With ‘Restoration Rings’ made from silver and gold donated by pro-Israel Christians, one ministry is seeking to heal the painful wounds of the Holocaust and centuries of Christian persecution through fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy that the people of Israel will be restored to their rightful place.
The story began in August 2015 in Victoria, Canada, when businessman Jerry O’Leary “heard the call of God to give ten white trucks to Israel to bless the poor”. He approached Dean Bye, founder of Return Ministries, a Canadian ministry dedicated to helping Christians serve Israel and the Jewish people. O’Leary offered Bye the trucks for his projects. Bye took him up on the offer and used the trucks to travel around Canada on a 60-day, 100-stop journey to collect donations.
Rather than money, Bye had the idea to request donations of gold and silver. Initially, Bye imagined people donating old jewelry they no longer needed or wanted, odd trinkets broken or out of fashion. But the response was very different than he expected.
“The first night we were shocked when we witnessed people giving their most precious objects: heirlooms, many husbands and wives giving their wedding bands from off their fingers saying they wanted to stand with the covenant of God of Abraham,” Bye told Breaking Israel News. “This happened in every place we stopped.”
Each piece of jewelry was a personal gift with a unique and personal story of Christian love for the Jewish people. At the end of the tour, the value of the donated gold and silver was an astonishing $2 million.
“We walked away not knowing what to do,” Bye said. “How could you take such heartfelt gifts and just melt it down to sell for money?”
Rather than turn the precious metals into cash, Bye’s ministry used the donated gold and silver to create what they called ‘Restoration Rings.’ Intended as gifts to Jews in Israel, the rings were engraved with a Hebrew verse from Jeremiah.
For, lo, the days come, saith Hashem, that I will turn the captivity of My people Yisrael and Yehudah, saith Hashem; and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it. Jeremiah 30:3
Many Christian Bibles translate this verse differently, turning the emphasis on returning the ‘fortunes’ of the Jewish people, which is what the gift was intended to embody.
For behold, days are coming, declares the LORD, ‘when I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel and Judah. ‘The LORD says, I will also bring them back to the land that I gave to their forefathers and they shall possess it.’
Bye took the literal interpretation of the verse to the Holy Land, organizing a group to bring the rings to Israel. In several ceremonies, the group gave them as gifts to pioneers of the land of Israel, many of whom were survivors of the Holocaust.
“We wanted to stand with them and bless them, and the ring was a symbol of that,” said Bye. “We wanted to comfort them, to bring a measure of healing to their infinitely deep wounds, and I think we did.”
The comfort directly addressed the horrors those survivors experienced in the Nazi camps. In Birkenau, a subcamp of the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, the Nazis established a group of barracks referred to as ‘Canada’, named for the country that, at that time, symbolized vast wealth and bounty. All of the belongings and precious items seized from the new arrivals were taken to those barracks to be sorted before shipping to Germany.
“In addition to the horrors of the mass murders, the Holocaust was the greatest robbery in history,” Bye said. “Even though Canada was certainly not to blame, this was a way we, as Canadians, could redeem our name.”
The gift touched the hearts of the survivors by bringing a modicum of healing to a common Holocaust trauma: being violently stripped of their jewelry and belongings by Nazis.
“Many of the Holocaust survivors told us how their rings were torn from their hands as they entered the camps,” Bye told Breaking Israel News. “They told us that having a Christian place a ring on their finger in love restored so much.”
Bye compared the gifts of personal jewelry to the women of Israel giving their brass mirrors to the tabernacle.
And he made the laver of brass, and the base thereof of brass, of the mirrors of the serving women that did service at the door of the tent of meeting. Exodus 38:8
“I am waiting for something to happen to point towards the rebuilding of the Temple,” Bye said. “I want to see the gold and silver go there.”