This is a milestone month for me and for CFOIC Heartland. In March of 1998, exactly 22 years ago, I opened the Israel office of CFOIC Heartland and officially launched what was then a revolutionary idea – an organization dedicated to connecting Christians around the world with the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria. The idea was not mine. Although I was quite familiar with Christian culture and beliefs from my years growing up in the United States, I had rarely encountered Christians who loved Israel at that point in my life. But thanks to the vision an American Christian family, I decided to give this a try.
I had long been an advocate for the communities and was passionately committed to doing whatever I could to advance the cause of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria. For years, in between raising my children and working part-time as a lawyer, I had been taking journalists around Judea and Samaria, trying to get our perspective out to a growing skeptical world. On rare occasion, I spoke to a Christian audience or interviewed with a Christian journalist, but I had no idea of the potential of the Christian world for the good of Israel.
You must understand that for me this was a great risk. I had the promise of a Christian individual who I barely knew to pay me a basic salary. And on the basis of what my husband thought was a harebrained scheme, I quit my job and set up an office in my bedroom (I hated the noise of the faxes coming in during the night) and prayed that this would succeed. Remember, I knew nothing and no one in the Christian world. I began by making appointments and getting to know the Christian Zionists who were in Jerusalem.
Somehow, this thing started to take form and grow. Kim Troup, herself just out of Bible College, never having been to Israel nor having met a Jew face to face, also joined the effort in March in the US and we started a partnership that has grown and blossomed beyond anything either of us could have imagined. Today, I am considered one of Israel’s experts in Christian-Jewish relations. We started a movement that many have imitated. And you, our friends and supporters, have been there with us all along. Without you catching the vision and working with us to grow our influence and activity all over the world, none of this could have happened.
Hopefully, someday soon, Israel will apply its sovereignty to the communities in Judea and Samaria. And that will be an incredible milestone. A step that you are part of. Because without the voice that we, you and I, raised for more than 20 years, no American president would have even dreamt of doing something as bold as recognizing Israel’s right to Judea and Samaria.
Thank you for all you have done. And here is to 22 more years of a relationship that was meant to happen!
Sondra Oster Baras
Director, Israel Office
P.S. , I invite you to read the enclosed Nahala newsletter and catch up on all the latest news and happenings in Judea and Samaria. You’ll get to meet Keith Buxton from Australia, and Rabbi Benjy Myers from Migdal Oz. I hope you’ll be inspired and encouraged as you read their stories.