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An American evangelical pastor who was ordered to leave Israel in August 2007 by the Interior Ministry amid allegations of missionary activity has returned to Jerusalem for a three-week Holocaust seminar at Yad Vashem.
Ron Cantrell, 60, is a vocal supporter of the Jewish state.
He now lives in California and is one of three Christian educators brought to the International Winter Seminar by the Jerusalem-based Christian Supporters of Yad Vashem, in partnership with the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, a prominent evangelical organization.
Cantrell, who came on a tourist visa, said Sunday that he would help raise funds for Yad Vashem and further Holocaust education among Christians in America.
The seminar, which is being attended by 30 Jewish and Christian participants from 11 countries, aims to educate them about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.
The seminar includes an in-depth tour of Yad Vashem and meetings with Holocaust survivors, leading historians and experts in the field of Holocaust education.
Following the seminar, Christian Friends of Yad Vashem intends to send the three participants they sponsored to speak at churches across the US.
Cantrell and his wife, Carol, had lived in Israel for nearly two decades when they were ordered to leave after their request for permanent residency was turned down by the Interior Ministry. Two of the couple's children have married Israelis and have Israeli ID cards.
At the time, Cantrell said the allegations of missionary activity were baseless.
Cantrell, who used to run a small Jerusalem-based ministry, Shalom Shalom Jerusalem, after previously working for an evangelical organization in the city, Bridges for Peace, could have continued living in Israel if he had left the country at least once every three months to renew his visa, but choose not to.
The Shalom Shalom Jerusalem Web site said then that the couple "encourages Christians and Messianic Jewish believers in their understanding of the prophetic Scriptures" and "encourages believers to participate in God's end-time plans by being involved in positive support for the nation of Israel and Jewish communities worldwide... in the regathering of the Jewish people to their homeland."
In a press release, Yad Vashem said that three seminar participants brought by Christian Friends of Yad Vashem were "exceptionally qualified and already well-known as speakers on Israel-related issues."
Established in 2006, the Christian Friends of Yad Vashem aims to promote the Holocaust Memorial's work and further Holocaust education around the world by bringing Christian youth leaders, pastors and educators to the Jerusalem seminars.
The current seminar is one of six international Holocaust conferences held at Yad Vashem over the past month, attended by more than 100 educators.