A Conversation with a Friend

Yael Eckstein  |  December 8, 2021

Governor Mike Huckabee and Yael Eckstein
(Photo: © 2021 IFCJ)

Today, we’d like to share this portion of Yael’s Conversations with Yael podcast featuring a great friend of Israel and The Fellowship, Governor Mike Huckabee.

YAEL ECKSTEIN: Today, I have the privilege of welcoming to the podcast a longtime friend of Israel, The Fellowship, and of mine, Governor Mike Huckabee. Governor Huckabee was one of the first Christian leaders to reach out to me after my father, Fellowship Founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, of blessed memory, passed away in 2019. He’s been a strong supporter of The Fellowship, calling The Fellowship “Israel’s most impactful relief organization.”

I’ve had the honor and privilege of appearing on Governor Huckabee’s show and the even greater honor of hosting him in Israel, where together we visited many of The Fellowship projects supported by Christians around the world.
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GOVERNOR MIKE HUCKABEE:  Well, Yael, thank you so much. You have no idea how privileged I am not just to be on the podcast but to consider you a dear friend. I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to do something that most of the people who give to The Fellowship are never able to do. I can have the privilege of seeing firsthand what their contributions accomplish. And when you hosted me in Israel and we went around the country, went to a number of sites to see food kitchens where food was being served and hot meals, where distribution was being done, we went into the homes of people who could not even leave their beds because they were in an upstairs apartment, had been there for seven years.

And if not for The Fellowship, it’s not just that they wouldn’t have adequate food, but they wouldn’t have someone to come in and love them, and smile at them, and hug them. I just don’t think people can fully appreciate the extraordinary things that their contributions are doing for The Fellowship.

So, as someone who has had the privilege of walking the land of the Bible with you, I can tell people I’ve seen the work of God’s word in person through the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. And it’s just a joy to be with you today.

YAEL ECKSTEIN:  Thank you so much, Governor. I know you as such a proud American who has dedicated your life and accomplished so much in making America stronger and better implementing those values that you hold dear and that I’ve seen you live day in, day out. And it’s not a given that somebody who’s so influential in loving and standing for American would be such a passionate advocate for Israel. So, I’d love to hear how that love and connection to Israel began.

Governor Huckabee on Encountering Israel for the First Time

GOVERNOR MIKE HUCKABEE: For me, it began in 1973. I was just shy of my 18th birthday. I’d finished high school and was going to be headed to college that fall. And a friend of mine who, quite frankly, was very wealthy, had also graduated. He wanted to take a senior trip to go somewhere, and he wanted to go to the Middle East to take an international trip …

So, here’s what we did. Yael, we went to Greece, to Turkey, we went to Syria, we went to Lebanon, we went to Jordan, we went all over the Middle East, place I couldn’t go now, places I wouldn’t go now. But one of the places that was a part of our itinerary was Israel. And so, my first time to be in this land was in the context of so many countries, many of which are mentioned in the Bible. But there was something about Israel and, and keep in mind, this is 1973. This is two months before– or I guess, yeah, just about two months before the Yom Kippur War …  

Not that we knew that, of course. But Israel was a struggling country. It, it was fairly young, and it had just gone through so many wars and fighting for its independence, its economy was struggling. Selling a few oranges and trying to get some tourists to come. A lot of people were still living on the Kibbutz because that’s the only way they could survive. And, you know, you look back and they had a bunch of old Russian cars driving on dusty roads. I’m just trying to set the tone that Israel was a very different country and yet when I was there it was like I was in a place that I felt at home even though I’d never been there before.

A Pioneer Spirit

GOVERNOR MIKE HUCKABEE:  It was something amazing about the country. Part of it was that I saw the pioneers spirit among the Israeli people. And part of it, quite frankly, was spiritual for me because here I was in the land of the Bible for reasons that one day God will reveal. But a land that He had chosen, and I think of all the real estate on planet earth, He picks this little spot of land about the size of New Jersey and says this is mine, right here. And I’m going to put my people here, I’m going to put the Jewish people right here and this is going to be theirs and it will be theirs for all time.

And there’s something about Israel that is just inexplicable. I’ve said so many times, Yael, that the only explanation for the Nation of Israel and it’s incredible success, the extraordinary achievements, is that God has His hand on this country. And if I wasn’t even a believer, I would still come to the conclusion that the only explanation for Israel is God.

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No Small Miracle

YAEL ECKSTEIN:  Wow. Everything that you’re saying, Governor, is just so inspiring from the first time you came to Israel which is simply a God story. I hear that story and I said God knows what he was doing, God knew who he was building up, a real messenger and servant who would have the eyes to see. Because how often do people see truth and God’s hand in front of their eyes but they just can’t see it. When I hear your story of how you got to Israel, how you traveled around, how when you got to Israel how you felt God’s hand here. How you felt at home and, and that you opened your eyes to the details from the fruits and vegetables being grown. That I’m sure you know tiny Israel, the size of New Jersey like you pointed out, we grow 95% of our fruits and vegetables.

So, I got to America, and I hear all these concepts of like farm to table and grow local and I’m like, wow, this has really advanced because local when I’m in America I’ll be in Chicago, I can’t imagine growing all the fruits and vegetables in the freezing Chicago weather. It’s simply of God, like you said, of the prophets making the desert bloom of the laughter and joy on the streets of Jerusalem.

And that’s what as someone who’s lived in Israel for 16 years and thank God who has four kids who were all born here, I always tell them never forget just the sake that you wake up in Israel is a miracle that’s no less than the splitting of the sea or any of the other biblical miracles that we read about. The fact that you could say I was born in Jerusalem after 2,000 years of exile with a grandfather who was born in Germany, a great grandfather who was born in Germany whose family was all killed by the Nazis for being Jewish. And now you’re born in Jerusalem, it’s, it’s no small miracle.

And hearing your story and how you are so acutely aware of these miracles and have taken tangible action in your life to say, yes, God is using me, and I am going to be on [Hebrew 00:19:45] we say in Hebrew. I am your servant, Lord. And I see that in your life which is so inspiring. And I could listen to you for hours when you talk about how when you come to Israel and you felt at home, it brings me back to almost every day the Fellowship has Aliyah flights from bringing Jewish people home to Israel from places like France and places in the Arab would that I can’t even speak about, places like Ukraine and Ethiopia, the Lost Tribe of Dan bringing them home. And that’s the same sentiment of every Jewish person, and like you said, every Christian who I’ve spoken to that there’s something about this tiny land that you step foot here and you suddenly feel at home.

The Bible – in Brilliant Color

GOVERNOR MIKE HUCKABEE:  It is a magnificent place and I wish that every I would say fellow Christian believer would go to the land of Israel at least once. It’s one of the reasons that I bring people to the country every year because I feel like that if you’ve read the Bible your whole life you’ve read it in black and white but once you’ve been to Israel for the rest of your life you read the Bible in HD, brilliant color…

It’s never the same. It’s, it’s a different book because you have frame of reference, perspective. The things that you have read but you couldn’t really relate to, now you can put it in the context of your own eyes and experience. If you stand on Megiddo and look out at the Valley of Jezreel, you realize what, what, you know, you’re reading when you read the Bible. If you even go to the Dead Sea or you go to the Sea of Galilee, you can just imagine things that happened. Over and over, I mean it’s just a book that becomes alive in every aspect of the scripture, old and New Testament for those of us who are Christian believers. It’s just — it’s a life-changing event.

Click here to listen to the entire podcast.

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