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Michelle Bachman and Yael Eckstein IFCJ President Talk About Faith and the Tragedy in Ukraine

7 Mins read

Yael Eckstein, IFCJ President, and CEO oversees all ministry programs and serves as the international spokesperson for the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

Prior to her present duties, Yael served as Global Executive Vice President, Senior Vice President, and Director of Program Development and Ministry Outreach. Based in Israel with her husband and their four children, Yael is a published writer and a respected social services professional.

Yael Eckstein has contributed to The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, and other publications, and is the author of three books: Generation to Generation: Passing on a Legacy of Faith to Our Children, Holy Land Reflections: A Collection of Inspirational Insights from Israel, and Spiritual Cooking with Yael. In addition, her insights into life in Israel, the Jewish faith, and Jewish-Christian relations can be heard on The Fellowship’s radio program, Holy Land Moments, which airs five times per week on over 1,500 radio stations around the world.

Yael Eckstein has partnered with other global organizations, appeared on national television, and visited with the U.S. and world leaders on issues of shared concern. She has been a featured guest on CBN’s The 700 Club with Gordon Robertson, and she served on a Religious Liberty Panel on Capitol Hill in May 2015 in Washington, D.C., discussing religious persecution in the Middle East. Her influence as one of the young leaders in Israel has been recognized with her inclusion in The Jerusalem Post’s 50 Most Influential Jews of 2020 and The Algemeiner’s Jewish 100 of 2019, and she was featured as the cover story of Nashim (Women) magazine in May 2015.

Born in Evanston, Illinois, outside of Chicago, and well-educated at both American and Israeli institutions – including biblical studies at Torat Chesed Seminary in Israel, Jewish and sociology studies at Queens College in New York, and additional study at Hebrew University in Jerusalem – Yael Eckstein has also been a Hebrew and Jewish Studies teacher in the United States.

Michele Bachmann was the first Republican woman from Minnesota elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. By her third term, she had become a national figure in the Republican Party and a founding member of the congressional Tea Party Caucus.  In 2011 Bachmann declared her candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. In 2014 she chose not to run for re-election and retired at the end of the 113th Congress in 2015.

How can prayer help at a time like this?

Prayer isn’t just a nice little fluffy afterthought that we almost use as magic, make a wish. That isn’t it at all. It is communication with our heavenly Father. And so both Jews and Christians take prayer extremely seriously. And so as seriously as we take the practicality of bringing the supplies, we also take very seriously prayer.

YE: All of this is only possible because of prayer. I keep on having this verse from Psalms going through my mind: “I will answer you on the day that you call.” What I feel is that God is waiting for us to call. He wants us to call out to him. He’s there listening, saying, “I want to give you everything. I want to help you. Just call out to me.” And what I see in this war is that I’ve never seen the world so unified in calling out for something. But I also say, why does it have to take war for us to be unified? Why do they have to take this tragedy for us to call out in unity to God to say save these people?

How is Ukraine different from other countries?

: Ukraine is in a difficult place, a very difficult place. One thing that I was surprised to learn when I was doing some more intensive reading this morning, I discovered that of all of the nations on earth, Ukraine and South Korea have the lowest birth rates. This isn’t just recent. This is going back to 1990 in the fall of the Soviet Union. The population of Ukraine in 1990 was 51.5 million people. Today, the population is 40 million. Can you imagine? Ukraine has lost 20% of its population because people aren’t reproducing.

And so what does that mean for Ukraine? That means the population skews older, sicker, in more need of help, and the younger people who haven’t been born for the last 30 years aren’t there to be the nurses in the hospital, to be the doctors, to be the firefighters, and the police and all the people that are needed in society. So imagine that. The population is diminished because they’re not reproducing.

When you have instability, then you’re less likely to have children in the future. And so that’s why it’s even more imperative for Christians and Jews from around the world, from America, from Israel, from all over the world, because Ukraine has been in such a diminished state. Here’s one other fact I could offer. I also read today that the average income in Ukraine is $300 a month. Think of that. That works out to $3,600 a year. The people in Ukraine are suffering and they need the rest of us across the world who have the means to pour into that nation to help them in the midst of suffering.

How has Israel become a haven for Ukrainians at this time?

: I start thinking as a Jewish woman, as the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor from Germany who lost all of his family in the Holocaust to the Nazis, of the importance of Israel. And when I see how these Jews are escaping and able to come to Israel, I just get the chills down my spine because during the Holocaust, there was nowhere to escape to. They didn’t have Israel to go to. And we know that whenever there’s instability in a country, antisemitism is significantly on the rise.

MB: Well, I’ve been to Ukraine multiple times, and the same with Israel. There is a link, and the link is one of faith. We need to recognize that in Ukraine, there are brothers and sisters who are suffering, and Israel is the light to the nations. God created Israel. We know from the book of Genesis, that Israel was created by God. It is God’s idea with God’s people. He began with his man, Abraham, and he gave the promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants. And for what period of time? Forever. That he would give them a specific land that he outlined in the Bible the geographic dimension forever, and that that nation would be a blessing to the world.

This is a fulfillment of that scripture because Israel is being a blessing to the nations through the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. We are partnering together because we love the same God. We love the same Bible. And we agree with that admonition, if we see someone suffering, we’re going to give them a cup of cold water. We’re going to give them food. We’re going to bind up their broken hearts and their suffering. We’re going to bind up their wounds. And from a practical point of view, how do we do that? We do it through organizations.

How does faith heal in a time of war?

: Thank God, 30 years ago, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews was created so that now it’s strong enough and has enough bandwidth so that when we are genuinely needed, we can bring the faith perspective in, but give the people who are dying and suffering exactly what it is that they need right now, food, water, medical supplies, bind up the wounds, but also bind up the brokenhearted. So often I see you, Yael, in the TV advertisements. Your arms are around the people who are suffering. So yes, it’s physical assets, but it’s also love. The Bible is very clear. It says that his banner over us is love. God is always for us. We have free will. People reject God. But he is for us. And that’s why we need to be his representatives now to demonstrate his love to the people of Ukraine.

YE: It’s such a powerful statement, and I’ve seen it so often when I go and visit the elderly. I bring them a food box and they say, “Thank you so much.” They’re so moved. I bring them medicine and heat. And for many of them, this is what it means to survive. But then I go and hold their hand and hug them. And that’s when they break down crying, so many of these elderly.

MB: That’s right, because they’re alone. They’re alone, and what you’re saying through the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is that you are not alone. God loves you, and we do too and we’re coming together to take care of this deficit that’s there. And that’s what we’re going to continue to do. We aren’t going to allow this to continue without weighing in and helping to the best of our ability.

How do we learn to love each other again?

: I think the best place to go is right back to the Torah in the Jewish tradition, the Bible in the Christian tradition. But we both believe in the same Old Testament, every word. And I believe that the Bible is true. I believe what the Bible says about itself. It says that it is God-breathed, that God gave his word. He gave Torah. Man is on earth. And by that, I mean, mankind. Men and women are on earth. God is in heaven. But Torah is where men and women and God meet because it’s his word that he breathed. It’s his love message to all of us.

And so faith begins by knowing who God is, and he reveals himself in his word. So if we read his word and we believe it to be the truth that it is, it’s true for all people and all times, if we believe that word, that’s where faith rises out. All we have to do is read the Bible and look at all of human history, and we see that the Bible has proved true. The prophecies have proved true. It is the most reliable authoritative book that there is, and that’s why the Bible also teaches us how God loves us and how we are to love each other. And he loves us through each other. That’s why our relationships are so key that we learn to love each other.

And so, again, there’s been schisms through and Christians have been at fault. There have been schisms between the Jew and the Christian. That’s what this organization is trying to narrow, that schism, so that together God wanted, I believe, that God wanted his creation to come together in unity so that together we can be his hands and feet to love others while we’re here on this earth. Life is short. It doesn’t last very long. Unfortunately, there’s evil. Unfortunately, there is sin. But God is the answer because again, his banner over us is love. So it may seem simple, it may seem childlike, but I think if we trust the simplicity of his word, that his word is true, and that we, to the best of our ability, try to follow it with his help, then that will be I think our best recipe for happiness in our personal lives, but also the best recipe for bringing his love to those who are suffering.


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