Fourteen U.S. Baptist leaders returned from Israel this week after learning about the Jewish state beyond the headlines and building Christian-Jewish bridges, in a mission, Feb. 13-20, organized by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship).
The Baptist leaders toured Christian and Jewish holy sites including the Western (Wailing) Wall and Old City of Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee, Masada, Caesarea, Muhraka (Horn of Carmel) and Meggido. The group also made a special visit to Israel’s Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem.
“Visiting the Holy Land of Israel is a great privilege. We are so grateful to have been given the opportunity to learn about the Jewish homeland and our Christian heritage and to strengthen our connection to the Israeli people and most importantly, to G-d,” said Rev. Samuel Tolbert, a trip leader and president of the National Baptist Convention of America (NBCA).
The Baptist leaders were the most recent major Christian group to visit Israel with The Fellowship. In the summer of 2015, The Fellowship hosted 21 top ministers of the Detroit-based Pentecostal group the Church of God In Christ, while in in Jan. 2016, it brought 22 top clergy of the Washington, D.C.-based Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC), the movement of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., to Israel. In May of last year, 26 leaders of the NBCA – the second-largest African-American Baptist group – also visited Israel with The Fellowship, and last Sept. The Fellowship brought 22 leaders from the Bahamas-based Global United Fellowship (GUF) to Israel.
“We were honored to host these outstanding Baptist leaders in Israel,” said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of The Fellowship. “By experiencing the spiritual power of the Holy Land, they deepened their own faith while strengthening the profound historic bonds between the Christian and Jewish people.”
The Fellowship was formed in 1983 to promote better understanding and cooperation between Christians and Jews, and build broad support for Israel. Today The Fellowship is the largest channel of Christian support for Israel and Jewish needs around the world.