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 US Treasury added three top Hezbollah figures to its list of sanctioned individuals on Tuesday, including two members of the Lebanese Parliament and a security official responsible for coordinating between Hezbollah and Lebanon’s security agencies.
It was the first time the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control had designated a member of Lebanon’s Parliament under a sanctions list that targets those accused by Washington of providing support to terrorist organizations. Washington has designated Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
South African fans in Cairo celebrating their team’s win over Egypt at the African Cup of Nations. Photo: Reuters / Sumaya Hisham.
Three days after South Africa stunned the world of international soccer by knocking hosts Egypt out of the 2019 African Cup of Nations, the sound of elation remains clearly detectable in the voice of the team’s Jewish midfielder, Dean Furman.
“It was a fantastic victory, just fantastic,” Furman told The Algemeiner during a break in training on Tuesday, as South Africa prepared for its crucial quarterfinal game against Nigeria, another of the continent’s toughest sides, tomorrow.
Pieter van Oordt, left, with his brother, Roger, at the Israel
For the second time in recent history, a Dutch Christian organization dedicated to supporting Israel has gone head-to-head with the government. With their family tradition of belief in Israel that preceded the state of Israel by almost one hundred years, it seems unlikely that the van Oordts are about to back down, no matter what the odds.
Last month, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy made a request from the management of the Israel Products Center (IPC) to ensure they were in compliance with regulations adopted in 2015 by the European Commission requiring products made by Jewish owned companies in Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights, and sections of Jerusalem to be labeled in a manner indicating their origins.
Studies have shown that dairy cows contribute large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, caused by the organisms living in their microbiomes.
Genetically modifying cows may help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and feed world populations, a new study led by Prof. Itzhak Mizrahi of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev suggests.
“Our findings are both a major breakthrough for basic science and will have a positive impact on two major challenges facing the international community for the foreseeable future: climate change and food security,” Mizrahi said.
The decision by IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi to promote Brig. Gen. Ofer Winter reflects his future political aspirations.
Incoming Israeli Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi walks out at the end of a handover ceremony where he replaces Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel, Jan. 15, 2019.
Israel has its own version of Napoleon’s famous saying, “Every soldier carries a marshal’s baton in his pack.” In these parts, every general carries a prime minister’s baton — or at least that of a defense minister — in his pack
As Islamist Watch has pointed out many times before, Islam is enormously diverse – containing many competing schools of theology, schools of jurisprudence, sects, ethnicities, cultures and mysticisms. Islamism is also not a single force; it comprises dozens of (both) competing and collaborating radical ideologies.
One of the most intriguing divisions, then, within both American Islam and Islamism of late has been growing dissent over the question of liberalism.
Right after Trump’s inauguration, I ran an article about how incredibly fake the news coverage was about his inauguration. (Those reading my site know I’m not a big Trump fan, but credit where credit is due and calling fake where calling fake is due.) The media was nothing short of spectacularly fake in the news it contrived that week on CNN, the New York Times and the other major fake media, and they mostly got away with it.
It wasn’t condescension or contempt. Recent remarks by former Mossad head Shabtai Shavit reek of racism. That is the proper way to frame them, calling them anything else is letting him off easy. In its classic, formal sense, racism is when a certain social sector perceives itself as superior because of clear racial criteria. Shavit represents an updated version of racism that doesn’t require ethnicity or religion as proof of a defect – you can call it “essential racism.”
Little Napoleon Barak is going to save Israeli Democracy? What a bunch of claptrap Orwellian doublespeak.
Well let’s check out history. How well did the original Napoleon save France’s democratic revolution against the monarchy?
Hmm, if I recall he crowned himself emperor!
For years, the pundits have been telling us that Israeli democracy is in danger because of the Arab birthrate, or because of the Jewish nation-state law, or because of the debates over the powers of Israel’s High Court.
I wonder if they will recognize the danger posed by the 10 left-wing American Jewish organizations that have formed a new umbrella organization, the essential purpose of which is to undermine Israeli democracy.