It started more than half a century ago when, in 1964, theologian and self-professed Christian Zionist Dr. G. Douglas Young moved to Israel to establish a theological seminary in the land where large portions of the Bible had played out.
“The Old Testament makes it clear,” he wrote in 1960, “that there is a future for the Jewish people.”
Young wanted to play a part in that future and teach Christians around the world to do the same.
When the Six Day War broke out in 1967, Young made good on his word. He converted the school van into an ambulance, ferrying the wounded through the front lines to Hadassah Hospital, while his wife converted the Youngs’ kitchen into a refuge where battle-weary soldiers could refuel before stepping back into the fray. Students filled sandbags and neighbors took refuge in their bomb shelters.
“These efforts sparked a legacy of Christians blessing Israel that continues today,” explains Rev. Rebecca J. Brimmer, outgoing CEO of Bridges for Peace, an international organization of Christians supporting Israel and building relationships between Christians and Jews, headquartered in Jerusalem.
“This is in our DNA.”
How Bridges for Peace helps Israel's needy
After the war, Young established Bridges for Peace. And in the 50 odd years since, its volunteers have come from around the world to care for the vulnerable in Israeli society; help the Jewish people in the Diaspora immigrate to Israel; speak out on behalf of Israel and educate Christians across the globe about the biblical foundations of support for the Jewish state.
Every month, more than 24,000 Holocaust survivors, new immigrants, widows and orphans are fed from Bridges for Peace’s food bank. Children from impoverished families eat a hot lunch every school day and receive much-needed school supplies. Home repair teams fix up Holocaust survivors’ apartments. Over 100,000 Jewish people who did not have the necessary funds or paperwork received the help they needed to come home to Israel. The list goes on.
For over half a century, Bridges for Peace volunteers have continued in their founder’s footsteps during times of war, terror and intifada, staying put to help see the vulnerable in Israel’s society through harrowing times.
“We never ran away, sent our staff out of the country, or stopped delivering food – even to dangerous areas. This is in our DNA,” says Brimmer.
For nearly two decades, Brimmer orchestrated these operations, directing funds, efforts and actions to answer the most pressing needs as Israel’s security, economic, political and geopolitical landscape changed and shifted.
Now, after serving with the organization for 30 years – the last 18 as CEO – she passes the baton to Rev. Peter J. Fast, who will serve as the new CEO while Brimmer continues as international president.
“Bridges for Peace has stood as a bulwark of Christian support for Israel for one reason,” she explains.
“We stand with Israel because we stand with the God of Israel. This is in our DNA: love for the God of Israel and love for the people of Israel.”
Brimmer says it is an “honor to hand over the reins to someone who embodies that DNA, someone who will carry forward the heritage of loving God and loving Israel.”
This is “not the end of an era,” she says. “It is the continuation of our legacy of Christians blessing Israel from one generation to the next.”
A native of Canada, Fast has been associated with Bridges for Peace for 22 years, serving as the national director of the Canadian office for nearly four years.
“The destructive history between Christians and Jews has always grieved me deeply,” Fast says.
“Although the horrors of the past 17 centuries cannot be erased, Bridges for Peace continues to strive to forge a new future. This bridging of the gap between Christians and Jews is not the initiative of man but something God is doing in our time. It is a holy calling. It is prophetic. It is reconciliation. We are dedicated to repairing the breach through genuine, unconditional love and support, striving to educate and resource the church around the world as to the story of Israel, as to what brings the Jewish people joy and what brings them pain.
Fast spoke of the desire “to bring our communities together out of our shared love for God and to learn from one another, to rally around our support for Zionism and Israel, and to stand as one against the evil of antisemitism.” ■
The writer is news bureau chief of Bridges for Peace in Jerusalem.