At a time when international public opinion of Israel is at an all-time low, a Jerusalem-based association that unites Jews and Christians in their support for the Jewish state has expanded its operations to Asia.

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews – of the country’s biggest donors to social and education projects – officially opened its South Korean office in Seoul on Thursday.

The significance of the September inauguration is to mark some 50 years of diplomatic relations between the State of Israel and the Republic of Korea.

“We have been planning to establish our work in South Korea for a decade,” commented IFCJ founder and executive director Rabbi Yehiel Eckstein.

“It’s providential that we launch not only during the jubilee of Korean-Israeli friendship, but also as we enter the holiest time of the Jewish year,” he said.

Eckstein pointed out that more than 40,000 Koreans visit Israel every year and that the opening of the international fellowship office in Seoul will “widen the already significant bridge of friendship between Korean Christians and Israel.”

Launched in 1983 to promote better understanding and cooperation between Christians and Jews, the IFCJ, which raises more than $90 million a year from Christian supporters for social welfare projects in Israel and humanitarian programs around the world, is one of the largest charities in the Jewish state.

As well as its new operations in Korea, the IFCJ also runs offices in the US, Canada and will soon open one in Australia.

“Our goal is to deepen Christian bonds with Israel and the Jewish people and allow tangible and meaningful ways for supporters to express their love for Israel,” Eckstein said to The Jerusalem Post in an earlier interview.

Eckstein said the fellowship’s work is not only about fund-raising but also about increasing tourism to Israel, education about the Jewish state and Christianity’s ancient connection to Judaism without emphasizing the political issues.

While some groups chastise the State of Israel at every turn, the growing Protestant Evangelical and Pentecostal movements often adopt a pro-Israel position, explained Eckstein, adding that he has worked hard to develop that support.

In South Korea, where there has been immense growth in Evangelical communities, the potential for pro-Israel activities is tremendous, said Eckstein.

More than 1,000 guests attended Thursday’s ceremony, which also included a symposium and a dinner at Konkuk University in Seoul sponsored by the IFCJ and the Israel Cultural Center of South Korea.

South Korea’s first ambassador to Israel, Dong Soon and Israel’s current ambassador to Korea, Tuvia Israeli addressed the gathering. In addition, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent a video greeting; and musicians from the IDF performed at the event.

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