The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) have been reaching out to African-American churches to gain support for Israel, and late last month, they received new allies in one of the largest Protestant groups in the country.
The Fellowship took 21 of the top ministers from the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) on a trip to Israel that lasted from Aug. 24-31. Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the founder and president of The Fellowship, escorted COGIC throughout their stay. For half of the ministers, it was their first time visiting the Middle Eastern state.
“The Church of God In Christ cares about Israel and the peace of Jerusalem and all of the Middle East,” said Bishop P.A. Brooks, who serves as COGIC’s first assistant presiding bishop and attended the trip. “We thank Rabbi Eckstein and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews for hosting us, and we look forward to a lasting friendship and enduring partnership as we seek peace together.”
The group visited sites sacred to both the Christian and Jewish faiths, such as the Wailing Wall and Old City of Jerusalem, the Mount of Beatitudes, the Sea of Galilee and several others. The organizations also viewed Israel’s Holocaust memorial and met with Father Gabriel Naddaf, who serves as president of the Israeli Christian Forum and has helped spearhead efforts to enlist Palestinian Christians into the Israel Defense Forces.
COGIC and The Fellowship payed a visit to Ethiopians who migrated to Israel from East Africa and now reportedly receive assistance from The Fellowship. The ministers also met with Eritrean and Sudanese families and provided the children with backpacks.
Prior to the journey, Eckstein toured several African-American churches on behalf of the Fellowship’s campaign to gain the Black church community’s support for peace in Israel. He was pleased that their organization found that backing in COGIC — the largest African-American Pentecostal Denomination, with approximately 6.5 million members in more than 59 countries.
“We were deeply inspired to host our friends in the church as they experienced the beauty and power of the Holy Land for the first time,” Rabbi Eckstein said, according to a press release. “The pastors reminded us that the Jewish people and the State of Israel do not stand alone. Today, we envision a new era in bridge building between the African-American Christian community, Israel and the Jewish people.”