Engage Israel: Youth Called to Help Jews Make Aliyah

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- For decades, Christians from around the world have supported Israel and helped Jewish people return to the Land. But will the next generation continue the vision?  One group is trying to keep that vision alive.

In the early 1990s, Ebenezer Operation Exodus began bringing immigrants from the Former Soviet Union back to Israel by ship. Now, they're bringing young people on a unique trip called Engage Israel to give them a chance to experience Israel and God's plan for the Jewish people and the Land.

International Young Adults Program Coordinator of Ebenezer-Operation Exodus International Andy Ernst says 'Engage' is intended to help people 18 to 35 years old understand Israel, prophecy and aliyah -- Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel.

"My passion is to see young people getting trained and equipped here in Israel and being sent back to the nations and them asking God in their nation 'what can I do? How can I stand up for Israel? What will you give me as a task?'" Ernst told CBN News.

"We kind of pack their spiritual backpack with a solid understanding of Israel as of today, from the past and in the future and to go home with that understanding of the Bible is alive," Ernst said.

Adventure of a Lifetime

"Moni," 30, is from an Asian nation and did not want to be identified by his real name.

"I heard about Israel. I read about Israel," said Moni, adding that it's a different experience to actually be here.

"You know getting to see the people, getting to hear from the people their story and going to different places, seeing things, seeing things for myself," Moni explained.

The two-week trip to Israel is billed as an "adventure of a lifetime."  The participants hike the Golan Heights; slap mud on and float in the Dead Sea, ride camels in the desert and learn about the Holocaust.

Jonathan Sheard, 27, from the United Kingdom, said they're tired but there is so much to see and do.

"It's been a brilliant time of study as well as reflection as well as site-seeing as well as relaxation," Sheard said. "But it really has opened my eyes to a lot of things I didn't know and helped me to learn a lot more about myself and especially about the Lord."

Rolling Up Their Sleeves

Besides all the touring, the group takes on service projects like cleaning up a churchyard or the streets of one of the oldest cities in the world, Jericho, where they also meet with local Arab believers.

They also spend time with young Messianic Israelis and last summer helped out at a summer camp for Israeli children and played with Ethiopian children at an absorption center for new immigrants.

They spend time getting to know what it's like to be a soldier in today's Israel.

"Meeting the soldiers was impressive because they were really, really young," said Mikela Monachon, 17, from Switzerland. "We gave them presents and it was just [incredible]."

CBN News caught up with an Engage Israel tour at Ein Harod where the Bible says Gideon chose his army.

According to Melissa McCray, a 21-year-old American from Arkansas, prayer also plays a role in their time here.

"It's not really just here to have fun. We're here with a purpose," McCray said. "One thing that we've been doing, which I've never done before is we have a prayer chain every night. And so we take turns praying throughout the night for Israel."

Spreading Word to the Nations 

Last summer about 100 people from 20 nations participated in the two-week Engage Israel tour.

"The idea is not as many as possible but from as many different nations as possible so the Word would go back to those nations and young people would take it to other young people and multiply the understanding of Israel, of Bible prophecy, of our call as Christians to stand with Israel and to help them home," Ernst explained.

Katie Stucken, 31, is the Engage Representative for South East Asia Oceania.

"I love this Land, love this country and understanding of what the Lord is doing here in Israel and amongst His people is very much on my heart and I really want to see in my generation raised up to understand that also," Stucken said.

"One of the fundamental parts of that is coming to the Land and putting your feet on the ground and that changes something in your heart and it shifts something in your walk with Jesus and I believe that's really important," she added.

One focus of the trip is on facilitating aliyah.

Edgar Deleon, 26, from Monterey, Mexico, says the most important part of the trip for him was the teachings and seeing how Bible prophecies like aliyah are being fulfilled.

"And how blessed we are that we can get to see that with our eyes…how the people of Israel [are] coming back to the land that the Lord has promised,"Deleon said.                                                                                                                                               
And what will they tell others when they go home?

"I will tell others how great it was just because it's amazing," said Monachon.

"To stand up for Israel," said Deleon.

"Come themselves. Experience God in the Holy Land," said McCray.

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Julie Stahl and Chris Mitchell

Julie Stahl and Chris Mitchell

CBN News Jerusalem Bureau

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