Christian supporters of Israel around the globe mourned the death on Tuesday of MK Yuri Shtern, who spearheaded Israel's burgeoning relations with the Evangelical world over the last several years.
Shtern, who lost a six-month battle with cancer, founded the Knesset's nonpartisan Christian Allies Caucus three years ago.
"In our hearts, he will always be remembered as a gentle, selfless champion of the historic deepening of Christian-Jewish relations in our time," said Rev. Malcolm Hedding, executive director of the International Christian Embassy, a Jerusalem-based evangelical organization.
"Yuri possessed a rare combination of graciousness, honesty, intellect and foresight that uniquely qualified him to be a leading pioneer of this new era of warmer relations between Israel and her Christian admirers worldwide," Hedding said. "Though we share Yuri's trust in Providence, we cannot help but sense that we lost him before his time. It is our duty and privilege to build on his noble legacy."
Last year's disclosure that Shtern had a brain tumor sparked a massive e-mail campaign among evangelical Christians, who launched days of prayer and fasting on his behalf.
The news of Shtern's death was met with deep sadness in the Christian world.
"This is a devastating loss for all Bible-believing Christians," said Pastor David Decker, the president of Covenant Alliance, a Christian Zionist organization based in Jerusalem.
"Shtern was a proud Israeli Jew who was an exceptionally wonderful friend of the Evangelicals," he said.
"In this critical hour of history, the Jewish and Christian community have lost a vital and important leader for the work that has to be done for the protection of Israel and the Jewish people worldwide," said Rodlyn Park, international coordinator for the New York-based Eagles' Wings Ministries' Jerusalem Project.
"Shtern gave so much for the Judeo-Christian cause, and he had so much more he wanted to give," said Marisa Albert, president of the Jerusalem East Gate Foundation, which works with Evangelicals in Asia.
"We who are partnered with this venture will honor his memory by doing more for that cause which was so dear to his heart, and we will do so remembering that his work was marked by zealousness and a genuine nonpolitical love for the People of Israel," she said.