Evangelicals Fund Jews Departing Iran for Israel; 40 Secret Emigres Get $10,000 Stipends

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 26, 2007 | Go to article overview

Evangelicals Fund Jews Departing Iran for Israel; 40 Secret Emigres Get $10,000 Stipends


Byline: Joshua Mitnick, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

TEL AVIV - About 40 Jews who left Iran in secret arrived in Israel yesterday - one of the largest such defections - and got a Christmas present of $10,000 per person from U.S. evangelicals.

The number of Iranian-Jewish emigrants to Israel more than tripled to 200 in 2007, according to officials from the Jewish Agency for Israel, the quasi-governmental organization that promotes immigration to Israel.

A Jewish Agency spokesman credited the increase to a stipend program financed by donations to the Christian Zionist group International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ).

"The money is a major consideration" to come to Israel, said Michael Jankelowitz, a spokesman for the agency. "These people come with the clothes on their back and their suitcase. Iranian money has no value."

Family members of the Iranian emigrants screamed in delight and threw candy at the newcomers as they emerged into the reception hall at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv after a long bureaucratic procedure, the Associated Press reported.

Officials from the Jewish Agency refused to divulge details of the immigrants' journey, such as the airline that brought them to Israel or stopover countries, and kept identities secret for fear of endangering Jews still in Iran.

The $1.4 million donated in 2007 by IFCJ for Iranian-Jewish immigration is the latest example of the growing involvement of evangelicals in pro-Israel philanthropy that was once the exclusive turf of Diaspora Jewry.

Numbering 28,000, the Jewish community in Iran is the largest in any Muslim country and enjoys a comfortable standard of living and generally good relations with fellow Iranians. But they are forbidden from visiting Israel, and the possessions left behind in Iran are subject to confiscation.

Michael, 15 - one of the immigrants arriving yesterday - said he told all his friends where he was going, and they wanted to come along, the AP reported. "I was scared in Iran as a Jew," he said.

No comment was available yesterday from the Iranian government.

IFCJ President Yechiel Eckstein, an Orthodox rabbi who oversees philanthropic operations that have raised millions from Christian Zionists, said the Jewish Agency approached him earlier this year about the stipend program.

The subsidies are intended to allay economic concerns among Iranian Jews mulling emigration to Israel. …

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