Assembling the Outcasts: Ethiopian Jews Returning to Israel!

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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!

Contribute to ICEJ

(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.
~Isaiah 43:6

May God richly bless you this Christmas season!

Dreidels, Latkes and Sufganiyot

Happy Hanukkah!  We’re now two days into celebration.  Time for the really fun stuff!  Hanukkah is characterized by the joyous traditions associated with it.  Remember, it is a joyous occasion…and Jews don’t need much prodding to have a good time!  So let’s explore a few traditions.

Womens Participation in Hanukkah

Traditionally, women play a major role in the celebration of Hanukkah.  In the Middle Ages, Hanukkah became almost sacred for women and they were typically granted a reprieve from housework following the evening lighting of the candles.  In fact, according to Rabbi Joshua ben Levi, because women took part in the original miracle, they are to light the Hanukkah menorah each evening, proclaiming the miracle.


It is customary for Jewish children to play dreidel during Hanukkah.  They are given chocolate coins (called “gelt”) or some other form of chips to be played during the game.  A dreidel is a spinning top with a Hebrew letter on each of 4 sides.  Those letters make up an acronym which means “a great miracle happened there” (in Hebrew: “Nes Gadol Hayah Sham,” thus commemorating the Hanukkah miracle.  Here’s a short tutorial on how to play dreidel:


What in the world is a latke?  Well, this Jewish festival features certain kinds of food, namely those made with oil.  Again, oil is a reminder of the miracle…one day’s supply of Image result for latkesolive oil, used for lighting the menorah, lasting 8 days!  So, it is only fitting that oily foods would be part of the celebration!

A latke is a potato cake fried in oil!  (Yum yum…my kind of treat!)  Latkes are served during Hanukkah as a reminder of the miracle of oil.  Latkes are fairly simple to make.  Here’s how to make the perfect latke for Hanukkah:

PS: the key to keeping them from falling apart is to be sure all the moisture is out of them before frying!


Image result for sufganiyotSufganiyot seem to be more popular in Israel than latkes are.  What are they, pray tell!?!  Sugar-covered jelly doughnuts!  Again, a fried food, made with oil to commemorate the miracle! Most of us in the US would just run to the nearest doughnut shop for our Hanukkah sufganiyot.  However, if you wish to make your own, or any number of other deliciously fried Hanukkah treats, check out these Recipes for Hanukkah!  (In Israel, really good sufganiyot are to die for!)

I hope you are enjoying this Hanukkah season!  To all my Jewish friends around the world: Happy Hanukkah!  To all my Christian friends, remember: “No Hanukkah, no Christmas!”  So thank a Jewish person for the enduring heritage and “Never say die” hardiness of the Jewish people.

PS: If you missed the previous posts regarding Hanukkah, you will find them here:

Word from Jerusalem – December 2017

The latest edition of Word from Jerusalem is out.  Having just celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, it is no surprise that the lead article is dedicated to that historical event.  However, this edition also contains other interesting articles, such as:

  • The ICEJ Remembers the Balfour Declaration at the London Belfast Celebration
  • The Reformation and Israel
  • Starting a New Life in the Promised Land
  • A Season to Recognize God’s Favor Upon Israel
  • From the Equator to the Arctic Circle: Israel has Christian Friends Everywhere
  • Does the United States Benefit from its Alliance with Israel?

This edition is packed, so take some time and enjoy it!