May 19, 2016
Dear Friend of Israel,
It is always a unique and moving experience to see Israel through the eyes of those who are setting foot in the Holy Land for the first time. Though I live in Israel, I find that the first time people wander the narrow streets of the Old City of Jerusalem, the first time they have the incomparable experience of praying at the Western Wall, the first time they walk on the very stones where the prophets and patriarchs walked, they are changed.
Next week The Fellowship has the privilege of welcoming members of the National Baptist Convention of America (NBCA), a prominent African-American denomination, on what will be, for some, their first trip to Israel. This trip is part of The Fellowship’s expanding partnership with the African American church community, strengthening bonds with a faith group that has a historic relationship with the Jewish community – in support of both civil rights and the Jewish state.
The days will be full for our distinguished guests. They will visit the Western Wall, the Dead Sea, Capernaum, the Mount of Beatitudes, the Sea of Galilee, and many other biblically significant sites. They will also visit several projects supported by The Fellowship, including Neve Michael Orphanage; an Ethiopian Spiritual Center, which serves just some the large population of Ethiopian immigrants we have helped make aliyah (immigrate to Israel); the Gal Pre-Army Leadership Program for Boys; Pantry Packers, where our NBCA friends will help prepare meals for impoverished Israeli families; and a division headquarters of the Israel Defense Forces.
We value the opportunity to introduce Christians not just to the land of their spiritual forefathers but to the lifesaving ministry of The Fellowship. As we seek to build bridges between Christians and Jews, I can’t think of a better way to do it than through working together to strengthen Israel and her people.
Since the tumultuous era of the Civil Rights struggle in the U.S., it has been clear that the African-American church community takes very seriously the biblical imperative to stand with Israel. They have consistently shown through their support and prayers that Israel is not alone. Tours such as this remind us of our rich shared history, and of the strong bridges that have been built between our two communities, bridges built through a shared history of oppression and struggle.
Despite the tragic nature of this shared history, I feel grateful that God has created out of it two great communities of faith, and that He has called us to build bridges between the two. Together, let us pray for the day when Jewish and Christian communities of all colors are free from prejudice and hatred, and when the entire world will know God’s most precious gift of shalom, peace.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President
PS – Our NBCA friends depart for Israel on Monday, May 23 – you can follow along during their tour through the Holy Land using the hashtag #NBCAinIsrael, and by visiting our Facebook and Twitter pages.