March 17, 2016
Dear Friend of Israel,
I just arrived home in Israel from a productive and fruitful trip to the U.S. It was a time to plan new initiatives that will help us extend our outreach to Jews in need around the world, and I truly believe that, with the continued support of our faithful donors, these initiatives will succeed, and flourish.
I returned to an Israel that is again under siege, not this time by bombs or rockets (though there are still occasional rockets fired from Gaza), but by “lone wolf” terrorists who, inspired and encouraged by organized terrorists groups, have been carrying out attacks against innocent Israelis – soldiers and citizens alike. Vehicular attacks, stabbings, shootings – they have all become part and parcel of life in Israel today.
There have been examples of great heroism too, both by soldiers and ordinary citizens. One Jewish man, who had been collecting money for charity in the central Israel city of Petah Tikva, was stabbed in the neck by a Palestinian terrorist. Miraculously, he pulled the knife from his neck, and killed his attacker. This says something, not just about the grace of God, but about the indomitable character of the Israeli people, who are determined to fight back, and to live their lives with as much normalcy as possible in the face of such cowardly attacks.
All of this comes as Jewish people in Israel and around the world are preparing to celebrate Purim, which recalls the biblical story of one brave Jewish woman, Esther, who stood up to the efforts of Haman, advisor to the King of Persia, to kill all the Jews in their country. While this is a very festive holiday, the story of Purim – found in the biblical book of Esther – carries a deeply serious message. In Esther’s willingness to put her own life on the line we find a valuable lesson about self-sacrifice and purpose that is as true and meaningful today as it was thousands of years ago.
Haman, too, is more than just a historical figure. He is as alive today as he was in biblical times – a fact that is apparent anytime we read the news. We recognize Haman in the ISIS terrorists who brutally oppress religious minorities in the Middle East, or in the Iranians who sign nuclear deals with the west that they never intend to keep. And I have certainly seen evidence of him in my many trips to Ukraine, where the Jewish community is suffering in the midst of their country’s turmoil.
Thus, one of the messages of Purim – a message that applies to Jews and Christians alike – is that in a world with no shortage of "Hamans," we need more "Esthers," people committed to standing humbly before God and seeking to defend His people. I thank you, my friend, for being one of those "Esthers" through your support of IFCJ’s lifesaving work – in Israel, and around the world.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President