded in transit camps in Gondar and Addis Ababa over questions they had converted to Christianity.

In 2015, the Israeli cabinet approved the return of these last 9,000 Falash Mura in order to reunite separated families.

Around 7,000 Ethiopians claiming Jewish descent remain in transit camps in Ethiopia, awaiting further government approval for them to come home to Israel.

 

Ethiopian Jews in Israel need our help now!
The problems of Ethiopian Jewish immigrants adjusting to life in modern Israel came to the fore once again this summer when many took to the streets in protest of their sense of alienation. Yet the ICEJ is uniquely positioned to help, as our AID director, Nicole Yoder, just completed a Master’s study on how best to assist the Ethiopian newcomers to fit in better. The main focus of our efforts going forward will be to provide them with better education and job training opportunities, from childhood through adulthood. These are the keys to unlocking the full potential of Ethiopians in Israel.

Help us make the future brighter for Ethiopian Jews in Israel. Make your donation today at: int.icej.org/aid/immigrant-assistance 

And for more information on the unique history and challenges of Ethiopian Jewish aliyah and integration, watch the ICEJ’s powerful documentary film “Journey of Dreams” on YouTube at: int.icej.org/documentary

Nicole Yoder- The Heart Behind ICEJ Aid

When 22-year-old Nicole Yoder first stepped off the plane at Ben-Gurion Airport in the early 1990s, she never imagined Israel would become her home. Nor could she have dreamed that more than 20 years later she would serve as Director of ICEJ Aid, a position she has held since 2006.

Nicole’s early years were marked by a rich spiritual heritage and an understanding of the importance of Israel in God’s redemptive plan. For example, her grandfather was censured in 1946 for preaching in support of the rebirth of a Jewish state of Israel, a biblical dream which came to prophetic fulfillment only two years later. Nicole’s personal interest was piqued as a preteen by the Sound of Music and Corrie Ten Boom’s story, which led to her avid investigation into events surrounding World War II and the Holocaust.

Years later, while writing her Master’s thesis on the challenges faced by Ethiopian olim (new immigrants to Israel), Nicole drew heavily on her own personal journey to Israel to create a deeper connection. As recounted in her thesis:

“I remember that final wrenching goodbye as I turned to walk towards the plane with tears streaming. I wasn’t leaving on a typical vacation trip with the expectation of returning home in a few weeks, bubbling with new experiences to share. No, this trip was different. At twenty-two years old, I was moving half-way around the world to a country I had never visited before, and I was going alone.”

“I had seen it on television often the previous year, as relentless media coverage of the Gulf War revealed a populace that kept gas masks at the ready in case of a chemical attack. A million anxious questions pulled at my heart. Would I be safe there? Understood? Accepted? How would I live? Though I knew with unswerving certainty as I boarded that El Al flight to Tel Aviv that God had moved me to go serve in Israel, it would take time before I fully understood my purpose there. Nor did I suspect then that this trip was essentially one-way. Since I am not Jewish and am not entitled to make aliyah, for me being in Israel long-term would require divine intervention.”

“Reflecting on this today, however, I realize that the same is true for the Jewish people or any other people. Those who settle in this land, which God has called his own (Lev. 25:23), are here only at His invitation and for the time He has purposed.”

Nicole’s experience echoes throughout the ICEJ family. Our Jerusalem head office is staffed by Christians hailing from 17 different countries and six continents. With vastly different backgrounds, cultures and spiritual journeys, ICEJ’s team dynamic becomes, in some ways, an intercultural microcosm of the nation of Israel at large. ICEJ also reflects the ongoing realisation of biblical prophecies regarding the role of the nations in these days. As much as Jewish aliyah was prophetically foreseen throughout Scripture, so was the role of believing Gentiles: “Thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I will lift My hand in an oath to the nations, and set up My standard for the peoples; they shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders’.” (Isaiah 49:22)

This fall, Nicole will celebrate twenty years with the ICEJ. In her role with ICEJ Aid, she has witnessed the challenges, frustrations, and issues unique to the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel. Through her research and ongoing relationships, her now-completed Master’s thesis gives a voice to Ethiopian leaders, and demonstrates the crucial role which vocational training and higher education play in laying a solid foundation for the Ethiopian community in Israel going forward. Ethiopian immigrants who receive the ICEJ’s assistance today are on track to become the leaders, role models and visionaries to light the way for future generations.

Ethiopian Israelis have endured much, and yet they have big dreams and look to the future with optimism. David Elazar, director of an integration center in Rehovot, said it well: “In the early years we were very busy with survival. However, in recent years, [the idea] is catching on. . . . The [Ethiopian] community doesn’t just want to lead themselves. They see themselves as capable of leading others as well.”

Now is the time to walk alongside this community and strategically assist them in breaking free of the stigmas of discrimination, poverty and despair. At the same time, we want to raise up future leaders from within. Thanks to Christian donors worldwide, the ICEJ’s investment is sowing seeds which will reap an abundant harvest for Ethiopian olim for generations to come.

 

"A wind blew and we knew we had to come" - An excerpt on Ethiopian Integration

Having considered the many challenges inherent in uprooting one’s family and beginning afresh in a new land, one might be tempted to ask, “Is it worth it?” No doubt there are as many answers to this question as there are immigrants.

However, since most of the Beta Israel arrived [from Ethiopia] based on a deep faith conviction, a sense of identity and a purpose within the ancient narrative of the people of Israel, their arrival in the land represents the beginning of a long-yearned-for redemption. As such, it would have been unthinkable for them to forego this journey.

Nevertheless, the reasons people make aliyah vary. I once asked a secular Russian immigrant towards the end of the large Russian aliyah in the nineties why they chose to come to Israel. Their reply amazed me, “I don’t know. It was like a wind blew and we just knew we had to come” (unknown). It hit me then. This “wind” is essentially what brought me to this land, just as it has done and is doing in Jewish communities worldwide. Whether immigrants have arrived because they sought refuge from unwelcoming environments, aspired for the opportunity to re-join their people and rebuild their nation or whether they came because of something less definable – a wind that blew - each new wave of aliyah contributes something beautiful to the colorful mosaic that is Israel. 

**Excerpt from Ethiopian Immigrant Integration Strategies Within Israel’s Modern-Day Restoration: On Identity, Collective Leadership and Two-Way Integration that Bridges Cultural Differences, Develops Social Capital and Builds a Shared Narrative, by Nicole Y. Yoder, Northwest University, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Masters, International Community Development Thesis, Forrest Inslee, PhD, Adviser, 1 May 2019, page 56 **

Ethiopians in Israel

Over this summer, frustration reached a boiling point in Israel’s struggling Ethiopian Jewish community following the death of 19-year-old Solomon Tekah, caused by an off-duty police officer attempting to break up a street fight. Protests over his death gained national attention as thousands of Ethiopians blocked main roads, producing six-hour traffic jams that completely disrupted daily life in Israel.

Although the Ethiopians’ grief and justifiable anger aroused much public sympathy on the one hand, the inconvenience of the traffic snarls also eroded some of that goodwill. These distressing events have underlined the urgent need to address the unique needs of the Ethiopian immigrant community to better integrate into Israeli society.

A timely study of a prolonged problem
Through the generosity of Christian supporters worldwide, the ICEJ has brought some 150,000 Jewish people home to Israel since 1980, including 1,920 Ethiopian Jews who have arrived under our sponsorship in the past three years. But there is also an absorption phase for newcomers to Israel that can often pose an array of problems, and none have faced more than the Ethiopian immigrants.

As Director of ICEJ Aid for the past two decades, I have been privileged to serve as a conduit of Christian compassion to meet Israel’s pressing social needs. In an effort to improve our outreach efforts to new Jewish immigrants in Israel, I recently began pursuing a Masters degree at Northwest University in International Community Development and wrote my thesis on Ethiopian Immigrant Integration Strategies Within Israel’s Modern-Day Restoration. I wanted to better understand the unique challenges which Ethiopian Jews face here and how they view their integration, as well as gain insight to more effectively direct our future aid efforts.

As it turns out, this research could not have been more timely, as I completed my Masters just as the Ethiopian street protests brought Israeli traffic to a halt this summer!

I had already made many connections over the years that enabled me to carry out a qualitative research study involving interviews with Ethiopian communal leaders - social and community workers, educators and students, absorption center officials and activists - who arrived in Israel during the emergency airlifts of Operations Moses (early 1980s) and Solomon (early 1990s). Unfortunately, nearly forty years after those first major waves of Ethiopian Jewish aliyah to Israel, they still lag behind economically and have yet to fully integrate into Israeli society.

This reality is contrasted by the recent joyful arrival of 620 new Ethiopian immigrants on flights sponsored by the ICEJ. They could come because of a 2015 Israeli cabinet decision to bring the remaining 9,000 Jews in Ethiopia to Israel. However, implementation of this decision remains sporadic due to shifting government guidelines and approvals.

In June, Israel’s Ministry of Interior completed reviewing all Ethiopian immigrant applicants according to current government directives. From their perspective, the Ethiopian aliyah can now be closed unless a new government broadens the eligibility requirements. The Ethiopian community will find this especially disheartening, as it would leave thousands stranded in transit camps in Addis Ababa and Gondar, and many families separated.

The roots of unrooted-ness
While that issue gets resolved and in view of the recent protests, we sense a strong leading to focus more efforts on helping Ethiopian Jewry find their place in Israeli society, as it continues to present significant challenges. Though initially welcomed with open arms, the earlier Ethiopian immigrants arrived in Israel from a patriarchal and agrarian society where the majority were illiterate. Their adjustment to Israel’s modern, hi-tech, egalitarian society came as a shock for which they were ill-prepared.

One recent study noted that “in 2011, 39% of Ethiopian-Israeli families lived in poverty, compared with 14% of all Jewish families”. They also suffer from low educational levels, with an average of 4.6 years of education, according to a recent Jewish Agency report. This puts them at a distinct disadvantage in Israel, where 49.9% of the population has completed some form of post-secondary education. In practical terms, less education means most end up in unskilled occupations.

In an effort to improve their situation, the Israeli government began providing Ethiopian immigrant families with extra funds to help pay for schooling and homes. But the grants unintentionally resulted in segregated Ethiopian neighbourhoods, as extended families preferred living near one another and most families could only afford low-income apartments.

Enormous cultural gaps have caused confusion as well. Takele Mekonen, an educator who arrived in Operation Moses in the early 1980s, explained that somewhere in the few hours between take-off and landing, “[our] social structure, that is from the top of the pyramid – the kesim [spiritual leaders], to the foundation of the family, completely melted and didn’t exist anymore. … From the moment of aliyah, it vanished.”

The community elders lost spiritual authority as the younger generation, eager to become Israeli, devalued their own traditions in favour of new Israeli practices. Time-honoured customs clashed with Israel’s more Western ways. Ethiopians also discovered their Jewish identity was not accepted by all Israelis, despite a favourable chief rabbinate ruling in the 1970s. In addition, the cohesion of larger extended families began to break down, as young couples dispersed into new neighbourhoods and the community’s intergenerational support system, so foundational to Ethiopian society, was lost. Each of these challenges profoundly affected their integration process.

Gender roles within families also changed overnight, leaving many bewildered. According to Avraham Abouya, an educator who arrived in Operation Solomon, ninety-five percent of Ethiopian immigrants came from rural villages where traditional gender roles were more pronounced.

“In Ethiopia, the husband is the one who decides. Even when they walk outside to do the shopping or to go to an event, the man walks ahead, and the woman walks behind”, he noted. “The men earn more, are more important and control the money.” But in Israel, the women have been quicker at learning Hebrew and more easily found work outside the home as cleaners and caregivers. This shift left many men disoriented and even humiliated, as their wives were now providers and wanted a say in decision-making.

These adjustments inevitably cause tension, family conflicts, and parenting difficulties. The resulting figures on single parenting are daunting. In 2018, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported that “among Ethiopian Israeli families some 26% are single-parent families, more than double the rate of the rest of the... population (12%).” Unfortunately, these stresses combined with the slower acculturation process for Ethiopian men has translated into high rates of intimate partner homicide “more than sixteen times the rate in the general population.”

All these challenges have caused the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel to lose its balance. As one Ethiopian social worker told me: “A person has to feel that he is worthy. This is what is missing in the Ethiopian community. Since the... community collapsed, people lack confidence... and are looking for ways to cope.”

Finding acceptance
Indeed, many Ethiopian youth feel unwanted at home and unaccepted as Israelis. This discouragement has led many into drinking, drugs and delinquent behaviour. Israeli media reports focusing on poverty, juvenile delinquency and violence in the family have fed negative societal views of Ethiopians without enough reporting on their positive contributions and potential to balance the picture.

This painful reality periodically comes to the fore in Israeli public discourse, such as when Israeli authorities decided in the late 1990s to throw out blood donations by Ethiopian immigrants due to fears of AIDS contamination, the refusal of some schools to accept Ethiopian students, or the Barkan winery’s 2018 decision (later reversed due to public outcry) to ban Ethiopian employees from some stages of the wine-making process when inspectors for a stricter kashrut license questioned their Jewishness. Events such as these, along with the recurring police profiling and brutality, cause deep resentment in a community which feels denied full acceptance and too often bears the brunt of discrimination and cultural misunderstandings.

The cultural and language gaps, the residential segregation, and other factors have meant that many Ethiopian Jews were not positioned to connect well with the broader Israeli society. Takele Mekonen, contemplating what is yet required, concluded: “The process of education is a very long process. It means to create a new reality.” The desert or first-generation immigrant does not know what this new reality should look like, he added. It takes time to adjust and develop accepted new role models who can lead the way forward.

A call to planting
The ICEJ’s aliyah work enables the rebuilding of a nation by returning Israel’s sons to their borders, whereas our integration efforts address the challenges of melding diverse cultures, customs, and languages into one cohesive society. We also are seeking to prevent disenfranchised or disadvantaged groups from developing on the periphery of society. This has happened for far too long within the Ethiopian Jewish community. With your support, ICEJ Aid is committed to working with Ethiopian immigrants and Israeli community leaders to promote projects that bridge the cultural differences and assist these new arrivals to develop their full potential.

In these efforts, we are partners with the God of Israel who passionately proclaims: “I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul” (Jeremiah 32:41). Being planted in the land means successful integration and God lets us know it is one of His top priorities.

Creator of Heaven & Earth

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

This is how our Bible, the Word of God, starts. These words are so significant, the crew of Apollo 8 read them to the world while orbiting the moon on Christmas Eve in 1968.

Yet the understanding that God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth is the one biblical concept which has come under the sharpest attack in modern times. In fact, many churchgoers today can believe much of what the Bible says, except that He is the Creator.

Not by chance
Since Charles Darwin published his work “On the Origin of Species” in 1859, countless scientists claim to have disproved the Bible and some even say the very existence of God. According to Darwin, ‘survival of the fittest’ was one of the main driving forces of Nature, not an all-creating God. Small changes within species gave one an advantage over the other. By a gradual and random process, these better-adapted species not only survived but eventually dislodged the weaker species.

At the time he proposed this theory, Darwin was unaware that such ‘small changes’ – like gradually growing wings, legs, eyes, etc. – was not just an accidental change in the physiology of a creature, but required a highly complex alteration in the DNA code of an organism. DNA codes are the building blocks for any living being and consist of massive arrays of highly complex molecules. Today, we know that Darwin‘s ‘small changes’ are in reality extremely improbable changes to elaborate systems.

In 2004, microbiologist Doug Axe demonstrated that to accidentally arrange the various elements of a protein called beta-lactamase (an enzyme which confers antibiotic resistance upon bacteria) would need an incredible amount of chance. Axe showed that to rearrange just this one particular enzyme by chance would be a probability of 1/1077. The number 1077 is an incredibly large number: A one followed by 77 zeros. To illustrate just how huge this number is – or how small its probability – consider that there are roughly 1080 atoms in the universe! This means the probability to form just this one protein by chance would be only slightly higher than finding one particular atom from all the particles that exist in the entire Universe; obviously a task infinitely less probable than finding the proverbial needle in the haystack .

There are many more examples from science itself on how improbable life on earth truly is. Scientists today speak about the ‘fine tuning’ of the cosmos or about the ‘Goldilocks theorem’, meaning that our universe on so many levels seems to be incredibly fine-tuned just to make life on earth possible. From the size of the earth, its distance to the sun, the type and size of the sun, the tilt of our planet, etc., everything seems so perfectly tuned to make life on earth possible. Again, the probability that such conditions are found anywhere in the entire known universe is extremely unlikely. 2

All these factors make the notion of evolution by chance scientifically less and less plausible. The odds against it are mounting to such a staggering degree that a whole new theory is being formulated in order to maintain belief in Evolution – and to avoid acceptance of a Creator God.

In May 2007, Eugene Koonin of the National Center for Biotechnology stipulated that our known DNA-based world is inexplainable by current probability models. He thus proposed a totally new approach. But instead of considering the simplest and most logical of all explanations – that there is a omniscient and omnipotent God who created our amazing world – he suggested that since our own universe does not account for all the improbabilities of life on earth, there must exist an endless amount of parallel universes that would explain the infinitesimal chances of life here on earth.

A high view of Man
Years ago, I was discussing science and God with one of my fellow students at the Weizmann Institute. When I submitted to him that he would need more faith to believe in pure chance than I need to believe in the God of the Bible, he laughed. But today, this seems to be truer than ever.

Long ago, King David knew already what scientists are discovering only now: “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech,
and night unto night reveals knowledge.”
(Psalm 19:1-2)

To believe in God and science is not a contradiction, as many greatest scientists of the past were inspired by the Bible when developing their theories to describe the amazing order which God placed into creation.

However, the question remains: Why start the Bible with such a seemingly provocative statement: “In the beginning God created…”? Is it necessary to believe in a Creator God? Why would it matter to believe in evolution by chance? A leading megachurch pastor recently stated such a start to Scripture is confusing, at least to young modern-thinking people, and advised therefore to avoid reading the Old Testament in general.

But it does matter because the reality of God as Creator of the heavens and the earth is central to a biblical worldview and to the way God wants us to know Him.

Early on in Scripture, we find the core of mankind’s calling and identity. We are created – both male and female – in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). This separates and elevates us from the animal world and from the concepts of human origins in other religions. Being created in the image of God gives a tremendous calling to humanity to rule, cultivate and tend the earth (Genesis 1:28; 2:15). It is a calling which encourages science, research and technology to accomplish these ends. It gives us – even in our fallen state – the enormous hope that one day we will be like Him (1 John 3:2), and already in our fellowship with God here on earth we are being “transformed into the same image from glory to glory”. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

This truth of humans being created in God’s image also gives us something that no other creature on earth possesses. It gives tremendous value and dignity to every human life, whether a believer or not, rich or poor, regardless of race or gender.

Jürgen Habermas, one of the leading philosophers of our time, made a profound statement. In a lecture entitled “Glauben und Wissen” (Faith and Knowledge, 2001), this self-avowed atheist expressed concern about the increasing secularization in modern societies. The very understanding that mankind is created in the image of God, he said, gives each man and woman a unique dignity, so that every human deserves respect no matter what they believe. Even as an atheist, Habermas recognised that retaining the concept of Imago Dei acts as a humane safeguard for our modern society. And this very boundary he saw as eroding. Amazing words from someone who denies God!

The results of abandoning God
Habermas’ concerns were proven correct over 70 years ago in Germany. Some time back, I visited the exhibition at Villa Wannsee, just outside Berlin, where in January 1942 Hitler’s ‘final solution to the Jewish question’ was rubber-stamped by various government ministries. In this beautiful lakeside setting, the decision was made to eradicate all eleven million Jews in Europe, followed by a toast with glasses of cognac.

I was intrigued to find out what drove these well-educated participants at this notorious Nazi gathering. For many years I viewed Christian antisemitism as the main engine behind Hitler’s murderous plans. But at Wannsee, I learned these men were driven by a pseudo-scientific theory called “Social Darwinism”. In certain ways it was a logical extension of Darwin’s theory from animals to humans, and this led them into the depraved field of eugenics, championed by Eugen Fischer, Josef Mengele and other Nazi ‘scientists’.

According to many Social Darwinists, not all races were equally fit to live. Some were ahead of others in the evolutionary process, and the race which was endangering humanity with degeneration the most was the Jews. German universities had special research departments to study the application of Darwinism to human societies. ‘Racial hygiene’ and euthanasia were the tools to maintain racial purity. The result was the brutal murder of six million Jews. The piles of corpses from Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen show the depravity of humans who no longer saw themselves as created in the image of God, but an accident of nature. In such a world, morals had no place; man became a law unto himself and this led to the industrial slaughter of fellow humans.

Even today, man no longer considers himself as being created in the image of God but as elevated in the place of God. The moral ambiguity of our post-modern world carries few safeguards against evil. Years ago, the foreign policy chief of the European Union refused to recognise the terrorists of 9/11 as being evil. They were just misguided individuals, he said. Our world has become an increasingly dangerous place as it has thrown overboard the moral safeguards against human depravity.

The Maker of Israel
On the other hand, still seeing God as the Creator of the world gives us a sense of humility and accountability to our Maker. It gives ownership and final authority to Him. King David once again reminds us of these profound truths: “Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” (Psalm 100:3)

Consequently, the Creator of the heavens and the earth is also their Owner, which gives Him full authority to do “according to His good pleasure…” (Ephesians 1:9).

The noted 13th century Rabbi Ibn Ezra once posed the question: Why does the Bible start with “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth?” His answer: “Because a time will come when men will question the right of the Jewish people to live in their own land. But as the Creator of the world, He can do as He pleases.”

The prophet Isaiah returns to this very point again and again. “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless.” (Isaiah 40:22-23)

“Thus says God the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it, and spirit to those who walk on it: ‘I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles.’” (Isaiah 42:5-6)

God made everything! He is not just Creator of the heavens and the earth, but “I am the Lord your Holy One, the Creator of Israel…” (Isaiah 43:15).

This means the Maker of Israel is also the One who “made all things” (Isaiah 44:24). He who called Cyrus to rebuild Jerusalem is the One who “made the earth and man on it” (Isaiah 45:12). And the Saviour of Israel, and our own Redeemer, introduces Himself thusly:

“But Israel shall be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation; you shall not be ashamed or disgraced forever and ever. For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens, who is God, who formed the earth and made it, who has established it, who did not create it in vain, who formed it to be inhabited: ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other.’” (Isaiah 45:17-18)

That means the entire history and fate of Israel is in the hands of the God who made and possesses everything. While God wants us to reason with Him, to search His ways and have dominion on the earth, He also wants us to recognise that we all are accountable to our Creator. Paul gives us this healthy warning against the arrogance of our time: “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’” (Romans 9:20)

In summary, the amazing truth of the Gospel is God invites mankind to be reconciled with Him and to rule and reign with Him as the Creator of heaven and earth. This gives us both humility and confidence in our calling. It invites us to fight His battles, but also to rest assured that His purposes will stand even though we might not fully understand them.

Finally, it gives us incredible hope for the future, when once more the Creator of the heavens and the earth will majestically create a new heavens and a new earth “in which righteousness dwells”. (2 Peter 3:13)

Notes:
Stephen C Meyer, Signature in the Cell, Harper Collins e-books
2 Eric Metaxas, Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life, Dutton Adult/Kindle Edition.

 

Share this: