I have engaged with a number of reporters lately, both on and off the record, concerning the Trump peace plan. And one odd question keeps coming up: Why should Christians care about whether or not Israel annexes more territory in the West Bank?
I say “odd” because journalists are not asking the same question of everyone else. The United Nations, the European Union, Russia, China, leftists, the Arabs, the Muslim world, even the Black Lives Matter movement – they all are sticking their noses in Israel’s business. Yet many the press treat their concerns about annexation as legitimate, while questioning whether evangelical Christians really have a genuine interest or stake in this matter.
When some media outlets do give our concerns a serious look, we get slanderous pieces like The Washington Post column this week entitled “The mainstreaming of Christian Zionism could warp foreign policy,” by Cambridge grad student Jeffrey Rosario. In it, he trots out the tired old bogeyman of “Dispensationalism” and accuses American Evangelicals of thirsting for Armageddon and “weaponizing biblical prophecy for political ends.”
So for the record, here are some very valid, sincere reasons why Christians should and do care about Israel and its current debate over whether to annex parts of Judea/Samaria in the context of the Trump plan.
Standing for Fairness
Because so many Christians were hostile to the Jewish people down through history, we view it as our moral duty for Christians today to stand with Israel against those who are hostile to the modern Jewish state and people. There are simply too many nations and peoples who treat Israel unfairly and even loathe its existence without just reason or cause. So we are determined to stand against the rising tide of antisemitism, the rampant anti-Israel media bias, the stone-hearted threats of sanctions and violence, and the outright bullying of Israel in international forums.
We are simply standing for fair treatment of the Jewish nation and people, in hopes it will create a more level playing field for Israel. The UN Security Council’s adoption of resolution 2334 in December 2016 is a prime example of the lopsided and prejudicial decisions routinely made against Israel. By declaring that the entire West Bank and eastern Jerusalem are “occupied Palestinian territory,” the international community ran roughshod over four millennia of Jewish claim and connection to the Land of Israel.
So when Israel is debating whether to assert its rightful historic claim and title to the biblical heartland of ancient Israel, Christians are interested and we have every right to be.
Standing for Right
Israel is a democratic state whose legitimate historic right and claim to the Jewish homeland was duly recognized by the international community not so long ago. Thus, “annexation” is not really the proper word for what Israel is considering, as it normally connotes the hostile taking of another’s property. Rather, Israel would simply be asserting sovereignty on lands it currently possesses and over which it already has a valid historic claim. Yet the world blithely treats it as an attempt to steal someone else’s lands.
Admittedly, there is a rival Palestinian claim to these same areas, but of such recent origin that it pales in comparison to the long-standing Jewish title over Eretz Israel. The people of Israel must decide whether to compromise on their superior land claim for the sake of peace. And as Christians, we respect Israeli democracy and the right of its people to make this decision free of outside interference or threats. Thus, with great empathy and care we will be watching the annexation debate and will stand with Israel as it wrestles with this very complex and consequential decision.
Standing for Truth
To build their rival nationalist claim to the historic Land of Israel, the Palestinians have found it necessary to deny any Jewish connection to the land, and particularly to Jerusalem. In doing so, they have decreed our Bible – both Old and New Testaments – to be full of falsehoods concerning the ancient Jewish presence in this land. This would mean King David did not rule over a large Israelite kingdom from his palace in Jerusalem, as recorded in the Hebrew Bible. And that Jesus did not enter and teach in the courts of the Second Temple, as the Gospels all say. That should get the attention of Christians, and rightly so! The Palestinians also have routinely damaged and destroyed important biblical sites which bear the archaeological proof that ancient Israel once inhabited the land. So Christians are standing for truth, and the preservation of history, when we partake in the debate over the fate of the disputed territories.
Standing for Justice
Christians believe God made a covenant promise to Abraham to deliver the entire Land of Israel as an “everlasting possession” to his descendants. How and when God ultimately fulfills that promise is up to Him. But we do believe the modern-day return of the Jews to the Land of Israel, including the mountains of Judea and Samaria, are part of God keeping His covenant promises to the Jewish people concerning their land inheritance. Our Bible also says that God scattered them from the land for corrective and redemptive purposes, while at the same time vowing that He would always regather them to the Land of Israel one day. Thus, we consider it a matter of historic justice that the Jews have returned to their homeland in modern times. And since Christians also serve the same God as the Jewish people, our own faith is strengthened when we see Him being faithful to His promises to Israel concerning the Land.
So to answer the question, Christians have plenty of reasons for why we care so deeply about the annexation debate and how the Jewish people hope to maintain their enduring connection to their biblical homeland.
Rather than bringing Aliyah to a halt, the Corona crisis appears to be producing a surge in interest among Jews worldwide to move to Israel, and the question is why?
Israeli and Jewish Agency officials are estimating that as many as 90,000 Jews will immigrate to Israel over the next 18 months. That would be nearly double the average annual rate of Jewish return to Israel over the past decade.
In the United States alone, the number of applications by Jews seeking to immigrate to Israel in May 2020 was three times higher than in the same month last year.
There are several factors driving the Aliyah wave at present, but one of the primary reasons is the clear sense that Israel has done well so far in handling the Corona pandemic.
Looking only at the world’s Jewish population, the difference between Israel and the Diaspora communities on the Corona response is quite stark. Israel is home to some 6.6 million Jews and yet it has seen only around 300 deaths so far due to the Coronavirus, whereas an estimated 10,000 Jews have died from the virus to date in Europe and North America, where the Jewish population is just over 7 million.
Thus, Israel is increasingly viewed as being safer due its better health system than many other Western countries with significant Jewish communities. This is especially true when it comes to elderly residents of traditionally Jewish retirement homes and communities, which were hit especially hard by the Corona outbreak in the New York area.
Israel’s economy also is seen as stronger and more able to recover from the impact of the pandemic. Many Israeli workers placed on temporary layoffs in March and April are back at work, although unemployment remains abnormally high and incoming tourism is still blocked.
Israel also has shown its unique national resiliency over recent months. This is a people who have become accustomed, unfortunately, to facing a myriad of crises over the decades – including wars and natural disasters – and thus they know how to collectively pull together and respond.
Despite almost 18 months of political deadlock and three failed elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also took firm command of the nation’s battle against the “unseen enemy” of COVID-19 and even counselled other national leaders on how to deal with the global health menace. Polls instantly gave him a decisive boost for truly taking the reins in confronting the viral threat.
Finally, 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 as well as for the racial tensions rocking the US and many other nations right now.
This may be a bigger factor in the Aliyah surge than many realize. YNET published an article this week about the current Corona-related wave of anti-Semitism, calling it “an unprecedented phenomenon.” The article lamented the litany of rancid claims of late, such as charges that Jews poison wells, spread the virus with deliberate coughing, use it to kill Palestinians, and intend to take over the world through the pandemic.
The article cited a special study on anti-Semitism just released by a Tel Aviv University research center which revealed that there have been hundreds of recent instances worldwide of classic antisemitic charges and actions attributing the Coronavirus to Jews and Israel. The TAU report found that "Corona antisemitism" is not just showing up in the Middle East, but much of it comes from the United States, Latin America and Europe – where almost 20% of those recently surveyed in England blamed the spread of COVID-19 on Jews.
The recent Black Lives Matter protests in the US have added another poisonous ingredient to the antisemitic brew. In one shameful example, several white Hollywood elites bent over backwards in recent days to prove they are not racist towards blacks, yet in the process they deeply offended Jews. Chelsea Handler, Jessica Chastain and other A-listers re-tweeted or liked an old video clip of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan decrying racial prejudice, which meant they were ignoring his long record of blatant antisemitic outbursts. Farrakhan has called Jews “satanic,” compared them to “termites,” accused them of controlling the government and Hollywood, and also called Adolf Hitler a “great man.”
And now, a leading Labour politician in the UK has just erroneously claimed that George Floyd died at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis because Israeli security services have trained American police forces in the technique of using knee pressure to break the necks of detainees.
No wonder Jews around the world are starting to get very uncomfortable with their surroundings. Thus, the dramatic increase in the number of Jews applying to make Aliyah in just about every Jewish community abroad – from St. Petersburg to Sydney to São Paulo. This is another decisive moment in the modern saga of the Jewish return to Eretz Israel, and Christians must be at the ready to help bring them home.
Who are the new Jewish immigrants who have made their way to Israel in the midst of a pandemic? Meet a few of these brave and charismatic souls in this short video.
Just last week your donations helped fund an Aliyah flight for 57 Russian-speaking Jews.
This brings to 1,000 the total number of new Jewish immigrants (Olim) the ICEJ has sponsored on flights to Israel since February.
These newest arrivals needed a total of nine connecting flights, crossing some eight time zones all across the former Soviet Union, before flying in to Tel Aviv early on Tuesday.
Aliyah on the Rise
Interest in moving to Israel is on the rise. Many Jewish families worldwide are hastening their plans to immigrate to Israel, a country they view as safer and better positioned for economic recovery after the coronavirus crisis.
In response, we are working with Israeli and Jewish Agency officials and have been arranging ‘evacuation flights’ over the past three months to bring new immigrants home to Israel.
In addition to flights, the ICEJ has covered many of the extra costs for making Aliyah during this season. This included two-week stays in coronavirus-mandated quarantine for 292 of the new immigrants once they reached Israel.
Aliyah Brings Hope
“The coronavirus pandemic has brought much suffering and negative headlines all over the world, but one of the positive stories coming out of this crisis is the surprising surge in Aliyah, as many Jewish families are seeking a way to reach Israel as soon as possible”, said ICEJ President Dr. Jürgen Bühler. “We are both honored and elated to play a key role in this unique chapter in the modern-day return to Israel, as even a global pandemic could not stop Jewish people from finding their way home to Israel.”
We are honored to present to our readers the new Board of Directors of the ICEJ branch in the Philippines. After years of quiet operation, our ministry partners in the country of more than seven thousand islands are starting afresh with a new team and a clear vision. The photograph, taken at the Embassy of Israel earlier this year depicts, from left: Adam Levene (Deputy Chief of Mission), Mercy Cabiles, ApostleRolando "Joshua" Blas (National Director), Israeli Ambassador Effie Ben Matityau, Sally Maddatu (Representative), Rev. Steve Mirpuri and Maxie Goloy.
Events in Finland
While many choose to rest in the summer months, several of our branches become even more active! ICEJ-Finland organized numerous church seminars around the country, inviting some special guests to speak at their events. The former Executive Director of the ICEJ Malcolm Hedding visited Finland to minister at the annual national Pentecostal conference in Keuruu, where his book “Understanding Revelation” was published in Finnish. While in the country, he also visited several churches and shared his heart for Israel with the Finnish people. At a special ICEJ event in the city of Jyvaskyla, the Deputy Ambassador of Israel to Finland Arezoo Hersel gave a greeting on behalf of Israel. In western Finland in the city of Pori, ICEJ International Director Rev. Juha Ketola was invited by the local Pentecostal Church as the main speaker at a 5-day summer conference, sharing his passion for the Word of God and bringing encouragement to the attendees. Rev. Ketola also shared the platform in a large gathering in the city of Seinäjoki with Dr. Paul Enenche from Nigeria and evangelist Marko Selkomaa.
Celebrating ICEJ anniversary in Canada
ICEJ-Canada hosted some of the original Christian Embassy founders and friends in three events on Canada’s beautiful west coast British Columbia, as organized by the West Regional Director Bonnie Traversy. The events held on July 18, 19, & 20thwere also live streamed.
Some of the special guests at the events were Merv and Merla Watson, Canadians living in Jerusalem, who were the 2013 recipients of the prestigious ICEJ Nehemiah Award. The Watsons shared the original vision of establishing a Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, when 13 of the political embassies left Jerusalem due to the threat of an oil embargo in 1980. Drs. Jay and Meridel Rawlings, Jewish Canadians who made Aliyah to Israel in 1969 and founded Jerusalem Vistas/IsraelVisionTV, were also present, along with Serguei and Helena Popov, the world renowned classical violinist and Prima Ballerina from Finland, who are also the directors of ICEJ-Georgia and some Russian speaking states.
Donna Holbrook, ICEJ Canada’s National Director joined in the hosting, as the ICEJ-Canada members and friends came out in large numbers. Marcus Unger, Watson’s pianist, and Dr. James Lunney, friend and long serving Christian MP from BC, who participated in the original Jerusalem Feast of Tabernacles in 1980, also joined the celebrations.
You can support our work in the nations by clicking the link below:
"Comfort, comfort my people says your God" Isaiah 40