Interview With David Parsons of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem: Jesus Is the King of Christians and Jews

David Parsons
David Parsons
By Karen Luo, Katherine GuoMay 22nd, 2024

Editor’s note: Founded in 1980, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) serves an evangelical response for healing Israel and the Jewish people, participating in the Aliyah movement that brings Jews back to their homeland, celebrating the Feast of Tabernacle, and building bomb shelters. In an exclusive interview with China Christian Daily, David Parsons, ICEJ’s vice president and senior spokesman, talked about their work, the relations between Judaism and Christianity, the October 7 attack, as well as the Holy Land tourism.

China Christian Daily: Please introduce yourself and ICEJ.

David Parsons: I'm David Parsons, vice president and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. We've been based in Israel's capital, Jerusalem since 1980. ICEJ is considered as the world's largest pro-Israel Christian organization because we have branch offices and representatives in around 90 countries and a reach into probably 180 countries around the world.

We put on the Feast of Tabernacles, which is the largest Christian event in Israel every year. We help with the Aliyah movement that we’ve brought back around 185000 Jews to their ancient homeland. we do a lot of charitable work in the land, especially right now with Holocaust survivors and also relief aid during the crisis of the war.

China Christian Daily: What are some of the most successful or impactful education and aid projects conducted by ICEJ?

David Parsons: Starting in 1980, the Feast of Tabernacles is a project of the ICEJ. This educational feast draws Christians back to the Jewish roots of our faith. It's a biblical holiday, a Jewish holiday the churches around the world never really celebrated, but the prophet Zecharius has a vision that one day all the nations will celebrate this feast in Jerusalem. We believe that day is coming and start celebrating. There will be a full larger fulfillment of it once the Lord is here. That's been a very successful effort because now there are Christian celebrations of the Feast of tabernacles all over the world.

We've brought over 185,000 Jews back to the land. These people are now having families and raising children here. We've been consistent in helping with about 10% of all the Jews who moved to Israel every year. We're very proud of that, and it's been a big success.

Also, we are doing a lot to help with Holocaust survivors. They are getting old, and the last of them will probably pass away within the next decade, in their 80s and 90s now, some are over 100. So we’ve made a special project with a retirement home in Haifa where we take care of everything for around 65 Holocaust survivors. Christians can adopt survivors through us.

Another big project is helping Israel with bomb shelters and other things they need to protect themselves. We've donated over 200 bomb shelters and also renovated hundreds of existing shelters. During this Israel–Hamas war war, we've also donated four ambulances and medical equipment of helmets and protective vests for first responders to help them do their work in war zones.

China Christian Daily: Regards ICEJ's future plans, what do you consider the highest priority?

David Parsons: Our calling is to be a ministry of comfort to Israel, to stand at their side like Ruth did in the Bible with Naomi as she's coming back to the land with nothing and to keep our eyes on our redeemer presented as a picture of Boas the kinsman redeemer. Is it a prophetic picture of where we are today, that we represent a church that has a heart for Naomi, She is a picture of Israel coming back to her homeland with nothing and God restoring everything to her.

It's interesting that Naomi wanted her land back and Ruth a new husband, and they both got exactly what they wanted through one person, Boaz, who's a type of Messiah. So all things will be reconciled and restored in Jesus. We're just standing at Israel’s side, no matter what they go through, until they reach that destiny.

China Christian Daily: How do you understand the “Israel” and “new Israel” mentioned by Paul in Romans 9 to 11? What kind of friendship has ICEJ fostered between Christians and the Jewish people? Why should Christians help Israel?

David Parsons: Paul admits in Romans 9 that Israel is a bit of a mystery. Gentile believers in Christ are grafted into Israel through Christ, and we are adopted in as sons of Abraham. We are members of the spiritual Israel, the one household of the redeemed, which was birth by natural Israel. Natural Israel was always and will always have that calling on them with regards to birthing and nurturing spiritual Israel.

We still draw strength and faith from the stories of Abraham, Moses, and David and all the Israel patriarchs in the Bible. Eventually, Paul promises that all of natural Israel, the nation of Israel, or the Jewish people, will all become part of spiritual Israel, the one household of the redeemed. So we respect the enduring election over Israel even as we are confident in God's calling and election over our own lives as Christians.

Because the Jews had rejected Jesus, so many generations of Christians rejected the Jews. This teaching of contempt and hostility that Christians had towards Jews produced a lot of bad fruit right up to the Holocaust.  

We are a ministry that wants to apologize for that sad legacy, try to heal those wounds inflicted in the name of Jesus, and do deeds that show our true repentance. We want to show them the true faith of Jesus. There is a worldwide movement of Christians today who have that heart and concern for Israel and the Jewish people, and we try to represent that global movement here in Jerusalem, including Christians in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the whole Chinese diaspora. Chinese Christians never did anything bad to the Jews, but many still want to do something about what others did in the name of Jesus to them. It's not out of guilt, but out of love and taking responsibility for the wrong someone did in the name of our Lord.

China Christian Daily: According to statistics, seven million Jews live in Israel. Could you describe the Jewish landscape and their general understanding of Christianity?

David Parsons: There's around 7.2 million Jews out of around 10 million people in Israel. Roughly, half of the Jews are religious orthodox or very traditional, and half are secular. But even among the secular, they still have the Passover Seder meal together and fast on Yom Kippur (or the Day of Atonement). Most of the Jews here still keep some of the Jewish traditions. They are not necessarily atheists, but just don't want religious leaders to control everything like divorce, marriage and other things that the ultra-Orthodox want to control. Even in the army, the soldiers from secular families pray before they go into battles. Most Israelis have a sense that that there is a sovereign hand that has brought them back to the land and is helping sustain them.

Regarding their understanding of Christianity, we have more in common with some religious Zionists, the Jews who believe God has restored the nation and they're trying to settle the whole land to bring Messiah. We have probably more understanding with them than some of the others, but a lot of the secular Jews are very open to Christian support. We find that among the older generations, they're still suspicious or fearful, but among the younger Israelis, there's a lot more acceptance and openness. It takes a long time to overcome the bad legacy that Christians left over the centuries.

China Christian Daily: It was expected that 250,000 Jews returned to Israel during the pandemic, so what is the actual situation? Can you also introduce the current impact of the Aliyah movement?

David Parsons: I don't think it was 250,000 in the two years of Covid, but it was surprising that when all the airlines in the world were shut down, Israel was still flying Jews home. Even in this war, when many flights were trying in the first week and many of our Feast pilgrims who were here trying to get back to their countries, we were all worried that Hezbollah would start firing from Lebanon onto all of Israel. Even the flights that were very crowded taking people out, they had even more people coming in. It was Israelis who worked, lived abroad and were coming home to help defend the country.

We've seen an increase in interests in Aliyah, the immigration to Israel, coming out of this war, because of anti-semitism that's sweeping around the globe. We are expecting a big wave of Jewish immigration over the coming months.

China Christian Daily: How do you think about the Back to Jerusalem Movement?

David Parsons: It's something that the Holy Spirit gave to these church leaders in China. The heart of the movement is to carry out the Great Commission on the road back to the holy land, mostly Muslim countries. It's an amazing vision and may we see it fulfilled in our daytime.

We've met some of the leaders, we've had them at our Feast speaking, prominent Chinese Christian leaders that helped birth the back to Jerusalem movement. It’s quite a vision and quite exciting for us.

For the Jewish people, it's one thing for white Christian from Europe to say we stand with Israel because we may feel guilt over the Holocaust or the expulsions from these countries, or because we might have prophetic teachings where Israel's a key part of the puzzle. But for Christians from China, India, or Africa, they didn't do anything wrong to the Jews. But God has given you a heart for Israel and the Jewish people. The only explanation is that it's a work of the Holy spirit, and you are a sign and a wonder to the Jewish people. They know that the Messiah will take teach the nations the law of God and help write it on our hearts. When they see Christians from all nations, including China, who know the Ten Commandments and the Bible better than most Jews, it makes them think there must be something to this Jesus. So keep coming.

China Christian Daily: What actually happened on October 7, 2023?

David Parsons: We have a special connection to the communities near the Gaza border that were hit the hardest on October 7, because we've been providing them with bomb shelters..

The war started on the last day of the feast of tabernacles, and two days before, we took 700 Christians down there from 50 nations, holding a solidarity rally, just 500 meters away from the border with Gaza, which was peaceful at the time. We planted trees there in a forest that had been burned by some of the fire kites sent over by arsonists in Gaza.

Two days later, this whole area was devastated by around 3,000 armed terrorists who busted through the border in about 80 places, and they attacked 25 towns and farming villages and eight army bases, killing over twelve hundred people. They raped, mutilated, and beheaded babies. They even cut a baby out of a pregnant mother's womb.

For most Israelis and Jews around the world, and even for us whom God has given a heart for them, what happened on October 7th touched the raw nerve of the Holocaust. It felt like that the Holocaust had come back for this day with all the people just being murdered. The Hamas terrorists who were doing this were laughing and happy about it, which hurt even more. So we feel Israel has been right in responding to it by trying to destroy Hamas in Gaza.

China Christian Daily: After Israel fought back, many civilians in Gaza were killed. What would you say to those Palestinians who were killed and also injured during the war? 

David Parsons: I think it was a big mistake for the whole international community to insist that that the civilians in Gaza had to stay on the battlefield. With enemies like Hamas who wants to use them as human shields, you have to let the civilians get out of the way and go to safety.

Israel says they have killed around 14,000 Hamas terrorists, plus a thousand that were in Israel. If the Hamas figure number of 34,000 is true and 15,000 of them are armed combatants, then Israel has done remarkably well in in terms of fighting terror groups embedded among civilians in urban warfare. In a large and densely populated area, the number of civilians combatants killed in urban warfare is normally nine to one, and sometimes it’s twenty to one, the percentage in Gaza is almost one to one.

It's tragic that civilians are dying there, but Israel has done more than any other army to try and protect civilians. It was the international community insisted that they stay on the battlefield, bare responsibility for their civilian casualties. During a similar battle in Mariupol during Russian’s attack on Ukraine, the world worked daily to open a humanity corridor for civilians to escape and for medical aid to get in because the large city was surrounded. For me, the international community has committed a war crime against the people of Gaza.

China Christian Daily: Over the past 15 years, it has been observed that the majority of Chinese Christians visiting Jerusalem have traveled to the Holy Land.

David Parsons: Israel knows there's a growing number of born-again Christians in China who want to tour the Holy Land. For 20 years, they've been working to cooperate with tour companies from China. They put together tours, and especially to find Chinese speaking tour guides. They put ads in the papers and even offered scholarships that the Chinese could come and take the tour guides course to get license.

We've seen many Chinese groups coming and we want to see more. I'm excited about what's ahead for China, because I know there is a lot of interest among Chinese Christians to come to the holy land. It's not just seeing the historic sites connected with events in the Bible, but Chinese Christians want to see modern Israel. We want to connect all the Christians to see what God is doing in Israel today.

China Christian Daily: Do you have any words for Chinese Christians?

David Parsons: We are proud of the witness the Chinese Christians have given to the Chinese people in our generation of standing with Jesus and no matter what it costs. There is a movement that has moved into the big cities, among working class and even elite, so we pray that all the churches there would prosper in the knowledge and grace of the Lord, stand strong as a witness to others and draw many into the kingdom. Realize that Israel is central and critical when we will finally meet Jesus, who is coming back to Jerusalem that is back in Jewish hands and ready to receive Him here as our King. He's our King, and He's their King, too. One day, everyone will realize it.

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