Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein in Ethiopia.
(photo credit: Ruth Eglash)
In an attempt to expand its operations and further strengthen ties between
Christians across the globe and Israel, the International Fellowship of
Christians and Jews is reaching out to new communities on two continents and has
recently opened offices in South Korea and 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,” Rabbi Yechiel
Eckstein, founder and executive director of the IFCJ, told The Jerusalem Post in
an interview last week.
With offices already in the US and Canada, the
IFCJ currently raises more than $90 million a year from Christian supporters for
social welfare projects in Israel and other humanitarian projects around the
“Our goal is to strengthen Christian and Jewish ties around the
world and provide supporters of Israel with the vehicles to demonstrate their
support,” said Eckstein, adding that its not only about fundraising but also
about increasing tourism to Israel, education about the Jewish state and
Christianity’s ancient connection to Judaism without emphasizing the political
“We recently opened up our new office in South Korea and that is
where 80 percent of our emphasis will be in the coming year,” continued
Eckstein, who also has plans to expand his work in South America
“What I have done essentially is judge where there is a growth of
Protestant Evangelical and Pentecostal movements and wherever there is a growth,
wherever I see there is a potential for a pro- Israel position, I have tried to
develop it,” he said.
In South Korea, where there has been an immense
increase in Evangelical communities, the potential for pro-Israel activities is
tremendous, said Eckstein, adding that his operations there will become official
this coming September when the Asian nation celebrates 50 years of ties with
Israel. The IFCJ’s work in South Korea will include encouraging tourism to
Israel and donations to social welfare projects here.
If his efforts in
Seoul are successful, the former Chicago- based rabbi said he would also look
into opening additional offices in other Asian countries such as the Philippines
and even China.
In addition to Asia, Eckstein told the Post
that he is
also looking to boost support for Israel in South America, where communities are
traditionally Catholic and anti- Semitism has been rife in recent
“There has been a change in demographics of Christians around the
world,” observed Eckstein. “Countries in Latin America might have been entirely
Catholic in the past but today in countries such as Panama, Uruguay and Bolivia
at least 30% of the population is Pentecostal.”
He said that the IFCJ
already provides regular radio broadcasts about Israel in Spanish, which reach
almost every country in Latin America.
While the charity has never had
offices there until now, plans are already underway to open up in Argentina and
Brazil. In South America, said Eckstein, the goal is purely to boost support and
understanding for Israel.
“Wherever I see a community that is tied to the
Bible, I know that I have an audience for Israel,” said Eckstein, adding that
strengthening ties to the Jewish homeland is not such an easy
According to the rabbi, who has been fostering relations between
Christians and Jews in North America for the best part of the past three
decades, the relationship between the two was not initially
“Christian Zionism exists today in America but it did not happen
by itself,” he stated, describing: “When I first started meeting Evangelicals, I
was the only Jew in the field and often, I was attacked by both
Eckstein, however, pointed out that his extensive media
outreach to the community, which has included over the years hundreds of
infommercials emphasizing the joint Judeo-Christian connection to the Bible and
promoting tourism to the Holy Land, has helped to make changes.
like to believe that we played a significant role in fostering relations by
directing their biblical attention to walking where Jesus walked and
highlighting the Jewish roots of Christianity,” finished Eckstein, adding that
thankfully he had the foresight to see the potential that “nobody else could