‘I will bless those who bless you:’ Christian donors give $6.2m to Israel for Passover, “The premise of Christian support for Israel is found in Genesis,” she said, citing Genesis 12:3 that explains that God “will bless those who bless you.”
The 2020 documentary by Maya Zinshtein, ‘Til Kingdom Come, portrays the relationship between American Evangelicals and Israeli Jews as a complicated entanglement of politics and faith.
But Yael Eckstein, president and CEO of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), said the situation is very simple.
“The premise of Christian support for Israel is found in Genesis,” she told The Jerusalem Post, citing Genesis 12:3 which explains that God “will bless those who bless you.”
‘I will bless those who bless you:’ Christian donors give $6.2m to Israel for Passover
Eckstein’s premise was put to the test this past year, because for the first time since 1948, the Fellowship’s Christian donors abroad were facing the same crisis as the Jews of the Holy Land.
“There I was, the first full year without my father” – Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the founder of the organization who passed away suddenly in 2019 – “and there was so much uncertainty, and so many more people were calling and asking for help.”
Eckstein said that as the coronavirus crisis unfolded, there was an upsurge in requests for assistance, including from people who had never asked for help in the past, and who were not even registered with social services.
“I was in a position that the only thing I could hold onto was faith,” she recalled. “I turned my heart to God and through faith in God and a real hope and belief that our donors would come through again, I immediately approved $20 million in additional aid on top of our normal budget for six months of coronavirus emergency assistance.
“The Fellowship donors stepped up,” she said. “Not only did their donations not drop, but they actually doubled to meet the emergency pledge.”
This Passover, the Fellowship will provide $6.2 million in aid in Israel: food assistance, clothing, and matzah to 230,000 people, including the elderly, needy families and children, and soldiers.
She said the generosity of the Fellowship’s Christian donors proved what she already knew: Zinshtein and her fellow filmmakers “made a political film to try to make Evangelical support for Israel look malicious or bad when in reality Evangelical Christians are the greatest friends Israel ever had.”
She joked that she heard more about “the apocalypse and tribulation in those 70 minutes than in all these years of working with Evangelicals.”
And she told the Post that in a time when there is growing antisemitism and so many people who “simply hate Jews because they are Jews… we should focus on strengthening people who love us instead of pushing them away.”
Zinshtein said that she does not see her film as a political statement but rather as an effort to dive deeply into the world of the Evangelical Christians and the bond between them and the Jews, and to allow people to form their own opinions about the relationship.
In her interview, Eckstein told several stories of Fellowship supporters and why they give to Israel – many of them because of a family history with the Holocaust and a desire to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again.
“It is very easy to draw a stereotype of Christians,” the IFCJ leader said. “If you are against Christian support for Israel, you think they are stupid, ignorant, uneducated; that their faith does not make sense.” But she said each donor and each church full of donors has different motivations for giving. What binds them is their love and support of Israel.
Eckstein said that when her father founded the Fellowship in 1983, many deemed Christian Zionism as dangerous, ideologically flawed and even antisemitic. Today, however, she said Christian Zionism is more mainstream and many organizations like her own are working to connect with Evangelicals and capture their love and generosity to help Israel.
She added that while these Christians had increased opportunities to effect political change under former US president Donald Trump, which played an important role in the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognition of the Golan Heights, she does not expect Christian support for the country to change under President Joe Biden.
“Christian support for Israel is always here,” Eckstein said. “It is a grassroots movement, not a political movement. It does not matter who is president” of the US or prime minister of Israel, she said.