May 21, 2015
Dear Friend of Israel,
When I started The Fellowship nearly 30 years ago, I naturally focused the organization’s bridge-building efforts on the U.S. This made sense: Besides being my home at the time, the U.S. is the country with the largest Christian population in the world, and the second-largest population of Jews. But in the intervening years, we’ve opened offices around the world – in Canada, in Australia, in Brazil, and also in South Korea, a country I was just privileged to visit for the fourth time.
During the trip I was struck again not only by the warm reception I received – from Christian leaders, churchgoers, and seminary students alike – but by how similar Korea and Israel are. South Korea is bordered by North Korea, which has a nuclear weapon and seeks to destroy them. Israel faces a similar threat – to the north we have Hezbollah in Lebanon, to the west Hamas in Gaza, on the east ISIS and other terrorist groups, and, of course, Iran, which is dedicated to Israel’s destruction and is seeking to build a nuclear bomb. Both South Korea and Israel share similar institutions: Both have representative forms of government that provide for their citizens a measure of freedom and liberty. Both value progress, embracing the development of technology and industry, and nurturing innovation. Our cultures share key similarities as well. Family is central to Korean life, and certainly is one of the cornerstones of Jewish life.
One of the greatest impressions that I have from my most recent trip happened at one of the churches where I spoke. As they took an offering and presented it in front at the altar, congregants sang very softly. There was holiness to the moment of giving this offering to God that I’d never really seen or felt before. It taught me something that it would be wise and good for all of us, Jews and Christians alike, to take to heart. When we give charity, whether it’s to our church or synagogue, to an organization, or even to someone in need asking for money on the street, we are really making an offering of ourselves, and there is a sanctity and holiness in that sacrifice. It was a profound spiritual lesson, and one I will not soon forget.
I have always believed that The Fellowship’s message of reconciliation between Christians and Jews, and of raising Christian support for Israel, is universal. The Fellowship has a role to play anywhere there are Christians longing to know more about the Jewish roots of their faith, or anywhere there are Christians and Jews who want sincerely to work together to support the Middle East’s only democracy – Israel. So, with God as our guide, we will continue to build bridges of understanding between Korea and Israel.
Job said to God after enduring unthinkable tragedies, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). It is God, I believe, who is the ultimate source of the miraculous reconciliation between Christians and Jews that has been the fruit of The Fellowship’s work over the last 30 years. It is God who calls us to continue to hope and pray for reconciliation between North and South Korea, as well as for peace in the Middle East and throughout the world.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President