The prophet Isaiah spoke of the remnant of dispersed outcasts who will be gathered from the four corners of the earth back to the land of Israel. Over the years, droves of Russian and European Jews have made aliyah (return to the homeland), in fulfillment of Isaiah 11:12.
However, did you know that Jews from Ethiopia are returning as well? In June, I wrote of a planeload that arrived in Israel, thanks in large part to the work and support of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. Check out the jubilation here:
A few days ago I participated in a conference call with Nicole Yoder, Director of ICEJ Aid, who shared more about ICEJ’s part in bringing Ethiopian Jews home, and the challenges that must be overcome.
Consider this: Israel is a modern, high-tech society with a relatively high cost of living. Ethiopia is one of the poorest third-world countries on earth, and most Ethiopians do not have the luxury of significant education. They are often communal for the sake of survival. Yet, when they enter Israel, they have no community (other than family members), they speak an entirely different language, they have no job skills commensurate with job opportunities in a new country, groceries and essential items are far beyond their ability to pay, and they find themselves in a culture almost diametrically opposed to what they know.
Thus, you get a sense of the challenges Ethiopian Jews face when they reach their homeland. What is the answer to the dilemma? In the US, we turn to government-funded welfare, but Israel has other ideas!
This is where caring organizations such as the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem come in. On our conference call Wednesday, Nicole revealed the lengths that ICEJ goes to help assimilate new immigrants. Not only do they finance airfare to bring many of them home, they also provide assistance in very practical ways once they arrive. In the early days of an Ethiopian family’s time in Israel, ICEJ and other organizations provide essentials such as housing and household items, and food.
However, they also begin right away helping those families plug in to language-learning and cultural immersion programs (called “ulpan”) to help them assimilate. Recognizing the human need to “connect,” they also provide opportunities for them to meet and develop relationships with other immigrants. But one of the most impressive services they provide is a mentor who helps bridge the cultural gaps. Mentors are trained Israeli social workers who visit at least weekly to help families learn to grocery shop, find a school for children (or adults in some cases), prepare for a job, and just carry out everyday functions of life.
We were told this is routinely be a 5-10 year process. Wow…can you imagine! But throughout it all, ICEJ is there to lend assistance and support. Thankfully, not every group has hurdles as difficult as the Ethiopian Jews. But consider the “less needy.” Russian Jews are often well-educated and may have specialized skills such as physicians, lawyers, engineers, etc. But just think…if you are a doctor, you and your patient must be able to understand the same language! You must also be licensed to practice in your new land. There are significant hurdles, even in the “less difficult” aliyah situations.
Often, when we hear about Jews returning to their homeland, we underestimate the commitment necessary for those making aliyah AND for the Israeli government and social services that must integrate them. It is a monumental undertaking…yet God’s Word promises that He will draw His people back to their land!
As you consider year-end giving, why not partner financially with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ)? Aliyah is actually only a tiny part of what ICEJ Aid does, and ICEJ Aid is only one of many functions of ICEJ! However, I hope this tiny bit of information has given you an appreciation for what they do. I personally know some of the staff at ICEJ (both in Jerusalem and in the US) and can attest to the diligence and commitment they have to Israel and the Jewish people. Your gift is well-invested in the Kingdom of God!
(Where allowed, gifts are tax-deductible if directed through the branch in your country.)
Bring My sons from afar
And My daughters from the ends of the earth.
May God richly bless you this Christmas season!