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Evangelicals invest $40m. in aliya
Etgar Lefkovits
Int'l Christian Embassy announces it has helped 100,000 Jews move to Israel.
A Jerusalem-based Evangelical Christian organization announced Tuesday that it has helped 100,000 Jews move to Israel during the past decade and a half. What's new on The International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem said it had invested $40 million in the immigration project, which has focused on Jews from the former Soviet Union, since its inception in 1989. The pro-Israel group, which is best known for its sponsorship of the annual Feast of the Tabernacles celebrations taking place this week in Jerusalem, said the immigration assistance was provided in coordination with the Jewish Agency, the quasi-governmental agency that works to promote immigration. "It is quite remarkable that over the last 16 years the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, with much hard work and commitment throughout the vast former Soviet Union and many other regions in the world, has been able to assist 100,000 Jewish people to return to the land of their forefathers and to the glory of Zion," said Rev. Malcolm Hedding, executive director of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem. Among other things, the group's "aliya network" sponsored 54 aircraft to bring Jews to Israel from the former Soviet Union, with the majority of these immigrants brought to Israel from St. Petersburg via Finland, Hedding said. The group said it was also involved in assisting Jewish immigration from Kaliningrad, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, and has most recently been asked by the Jewish Agency to reach out to Russian-speaking Jews who moved to Germany after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Over one million Russian Jews have immigrated to Israel since 1989. The major channel of Christian support for Jewish immigration comes from the Chicago-based International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which provides the Jewish Agency with about $10 million a year for Jewish immigration, while various other Christian Evangelical groups, such as the International Christian Embassy, are also involved in promoting Jewish immigration, Jewish Agency spokesman Michael Jankelowitz said. The Christian support represents 2.5 percent of the Jewish Agency's total budget. Decades of Christian Evangelical support for Jewish immigration has hit all-time highs over the past 16 years since the fall of the Iron Curtain, he added. The support stems from their hard-core biblical beliefs that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land is foretold in the Scriptures and heralds the return of the messiah. The organization's announcement at a Jerusalem press conference about its involvement in Jewish immigration to Israel came as it was hosting nearly 5,000 Evangelical Christians from 80 countries around the world for the weeklong Feast of the Tabernacles celebration. The 27th annual event is expected to pump $15 million into the Israeli economy, in what has been billed as the single largest tourism event of the year. The highlight of the festive events was a colorful march through the streets of downtown Jerusalem Tuesday afternoon. The march, which has become something of a Jerusalem tradition, was attended by thousands of flag-waving staunchly pro-Israel pilgrims, with the largest group coming from Norway. This year's festivities come as Israel is trying to recover from a 40% slump in foreign visitors following this summer's monthlong war in Lebanon.
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