Gush Etzion in the Judean hills (Yehoshua Halevi). Inset: Gush Etzion in 1947. (Credit: Zoltan Kluger/Israeli National Photo Archive)
Since the days before email existed, Sondra Oster Baras, Director of Christian Friends of Israel Communities (CFOIC Heartland)’s Israel Office, has been advocating for the Biblical heartland communities of Yehuda (Judea) and the Shomron (Samaria).
While Sondra and her Jewish colleagues were raising their voices against the Oslo accords in the early 1990s, a philanthropic Christian Zionist family convinced the now-defunct Jewish organization for which Baras worked to help them educate Christians about life in Judea and Samaria.
“We prepared materials. They used the materials to give talks in churches. I would take them around when they visited Israel,” Baras explained about the early days.
When the Jewish organization that hosted this Christian partnership closed in the late 1990s, the Christian family supporters helped Baras establish CFOIC Heartland as an independent organization. “They provided funding for the first two years. I built the foundation and created the organization and started networking in the Christian Zionist world.”
By 2000, initial financial support had concluded. That turned out to be a blessing because, as Baras explained to Breaking Israel News, “I was free to find a broad base of funding.”
Twenty years later, CFOIC Heartland has raised millions of dollars for projects in communities all over Judea and Samaria. At any given time, they are promoting as many as 70 different humanitarian projects, such as building playgrounds, providing food and dental care for needy families, helping the elderly pay their heating bills, helping communities buy surveillance cameras and other security equipment, funding special education programs for severely handicapped children and much more.
According to Baras, 99.9% of CFOIC’s donors are Christians. Baras is the Jewish partner, based in Israel. Kim Troup is her US-based Christian counterpart. Part of what makes CFOIC distinctive, claimed Baras, is that, “Everything in Israel is Jewish. Everything outside of Israel is Christian. Messages coming from Israel are spoken by Jews. Many other organizations don’t have the same direct relationship between Christians and Jews the way we do.”
Funding projects in Judea and Samaria is only one of the ways CFOIC Heartland nurtures those relationships.
The second pillar of their work involves bringing Christian groups to Jewish communities and to historical and Biblical sites in the area. They can tailor a visit to Judea and Samaria for anywhere between 90 minutes and five days, depending on the needs of the group.
Baras wants to, “enable [Christian visitors] to understand, in the most authentic way, what the communities look like. We want them to listen to people who explain their motivation, which is rooted in faith and in the Bible, for living here.”
Visitors learn how security operates in the community, what a preschool looks like and how the residents share “a real commitment to ideology. The Bible becomes your history book, even if you’re a secular Jew. This is eye-opening for Christians. It offers them a whole other dimension to the Bible.”
The communities obviously benefit from Christian support for their local projects, but Baras explained, “It’s a mutual benefit. Their connection with Israel is very Biblical. They are seeking a better understanding of their Bible. Coming to Israel and coming to communities, meeting people whose daily life is motivated by Biblical considerations, is enormously inspirational.
“They better understand the relationship of Jews and the Land and they come to understand that we have a lot in common. As in any healthy relationship,” she emphasized, “both sides win.”
Visitors can tour communities in Judea and Samaria with CFOIC Heartland directly or on an upcoming Prophecy Tour with Israel365 and Yeshiva for the Nations, which includes CFOIC Heartland visits in their tours.
The third pillar of CFOIC’s work, beyond fundraising and tourism, is education. “These are three goals that are interrelated. We are really doing all three things at the same time,” Baras commented.
She frequently shares with Christian groups what she calls her Judea and Samaria 101 talk. “The whole Bible teaching started out as a natural basis for teaching about Judea and Samaria. My Judea and Samaria 101 talk is 80% Bible.
“The Jewish people didn’t wake up one day saying ‘Jews are connected to the Land of Israel’. The whole story, the history and the destiny of the Jewish people, is geared toward the idea that we were there and we are coming back.”
Her Bible teachings were so popular that her Christian students encouraged her to prepare a teaching on the weekly Torah portion.
As technology developed, Baras filmed a 30-minute Torah teaching in her home on Fridays, in-between cooking, doing laundry and getting ready for Shabbat. Eventually, she filmed an annual cycle of teachings on the Torah portion for Christian audiences in cooperation with a Texas-based television station.
“Now when I go speak to a new group, I always end up with the Bible-based message about why we belong in Judea and Samaria. The core is always the Biblical teaching. When I return to an audience, I’ll do a quick update and then a hard core Biblical teaching.
“I always keep the message oriented around Israel, because that’s the most important thing we’re dealing with today. And it’s what binds Jews and Christians.”
Baras and her team are very clear about asking Christians to “restrain from evangelizing activity in regard to Jews. They want to be part of building Israel in fulfillment of prophecy. They understand that to be part of that, they cannot come with an agenda and offend the Jews. No Christian has to change their theology. Some are willing to set their evangelizing agenda on hold. That’s a huge step for a Christian.
“The Christians who love what we’re doing become spiritually enriched by encountering Jews who are living out our beliefs. We’re living in a time where Jews in Israel live out Biblical prophecy. We believe that developing the Land of Israel and fulfilling the destiny of the Jewish people is the beginning of the redemption.
“We are an inspiration for them, especially because we’re rooted in the same Bible as they are,” Baras concluded.
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration — which seeks to criminalize criticism of migration — is nothing more or less than a dangerous effort to weaken national borders, to normalize mass migration, to blur the line between legal and illegal immigration, and to bolster the idea that people claiming to be refugees enjoy a panoply of rights in countries where they have never before set foot.
One thing about the agreement, in any event, is irrefutable: almost nobody in the Western world has been clamoring for this. It is, quite simply, a project of the globalist elites. It is a UN power-grab.
The waterfront in the Chilean city of Valdivia. Photo: Arvid Puschnig via Wikimedia Commons.
Top Jewish groups have welcomed a Chilean government decision made earlier this week to ban municipalities across the country from boycotting Israel.
The ruling — issued by the Comptroller General of Chile – stemmed from a complaint filed by the Chilean Jewish community over a move of the Valdivia municipality to ban the city from signing contracts with Israel-linked companies.
New immigrants to Israel arrive at Ben-Gurion International Airport, Aug. 17, 2016. Photo: Reuters / Baz Ratner.
A top Israeli minister called on the government on Sunday to craft a “comprehensive plan” to encourage the aliyah of French Jews.
In Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett’s view, there has been a “historic missed opportunity” in recent years to bring more French Jews to Israel as immigrants.
“There are 200,000 French Jews who want to come here, and the state bureaucracies simply aren’t prepared for it,” Bennett, who also serves as education minister and head of the right-wing HaBayit HaYehudi party, claimed at a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. “These are ethical people, Zionists, lovers of the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, and it is our moral obligation to help them.”
Israel has started uncovering and destroying Hezbollah’s attack tunnels under the Lebanese border, but destroying the group’s ambitious precision missile project will be much more difficult.
The Israel Defense Forces placed a camera into Hezbollah’s secret cross-border attack tunnel before sunrise on Dec. 4. They pushed it into the Lebanese side, under the Blue Line that separates the two countries. At dawn, two Hezbollah operatives reached the spot on their morning rounds. In the video disseminated by the IDF on Tuesday evening, one of the operatives is seen approaching the camera with suspicion. He stuck his nose in its direction and started to sniff around until something exploded in his face and he ran back the way he’d comVisibilitye.
The timing of Operation Northern Shield, to destroy Hezbollah tunnels leading from Lebanon into Israel, suggests that considerations other than security were behind the decision to launch it.
An Israeli commando from Yahalom, an engineering unit, takes part in a tunnel-hunting drill near Tel Aviv, March 7, 2012.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech to Likud activists on Dec. 2 that was both defensive and combative toward law enforcement authorities. He complained about the supposedly suspicious timing of the police announcement recommending his indictment for taking bribes in Case 4000, coming as it did one day before Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh concluded his term in office.
This week, for the first time, Israel made public its discovery of the tunnel constructed by Hezbollah and reaching into Israel’s sovereign territory. This brought to an end a long period during which a large number of Israelis living in communities adjacent to the Lebanese border reported hearing sounds of digging as well as feeling tremors in the walls of their homes.
Attack tunnels are intended to allow for significant numbers of armed infantry bearing weapons, artillery and supplies, to traverse them within a minimal time span, avoiding Israeli lookouts and thereby gaining the element of surprise.
Last Saturday, Iran’s “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani called Israel “a cancerous tumor” in a speech at the regime’s annual Islamic Unity Conference.
Rouhani’s fellow speakers included deputy Hezbollah chief Naim Qassem and Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh. Both terror bosses called for the destruction of the “cancerous tumor.”
With the predictability of a Swiss clock, the Europeans rushed to condemn Rouhani. The EU in Brussels condemned Rouhani. The German Foreign Ministry condemned Rouhani. And so on and so forth.
We could have done without their statements.
It was clear that with the onset of Operation Northern Shield—meant to neutralize terror tunnels Hezbollah has constructed along the Israel-Lebanon border—some would call it a public relations stunt by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Those who believe the timing of the police’s recommendations in Case 4000—announced on the last day of Roni Alsheikh’s tenure as the police commissioner—was reasonable, somehow complain about the timing of the operation.
On Sunday evening, December 2, the people of Sderot, Israel – a town located a mere kilometer from the Gaza border – gathered to light the first candle of the town’s menorah to commemorate the first day of Hanukkah. Jews around the world celebrate this holiday, which marks the time some two millennia ago when the Jews regained control of Jerusalem and rededicated the Second Temple.
What makes the candle lighting in Sderot worth mentioning is the fact that it is particularly symbolic of how the Jewish spirit looks for ways to turn tragedy into triumph.
This is obviously a short-lived honeymoon that will end the day after the UN General Assembly vote on the anti-Hamas resolution. The morning after the vote, Abbas will wake up to the realization that Hamas was a strange bedfellow indeed.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s hatred of Hamas is far from secret. But Abbas is now defending Hamas because he despises the Trump administration, which has sponsored a UN draft resolution that condemns Hamas. Pictured: Abbas (right) meets with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on May 30, 2007 in the Gaza Strip. (Photo by Abu Askar/PPO via Getty Images)