January 2020 Project: First Fruits of faith

Lifting Spirits by Reviving Lives

As Christians in the land of Israel, CFI Jerusalem began the outreach of First Fruits as a desire to stand alongside the believers in the land, to help the household of faith. Since the beginning, when this outreach was birthed in the heart of CFI’s co-founder Ray Sanders, so many have been lifted in spirit and with tangible means. Whether helping with the needs of the congregation as a whole or simply for individuals in hopelessness, CFI always strives to be there in times of desperation.

Whether immigrants have been in Israel for years or have recently arrived, too often only part-time work and limited resources are available. In those times of life, providing for a family often becomes overwhelming. Project First Fruits relieves some of the pressure of their financial burdens by providing essential food vouchers and taking care of their utility bills. The look of relief and hope on the faces of those who have been helped throughout Israel is a partial picture of the gratitude and thankfulness we experience. Beyond the spoken thanks and hugs, there is the heartfelt love expressed, once they know that they are not alone and that there are true friends to help and stand beside them.

At CFI, interceding for believers and all Israel

Thank you for allowing us to be your extension of God’s love to the people of Israel, as you give of your time and resources as Christians in the nations. “You who have shown me great and severe troubles, shall revive me again” Psalm 71:20.  (Reference: Kevin Howard –For Zion’s Sake, 2ndQ2019)

“See that you are not troubled”

Jordan Valley’s future

In early December 2019, Ze’ev Elkin (Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Environmental Protection) stated that there is a “rare opportunity that perhaps will never return” to get an American acceptance of Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley. Online news from Israel reports that PM Netanyahu wants to apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley within six months. Those plans may change if Benjamin Netanyahu is ousted from the premiership.

The Jordan Valley is part of the larger Jordan Rift Valley. Over most of its length, it forms the border between Jordan to the east, and Israel and the West Bank to the west. It is the territory which Israel captured during the 1967 Six-Day Warafter Arab states had amassed military forces along the border with the Jewish State. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Jordan aligned with the West and was invaded by Syrian forces. However, the Jordanian government decided to intervene by sending a division to defend the city of Damascus. The Israeli-Jordanian border remained quiet. Since 1967, the Palestinians, Israelis and a small number of Bedouins have populated the area. The long-standing Palestinian view is to have the entire West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, as part of the future Palestinian state.

Rockets raining from the sky

In November, over 460 rockets from Gaza rained down on Israeli homes, schools and civic buildings. Schools were closed and people were warned to stay near bomb shelters, as far as in Tel Aviv. The Islamic Jihad as an Iranian proxy conducted the terror attacks. (Ps. 124)

Extreme hatred in action

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s indictment in November speaks volumes of the opposition he is facing. His son, Yair Netanyahu (28), has worked hard to defend his father against the media attacks. Now he receives daily death threats. (Ps. 1:1−2)

His promises being fulfilled

In 2019, about 28,000 new immigrants arrived in Israel in spite of military alerts and briefings being held in the Golan Heights. We are witnessing how the Lord’s promise to bring the Jewish people back to their homeland is being fulfilled. “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled, for all these things must come to pas.” (Matt. 24:6, NKJV.

The beauty of the Jordan Valley with the Jordan River Baptismal site

From fabricated charges to fake aliyah

Prime Minister’s indictment

For the first time ever, Israel’s Attorney General (Avichai Mandelblit) has indicted the sitting prime minister─Benjamin Netanyahu─in three corruption cases. The indictment does not require Netanyahu to resign but it is expected to raise pressure on him to step down. The charges are listed to include “fraud and breach of trust.” It appears that the prime minister is being indicted for crimes that do not actually exist. Since each Prime Minister after Netanyahu will serve at the mercy of persecutors, this case is making history.

The indictment has already affected the way Israelis view their prime minister. The latest poll finds that 49% of Israelis blame Netanyahu for failing to agree to a unity government, and 46% say that Netanyahu should resign. Even 30% of right-wing voters want him to resign. In November 2018, Avigdor Liberman (Israel Beiteinu) resigned as the Defense Minister. Two Knesset elections followed without a new government being formed, and now the nation is facing their premier’s indictment.

Fake Russian Aliyah

According to a recent World Israel News report, about 25 percent of those who land in Israel as immigrants from the former Soviet Union countries had ‘boarded the plane’ to obtain the passport and left Israel after receiving it. The benefits of having an Israeli passport include easier travel. Many countries that would require Russians to have a visa do not require it from Israelis. It is also an insurance policy, as countries such as Ukraine are suffering from internal conflicts that could turn still worse, and Israeli passport-holders will be able to escape much faster, if necessary.

A group of new immigrants at the Tel Aviv airport

Over the recent months, Streams of Blessing has helped a number of Israeli families who suddenly were facing unexpected and seemingly impossible circumstances. Recently we were privileged to meet Tomer to see if we could be Christian friends that would stand beside him in his time of true needs. A hard-working father of three children, Tomer’s daily life quickly changed when he suffered a serious work-related injury that placed him on 65% disability that rendered him unable to work. His injury required his wife to stay home and care for the children with only enough time available for her to work a minimal part-time job during the week.

With the debts and expenses of this family of five building, Christian Friends of Israel stepped in to help. Having received assistance with the children’s school fees and an advance payment of a month’s rent, the family found renewed peace and hope.

When help is given and received, joy returns to life

We also received an assistance request from a family that had made Aliyah in 2013. Within a year after arriving, the father was stricken with a severe personal injury. Just recently the company he worked for announced new budget cut-backs and he was let go. Standing strong with them, Christian Friends of Israel helped by paying off their utility bills and by providing the family with much needed food vouchers.

Your financial commitment to the work of Project Streams of Blessing reaches out as Christian love from the nations, and makes a life-changing difference for many in Israel. Thank you so much for being a continued blessing to the nation of Israel.

(Excerpts: Stacey Howard, For Zion’s Sake 2ndQ2019)

East site of Jerusalem viewed by visitors

Judea and Samariathe heartland of Israel

The diplomatic turning point in the U.S. policy

November 18, 2019, will be remembered as a turning point in Middle East history. In his statement, the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Israeli settlements are not illegal per se. This is the most significant shift in America’s Middle East policy in the past generation. The issue of the legality of the Israeli communities has been the defining issue of much of the international discourse on Israel for decades.

In the vast majority of cases, the discourse has revolved around the widely held allegationwith no basis in the actual lawthat the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria are illegal. This allegation has served as the justification for a continuous barrage of condemnations of Israel in the international arenas and for anti-Israel legal verdicts in the international courts, including the International Court of Justice at the Hague, and the UN resolution 2234 in 2016 on East Jerusalem.

Mr. Pompeo continued stating that the false assertion, that the settlements are illegal, has not advanced the prospects for peace. Placing a lie in the heart of the matter has harmed the chances for understanding and coexistence between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In his words, the U.S. Administration’s statement is based on the “unique facts, history and circumstances presented by the establishment of the civilian communities in the West Bank.” The ties of the Jewish people to Judea and Samaria lay at the heart of Jewish history. By publishing its position on the Jewish communities, the U.S. has provided the first chance for genuine peace in the region.

The U.S. Administration’s commitment to peace does not confirm any single Jewish community in Judea and Samaria, or predict any issue to be negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians. On November 19, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a statement concerning the legalization of Judea and Samaria: “Someone needed to say a simple truth, and President Trump did this, just as he did with the recognition of the Golan Heights and the moving of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. He has corrected a historic injustice.”

Judea and Samaria is one of Israel’s administrative regions. Samaria corresponds to part of the ancient Kingdom of Israel, also known as the Northern Kingdom. Judea corresponds to part of the ancient Kingdom of Judah, also known as the Southern Kingdom. East Jerusalem has been incorporated into the Jerusalem District. In December 1967, the Israeli government issued an order that stated: “the term Judea and Samaria region shall be identical in meaning for all purposes to the term West Bank Region.(Online posts)

A view of Judea seen from Herodion

How long O Lord?

The stress of living under the daily, round-the-clock threat of rocket attacks is taking a toll on Israeli communities. The PTSD and anxiety among adults and children are common. “How long O Lord must we endure the ongoing attacks?” is their heart cry. Parents are concerned for their children as they see them trembling with fear during each “red-alert” announcing an incoming rocket. A record number of rockets was fired from Gaza at the south and central Israel on the weekend of May 45. The barrage of about 700 rockets killed four Israelis and injured over 100 civilians. When Maggie from CFI visited these families, she was told that they were thankful for having survived yet another attack and we’re trusting God’s help to stay in their community because it is their home. Those whose homes were destroyed in the attack are determined to rebuild in the same spot.

After the visit, Maggie reported that the families were overwhelmed by your support extended to them via Project Communities Under Attack. We see God’s protective hand over these families. Without His daily strength and peace, no family could remain living along the Gaza border. Because of your prayers and support, we continue reaching out to encourage and bless the brave people of Israel who guard the land with their own communities.

Maggie (left) visiting an Israeli family after an attack

“We are in the state of emergency”

Israel’s former Education Minister, Naftali Bennett, raised an alarm in November by saying that the State of Israel had a national emergency for not having a government. The central concern to Bennett was the impact the political situation was having on Israeli preparedness to confront Iran’s aggression. He claimed that it was an Iranian initiative that led to the rocket strikes from Gaza on the first weekend of November. Bennett added that Iran’s purpose is to surround Israel with thousands of rockets and precision missiles from Lebanon to Syria, Iraq, and Gaza. On November 4, Israel’s cabinet weighed ways to increase military response due to the attacks from Gaza. The Hamas leadership has made statements about plans to take advantage of Israel’s current situation.

Recognition of the Armenian genocide

Pottery in display in the Sandrouni Armenian Art Center

The U.S. House of Representatives voted on October 29 to recognize as genocide the systematic mass extermination and expulsion of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during and after WW1. The destruction of the Armenian people took place over a century ago from 1914 to 1923. Therefore, the vote was symbolic to commemorate their dramatic history. Most of the Armenians were citizens of the Ottoman Empire. Today, many of the Armenian communities around the world are a direct result of the genocide. In Jerusalem, the most known Armenian community is in the Armenian quarter, formed around the 12th-century Armenian Cathedral of Saint James near the Zion Gate. The Armenian presence in Jerusalem dates back to the 4th century A.D. when Armenian monks settled in the Old City. Therefore, Jerusalem is considered the oldest living diaspora community outside the Armenian homeland.

Holding up Israel in prayers

The Church is guilty of willingly choosing blindness toward the Jewish people. It pretends to exist without the ‘natural olive tree.’ Without Israel there is no church. It is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you” Romans 11:18. (Ben Rubin “What is Repentance?”)

How to bless Israel?

May we, as the Church, pray forgiveness for holding back pray for Israel. Numbers 6:2226 Aaronic Benediction instructs us to pray for the sons of Israel:

“The LORD bless you, and keep you. The LORD make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. The LORD lift up His countenance on you and give you peace.”

Another UN blow to human rights Venezuela is the newest member of the UN Human Rights Council. Other notorious members include China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. Israel is repeatedly singled out for condemnation at every meeting. Let’s pray united Isaiah 54:17 over Israel,

“No weapon that is formed against  you [Israel] shall prosper, and every tongue that accuses you in judgement you will condemn.”

Fragile borders

Israel is dealing with multiple arenas and enemies at the same timethe northern front being the most fragile that could deteriorate into a confrontation. In the same time, Iran continues supplying weapons from Teheran to terrorist groups in Syria and Lebanon. Zephaniah 3:17 has an assuring word to proclaim:

“Do not let your hands fall limp. The LORD your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem to cover the earth.

Bringing Israel to safe shores

Yitzhak Rabin

Born in 1922, Yitzhak Rabin was the 5th prime minister of Israel. He served two terms in the office, the first in the 1970s and the second from 1992 until his assassination in 1995. Rabin was the first native-born Israeli prime minister. He was hailed as a national symbol and a peacemaker. The Israeli peace camp admired him despite Rabin’s military career and hawkish early views. He signed several historic agreements with the Palestinian leadership as part of the Oslo Accords. In 1994, Rabin won the Nobel Peace Prize together with Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat, the former Palestinian Yitzhak Rabin (PLO) leader.

PM Rabin’s assassination was publicly revisited in October when Israeli Professor Mordechai Kedar (Bar Ilan University) claimed during an interview that a wrong man was convicted of killing Rabin. A student of the Bar Ilan University, Yigal Amir, was convicted of shooting Rabin and sent to solitary confinement for the rest of his life. Professor Kedar asserted that the 1995 slaying was orchestrated by a senior politician against the backdrop of the landmark Oslo Peace Accords with the Palestinians. The Yitzhak Rabin Center released a statement, dismissing Professor Kedar as a promoter of conspiracy theories.

The Nobel Prize recipients after signing the Oslo Accords in 1994 (from right to left): PM Yitzhak Rabin, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and PLO’s Yasser Arafat.

Professor Mordechai Kedar is familiar to many friends of Israel. As a scholar of an Israeli Arab culture, Kedar has lectured in  Christian events, such CFI Jerusalem annual conferences. 

It is Benny Gantz’s turn!

On October 21, 2019, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin announced that he had appointed MK Benny Gantz from the Blue and White Party to form the next government. PM Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud Party had failed in forming a governing coalition after the September elections. MK Gantz has till November 18 to sign up 61 seats out of 120 that are needed for a new government. Israel has been without a government since Dec. 26, 2018. Benjamin (Benny) Gantz is a lifelong military man.

He has presented himself as a practical leader who can bridge Israel’s many divisions and address the various security threats it faces. Both Gantz and Netanyahu favor a national unity government. Together, Netanyahu of Likud and Gantz of Blue and White, control a solid 65-seat majority. However, the two men are divided over the new government’s leadership.

Benny Gantz, Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuben Rivlin reflect the difficulties of forming a new government

As a rotating premiership has been spoken in the Israeli media, Israel’s political history records the 1984 elections when neither one of the main parties, Alignment nor Likud, was able to form a new government. A national unity government was formed with a rotating premiership. Shimon Peres took the first two years, and he was replaced by Yitzhak Shamir midway through the Knesset term in 1986. On September 19, Benjamin Netanyahu said,

“In this election, too, there is no clear win. I call on you, Benny…Let us work together to bring again the State of Israel to safe shores.”

November 30, 2019

The Yemenite Jewish heritage

Yemenite-style Chanukiah

The Yemenite Jewish heritage

Demand for cultural artifacts

In 2016, twenty members of the tiny Jewish community in Yemen were airlifted to Israel. The U.S. State Department assisted in the operation. Among the items, the immigrants brought with them was a centuries-old Torah scroll which Rabbi Dahari’s family had owned for 300 years.

Speaking in an ancient Hebrew dialect, Rabbi Dahari was reported stating upon arriving in Israel, “We had nothing left from our homes in Yemen.” The 2,000-year-old community had maintained its religious identity by reciting and memorizing sacred Hebrew and Aramaic texts.

In October 2019, the Yemeni government filed a request with the U.S. State Department in an attempt to claim ownership over Jewish cultural items it claimed were smuggled out of Yemen illegally. The Dahari scroll was included in those items. The Yemeni government submitted the claim under the guise that also the Jewish items are national cultural artifacts of the State of Yemen.

Yemen has been locked in a civil war with the Houthis since 2015. Bombing and shelling of cultural sites, such as museums, have taken place frequently. The Jewish groups worldwide have asked the U.S. government not to honor Yemen’s request. The fear is that Yemen would not properly care for any Jewish artifacts. The Yemeni government has a history of persecuting Jews and destroying homes, synagogues and other remnants of Jewish life in the country. The Dahari family had already experienced threats in an attempt to force them to give up the historic scroll.

Return to their ancestral home

According to tradition, the Jews first settled in Yemen before the destruction of the First Temple in 586 B.C. After the Second Temple’s destruction in 70 A.D., word of the calamity reached even the “remotest Arabians,” or the Yemeni Jews. A century ago, Yemen had one of the largest Jewish populations in the world. Wars, terrorism and violence have forced most of them to flee for their lives.

After several waves of persecution throughout Yemen, about 50,000 Jews were transported to Israel during Operation Magic Carpet in 1949-1950. The total Yemeni Jewish population in Israel is about 435,000. Eighty thousand Yemeni Jews have made the U.S. their home. The remaining fifty Jews in Yemen are experiencing intense anti-Semitism on a daily basis.

The Yemenite Jews have a unique religious tradition that distinguished them from Ashkenazi, Sephardi and other Jewish groups. Due to their isolated location in the most southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni Jews were known as “the most Jewish of all Jews.”

Girls representing the
revival of the Yemenite
customs in Israel.

For Ethiopian youth, the road of living in Israel has been difficult for many to travel. CFI has been supporting after-school programs for the youngest children and has provided school supplies, laptop computers and dental care for many others. For teenagers, we have purchased suits, shoes for their football teams, and also contributed to their English lessons. Many Ethiopian communities are in neighborhoods laden with crime and drugs. After years of CFI assistance and ministry in those communities, their leaders report positive changes. The reports state that CFI’s help has prevented many from falling into crime on the streets and has inspired youth to attend universities to improve their education.

Because of you, our partners, who seek the Lord as whom to help, this project for the Ethiopians has made a significant and permanent difference in the lives of many children, youth and families. We thank you for helping us to continue blessing them.

Ethiopian children enjoying a day in a kindergarten

“You O God, provided from your goodness for the  poor” (Ps. 68:10). (References: Marcia Brunson and  Tsehai Mabari─CFI Jerusalem, Project Together Again  coordinators.)

We warmly welcome you to Jerusalem in May 25−27, 2020  for CFI’s 35th Anniversary  Conference.

Join with other international delegates as we focus on the nation and the people of Israel, and the biblical future that God has in store for us all. CFI has served over three decades in the land, advancing Jewish−Christia

n relations with trust and acceptance. From a small beginning in Ray and Sharon Sanders’ home office, the work has expanded to reach needy and discouraged all over Israel; encouraging intercessory prayers and support from friends around the world.

The conference venue is the Konrad Adenauer Conference Center at Mishkenot Sha’ananim (photo above), on the property of the Windmill. The center has a restaurant, and several hotels and cafeterias are in the same neighborhood.

Pray about coming to Jerusalem in 2020. See more details in the coming newsletters. Shalom, shalom!

Finding keys for their success

CFI’s Project Hope for the Future embraces the present state of the Ethiopian Jews. We believe in helping a generation to change through education and training. This project is committed to assist the Ethiopian youth to find the keys to change their poor economic state for a future that provides opportunities and a better quality of life.

This year, several of our applicants have expressed their desire to continue with a higher education in the fields of computer technology, accounting, law, engineering and medical care. This has confirmed the needalong with our visionto see the next generation to rise from poverty to independent living.

A young Ethiopian woman (right) and Marcia from CFI

The Ethiopian women are often marginalized when they try to build a career alone without help. This is very important for single women in Israel. Statistics show that the Ethiopian Jews in the country are one of the lowest income groups. CFI is partnering with the Hadassah School of Accounting and the Hadassah School of Dental Assistance. The applicants to these schools take the initial steps to apply for and to pay the needed fees. CFI then helps them with other expenses.

It is a blessing to see these students having the same desire and passion as their ancestors had. They walked across the desert of Sudan and then to Jerusalem, in order to improve their life. In the recent waves of the Ethiopian immigrants, many of the young people have come without their parents or other relatives. Learning the Hebrew language and adjusting to the modern life in Israel has naturally taken time.