(May 9, 2018 / JNS) The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (or “The Fellowship”) is breaking ground on its brand-new Jerusalem headquarters, a multimillion-dollar building that will provide a home in Israel for visiting Christians.
In the context of what has become known as “the golden age for Jewish-Christian relations,” the center will be located near the planned U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, a move that many evangelical Christians in the United States strongly supported.
The building project on Chanoch Albeck Street—called the Global Fellowship House—will likely take about three years to complete, and is sandwiched in between the Western Wall and Bethlehem.
The headquarters will primarily be used as an educational facility, where Christians can learn about the Jewish roots of their faith, including baptism, which some say is based in the Jewish tradition of mikvah, the 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 visitors, the project aims to provide the information needed for an inspirational experience, seeing where Christian forefathers walked and exploring 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 a sizeable number of Jews were once very skeptical of Christian support for Israel and the Jewish people (and indeed, many still are), that sentiment has changed through the years as evangelical Christians have proved to be good friends and strong supporters of the Jewish state, politically and financially. Of late, that has been coupled with pressure by the community to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to do so in December—on top of a warming of relations with the Jewish state and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—was championed by evangelical Christians, backed by the majority of the Jewish population in Israel and abroad.
Passing the torch to younger generations
“Jews have come to recognize that Christians are great friends of Israel, and a big fear is losing them with the next generation,” Eckstein said, noting that she hopes that the project will reach those in their 20s and 30s. She said the Christian community has been going through a similar “soul-searching” as the Jewish community as it pertains to charitable giving and passing family traditions onto the next generation.
Young Christians will be given the opportunity to volunteer at Pantry Packers, a program run by Colel Chabad—Israel’s oldest charitable organization—which packs and distributes food for the hungry 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 shelter the homeless,” said Eckstein.
Visitors will also be able to take month-long courses for college credits. The Fellowship is in discussion with some Christian seminaries in the United States for potential joint educational partnerships in Israel, working to provide them with pro-Israel curriculum and lectures.
Other features of the new building will include educational resources, a rabbi’s room for sermons, staff offices, a gift shop, garden, rooftop overlooking the Old City and Bethlehem, and a studio that pastors can use to address congregants and record those talks.
“While we will continue to use many different avenues of reaching the next generation,” affirmed Eckstein, “the building will consolidate these avenues into one.”