The “buckle of the Bible belt,” it turns out, is the ideal place for Jews and Christians to overcome millennia of distrust. And thanks to Israel365, Dallas has become the perfect testing ground for the Jewish community to build bridges with their Christian neighbors, collaborating in support of the land and people of Israel.
Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Rabbi Tuly Weisz founded Israel365 in 2012 to strengthen Israel by building authentic friendships between traditional Jews and Christians who share a deep commitment to the Bible. Now, the Israel-based organization has expanded to Dallas.
“Israel365’s mission is to strengthen Israel and its unique status as the world’s spiritual and moral leader,” says Weisz, who made Aliyah to Israel from Columbus, Ohio in 2011, “by promoting Israel’s biblical significance and building bridges with those who share our faith-based values.”
The name of the organization, Israel365, is based on Deuteronomy 11:12, “A land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.” As Rabbi Weisz often says, “God cares for Israel 365 days a year – and so must we.”
Now with a staff of 25 full-time employees, they reach millions of people through The Israel Bible, their flagship publication, Israel365 News, their news site geared towards Christian Zionists, and TheIsraelBible.com, which makes authentic Jewish teachings on the Hebrew Bible accessible to Christians. Israel365 Charity has raised millions of dollars to plant trees in Israel’s Biblical heartland, feed Israel’s hungry and offer critical support to Holocaust survivors and terror victims.
After more than a decade based in Israel, the organization’s new Dallas office builds on their long-standing reputation, taking a hands-on approach to building relationships.
“Israel365 Dallas brings the local Jewish and Christian faith communities together to strengthen one another, support Israel and form authentic friendships based on mutual respect and our shared belief in the Hebrew Bible, or Tanakh,” said Israel365 Dallas Director Sharon Michaels, who was a radio personality for Disney. Michaels is a baalat teshuvah, someone who did not grow up as an Orthodox Jew but became, later in life, a “returnee” to traditional Judaism.
She uses her love of her faith, her warm personality, and deep Dallas roots to connect with Christians and Jews in the community.
After a decade of building bridges with Christians online, the launch of the new Dallas branch provides the opportunity to build relationships that are deeper and broader reaching.
One supporter in Dallas, Dr. Victoria Sarvadi, has been a strong Israel advocate together with her husband for many years. A near-death experience propelled her into deep faith and unwavering support of the Jewish people.
“Scriptures tell us to bless Israel,” said Sarvadi. “To thank them monetarily and to thank them for keeping the Torah for us.”
While the Sarvadis were already trying to build relationships with the Jewish community in Dallas, Israel365 has helped them go even further. The couple kept the “olive branch” in their hands, she said, so “when the Jewish community was ready, they knew we’d be here.”
She talks about developing the relationship and ongoing dialogue.
“We are finding commonalities and learning to understand one another without trying to convert anyone,” she says.
Indeed, proselytizing has traditionally been one barrier to Jewish-Christian relationships across the board. For Israel365, that boundary remains clear within the organization and in building bridges.
“We do not work together with Christians who are trying to convert Jews,” says Rabbi Elie Mischel, Education Director with Israel365. “You can’t have a relationship when one side is trying to change the other.”
“Authentic relationships must be based on mutual trust,” he adds.
“Israel365 Dallas is a revolutionary initiative dedicated to reversing the historical legacy of antisemitism that characterized Jewish-Christian relations in past eras. Going forward, it’s about working together for the greater good of Israel and the Jewish people, especially our children.
“Both Jews and Christians share a common struggle: inspiring the younger generation to remain committed to a life of faith,” Mischel said. He believes that the key to reversing that trend is showing young people the way prophecies are coming to life in the Land of Israel.
“We are seeing the potential consequences to Israel of so many young Christians and Jews turning away from religion and turning away from Israel,” he said. “We must find ways to inspire the next generation.”
The goal is to ensure Christian and Jewish communities form long-lasting friendships, building a bridge to Israel that will last for generations. But it’s no easy task given the current climate in the U.S. and beyond.
“This country’s Judeo-Christian foundation faces an unprecedented assault by forces of secularism determined to undermine that religious foundation,” said Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt, a businessman in Dallas and supporter of Israel365. “If the Jewish and Christian communities can work together here and elsewhere, we can successfully combat this for the ultimate benefit of the land and people of Israel.”
Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, director of Interfaith Affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center agrees that there’s no choice but to build bridges between the Christian and Jewish communities. “It’s irresponsible and destructive to Israel not to connect with them and get their support,” he says of the Christian community.
Mischel insists that Jews need Christians, while Christians in America need inspiration and revitalization that only Israel can provide. “The miracle of modern Israel is the greatest proof that God is running the world. After thousands of years of exile, the people of Israel have returned home. We are seeing the fulfillment of biblical prophecy coming to life in Israel. We must help the next generation see this miracle for themselves, and use it as a basis for their faith. The Holy Land is inspiring to all young people of both faiths. The fulfillment of biblical prophecy is coming to life in Israel.”
Rabbi Pesach Wolicki, Director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, emphasizes that “this is the next step toward redemption, the reconciliation between Jews and Christians.”
Even famed Jewish sage Maimonides noted in his twelfth-century teachings that Christianity brings people closer to God and monotheism.
“We must not reject our best friends,” Mischel said. “We must continue to work together and to be there for one another.”