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Christian embassy 'comforts' besieged Israel

By Albert Thompson

Susan Michael is a pioneer. For more than 30 years, Michael has led the U.S. development efforts of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, an international ministry headquartered in the holy city.

She currently serves as the ministry’s U.S. director, a member of the ICEJ’s international board of directors and a keynote speaker at the annual Christian celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem.

Susan’s involvement with the ICEJ began as a graduate student at Jerusalem University College in 1980, the same year that the Christian Embassy was established. Upon completing her masters degree in Judeo-Christian studies, she returned from Israel with a heart to further the embassy’s mission among fellow Americans.

A theology graduate from Oral Roberts University, Michael often is called upon to address complex and sensitive issues such as anti-Semitism, Islam, Jewish-Christian relations and current events in the Middle East to a diverse range of audiences.

She has developed a series of highly accessible educational seminars for local churches, a close working relationship with the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C., and strong connections with the U.S. Jewish community at large.

Michael’s experience working with Arabs, Jews and Christians from many nations and denominational backgrounds has equipped her to handle delicate topics central to an understanding of Israel with extraordinary clarity and grace.

Here is WND’s interview:

WND: What is the mission of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem?

Michael: The ICEJ’s work and witness is founded on the mandate of Isaiah 40:1, “Comfort, comfort my people.” We do this from our headquarters in Jerusalem where we provide support and practical assistance to the people of Israel and through the educational efforts of our branches and representatives in over 60 countries where we challenge churches and governments regarding the significance of Israel and our biblical mandate to bless and support her.

WND: Why was the ICEJ founded?

Michael: The ICEJ was founded in 1980 as an act of solidarity with the Jewish people in recognition of their 3,000-year-old claim and connection to Jerusalem. The Israeli Knesset had passed a law declaring Jerusalem to be the eternal and undivided capital of the state of Israel that year and, in response, protests resounded across the international political spectrum. Under threat of an Arab oil embargo, all 13 national embassies in Jerusalem relocated their premises to Tel-Aviv, causing heartache among the Jewish people.

During the Feast of Tabernacles, Christians gathering from a number of nations responded by opening an International Christian Embassy Jerusalem to represent the millions of Bible-believing Christians who understood the significance of the city of Jerusalem to the Jewish people and stood with them.

WND: Why the name International Christian Embassy Jerusalem?

Michael: The name International Christian Embassy Jerusalem was adapted in response to the closure of the 13 national embassies and was used to signify that we represent the millions of Christians internationally who did not support what their governments were doing but instead stood with Israel and the Jewish people in their claim to Jerusalem.

WND: How is the ICEJ unique among pro-Israel groups?

Michael: What sets the ICEJ apart from the other pro-Israel Christian groups is its unique representative or quasi-diplomatic role in Israel, its extensive experience after a 32-year engagement of the issues surrounding Christian support of Israel and its broad global reach with registered branches in over 60 countries.

The ICEJ is also known for its pioneering role and as such has been a part of historic events such as being the first Christian organization to ever come forward on such an international scale to proclaim Christian support for the Jewish people. In the late 1980s, the German branch of the ICEJ funded one of the very first airlifts of Soviet Jews making their way home to Israel and since then we have assisted over 110,000 more Jews to come home.

Our Feast of Tabernacles celebration is Israel’s largest annual tourist event and since 1980 we have brought over 100,000 Christians to Israel.

We just built the largest assisted-living facility for Holocaust Survivors in Israel, funded mostly by German Christians who understand well the debt owed to these precious people

We also have historic partnerships with the Jerusalem Post as publishers of the Jerusalem Post Christian Edition and with Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Center, with whom we founded Christian Friends of Yad Vashem.

WND: Does the ICEJ have a relationship with the Israeli government and/or other governments?

Michael: The ICEJ enjoys a very warm relationship with the government of Israel. We work closely with Knesset members on various projects in Israel and abroad through the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus. These projects range from social assistance programs within Israel to educational and advocacy events abroad.

Our leadership frequently advocates on behalf of Israel around the world by addressing governments, diplomats and community leaders. We also work with Israeli embassies and missions abroad to help build support for Israel as well as promote Christian tourism and pilgrimage to Israel.

WND: Why does the ICEJ have branches in countries other than Israel?

Michael: The ICEJ is represented internationally through its branch network in over 60 nations of the world. These branches work to increase Christian awareness and support of Israel by stimulating leaders, churches and organizations to become effective influences in their countries on behalf of the Jewish people. We continually raise support for the people of Israel through solidarity rallies, teaching events, conferences and advocacy campaigns in these countries.

The ICEJ also uses radio, print and electronic media to educate Christians all over the world about Israel’s unique calling, political situation and social challenges.

WND: What is the focus of the U.S. branch?

Michael: The U.S. branch of the ICEJ shares the same goals and objectives as the rest of our branches but we have put considerable time and effort into developing educational programming. We have a cadre of highly qualified speakers, astute theologians and academics who have decades of experience and advanced degrees to handle the complex and sensitive issues such as Evangelical-Jewish relations, anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, Islam and the theological basis for Christian support for Israel.

We conduct in-depth seminars on all of these subjects and also have just released a small group study series on biblical Zionism that can be used by church and home groups as well as individuals. These programs are now being used by ICEJ branches worldwide.

The U.S. branch has also developed extensive relations with the American Jewish community and is often called upon to speak or to give advice on Jewish-Evangelical relations.

WND: How did you become involved in Christian Zionist activism?

Michael: I was a college student majoring in the Bible when I went to Israel for a summer study program. I took a course on Biblical Geography of the Bible Lands and another on Modern Israeli Society. The experience completely changed my life. The Bible came alive but so did world history and current affairs.

So, as soon as I finished my bachelor’s degree here in the U.S., I returned to Jerusalem to earn a master’s degree in Judeo-Christian Studies. I had just arrived in 1980 when I attended the first Feast of Tabernacles celebration and the opening of the ICEJ. Once I finished my degree, I then moved to Washington, D.C., on behalf of the Christian embassy in order to help establish a U.S. branch office.

WND: What has been the Jewish reaction to the ICEJ?

Michael: The existence of the ICEJ has been warmly received and applauded by many Jewish people in Israel and around the world. One testament to that are our strategic partnerships with institutions in Israel such as the Jerusalem Post and Yad Vashem. However, we recognize that after the long dark history of Christian anti-Semitism there are still some in the Jewish community who are distrustful but it has been our privilege to tackle this history and begin a new relationship built on mutual respect.

WND: Where does the ICEJ find its greatest level of support?

Michael: It is fair to say that Christian support of Israel is strong in any country where there is a strong Bible-believing Christian presence. Certain areas of the world experiencing revival like Asia, Africa and Latin America have a growing movement in support of Israel that is surpassing that in Europe and even rivaling the USA.

Therefore, the ICEJ is growing worldwide but our strongest branches are still located in countries such as the U.S.A, Norway, Germany, Finland and Switzerland.

WND: What is the most important way the ICEJ comforts God’s people in Israel today?

Michael: I think that the primary source of comfort that we provide to Israel is by speaking up on her behalf and educating Christians around the world about the complex issues she faces. The fact that we are teaching Christians how to recognize anti-Semitism and stand against it today is also a great encouragement to the Jewish people.

In Israel, we have an extensive humanitarian aid outreach that provides practical comfort and assistance to the needy in Israel. ICEJ AID is run by a Christian volunteer team of Hebrew-speaking professionals qualified in the area of social services who over the course of 32 years has touched every city, village and people group in Israel. We partner with municipal authorities, community leaders and charitable institutions to address a vast spectrum of social need, including: the disabled, children in need, youth-at-risk, new immigrants and the elderly. In addition to supporting the Jewish people, 20 percent of ICEJ AID’s funds are allotted to assist the needs of the Arab, Druze and Bedouin minorities who make up a corresponding proportion of Israel’s population.

The ICEJ also takes on special projects such as providing bomb shelters to Sderot, or building an assisted-living facility for Holocaust Survivors.

We continue to assist Jews making aliyah to Israel; we recently funded a flight of Ethiopian Jews and this fall we will be flying the Bnei Menashe home from India.

WND: How can WND readers get involved with the ICEJ?

Michael: They can go to our website www.icejusa.org and sign up for any of our emails and publications as well as make a donation online. They can also phone (615) 895-9830 to find out more about getting involved. We encourage your readers to: