In a practical realization of a Biblical prophecy, Christians are taking a leading role in bringing far-flung Jews back to Israel through the tireless efforts of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein and his organization, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ).
After only two years of direct involvement in aliyah, IFCJ has ramped up its efforts. This year, The Fellowship is on track to bring over 4,500 Jews to Israel from 24 countries. This accounts for about 18 percent of the 24,000 Jews moving to Israel in 2016.
Yael Eckstein, Rabbi Eckstein’s daughter, is senior vice president of The Fellowship and has spent a lifetime immersed in this endeavor. Yael explained to Breaking Israel News how aliyah became one of their chief projects.
“When the war started in the Ukraine we realized that we had to act. For the first time since World War II, there were Jewish refugees from the former Soviet Union, thousands of them, and there was no one quick emergency way to bring them back,” Eckstein said. “That’s when we started our own independant department. If no one was going to take care of this, we were going to do it ourselves.”
“We thought it would only be the Ukraine, but then European terrorism started,” Eckstein told Breaking Israel News. “We were the first organization to bring an aliyah flight after the attack in Nice. Then we got calls from the Jewish communities in Turkey, and Spain, and Muldova, and Venezuela, and Uruguay. We expanded to help those countries in need. We did everything to bring them home in 3-6 weeks from first identifying them.”
The Fellowship accounts for more aliyah than any other organization working in this area that was once dominated by the Jewish Agency. The Christian community is now playing an essential role in this emergency effort and Yael Eckstein sees a Biblical significance in this development.
“What we are seeing now is a truly historic situation where Christians are in the forefront of bringing Jews home to Israel, without an agenda or ulterior motives, simply so the Jews can fulfill their lifelong and biblical dream of being connected to their people and their land,” Eckstein said. “So much of our prayers and prophecies speak about this coming to be, but so much of our history distanced us from this so it is difficult for us to see now, when it is actually happening.”
“This is a confirmation to me that we are in Messianic days,” Eckstein said. “Christians have the simple faith in the Bible that so many Jews have lost.” She quoted the verse in Isaiah that prophesied this very development.
She recently went to America to raise funds for the Israelis made homeless in the recent fires and was struck by the contrast between the Christian communities and their Jewish counterparts.
“The Christian communities were so enthusiastic about Israel, but so many American Jews said they don’t get involved with Israel,” Eckstein related. “I was told that Israel is too controversial and divides them. That contrast really concerned me. A pro-Israel Jewish leader told me that the only way he can get his community to support Israel is to run joint events with the Christians and embarrass them into it.”
As head of The Fellowship, Eckstein spends her time travelling around the world, helping Jewish communities in danger. A religious Jew, she is impressed by the powerful spiritual reality Israel has brought about.
“When I travel abroad, Israel is in a different spiritual time-zone than the rest of the world,” she said. “Outside of Israel there is so much desperation and religious people are holding on to what they have. There is not much substance left. In Israel it is the opposite. There is a renewal of faith, a renewal of tradition. so much hope and optimism that you don’t see anywhere else.”
IFCJ was founded in 1983 to promote better understanding and cooperation between Christians and Jews, and build broad support for Israel. A controversial concept at the time, The Fellowship is now the largest channel of Christian support for Israel, raising more than $140 million per year, mostly from Christians, to assist the Holy Land and the Jewish people. Since its founding, The Fellowship has raised more than $1.3 billion from Christians who love the land and the people of Israel.