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The headline read: “Jews for Jesus missionaries support pro-terror Palestinian organization.” A libelous collection of disinformation followed, released February 21, 2016, by an Internet news service Jerusalem Online. Maybe by the time you read this they will have retracted the false claims.

Many people believed the report without questioning it. But I’m so thankful for those who asked us about the article, or responded to our statement with comments such as, “Wow, you would think that a legitimate news outlet would interview those accused before releasing such a story. Their accusation is ludicrous!”

Ludicrous indeed. We Jews for Jesus love and support Israel with all our hearts! I know that many of you do as well.

But let me ask you, what does the word “Israel” mean to you? Remember, Israel is a people. Israel is a place. And Israel is a political entity. We love all three, but not in the same way.

The people of Israel are physical descendants of Abraham Isaac and Jacob wherever they may live, be it in the United States, Israel or anyplace else. We love the Jewish people in part because they are our parents, our grandparents, our aunts and our uncles. But we also love the Jewish people because God loves them and longs for them to be in relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. We echo the apostle Paul: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved” (Romans10:1).

We also love Israel the place. From Dan to Beersheba this holy land still vibrates with the presence of God, and it is the very place where Christ will return in glory. But Israel is also a place in great need of the Savior and His transforming grace. Every social and spiritual problem that we have in the United States is also found there—substance addiction, sex trafficking, abortion—you name it. That is why we’ve begun partnering with churches who want to help through short-term mission projects, in cooperation with “the Israel Ministry Network.”*

Our commitment to Israel can be seen by our missionary team there—the largest of any Jews for Jesus branch in the world. In addition to staff, many of us have family and friends there. My parents, for example, are Israeli citizens who’ve lived in Jerusalem since 1989.

But what about Israel the political entity? I love Israel like I love my own country, the United States of America. I am loyal, yet I sometimes find myself opposed to—even angry about—some decisions our government makes. I’m not an Israeli citizen, yet I feel a strong connection so I experience joy and grief depending on current situations and decisions in or about Israel.

All of our missionaries in the Land are Israeli citizens and most have served in the Israel military. They, too, love their country as loyal citizens, which does not mean agreeing with everything the government says or does. But remember this—Jews for Jesus is not a political organization. We are focused on one thing and one thing only, and that is preaching the gospel. In order to maintain that singular focus we have to avoid entangling ourselves in political issues.

The words of Zechariah to the people of Israel still stand true today: “for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye” (Zechariah 2:8). The rest of the book proves that God’s loyal love was not based on Israel’s overall performance, but on His unfailing grace.

May 11-12 is Israel’s 68th birthday—a great time to celebrate and to remember that the Word of God has not changed when it comes to those who bless Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 12:3). If you aren’t sure how to do that, you might start by praying for the peace of Jerusalem. Consider supporting efforts like ours to proclaim the gospel of peace in Israel. And let me just say, if you have never visited the Land of Israel, what are you waiting for? Go and enjoy the biblical sites, or maybe sign on for a short-term missions project. What will your commitment to Israel be going forward?

—David Brickner, executive director

This is a newsletter article; a fuller version will be available in print this May. If you don¹t receive our newsletter, we hope you will get your free subscription now. Your prayers are really important in this and other matters related to God¹s work among the Jewish people.

*The Israel Ministries Network helps establish long term, gospel-centered partnerships between churches and a variety of ministries in Israel by organizing short-term missions trips. For more information see http://www.israelnetwork.org.