The Rabbi and the Evangelicals

By: Mordechai Welt

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein is an orthodox Jewish rabbi with a unorthodox job.

In his position as founder and chairman of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews it is his task to foster and encourage Christian support for Israel and Jewish causes.

Based upon his success in raising over one hundred million dollars from the Evangelical Christian community over the last few years, it's fair to say he's done a good job.

Where does the money go?

According to their website , funds are channeled into several humanitarian projects in both Israel and
abroad. These include:

"Project Isaiah 58", designed to provide heating fuel, warm clothing, food, and shelter for elderly Jews and orphans living in the former Soviet Union.

"On Wings of Eagles" which offers support and financial aid to Jews from Ethiopia, Argentina, Arab lands, and other remote regions throughout the world who are "making aliyah" and resettling in the land of Israel.

"Guardians of Israel" which helps alleviate the suffering of poor Israelis with food, housing, childcare, and career training. This is especially helpful to those whose lives and families have been devastated by terrorism.

In addition, their program "Stand For Israel" mobilizes Christian leadership and grassroots support for the small embattled Jewish state.

Amongst Rabbi Eckstein's friends and supporters are Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Pat Boone, and Pastor Ted Haggard,president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

This is not to mention a wide array of Israeli politicians,including former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who appreciate Rabbi Eckstein's contribution to building bridges with the Christian world and garnering their support to aid the beleagured Israeli economy.

Surprisingly enough, within the Jewish community there are also those who do not support the rabbi's efforts. These include Abe Foxman, President of the Anti-Defamation League.

It is the feeling of Rabbi Eckstein's detractors, that the underlying and ultimate goal of those Christians who contribute to Israel, is to win over the Jewish people to the Christian faith. Based upon a long history of persecution and proselytizing by the Church, these fears may be well understood.

Rabbi Eckstein, however, tries to see a larger picture.

In today's political reality, where fundamentalist Moslems are trying to eradicate the state of Israel, where missles in Iran are painted with "Death to the Jews" and "Death to the Crusaders", it is best for Jews and Christians to form a common bond and join together against their mutual enemy.

Jews, says Rabbi Eckstein , should be aware, acknowledge and appreciate the friendship and support of the Evangelical community. In an op-ed column in Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper he writes "At a time when the rest of the world is arrayed against us,
Evangelical Christians are true friends who stand alongside us."

The Evangelicals, explains the rabbi, believe in the
Biblical promise, written in the Book of Genesis, that those who bless the Jewish people, will also be blessed. For one not to come to Israel's aid in this time of crisis, is unthinkable.

In addition, like the Israelis, the Evangelical Christians, hold similar moral values and share a determined loyalty to freedom and democracy.

In regards to theological differences Rabbi Eckstein's guiding principle is "to cooperate whenever possible, oppose whenever necessary, and teach, sensitize and build bridges at all times."

Rabbi Eckstein is also not a man to mince words. At a recent question and answer session conducted at the 11,000 member New Life Church of Colorado he was asked whether more Jews were accepting Jesus.

Rabbi Eckstein's response to the audience caught many of them by surprise when he replied that most Christians think Jews are thinking a lot about Jesus, but they're not. He added that, more Christians are becoming Jewish than Jews are becoming Christian.

The rabbi also has a sense of humor about his theological differences of opinion with the Christian community. "When the Messiah comes ,we'll ask him. Is this the first time you're coming or the second? And that should resolve the matter."

What are Rabbi Ecksteins goals for the future?

It was recently discovered that one of the lost ten tribes of Israel, the tribe of Menashe, is presently living and practicing their ancient Jewish customs in northeastern India along the border of Bangladesh.

To arrange for the transfer and resettlement of the 6,000 members of Bnei Menashe to Israel, the costs will be some eight million dollars. Rabbi Eckstein has pledged to the Israeli government that he will take on that responsibility.

In his eyes and those of his Evangelical Christian
supporters, it represents the fulfillment of the Biblical prophecy of the ingathering of the Jewish exiles from the four corners of the earth back to Israel.

There is no doubt Rabbi Eckstein will get the job done. But not without a little help from his Evangelical friends.

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Mordechai Welt lives in Gush Etzion,Israel.He markets handcrafted Israeli jewelry. Designs are based upon traditional Biblical themes including the Ten Commandments ring, Jerusalem Wedding ring, Star of David pendant. Visit his website Free shipping on all orders

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