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ICEJ Helps Jewish Woman ‘On Fire’ to Move to Israel

Amid the ongoing corona travel bans and economic uncertainty, Jews are still finding their way home to the Promised Land and projections are that Aliyah will even accelerate over the coming months. So far in 2021, over 18,500 Jews have immigrated to Israel. And as always, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is right there in the midst of this Aliyah wave, helping to bring over 2,200 of these new Jewish immigrants home to Israel this year. This includes our sponsorship of Aliyah flights for more than 1,300 Jews coming home from all directions.

Talya Kestelman made Aliyah from South Africa this summer on an ICEJ-sponsored emergency flight. As a 23-year-old young woman, she came with joy and bright expectations for the start of a brand new chapter in her life. Talya visited Israel for the first time when she was 15 years old as part of a school program.

“I just absolutely fell in love with this country”, she recalled. “I felt so connected to Israel and my soul was on fire.”

She then came back for a second visit to Israel with her family, and there was no doubt about where she belonged. “God was sending me a message that I needed to live in Israel”, she said with a smile.

Talya shared her desire to live in Israel with her family and asked permission to move here. The response from her family was simply that she first needed to finish her university degree. So, she faithfully worked at her studies and received her diploma.

“I’m going to Israel. I need to be there”, she insisted afterwards. “I need to live my life and meet my people. I need to experience life as a true Israeli.”

Talya is the first member of her family to blaze the trail back to Israel. She is looking forward to seeing her father in December when he plans to come visit her and see what life in Israel really looks like.

“I really hope that my whole family will move to Israel within a couple of years”, Talya confided.

Talya also was thankful to know that Christians around the world are supporting the Jewish return and that the ICEJ helped with her life-changing flight to Israel.

“I’m so grateful to have been given this opportunity to come to Israel”, she said. “Knowing that I have a country that will accept me no matter what just because I’m Jewish is a real blessing, and this is very special for me.”

After coming out of quarantine, Talya’s first step in Israel was starting an intensive Hebrew language course at Ulpan Etzion in Jerusalem.

“It is something special to be in this group of people from all over the world. We all have the same visions and calls in our lives. We all left everything behind to come to this special place, to learn a new language, and we have all started our lives over here. It is very special to be a part of this”, she explained.

Taking one step at a time, Talya is settling into an apartment and is looking forward to beginning her master’s degree in environmental studies.

“There are a lot of opportunities in Israel in terms of green design and green architecture. That is the field I want to go into”, she said.

We pray this young Jewish lady from South Africa will achieve her dreams and aspirations in her new/old homeland of Israel.

Meanwhile, the months ahead will be packed with many more Aliyah flights. For instance, we have committed to helping with several hundred more immigrants coming from both the Ethiopian Jewish and Bnei Menashe communities this fall, plus additional flights from Russian-speaking countries and even from the United States of America.

One family we hope to help make Aliyah soon is the Singsit family from the Bnei Menashe community in northeast India. Osher Singsit, along with his wife, four sons and two daughters, all hope to arrive in Israel in a few weeks, and with your help we can make that happen. Osher has a brother he has not seen since he made Aliyah some 14 years ago and settled in the Israeli town of Maalot. He also has two sisters who made Aliyah more recently, plus several nephews who were born in Israel.

“With your help and prayers, my family will be making Aliyah to Eretz Israel this year”, said Osher. “My kids are very excited about it! We are the children of Menashe. Our tribe had been lost for many years and now we want to be re-connected to our roots in Israel”, he pleaded.

Together, we can finish this year strong with an amazing testimony of Christians bringing thousands of Jews safely home to Israel even in the midst of a global pandemic. So, please give your best gift today to support the ICEJ’s Aliyah efforts.
 

 

Rosh HaShana: The Day of Trumpets

The biblical holiday of Rosh HaShana, also known as the Jewish New Year, begins this coming Monday evening, 6 September, at sunset. It opens the fall High Holy Days, which also include Yom Kippur and the Feast of Tabernacles. So, what is the meaning of Rosh HaShana, where does it appear in the Bible, and what can we learn as Christians about its spiritual and prophetic significance.

First of all, Rosh HaShana is a special version of the monthly holiday called Rosh Chodesh, or beginning of the new lunar month. In Genesis 1:14, God said the sun and moon are for “signs and seasons”, and indeed the most important Jewish holiday seasons are determined by the moon. The moon also serves as a moed – a Hebrew word best translated as “appointed time”. This is the time God Himself set for an appointment with mankind. And what powerful appointments they are! Just think of it – the Exodus from Egypt, the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai, and Jesus dying on the cross – all of these seminal events happened exactly on the days appointed by God.

Now the significance of every Rosh Chodesh is mainly to determine the beginning of the month, which falls on the day of the new moon, and this also sets the dates for other important festivals in that month.

Every month, Rosh Chodesh is a time of drawing near to God, of blowing the trumpet, and a time of gladness and joy. Numbers 10:10 says this shall be a memorial (zikaron) for you. There also are many somber events which happened in many months in the Bible, as catastrophes befell the Jewish people due to their sins – reminding us of the righteousness and judgement of God.

At Rosh HaShana, this theme certainly comes out prominently. It is the biggest Rosh Chodesh, also called Yom ha Zikaron, and biblically the “Day of Trumpets”, or more precisely, the Day of Blowing on the Shofar (Yom Teruah).

The Special Month of Tishri
The Day of Trumpets is a celebration with mixed feelings: the joy of the Feast, the eating and drinking, mingled with the blowing of the shofar, but it also carries solemn tones. The Lord is remembered as the Judge, and the books of life are opened. It marks the beginning of the ten “Days of Awe”, (Yamim Noraim), which lead up to Yom Kippur. We celebrate the Lord as the Creator of the universe and at the same time ask for forgiveness and try to learn the lessons from the past. And we cry out for mercy. And then, on the full moon, on the 15th of Tishri, comes the most joyful of all Jewish festivals: Sukkot – the Feast of Tabernacles.

So why is it that this month is so packed with spiritually significant moadim, times of appointment? And does this month mark the beginning of the year or not? Rosh Chodesh Tishri is considered the beginning of the year, Rosh HaShana, but at the same time Tishri is called the seventh month. How should we understand this?

To grasp this concept, first know that Tishri marks the beginning of the year and imagine the agricultural cycle in ancient Israel. Every holiday has both a spiritual element and an agricultural one: Passover marks the liberation from the slavery of Egypt through the blood of the lamb but also the first fruits of barley; Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah and also the first harvest; and at the Feast of Tabernacles the Jews remember how they wandered in booths in the desert but they also celebrate the final harvest, the ingathering of everything that grew and ripened during the long summer.

According to this agricultural calendar, the Biblical year indeed begins in Tishri because this is the month when the winter rainy season is about to begin. It is the period that determines the fate of the entire region for the rest of the year. If the early rains fail to come, the nation faces drought. In ancient times, wars would break out as nations struggled over the limited resources. And not only in ancient times: some people say that one of the reasons for the outbreak of the recent civil war which devastated Syria was a prolonged drought which forced the farmers to leave their fields and go to cities where the unrest started.

In this light, we can better understand the full impact of the three-and-a-half years (James 5:17) of drought under Elijah. For four years, each year at this time, they expected rain, but it did not come. It caused a nationwide crisis, and a great famine in Samaria. King Ahab blamed Elijah, but he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and have followed the Baals.” (1 Kings 18:17-18)

The drought in Elijah’s time was linked to sin of the people. Instead of finding fault with Elijah, Ahab should have repented. And Elijah then calls on the people to repent, to take a stand (1 Kings 18:21).

We have selected “The Days of Elijah” as the theme for this year’s Feast of Tabernacles. We sense that developments over the past year show similarity to those days of drought under Elijah. The global pandemic has changed the way we live in many aspects and it is not yet over. All this underlines our complete dependency on God and His full sovereignty. We have no control over the future, but God does. Therefore, the call to repentance, to return to the Lord with all our hearts and minds is in order.

And this is very much the message of the month of Tishri and the fall holidays. The Bible commands a special month of appointed times before the onset of the new agricultural year. It is to reaffirm the faith that the Lord is the sole force behind the fate of the coming season. We do not look to Nature, we do not worship Mother Earth, nor do we let the perceived changes of climate control us – instead, we put our trust in God who decides how the rainy season will unfold.

The idea of dependency on God and trust in Him permeates the whole fall holiday season: the main theme of Sukkot is to remember how God protected the Israelites on their way from Egypt. During Sukkot, people are commanded to get out of their comfortable dwellings, be exposed to the elements and trust in God rather than man-made protection. We cannot rely on our real estate, our money, even on our skills or health. We are fully dependent on God.

The Wake-Up Blast
What else can we learn from Scripture concerning Rosh HaShana? First of all, surprisingly the Bible does not call it the NEW YEAR, but rather just the first day of the SEVENTH month. The only commandments are to refrain from work and blow the trumpet.
The defining passage is found in Numbers 29:1-2: “And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work. For you it is a day of blowing the shofar (Yom Teruah). You shall offer a burnt offering as a sweet aroma to the Lord: one young bull, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year, without blemish.”

Another relevant passage is found in Leviticus 23:23-25: “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying: “In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of shofar (Zichron Teruah), a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.”’”

So, the main commandment is to blow the trumpet, or shofar, which also is sounded on every new moon, as the aspect of zikaron, or memorial, is also present every month. But in the seventh month, everything is more intense. The sound of the shofar serves as a wake-up call.

The medieval Jewish scholar Maimonides, or Rambam, writes in his Laws of Repentance, 3:4: "Although the blowing of the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah is a chok [a law issued without an accompanying reason], there is also a remez [a hint of meaning] within it, as if it were saying, 'awake, sleeping ones, from your slumber, and those napping arise from your naps, examine your actions and return sincerely to God, and remember your Creator.’”

We can find an interesting parallel in the New Testament. Paul writing to the Ephesians uses a very similar exhortation: “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” The verse comes from Ephesians 5:14, and the context for this passage is one of repentance and walking in the light, and the sound of the shofar says: ‘Awake from your slumber, cast away darkness, and walk in the light.’

Indeed, light seems to be an important theme at this season. According to Jewish tradition, on Rosh Hashana new light enters the world. It is a day in which we can evaluate who we are, where we are going, and to what degree our lives are truly lived in accordance with God’s will.

In Psalm 89:15, the original Hebrew actually says, “blessed are the people who know the sound of teruah”, or the sound of the shofar. In other words, there is blessing in heeding the call for repentance. These are the people who walk in the light of His countenance. This is exactly the message of 1 John 1:5-8: “… God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

The sound of teruah is a wake-up call, inviting us to leave darkness and walk in His light. Repentance in Hebrew is teshuva, and it literally means “return, come back”. Change your direction and turn around.

The rabbis also say that many of the laws concerning blowing the shofar are derived from the laws of the Jubilee Year. It is based on the text from Leviticus 25:8-9: “And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. Then you shall cause the shofar of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the shofar to sound throughout all your land.”

In the 50th year, all land returned to the family that originally inherited it, and slaves went free. The blast of the shofar to mark the Jubilee signified freedom. What is the connection between repentance and the Jubilee, regaining freedom? When we repent, the power of sin is broken and we enter into true freedom. Jesus said in John 8:32, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

This is a very Jewish concept. The whole history of the Jewish people can be seen as struggle for freedom. God freed them from slavery in Egypt and brought them to Mt. Sinai, where He gave them His word, which has the power to set free. And ultimately, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus did what we could never do in our own strength. Now we can experience his liberating power. “When the Son sets you free, you are free indeed” (John 8:36). Jesus also referenced the Jubilee when he launched his public ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:18-21).

So, when you hear the shofar, remember that it is calling you to freedom in Jesus.

Trumpeting His Return
The shofar blast also is connected to God’s judgement, as it will be revealed in the last days, and also to the restoration and regathering of Israel. Both Zechariah 9:9-14 and Isaiah 27:12-13 link the blowing of the shofar with the salvation of Israel, the Ingathering of the exiles, and the coming of their King.

The blowing of the trumpet also is given important prophetic significance in the New Testament. For instance, in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, we read that it will signify the return of Jesus: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God (teruah). And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

In addition, Revelation 11:15 says: “Then the seventh angel sounded (the shofar): And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”

So, as we blow the shofar these days, let us do it intentionally, as a prophetic sign of the wonderful things to come.
 

FOR MORE on this topic, make sure to watch the ICEJ Special Webinar on Rosh Hashana from Thursday, 2 September 2021, featuring Dr. Mojmir Kallus. WATCH HERE! 

ICEJ Homecare delivers a sweet holiday surprise!

The gift bags were set out and ribbons perfectly measured for tying around 120 beautiful holiday presents in anticipation of Rosh Hashanah in early September. Each gift bag contained a magnetic fridge notepad, a lovely handmade mug, specialty teas grown around Israel, and a jar of honey, thoughtfully wrapped together in a new dishtowel and finished with a ribbon and little pomegranate symbolising this special holiday season. The gifts also came with a unique card designed by ICEJ Homecare nurse Corrie van Maanen with a scripture verse from Isaiah 12:2.

Corrie soon started making her way across Israel to visit single mothers, the disabled, Holocaust survivors and others she cares for. The Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah is a highlight of the year for those under her care. “As they receive this gift of love, they know that they are remembered during this holiday time”, explained Corrie. “Many come from the former Soviet Union, where they were not allowed to celebrate the Jewish holidays.”

“This is a rich and special season, and the gift card will be treasured”, Corrie added, recalling how one lady she visits wished for a special box to store all her ICEJ Homecare cards. For her next birthday, Corrie gave her a beautiful storage box and now, whenever she feels lonely, she takes it out and reflects on all the words of encouragement she has received from Corrie over the years.

The pomegranate symbolises righteousness, knowledge and wisdom, while the honey symbolises a wish for a sweet new year. “Over this Rosh Hashanah season, this is certainly what we want to bless them with”, said Corrie.

Your giving enables Homecare to extend personal hands-on support to elderly and disabled Jewish immigrants in need.

   

Dr Bühler speaks to German nation on ‘Israel Sunday’

Germany has a long-standing tradition for churches to hold an “Israel Sunday” one week in the annual liturgy. The tradition dates back to the early decades of the Reformation, when it was called the “Jew Sunday” and often featured antisemitic messages. It was scheduled for around Tish B’Av, the date on the Hebrew calendar when Jews commemorate the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem. The liturgy eventually changed, especially after World War II and the Holocaust. It was renamed ‘Israel Sunday’ and now serves as a day for churches to underline God’s eternal faithfulness to the people of Israel.

This year, ICEJ-Germany national director Gottfried Bühler was asked to provide for the first time on television an ‘Israel Sunday’ service to be broadcast across Germany. This weekly service reaches up to 300,000 people and it presented a great opportunity for the Christian Embassy to share about God’s plan for Israel. ICEJ President Dr Jürgen Bühler flew to Germany for this service to preach a message on the Shema, the central prayer of Israel and the Jewish people. He was accompanied by his wife Vesna with Hebrew songs.

The location for the televised service was very special. It took place in the Mauritius Church in Reichenbach. During the Nazi era, this church was pastored by Theodor Dipper, who repeatedly spoke against Hitler in his sermons and oversaw a network of around 40 pastors of the Confessing Church who hid Jews during the Holocaust. The church compound served as a safe haven for many Jews who were hidden there, each for several days to weeks, during Hitler’s reign of terror.

Pastor Heinrich Hoffman, who serves today as the church’s pastor, said it was very appropriate to host the first televised Israel Sunday service in his church. Jürgen Bühler added that it was a tremendous privilege to preach in a location with such a legacy of heroism and of blessing God’s people.

Besides the televised service at the Mauritius Church, Jürgen and Vesna ministered in several other places during their visit to Germany, which was their first trip outside Israel since the coronavirus pandemic arose last year. This included ministering in word and song at a large Israel gathering organised by the Saxonian Friends of Israel. They also spent several days in Stuttgart at the new offices of the German branch, which has seen tremendous growth and impact in recent years under the leadership of Gottfried Bühler, Jürgen’s brother.

ICEJ gearing up for Aliyah surge from all directions

Late summer is normally a peak time for Jewish immigration to Israel, as many families plan their arrival here in time to enroll their children in school for the fall. But the weeks ahead are expected to see an unusual surge in Aliyah, as a large backlog of Jewish families who have put off their move to Israel due to the corona pandemic are now trying to make it into the country in time to get their children in school. And the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is currently positioned as never before to assist with Aliyah flights for Jews arriving from all directions at once – east, west, north and south.

We live in a unique time in history, as Christians in unprecedented numbers are helping restore the Jewish people to their ancestral homeland – all in keeping with the centuries-old Biblical prophecies about Gentiles helping with the return of the Jews to the Promised Land from the four corners of the earth. As Christians, we have the privilege not only to witness this modern-day miracle, but also to take an active role in making it happen. Thus, the ICEJ has been working for decades with the Jewish Agency for Israel and other partners to help with this historic Jewish return.

Yet in all our years of working in Aliyah, this moment stands out! Never before has the ICEJ had the chance to assist with Aliyah flights from so many countries at once. We are committed to helping with upcoming flights of hundreds of Ethiopian Jews and the Bnei Menashe from India over the next two-to-three months. We will still be helping with Aliyah flights from the North – Russia, Belarus and other former Soviet republics – as we have for decades. We just helped with large Aliyah flight groups from France and South Africa. But now the door has opened for us to also sponsor flights bringing American Jews home to Israel in greater numbers than ever.

There is a large buildup of Jewish families from North America seeking to reach Israel in coming weeks, just as some of the traditional funding sources for this Aliyah route have tapered off. And the Jewish Agency is asking the Christian Embassy to help with this expected surge of American Jewish immigration – which is already on target to be one of the biggest years ever for Aliyah from North America. Approximately 5,000 Jews from the USA and Canada are expected to immigrate to Israel in 2021, a 42% increase over the annual average.

This presents us with a wonderful opportunity to increase our Aliyah efforts in the area with the largest remaining population of Jews outside of Israel. There are an estimated 5.7 million Jews currently living in North America, and when adding in their close relatives the number of people eligible for Aliyah under the Law of Return jumps to 12.7 million.

The present surge in Aliyah is due to several factors, with one primary reason being that Israel is perceived as having done well so far in handling the coronavirus threat. Israel’s economy is also seen as stronger and more able to recover from the impact of the pandemic. For many in the younger generation, Israel holds better career opportunities, especially in the hi-tech sector. And there are growing concerns among Jews worldwide about the sharp rise in antisemitism over recent months, as many are falsely blaming the Jewish people for the corona pandemic, even while the recent Gaza rocket war and the racial tensions rocking the US and many other nations are also driving antisemitism. According to the ADL, there have been 8,004 incidents of antisemitism or extremism against Jews in the United States in 2020 and 2021.

In July, the ICEJ already responded to an urgent request from the Jewish Agency to help with the surge in Aliyah from the USA, as we sponsored flights for 30 olim (newcomers) from New York, New Jersey, California, Illinois, Florida and other states. Here are some of their personal stories.

Ari L. 24-year-old, from Maryland: "I made Aliyah to be a part of the Jewish future. I hope to contribute towards building the people of Israel in the Land of Israel."

Glen M. 27-year-old, from Texas: "I made Aliyah because I feel like I belong here and no one will judge me if I have my tzizit tucked out and kippa showing. And I wanted to be with people more my age and I thought Israel was the best place for me to meet young professionals my age. I hope to help make children happy and enjoy the work I do like working with people with unique needs and abilities."

Hadar B. 32-year-old, from New York: "Since before I can remember I wanted to live in Israel. Israel has always felt like home to me. I hope to contribute in building Israel up in its economy and assist with its overall success as a country.”

Josh A. 27-year-old, from Illinois: “I made Aliyah because it was my dream to come to Israel and live where my family came from generations ago and to be more a part of the Jewish people. I made Aliyah because I want to volunteer in the army and to one day raise my kids here.”

These young people have completed their quarantine and are now starting their new lives in Israel attending a five-month program at Ulpan Etzion Jerusalem – Israel's flagship intensive Hebrew learning program.

So far in 2021, there have been 14,723 new immigrants who have arrived in Israel over the first seven months. The ICEJ has assisted 2,175 of these new arrivals to make Aliyah, which represents some 15% of the Jews who have made the journey home to Israel this year. These Jewish newcomers have come from all over the world, including Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ethiopia, France, Finland, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, United States, Russia and other former Soviet republics.

But with your help, we are only getting started. Stand with us at this incredible moment when we have the chance to bring more Jews home to Israel from more directions than ever before. There are many making plans to arrive over coming weeks, but they need our help. Support the ICEJ’s Aliyah efforts today!
 

 

ICEJ supporting fun and fruitful Aliyah summer camps

We are well into summer, when children head off to summer camp to make new friends and fun memories. In the Jewish world, summer camps are a big thing – especially the opportunity to get outdoors and to meet other Jewish children.

Right now, there are special summertime camps being held for Jewish youths in Latvia, Belarus, Russia and other former Soviet republics. They are special because these camps also are preparing the children to immigrate to Israel. These Aliyah camps are arranged by the Jewish Agency and sponsored by the Christian Embassy, among other organizations, and they are an important step in their journey home to the Promised Land.

So far this year, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem has assisted with six Aliyah summer camps that have served 324 participants in total.

One exciting development is that these JAFI summer camps have not stopped even with the coronavirus threat. There are, of course, health precautions but hundreds of Jewish children have had the chance to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine in these beautiful resorts this summer – thanks to our Christian supporters worldwide.These camps have proved to be the most effective way of introducing Jewish children to Israel and telling them about the Youth Aliyah programs available to them – such as the Naale and Sela programs which the Christian Embassy has been supporting for more than 15 years. These Youth Aliyah programs have been a huge success over the years in bringing Jewish children to Israel ahead of their parents and then helping their parents acclimate once they have arrived. Thus, it has been a great blessing for the ICEJ to support these unique and highly successful pre-Aliyah summer camps.

One camp held in Belarus was the Super Summer 5781 Festival, and it included a visit to an estate which once belonged to an influential Jewish family. At the very beginning of the festival, the participants learned about a diary that once belonged to David, one of the younger members of this family. Every day, the campers scrolled through the diary of David one page per day, discovering new aspects of the life of this Jewish family – such the chuppah (wedding canopy), bar mitzvah, Shabbat meals, and many other life events and experiences. Throughout the entire time a unique atmosphere reigned in the camp, as the children immersed themselves in the history of this Jewish family, to get better acquainted with Jewish culture and traditions and to encourage them to form their own approaches towards them.

Currently, life in Belarus is very difficult and parents want their children to have a better life in Israel. Soon, many of the children who participated in these summer camps will make Aliyah with their parents or on their own as part of a “Youth Aliyah” program designed to help young olim and students take their first steps toward a new life in Israel.

Just last Sunday, the ICEJ helped with another very special Aliyah summer camp called the “Mezuza Fest”, held at a resort on a beautiful lake in Northern Russia away from the hustle-and-bustle of the city. Jewish children gathered from all over Northwest Russia for a camp that also involved their parents.

The ICEJ arranged both transportation as well as dancing classes – including the amazing and popular ‘Jerusalema Dance Challenge’, a concert of Jewish music and a virtual tour of Jewish St. Petersburg. This was all provided in collaboration with the main Jewish community in St. Petersburg as part of an innovative program to encourage Aliyah and help the children build their Jewish identity.

One of the most impressive results from these summer camps is that the children are exposed to Youth Aliyah programs, such as the Naale program, which enables students to take a year of preparation and testing in Jewish studies while they finish their last years of high school in Israel. Most children who participate are around 15-to-17 years old and 96% of them decide to make Aliyah, with 60% of their parents joining them within a year or two.

With these success rates, we urge you to please consider supporting the ICEJ’s Aliyah efforts, as we continue to reach out to the younger generation of Jewish people to help them take their first steps in the journey back to their ancestral homeland in Israel.
 

Giving comfort to Jewish families after terror

The sigh of relief in Israel was palpable. Lockdowns, further lockdowns, and restrictions! Now it was almost over. A year of challenges left behind. Yet suddenly, the sense of freedom was gone. A lockdown of a different kind was triggered by repeated barrages of Hamas rockets. For nearly two weeks, especially in southern Israel, residents spent days and nights in bomb shelters.

ICEJ Homecare regularly visits families in Beersheva and other places in southern Israel. Unable to visit during the war, phone calls assured them that Christians around the world were praying and standing with them in this difficult time, and that we would come by at the first opportunity. Finally, we could resume our visits, taking along bags with dolls, games, colouring books and pencils for children.

The Homecare team visited a single mother with three young children. They live in a poor area and her apartment does not have its own ‘saferoom’. We heard her story, and the fear in her voice.

“We all slept in the living room and when the siren went off in the middle of the night, which happened often, I took the baby of six months on one arm, my special needs daughter on the other, while the six-year-old had his shoes near the door and we ran down the three floors in a matter of seconds”, she explained. “We were trained, and it became our sport to do it as fast as possible.”

“In the saferoom, we were with neighbours and the minute my boy and another his age arrived in the saferoom, they played as friends, not thinking of any danger”, she added.

Whenever the rockets came, another elderly lady said she relived childhood memories of suffering in the Second World War, but she was sure the God of Israel would help her.

We all respond differently in times of crisis. But we can make a difference for those who get overwhelmed by assuring them that they are not alone, and that others are supporting, giving and praying for them.
   

A time to refresh and refuel in the city of Jerusalem!

When ICEJ AID assistant Jannie Tolhoek entered a Jerusalem hotel lobby on a recent summer day, she was greeted by many smiling faces. These beautiful faces belonged to the dedicated and hard-working social workers from the Sderot region in southern Israel.

When the Christian Embassy learned about the intense burden these social workers were carrying during and even after the Gaza rocket war in May this year, without hesitation we immediately put plans into motion to ensure they could enjoy a brief respite to help them recharge in the always fascinating city of Jerusalem. The ICEJ treated the social workers to several nights in the stylish new Orient Hotel, which boasts a lovely rooftop veranda overlooking the Old City.

Yigal Levi, deputy director of Social Welfare in Sderot, explained that while they were under constant missile attack from Gaza, each one of these social workers left their own families – both during the day and at nighttime – to go from house-to-house checking on other families in their community. With under 30 seconds to seek shelter when the red-alert siren sounds, many families in this region spent most of their days and nights in a shelter, as the terrifying sounds of explosions surrounded them.

“These social workers assisted a family where a child was killed while the traumatized family hunkered in their shelter. Their home took a hit from a rocket and shrapnel killed the child,” said Yigal.

Israeli social worker Naomi Zolberg has lived with her family in Sderot for 20 years and finds it very difficult to leave her three children at night to go out to help others. “They are also scared. It’s not easy” says Naomi.

During the recent Gaza war her family was separated, as she sent her husband and three children to stay with relatives outside of the Sderot area, while she remained behind to focus on her work and care for other families. “The rockets were relentless and in the middle of helping people, we had to go with them into the shelter and see them through this time of panic – there are people screaming, while others just freeze from the trauma” says Naomi. Her field of social work focuses on the whole family.

Mayan Givoni, also a social worker, currently cares for 45 teenagers-at-risk participating in both formal therapy and non-formal groups. Playing musical instruments in therapy and counseling sessions is a tool often used to aid in the healing process for these teenagers.

“As social workers, we give so much, and we don’t take time for ourselves. We know that there are people depending on us, calling us and we need to be there. So, this break is what we need to be filled up again, so that we can continue to work” said Mayan.

Jannie commended the social workers for the amazing work they do, saying: “Thank you for standing in the gap and helping the families to cope, as this is a huge burden that you carry on your shoulders. The ICEJ is so happy to bring you to the capital city of Jerusalem, to allow you to recharge and enjoy all the wonderful sights.”

“It was a very hard 11 days, but we will survive and not allow our enemies to win,” responded Yigal. “We thank you and your donors all over the world for giving our social workers the opportunity to come to a hotel to refresh.”

The excitement of being in Jerusalem and having some time out was hugely evident and an applause of gratitude filled the hotel lobby! Among the many activities planned for the group, they thoroughly enjoyed a tasting tour of the Mahane Yehuda food market (the ‘shuk’) and a visit to a chocolate-making factory, while the evenings were fun-filled with singing and music.

Thank you for supporting the work of the ICEJ and helping us to bless those who show so much care and dedication to others, often sacrificing their own needs and that of their families.
 

 

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A Jewish Daughter Plants Her French Family’s Roots Back in Israel

In late July, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem helped to sponsor a special charter flight of 160 French Jewish immigrants who came to Israel hoping to start life anew in their ancestral homeland. Among the olim (newcomers) who landed that day from France were working-class Jewish families from crowded neighborhoods in Paris and elsewhere, along with successful doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, and marketing and media professionals. The group also included 46 young people under the age of 18 who will enter the Israeli educational system this fall. After completing their mandatory quarantine, they have gradually begun to settle into their new homes.

France has the world’s third largest Jewish population, after Israel and the United States, with 500,000 Jews still living there. With several high-profile antisemitic incidents in recent years, along with new statistics that show a significant rise in antisemitic attacks, there are growing safety concerns among the Jewish community in France.

Rachel* is a 33-year-old young woman who came out of this tumultuous environment to Israel on the special chartered flight supported by the ICEJ. She shared her Aliyah story and why her decision to move to Israel could not wait any longer.

Rachel has always loved Israel and the desire to make Aliyah was birthed in her heart long ago. However, the thought of her as an only child leaving behind her elderly parents kept her from making a final decision to make the move to Israel. Her mother is the daughter of Holocaust survivors and her father is now in his late 80s. Rachel simply felt that she had to stay by their side all these years. Also, with over 10 years of experience as a poet, singer, actress and theatre company director, she seemed to have a good life in Paris.

Rachel also had dedicated herself both to art and to making the world a better place. As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, it was always important for her to help the vulnerable, and to stand up to injustice. In her early adult life, Rachel was a volunteer helping refugees – such as the Yazidis – find refuge from the crisis they faced in the Middle East.

But in recent years, Rachel increasingly sensed she could no longer remain in France. She felt utterly betrayed by the very culture of liberalism and defending human rights which she had served in such a dedicated way. Due to the rise in violent antisemitism, it became impossible for Rachel to express her Jewish values without fear of becoming an outcast and the target of attacks. She also recalled how her family had always been uprooted and persecuted, and could never find their home in France.

Reaching the decision to make Aliyah was very difficult for Rachel. On the one hand, she would have to come alone, leaving everything behind to completely restart her life from scratch in Israel. On the other hand, Rachel felt that for the first time in generations it was her duty to become the first one from her family to plant roots in Israel. This dream had been passed down from generation to generation in the family and now she could finally make it come true.

Rachel confided that the final encouragement she received was from the Yazidi refugees she was assisting. They told her how lucky and blessed she was, that she had a homeland where she could go. They would give anything to be able to have their own home to go to, yet they had none. “How blessed you are”, they said. These special words of encouragement deeply touched Rachel’s heart.

Now Rachel is enrolled in the Jewish Agency’s ‘Ulpan Etzion Jerusalem’ program – an intensive Hebrew language class which will help provide a softer landing for her in Israel. We pray that Rachel will build the safer life she always dreamed of in Israel.

In these turbulent times, as the Jewish people are facing a new wave of global antisemitism, let us help them return safely to their ancestral homeland of Israel. Please support the ICEJ's ongoing Aliyah efforts, as we continue bring Jews home from the four corners of the earth. 

 

(*Real name changed for privacy reasons.)

Giving Hope to Israeli Families in Ashdod and Jerusalem

Through our “Giving a Future and a Hope” programs, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem offers practical assistance and a brighter tomorrow to disadvantaged Israeli families through various social projects. In recent weeks, this included being able to help feed hundreds of Israeli households in the Ashdod and Jerusalem areas who have been severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Over recent years, the ICEJ has helped sponsor a food assistance project through Beit Hallel, a help center in Ashdod which assists new immigrants, Holocaust survivors, single mothers, and other disadvantaged citizens of Israel. Since the corona lockdowns began last year, this assistance has become more necessary than ever. Last week, ten of our Jerusalem staff also paid a visit to Ashdod, in southern Israel, to help fill food packages for 300 area households in need.

Jacques, one of the organizers, greeted our team with great anticipation. That day they had only a small group of people to prepare food packages for distribution and were therefore grateful for our ICEJ staff who came to fill the gap and complete the packaging.

"This humanitarian work demonstrates the love which Christians have for the poor and needy here in Israel,” Jaques explained. He added that the help center reaches out to 1250 Israeli families every month, and this is only possible because of friends and supporters like the Christian Embassy.

How wonderful it was to join forces to help those in need! When our team arrived, work was in full swing. It was amazing that our staff could work hand-in-hand with several local volunteers. And how pleasant our surprise when Lydia, another volunteer, shared her story with us.

Lydia made Aliyah two-and-a-half years ago and it was the ICEJ who helped her make the journey home. She was so excited to meet with the ICEJ team and expressed her gratitude to the Christian Embassy for helping in one of the most important steps in her life.

Throughout the entire day, an extraordinary atmosphere of friendship and support reigned. In conclusion, Oleg, the head of the help center, expressed his gratitude.

“Every person who receives this help knows that they have Christian friends all over the world who love them, pray for them and who help them from the bottom of their hearts. Thank you! You are a great blessing and help to us”, he said.

As part of our ‘Giving Hope’ aid program, the ICEJ also recently delivered food packages to thirty struggling Arab families living on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. The community there has been hit hard due to the corona pandemic, which completely stopped tourism to Israel – one of the main financial sources for the Jerusalem Arab community.

Over recent months, a generous invite allowed the ICEJ team to operate elements of our global prayer ministry from the ‘Father’s House’, a house of prayer on the Mount of Olives with an amazing view of the Eastern Gate and Temple Mount. Relationships built in our time there helped to open a door of opportunity for us to lend a helping hand to our Arab neighbors during this difficult time.

Thank you for your generous giving – which allows us to bless the people of Israel in many practical ways. Our “Giving Hope” programs provide needy Israelis with educational and economic empowerment, lift children from broken homes and youths at risk, promote coexistence among all segments of Israeli society, and assist struggling new immigrants and minority communities.

If you want to be a part of offering practical aid and broader opportunities towards a brighter future to Israelis in need, please donate today.
 

 

 

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