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October 8th, 2010
11:22 AM ET

Rabbi: Why evangelical Christians give millions to Israel

CNN's Izzy Lemberg filed this report from Jerusalem:

In the last 12 months, the evangelical Christian community in the United States has given $100 million to charitable causes in Israel, according to Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, Founder and President of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

Eckstein made his comments this week at a soup kitchen his evangelical group funds in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market, situated in one of the city's underprivileged neighbourhoods.

It was the first stop in a press tour the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews organized to highlight their activities.

Next on the itinerary was a Jewish religious school for girls, where the mostly evangelical organization funds educational programs aimed at helping Ethiopian immigrants integrate into Israeli society. Jerusalem is one of 160 Israeli cities in which the organization is active.

The group's 200 active projects have been supported by contributions from 350,000 mostly evangelical donors in the last year, Eckstein said, and the group's broader donor list numbers nearly one million. The average donation is $77.

Why do evangelical Christians would be so devoted to Israel’s welfare? According to Eckstein, who has nurtured the relationship between Christians and Jews since he founded the group in 1983, it’s all in the Bible.

“God promises Abraham those who bless Israel and the Jewish people will be blessed and those who curse them will be cursed," he says, citing Genesis.

But it is not only that religious commandment that is motivating this very large segment of American society.

Evangelicals see the creation of Israel in 1948 as the fulfilment of biblical prophesy, Eckstein says.

”The Jewish narrative are the same prophesies that Christian turn to... about the day when the Jewish people scattered around the world would be gathered into the Land of Israel," he says. "I believe in that and millions of other Jews believe that 1948 and the birth of the state of Israel was a miracle. It reflects the hand of God."

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews have identified three main aims of their work, which they say have biblical roots. The Bible speaks of the scattered Jewish people returning to Israel "on the wings of eagles," so the group contributes to chartering planes that bring immigrants to Israel.

Scripture commands that the hungry be fed and the naked clothed, so the group gives to needy Jews around the world, most notably in the former Soviet Union, where it says it assists 100,000 people.

And the group says there's biblical concept of being “Guardians of Israel,” which it says it promotes by helping construct bomb shelters in towns along Israel northern border with Lebanon and the southern town of Sderot near the border with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

The relationship is not without its controversies. The former mayor of Jerusalem, who is ultra-Orthodox, refused to accept funds from evangelical Christians because he suspected a secret agenda to engage in missionary activities among Israel’s Jews.

Current Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has revoked the policy. But the majority ultra-Orthodox municipality of Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv, will not accept evangelical donations. Eckstein says that evangelizing Jews is not his group's goal.

Some evangelicals are opposed to his group because it refuses to proselytize, he says.

In the United States, relations between evangelicals and American Jews has often been tense. American Jews overwhelmingly vote Democrat, and polls show that most hold liberal political views, especially on domestic issues.

This often results in the two communities being on opposite sides of hot issues like abortion or school prayers.

But Eckstein says that those tensions have largely eased.

“There are those within the Jewish community, especially in the earlier years, who were very concerned about the influence of... Jerry Falwell, Pat Roberson, the Christian right," he says.

"Those Jewish concerns have been allayed over the years," he continues. "... (Jews) realize that these people are genuine, they are not doing it for some conditional reason and that it's not just all based on the rapture, and eschatology, but it is based on their love for Israel and the Jewish people."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Israel • Judaism • Middle East • Money & Faith

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soundoff (74 Responses)
  1. Fatima Amenda

    So just to understand this, I was told when I was a Christian if I don't believe in Jesus being the Messiah or the Virgin Birth I will be cursed and go to hell and anyone who doesn't believe in Jesus as our chosen Messiah will not enter into the kingdom of Heaven, yet Christians say biblical prophecy has been fulfilled with the state of Israel and God is watching over and blessing the Jews. So which is it? Through Jesus we inherit the kingdom of Heaven or not?

    September 25, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  2. Rabbit

    Its all about speeding along the Rapture and Armageddon. The fundamentalist care not a bit for those of the Jewish faith. (and often revile them)
    It appears to me that the Israeli government is pursuing a three steps forward, two steps back campaign to All of Palestine that is worth anything.

    September 18, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  3. jeff

    ISIAIh 41 BRING forth your IDOLS did they PREACH to you see they can’t speak they can’t DO ANYTHING all they do is cause confusion. spalms 115 and spalms 135 thier IDOLS are FALSE cant speak can't hear cant smell and those that make them shall become like them. Jeremiah 10 they nail their IDOL down like a scarecrow it can’t move can'...t speak can’t move must be carried these are nothing but the WORK of CON men.john 10 jesus christ sais his sheep hear his voice and another voice thy will not follow and if another person tries to preach to them they WILL FLEE from him. jeremiah 5 the priests bear rule on their own authority what will you do when your judged my word is not inside them. Now here is the kicker john 5 son of man voice goes back in time mathew 16 jesus christ claims to be the son of man.‎1 cor2 mind of CHRIST preached internally and john 16 sais the spirit of truth comes in the future. Ezekiel 13 lying prophets of ISRAEL my word is not inside them saying god sais god sais god sais wrote hoping mankind would CONFIRM their WORDS. all of this is EASILY verifiable.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:37 am |
  4. acute mind

    “God promises Abraham those who bless Israel and the Jewish people will be blessed and those who curse them will be cursed," he says, citing Genesis.

    THAT'S A BOLFACED LIE: God told Abraham those who bless him (Abraham) would be blessed and those who cursed him (Abraham) would be cursed. He was referring to Abraham. It never said Israel and the Jewish people. It never even said Abraham and his descendants. Israel and the Hebrews didn't even exist at that time. This is a verse in the Bible that is oft misconstrued, extrapolated, and perverted into a meaning that can be used as an excuse for the ignorant to support Israeli crimes.

    Furthermore (and this is just to illustrate how many layers of deceit and misinterpretation exist) EVEN if Genesis DID say Abraham and his descendants. There is a difference between blessing someone and allowing them to get away with murder. There is a difference between protecting someone from harm (blessing) , and blocking or thwarting their prosecution or helping them escape if they say murder someone (not a blessing but a crime). Point being even if Genesis said Abraham AND his descendants (and it doesn't), allowing someone to get away with a crime is NOT blessing them. So these so called Christians and televangelists who call on unwavering support of Israel are deceiving or misleading on TWO fronts.

    Thirdly – and this is the doozy. The Bible has many scripture which are subject to interpretation, some correctly, and some incorrectly. But no interpretation ever trumps a direct commandment from God the Father or Son. In fact if an interpretation of scripture causes one to violate a direct commandment from God, said interpretation is by definition INCORRECT. So if God says do something and your pastor interprets other scripture to mean not to do what God commands you pastor is interpreting incorrectly and misleading you.

    Jesus gave TWO Commandments. The first is "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul" and the second is "Love your fellow man as you love yourself", and that 2nd command is complemented by The Lord also saying: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". Neither of these say "Oh and give unwavering support to my nation of Israel"

    God NEVER required of us to give unwavering support of Israel and would not do so since all loyalty is due Him. He does require of us to obey His Commandments. If we were to obey the 2nd of the two Commandments the Lord Jesus gave there would not be any double standards for any nation. We would hold ALL nations to the same standards including ourselves. If we consider it illegal for nation A to build on disputed territory and condemn them then we MUST AS PER COMMAND OF GOD treat Israel the same way. If we charge other countries to follow international law then we BY COMMAND OF GOD MUST require the same of Israel.

    God charged us with following his commandments and NOT showing favoritism to those we think he favors IN DIRECT CONTRAVENTION of The Lord's Commandment No.2. If Jesus said treat ALL alike then that's what you do. WE ARE NOT CHARGED TO FAVOR WHO WE THINK HE FAVORS. You don't take it upon yourself to treat one differently because you interpret (incorrectly) some scripture to mean God wants you to break his Commandment for those you believe He loves. If your understanding of the scripture permits you to break His Commandments then your understanding is WRONG. Israel does wrong and America not only shields it from retribution under the same international laws we hold ALL others accountable to, but downright takes it's part.

    If you think I am wrong then I'm willing to hear a logical and or scriptural reasoning as to why.

    December 1, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
  5. Which Christian

    Christians do not believe that the second coming of Jesus will take place in Israel.
    Mentioning of Genesis, "Bless Jews, then you will be blessed." This only applied before Jesus came. Jews have to accept Jesus as their Christ. After Jesus came, when you bless people with the Gospel you will be blessed. I'm saddened by how fellow Christians do not know the Gospel.

    October 29, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
  6. Tariq Shah

    Does not matter what religion you follow, if you don't respect your fellow man, your are worthless.....and so is your faith.

    October 26, 2010 at 4:52 pm |
  7. USMC FOREVER

    Abraham never mentioned Jews exclusively. He blessed all his children, including Muslims, Christians and Jews, not just Jews.

    Jews need to stop lying when they conceal the truth, God will bless those who bless the faithful (meaning Christians, Muslims and Jews), and curse those who curse them.

    October 26, 2010 at 4:31 pm |
  8. Wonder Kind

    Christians are no more monolithic than Jews. Maybe atheists are more monolithic than both, but I doubt it, since I have a friend who is atheist, and she is ethical, kind, not offensively profane, and civil to people who disagree with her, unlike some of the atheist posters on this thread. I am not a member of any particular religion, but I do believe that there is an Almighty Creator, who not only created the world, but daily sustains it with his kindness. He nurtures all of his creation, whether they love Him and believe Him and obey Him or not.

    There are Christians who believe replacement theology. There are Christians who hate Jews. There are Christians who do not accept "Old Testament" (The Hebrew Bible) as true and applicable.

    These are not the people sending money to Rebbe Eckstein to care for the widows and orphans, for the hungry and poorly clothed. The people sending money to Rebbe Eckstein are those who accept the wise and loving message of another Rebbe from a few thousand years ago. They take his message to heart: that it is pleasing to Our Heavenly Father that we care for the sick, the imprisoned, the widow, the orphan, the cold, and the hungry. They cannot look at suffering and not suffer themselves. When their money can help ease suffering anywhere in the nation or the world they are glad to part with substantial sums. They do get "taken advantage of," but they are assured that their funds will still help those who suffer. They also believe that teaching is important. This is an important part of Rebbe Eckstein's ministry. The evangelicals are delightedly learning to read Hebrew, sing it and speak it. They are joyfully delving into the depths of the Hebrew Scriptures, and learning to understand the faith of the Jews. They don't at all mind when some of their money can be used to teach people who want to know more of the faith of the Bible. They don't mind too much if the Rebbe goes back and forth from the United States to Israel. It is very much like he is their ambassador, teaching them about Israel and Israelis, and bringing greetings and help from them to the Israelis.

    There are many Jews who have the same heart to be a blessing in this world, and who wish to remain here until their time of service is up, but who do not live in panic at the idea of a righteous death. However, it is difficult to have a positive impact in this world if you are not alive!

    October 16, 2010 at 12:36 am |
  9. Laura

    http://www.ifcj.org/site/PageNavigator/eng/about/financial_accountability/financial_statement/ – this is where to find the 2009 fnancial statement of the IFCJ.

    First of all, it isn't taxpayer money so it is no concern of anyone else's. Second, do you wonder why Evangelicals have so much money and that $100 million is just the money sent to israel; we give more to charities in the US. We can't out give G-d and He ust keeps blessing us and Israel. All the doubters should look into having g-d for a Father. He is wonderful ad wonder to His children.

    The Jews have nothing to do with the Rapture, Christ coming to take up His church. The explaination of what is happening is found in Revelation. Evangelicals use the ingathering of the Jews as a sign of the last days before we are taken out of the world and that is in the New testament and Revelation. But G-d also says for people not to be silent about what happens to the Jews, His chosen people. So we evangelicals have many reasons to support them. My favorite reason is that Jesus was Jewish and He is the onnection between G-d and the Jews and Christians. I love Jesus and his brothers the Jews. I will continue helping them no matter what and I thank G-d for the privilege to obey Him and to bless our brothers the Jews.

    October 11, 2010 at 8:34 pm |
  10. Rabbit Moshe Taiil

    give me some millions! I'll spend it wisely! Really!

    October 11, 2010 at 5:53 am |
  11. Gil T

    The evangelicals' towards Israel permeates and dominates American policy towards Israel. Certainly, it is true what God said to Abraham about God's response towards those who bless or curse Israel. This belief of Christians' towards Israel is better rooted in scripture than the 1948 creation of the state of Israel.

    If both of these views and behaviors by Christians towards Israel is to Israel's benefit that is good. The same view and behavior towards any other nation would be no less good.

    However, this benefit for others is not without some misunderstanding of scripture. I do not speak to or for Jews or Israel as a nation. I speak of my brothers and sisters who are of the faith that is in Christ Jesus. Aside of Jesus' words to the Jews about God bringing others into the kingdom Christians have the words of the apostle Paul on this subject. It is Paul, himself a Jew, who reminds his kinsmen in the flesh as well as instruct his brethren in Christ as to Israel. The underpinning of Paul's point in Romans goes back to Abraham, Moses and David. He reveals even back in Moses' day God told the Jews he would provoke them to jealousy through a people who are not his people. This people, Paul argues in Romans, Galatians and other writings, are the Gentiles. After all, God told Abraham he would make him a father of nations, _ in the plural as in more than one. Israel was indeed through whom the promises of Messiah were fulfilled. However, the promise of God to Abraham was to bless his descendant through Isaac, the son of promise. The church, with Jews and Gentiles alike, is she who is the beneficiary and recipient of those promises.

    October 10, 2010 at 2:49 pm |
  12. Sharkhunter

    Why do Evangelical Christian's want the Jews to return to Israel. So in one battle on the plains of Megiddo thier ( Evangelicals) lord will return. And, who is to do the dieing, so the sanctimonious Evangelicals can live the good life? Why the Jews of course. You see Armageddon = dead Jews. Same old antisemitic song, just shinier interments.

    October 10, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
    • Brett Favre's fan (a.k.a. ybs)

      No worries. All Christians beat off!

      Wanna bet? :)

      http://bit.ly/twitterybs

      October 10, 2010 at 4:21 pm |
  13. Brett Favre's fan (a.k.a. ybs)

    The same reason people pay fortune tellers!

    It won't stop.

    October 10, 2010 at 1:11 pm |
  14. Peter

    So that means my Bible classes since 1960's till this day had lied to me. Telling me that the Jews betrayed Christ and Judaism do not believe that Christ is the Son of God.

    Somebody please expalin... which is which?

    October 10, 2010 at 9:17 am |
  15. naju

    Enemy's enemy is friend .

    October 10, 2010 at 7:46 am |
    • Peter

      Naju, you are spot on.. the enemy (Arabs and Muslim) of Israel must 100% be the friend of US . The Jews were not only persecuted by Nazi Germany, but all of the western Christian world.How about building synagogues all over US especially in the evangelical conservative states . What hypocrite.

      October 10, 2010 at 9:26 am |
  16. Angela

    The people making comments who arrogantly state what the Bible says, when they don't even know, make me laugh. Israel is not to be destroyed – it's where the Messiah is coming back to. And no one is forcing Jews to be "saved" – they will look upon their Messiah and be saved, period. It's all God's work and the only thing evangelicals are doing is showing love to the race the Messiah came from, God's chosen people. No ulterior motive – God doesn't need help to make things turn out like He has said they will.

    October 10, 2010 at 6:32 am |
  17. MarkNS

    Hard to believe that people still believe in magic despite the fact that every mystery that has ever been solved has turned out to be caused by NOT MAGIC.

    October 10, 2010 at 12:41 am |
    • Glnn

      Mark, there are alot of correlations out there showing that if you curse Israel you will be cursed. See John P. McTernan's book as America has done to Israel to see the vast amount of evidence. You should still give it a second thought. Believe me John McTernan's correlations are mindblowing!

      October 28, 2010 at 8:44 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.