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Israel Relying on Christians for Jewish Immigration

Jewish Immigration
New Jewish immigrants from the Ukraine arrive on a flight funded by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, at the Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel. (Times of Israel)
Israel Relying on Christians for Jewish Immigration

Israel’s founding fathers, who etched a commitment to encouraging Jewish immigration into the declaration of independence, might be surprised to find that, seven decades later, the state is relying on Christians to fulfill that promise.

What was once a strictly Jewish-funded mission is increasingly being bankrolled by evangelical Christians. Israel’s Christian allies now fund about a third of all immigrants moving to the country, according to a tally by The Associated Press.

The figures according to The Times of Israel reflect the ever tightening relationship between Israel and its evangelical Christian allies, whom Israel has come to count on for everything from political support to tourism dollars.

“After 2,000 years of oppression and persecution, today you have Christians who are helping Jews,” said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, a group that raises money from evangelical Christians for Jewish causes. “This is an amazing thing.”

Israel has long depended on Diaspora Jewish communities, especially in the United States, for donations and to lobby their local governments on its behalf. But evangelical communities have become increasingly important.

Israeli charities raise millions of dollars from Christians around the world, and evangelical Christians make up 13 percent of all tourists to Israel. A parliamentary caucus works with evangelical legislators around the world to foster support for Israel.

“Israel has no better friends, I mean that, no better friends in the world than the Christian communities around the world,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a Christian media summit in Jerusalem last year.

Christian support for the Aliyah largely began with the collapse of the Soviet Union and has grown in recent years as American Jews have redirected charitable donations to niche causes. That has forced nonprofits to expand their pool of benefactors.

“We don’t see any reason why not to rely on help, including donations, from all our friends around the world, be they Jewish, Christian or others,” said Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Jewish Agency, a nonprofit that spearheads Jewish immigration to Israel.

Evangelical Christianity is one of the fastest growing religious movements, making up more than a third of the world’s estimated 2 billion Christians. Evangelicals say their affinity for Israel stems from Christianity’s Jewish roots. Some view Israel’s establishment as fulfilling biblical prophecy, ushering in an anticipated Messianic age. Jews also believe in a future Messianic age, but do not believe Jesus is the Messiah.

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