Standing with Israel and the Jewish People for more than 70 Years
By Deborah Markowitz Solan
“I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3, NIV). Those words, spoken by God to Abram, drive the mission of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc. (FOI).
“Our resolve is to give Israel never-ending support,” said FOI’s Executive Director and President Jim Showers, D.Min. “The Bible I treasure was penned and preserved by Jewish people, and the Savior in whom I put my faith is a Jewish Savior. I am endeared and indebted to the Jewish people. The priority of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry will always be to bless the Jewish people because God loves them with an everlasting love. And we believe it is God’s expectation that we should do likewise.”
Sophia is almost bedridden. Every month she receives a small pension that covers rent, telephone, and medicine, leaving little for everyday expenses. She never saw a Bible until a Friends of Israel worker gave her one. That’s because she lives in St. Petersburg, Russia, and grew up under Communism. A Friends of Israel staff member diligently visited Sophia for three years, helping with her physical needs and teaching her God’s Word. Today Sophia has the joy of knowing the Savior in response to the genuine love of Friends of Israel. “There are so many people like Sophia who need to know,” Dr. Showers said, that “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7, NIV).
How It All Began
God, as He often does, brought something good out of evil as “The Friends of Israel Refugee Relief Committee” was established in 1938 by a group of Christian pastors and businesspeople in Philadelphia who heard the cries of Europe’s Jews under Nazi Germany. Later renamed “The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc.,” it is important to remember that the nation of Israel did not even exist in 1938!
Sensing the imminent danger facing Jews in Poland, Dr. Victor Buksbazen (the ministry’s first full-time executive director) left his beloved homeland in 1938 to come to the West. Had he not done so, he would have been among the group of intellectual Poles murdered by the Nazis in Poland. Fluent in Polish, English, Hebrew, Yiddish, German, Russian, and Latin, he received a Bachelor of Divinity degree at the University of Warsaw, where he became an assistant professor of Hebrew and Old Testament. Dr. Buksbazen led the ministry for 33 fruitful years.
More than 70 years after its founding, “The Friends of Israel is a worldwide Christian ministry communicating biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, while fostering solidarity with the Jewish people.”
The Growth of Anti-Semitism
Unfortunately, the vast majority of the world strongly opposes Israel and the Jewish people, and that opposition is growing. Resentment towards the Jews is nothing new, Dr. Showers said, as many people blame the Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus. But he is concerned about how rapidly anti-Semitism is increasing throughout the world, including in the United States.
Christian theologians, as far back as the second century, he said, taught that the new covenant in Christ (the Church) has replaced Israel in God’s plan. But he explained that the Bible says that God’s covenant with the Jews is everlasting. In Genesis 17:7, God told Abram that the covenant is permanent: “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come” (emphasis added).
Paul affirmed the permanence of the covenant in Romans 11:2 when he said, “God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew” (emphasis added). Paul reinforced his statement later in verse 29 of the same chapter: “They are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable” (emphasis added).
Terrorism a Constant Threat in Israel
“No one knows more about the peril of terrorism than the people of Israel. What we in the West have been experiencing recently has been a way of life for them since the State of Israel’s inception in 1948,” Dr. Showers said. “When I visited the Israeli town of Sderot, located less than a mile from the Gaza Strip, I met with the police chief. He showed me a collection of rocket fragments gathered off the streets of Sderot in the days when missiles strike regularly. He spoke of his young son and family who barely escaped getting hit when a missile exploded within yards of his apartment complex.” In response to this great need, Friends of Israel supplied nine missile shelters through their Israel Relief Fund. When an alarm goes off in Sderot indicating a missile is heading their way, people have fewer than 30 seconds to find a shelter. They now have nine more options that provide safety.
The Connection Between Social Justice and Anti-Semitism
Dr. Showers is also concerned about the growing movement, especially among young people, known as “social justice.” “Of course,” Dr. Showers said, “we should personally be just and love justice; however, my concern is when social justice becomes the gospel. Jesus instructed us to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19) and not to go and fix the world. Only He, the Messiah, can do that by bringing everlasting justice to this world.”
The emphasis on social justice is leading many people to turn against the nation of Israel, he said. Israel is portrayed as taking advantage of Arabs and should therefore be shunned by the nations. This rally cry can be heard on many college campuses throughout the United States and even among churches, he added.
“By doing this, the church is in danger of touching the apple of God’s eye,” Dr. Showers said. “We certainly don’t subscribe to the fact that everything Israel does is perfect, but Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East where people are free to practice their religion whatever it is.”
The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry strongly believes that the regathering of the Jewish people in their land and the establishment of the sovereign nation of Israel in 1948 are the literal fulfillment of biblical prophecy. “We live in a world in which many people don’t understand Israel or the Jewish people. This makes our ministry to churches even more important. It is important to teach people the past, present, and future of the Jewish people and Israel,” he said.
The Jewish Roots of the Church
Understanding Israel’s role in the end times is essential for Christians, Dr. Showers said. “In Israel, we find the way that God will fulfill His plan on the earth. In Zechariah 8 we learn that one day Israel will lead the world in worship of the Messiah. We also understand that ours is a spiritual battle and that much of Satan’s strategy has involved the nation of Israel.”
To help people study the Bible and understand its Jewish roots, FOI operates an Institute of Jewish Studies, which it established in the late 1980s. Six years ago, courses became available online. They are taught as six-week modules and include such courses as “Messianic Prophecies,” “Making Christ Known,” and “God’s Unique Relationship with Israel.”
The Friends of Israel staff are also available to guide church congregations through the Feasts of Deliverance. “It is virtually impossible to understand biblical truth if you don’t understand the context, culture, and customs of the Older Testament,” Dr. Showers said. “All of the feasts of Israel teach about redemption; the tabernacle is a foreshadow of Christ.”
The Breadth of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry
The Friends of Israel’s many aspects of ministry include Israel My Glory magazine, The Friends of Israel Today radio program, national conferences and regional events, free resources, The Institute of Jewish Studies, tours to Israel, short-term volunteer opportunities in Israel, and an Israel relief fund.
Israel My Glory Magazine
“Israel My Glory magazine is the most effective tool we have in building solidarity with the Jewish people,” Dr. Showers said. “It helps to explain the Bible in a way everyone can understand.” It has a readership of more than half a million people in 151 countries. Each issue has a specific focus, some of which have included archeology, the Holocaust, and various books of the Bible. The Friends of Israel offers a free subscription to the magazine for one year (six issues).
The most popular magazine feature comes from the writings of Zvi Kalisher, who was just six weeks away from his 11th birthday when the Nazis invaded Poland. In an act of desperation, his mother left him at an orphanage, hoping to ensure his survival. What ensued was a six-year battle to stay one step ahead of the Nazis. After miraculously surviving the war and finding no trace of his parents or siblings, he left Europe for Israel, but was interned in a detention camp in Cyprus. When he finally arrived in Israel, he was conscripted into the fledgling army and fought for the infant Jewish nation. After the war, he ventured to Jerusalem where he met a woman from Switzerland who gave him a Bible with the New Testament upon the promise he would read it. In a matter of weeks, he bowed his knee and received Jesus as his Messiah and Savior. He then devoted his life to sharing the good news of Jesus with anyone who would listen and to writing the accounts of his 50 years of encounters. Following his death in 2014, the column title was changed from “Zvi” to “Apples of Gold.”
The Friends of Israel Today Radio Program
The “Apples of Gold” magazine column is so popular, Dr. Showers said, that it is now included as a dramatic reading at the end of The Friends of Israel Today radio program, which is broadcast on more than 300 radio stations worldwide. The program, which can also be heard on the ministry’s website — www.foi.org — includes Bible teaching, interviews, and up-to-date analysis on what is happening in Israel and the Middle East.
Tours of Israel
Since 1977, FOI has been leading tours to Israel. The “Up to Jerusalem” tour features soul-stirring visits to ancient biblical sites, interaction with the people and places of modern Israel, the opportunity to hear from Israeli officials, and a communion service at the Garden Tomb.
The ORIGINS tour, for young adults ages 18 through 28, includes visits to the City of Jerusalem, the Garden of Gethsemane, and many other places. Participants also help archaeologists sift through rubble taken from the Temple Mount. In addition, they can swim in the Dead Sea, Mediterranean Sea, and Sea of Galilee; learn about the Word of God through on-site instruction; and spend almost half their time doing volunteer work for the State of Israel.
“Many Israelis have told me that they really wonder if anyone cares about them anymore. They thank us for coming,” Dr. Showers said, adding that the tours help provide income and jobs to Israelis and also help the economy. “We are communicating to them that there are people in the world who really love them,” Dr. Showers added.
Short-Term Volunteer Opportunities
The Hesed Project is available for adults who wish to volunteer alongside Israelis doing manual labor such as cleaning equipment or facilities, organizing storage areas, landscaping and gardening, and a host of other tasks. Participants work with, and at the direction of, Israelis — doing whatever they may assign.
Israel Relief Fund
The ministry’s Israel Relief Fund exists to help Israel’s Red Cross and a variety of humanitarian needs, such as Operation Lifeshield to provide Israel’s threatened communities with air raid shelters and Heart to Heart, which helps to maintain a blood supply for the people of Israel by supporting Israel’s National Blood Bank.
Israel: Meeting the Needs of the World
Imagine a country the size of New Jersey, 60 percent of which is desert. That country, Israel, has used every obstacle it faces to make advances to not only help its own country, but the entire world.
- An Israeli scientific breakthrough is helping drought-stricken California and nations throughout the world turn saltwater from the seas into drinking water.
- Israeli scientists have developed a bionic eye for people born blind.
- Israeli innovations are helping combat Ebola.
- Israeli technology developed the Pentium processor, the cell phone, email, voice mail and a myriad of other devices.
- Israel defense forces assist countries impacted by disaster by setting up a field hospital with advanced medical equipment, intensive care units, delivery rooms and more.
- And Israel even helps its enemies. Rambam Hospital in Haifa treats Syrian victims of its own civil war. Israel also regularly aids Palestinian children and citizens with medical care in Israeli hospitals, at no cost to them.