Christians emerge as key patrons for Jews who move to Israel

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israel’s founding fathers, who etched a commitment to encouraging Jewish immigration into the declaration of independence, might be surprised to find that, seven decades later, the state is relying on Christians to fulfill that promise.

What was once a strictly Jewish-funded mission is increasingly being bankrolled by evangelical Christians. Israel’s Christian allies now fund about a third of all immigrants moving to the country, according to a tally by The Associated Press.

The figures reflect the ever tightening relationship between Israel and its evangelical Christian allies, whom Israel has come to count on for everything from political support to tourism dollars.

“After 2000 years of oppression and persecution, today you have Christians who are helping Jews,” said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, a group that raises money from evangelical Christians for Jewish causes. “This is an amazing thing.”

Israel has long depended on diaspora Jewish communities, especially in the United States, for donations and to lobby their local governments on its behalf. But evangelical communities have become increasingly important.

Israeli charities raise millions of dollars from Christians around the world, and evangelical Christians make up 13 percent of all tourists to Israel. A parliamentary caucus works with evangelical legislators around the world to foster support for Israel.

Israelis can also thank white evangelicals for helping to put President Donald Trump, an ardent supporter of Israel’s nationalist government, in the White House.

“Israel has no better friends, I mean that, no better friends in the world than the Christian communities around the world,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a Christian media summit in Jerusalem last year.

European and American Jewish philanthropists championed immigration to Israel, known as “Aliyah,” or ascending, even before the creation of the state in 1948, by working to settle Jews in what was then Ottoman and British Palestine.

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