“Blessed is Hashem from Tzion, He who dwells in Yerushalayim. Hallelujah.” Psalms 135:21 (The Israel Bible™)
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (“The Fellowship”) is breaking ground on its new Jerusalem headquarters, a multi-million dollar building that will provide a home in the Holy Land for visiting Christians.
In the context of what has become known as “the golden age for Jewish-Christian relations,” the new center will be located next to the planned U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, a move which many evangelical Christians in the United States strongly supported.
The building project, which will likely take three years, is also located exactly in between the Western Wall and Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, according to early Christian traditions.
The headquarters will primarily be used as an educational facility in which Christians will learn about Jesus’ life in Jerusalem and the Jewish roots of the Christian faith, including baptism, which some say is based in the Jewish tradition of mikveh, a ritual bath.
According to Yael Eckstein, the Fellowship’s global executive vice president, the building is intended to be “inspirational to both the Christian visitors and beneficial for the people of Israel.”
For Christian visitors, the project hopes to provide information needed to come to Israel and have an inspirational experience, see where the Christian forefathers walked, and see the holy sites, said Eckstein.
For Israel’s benefit, “Christians will pass onto the next generation support for Israel as a core principle, and we will be giving them tools to go back to respective homelands and be ambassadors for Israel,” she said.
While many Jews used to be skeptical of Christian support for Israel and the Jewish people, in light of the strong Evangelical Christian pressure that led U.S. President Trump to formally recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and relocate the embassy, Eckstein maintained that “Christian support is being received in a very appreciative way.”
“The embassy is a prime example and guiding light for everyone of where we could go if the Jewish people reach out our hands and strengthen Christian support for Israel,” Eckstein said.
Christian support for Israel includes donations, but goes beyond funding the Jewish people and Israel, according to Eckstein. She said Christians invest in Israel, are the largest segment of Israeli tourists, and provide political support for the Jewish state.
“The American embassy being moved to Jerusalem is a tangible example of the power that evangelical pro-Israel Christians have to help Israel in a positive way,” she said.
While the older generation of evangelical Christians is largely pro-Israel, Eckstein maintained that it is not a given that so too will the younger generation of Christians be as pro-Israel. A recent study by LifeWay Research found that younger evangelical Christians are less likely to support Israel than their older co-religionists.
“Jews have come to recognize that Christians are Israel’s greatest friends and the biggest fear is losing them with the next generation,” Eckstein said, noting that she hopes the project will reach the younger generation. She said the Christian community has been going through a similar “soul searching” as the Jewish community, as it pertains to passing values onto the next generation.
Young Christians will be given the opportunity to volunteer at Pantry Packers, a program run by Colel Chabad that organizes food packages for needy families in Israel. IFCJ supports the program, enabling Christians “to take part in doing good in Israel, strengthening in Israel, and fulfilling that Biblical mandate to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and sheltering the homeless,” Eckstein said.
Visitors will also be able to take month-long courses for college credits, as The Fellowship is in discussion with some Christian seminaries in the U.S. that may want to partner to offer educational credits in Israel.
Other features of the new building will include an educational video, teaching resources, a rabbis room for sermons, staff offices, a garden, gift shop, a rooftop overlooking the Old City and Bethlehem, and a studio that pastors can use to record and preach directly to their congregants.
In the meantime, before the building is finished, The Fellowship will continue to develop relationships with seminaries and provide them with pro-Israel curriculum and lectures.
“While we will continue to use many different avenues of reaching the next generation,” said Eckstein, “the building will consolidate all of these avenues into one.”