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.
BDS movement founder Omar Barghouti (YouTube)
Omar Barghouti, founder and leader of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, was denied entry to the United States on Wednesday.
He was informed by airline staff at Ben-Gurion International Airport in Israel that U.S. immigration officials told the American consul in Tel Aviv to block him from boarding the flight.
A State Department official told NPR, “Visa records are confidential under U.S. law; therefore, we cannot discuss the details of individual visa cases.”
The US Capitol Building. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Four of Israel’s most dedicated supporters in the US Congress on Friday expressed concern that the Jewish state may annex the West Bank, as results from Israel’s election earlier this week confirmed the likelihood of a right-wing government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“As strong, life-long supporters of Israel, a U.S.-Israel relationship rooted in our shared values, and the two-state solution, we are greatly concerned by the possibility of Israel taking unilateral steps to annex the West Bank,” said a joint statement from Democratic representatives Eliot Engel (NY), Chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs,
The final image sent by Israeli spacecraft Beresheet before it crash-landed on the moon. Photo: courtesy of Space IL.
Astronauts and scientists at the US space agency NASA commended the Israeli non-profit organization SpaceIL for its efforts afyer its spacecraft “Beresheet” failed to land safely on the moon on Thursday.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said, “While NASA regrets the end of the SpaceIL mission without a successful lunar landing of the Beresheet lander, we congratulate SpaceIL, the Israel Aerospace Industries and the state of Israel on the incredible accomplishment of sending the first privately funded mission into lunar orbit.”
“Der ewige Jude” – “Theeternal Jew” movie poster . (photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)
The lead article Thursday on the opinion page of the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper compared Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the 1940 Nazi antisemitic movie The Eternal Jew.
The article was titled in the paper “The Eternal Netanyahu” in a word play in connection with director Fritz Hippler’s antisemitic pseudo-documentary, based on the medieval legend of the wandering Jew, that served as a cinematographic justification for the Holocaust.
As an orthopedic surgeon for 30 years in Washington, D.C. I see patients from all over the world and from every walk of life and what has become clear to me is that everyone is fundamentally the same. As a rule, I shy away from political or religious discussions with my patients as they have no bearing on their care. But occasionally, the discussions are thrust on me.
Several years ago I treated a professor of political science from a local university and had established a good rapport with him. On his last visit before saying goodbye he popped a question.
It is well-known by some and wholly ignored by others that Islam has a long, sad history of antisemitism, a bigotry that originated in the seventh century CE (the first Islamic century) and has grown more vicious in the 21st. Combined with an almost universal anti-Zionism and bolstered by many on the political “left”, it is today the most ubiquitous and deadliest form of Jew-hatred. It takes the form, not just of insults, boycotts, and lawfare, but of wars, terrorist attacks, and calls for the destruction of the Jewish state and the genocide of the Jews.
Amman – The streets in Amman’s Jebel al-Weibdeh are crowded in the early evening with sounds of young people looking for a place to relax. Coffee shops intermix with art studios selling crafts for tourists. At the Maestro bar and restaurant, a band is getting ready for a live performance. The lights are dimmed and someone has put “no smoking” signs on the tables – they are out of place with the ash trays. Apparently, Monday has jam sessions and anyone can bring their instrument to join in. But it’s Wednesday.
A few of my readers recently asked me to explain the difference between “Palestinians” living inside and outside of Israel’s borders. Who are the “Palestinians” anyway? First, see below:
“Palestine” does not exist today as a nation-state, but at multiple times in history, including the present, it has been one of the names of a place. The Romans, recalling the defunct Philistines – non-Arab Sea People – coined it after defeating [Jewish general] Bar Kochba in 135 CE to disassociate what had been Judaea from Jews.
President Trump’s peace plan for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict surfaced two years ago and to this day – remarkably – only he and a handful of aides know its precise details. A stream of leaks, however, contains enough internal consistency that their collation, supplemented by conversations with administration officials, provides a plausible outline of the plan’s contents.
On March 31, a South Bend grandma brought her grandson to the hospital. The 11-month-old baby boy had been shot. His grandmother’s car had also taken fire. It was another early morning in South Bend.
Around the same time, Mayor Buttigieg, was toting up the $7 million in donations from his charm offensive as his bid for the 2020 Democrat nomination got underway. The national media never bothered reporting the shooting of an 11-month-old boy in the city he was supposed to be running, but instead confined its coverage of South Bend matters to a publicity stunt wedding officiated by Buttigieg.
The Palestinian students are being targeted because of their political affiliations and not because of any crime they committed.
While the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are busy beating up each other’s supporters, “pro-Palestinian” activists on US and Canadian university campuses are busy blaming Israel for Palestinian woes.
As an American Christian who has had the privilege of working in senior-level positions for four US presidents and who has enjoyed a close association with three of Israel’s prime ministers, I believe it is my obligation to provide the Israeli people with my views. I think my viewpoint is important because a vast number of American Evangelical Christians believe as I believe. In addition, Evangelical Christians are, without question, Israel’s strongest supporters in the United States.
Does Case 3000 – known as the submarine affair – prove that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is guilty of doing something illegal? Well, all Likud supporters believe with absolute confidence that it’s a political plot. Netanyahu’s opponents, however, believe – also with absolute confidence – that it’s the largest corruption case to ever occur in the State of Israel.