International Christian Embassy Jerusalem
Last updated: January 11, 1989
Published by the International Relations Center / Interhemispheric Resource Center.
International Christian Embassy Jerusalem
Background: The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) marks the coming together of extremes–fundamentalist Christians (those believing in Biblical inerrancy) joining hands in support of Zionists who claim a Biblical right as the "chosen people" of Genesis (13:14-18) to hold sway over a united Jerusalem. (2) The ICEJ works worldwide to promote its belief, based on the word of the Biblical prophet Zecariah, that Zionism is part of God’s design for the days preceding the Second Coming of Christ. (3) Timothy King, ICEJ’s financial director, says that the group is an independent nonprofit organization that bases its decisions on the Bible and what it says about the restoration of Israel. (25)
The ICEJ was founded by Jan Willem van der Hoeven, Johann Luckoff and four others in 1980 when 13 foreign embassies moved their offices from West Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in protest of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s illegal annexation of Arab East Jerusalem. (4)
ICEJ’s stated purposes include concern for the Jewish people and the "reborn State of Israel." The ICEJ has pledged to stand up for the Jews when they are attacked and to assist Israel to a state of peace and security. (6) It sees itself as a center where Christians throughout the world can learn what is happening in Israel, in order to stimulate Christian leaders, organizations and churches to work on behalf of Israel, to assist projects in Israel, and to be a reconciling influence between Arabs and Jews. (6) While these goals appear to be peaceful and are always couched in Biblical language, the actions of the ICEJ are often political and provocative. For example, the ICEJ is dedicated to a state of Israel which includes an undivided Jerusalem and encompasses all of the West Bank. The West Bank is to be the home of the Soviet Jews. It will work with and assist Palestinians comfortable with these concepts, but will brook no compromise. Spokesperson van der Hoeven sees the PLO, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the USSR as intractible opponents of the ICEJ goals. (15)
In Central America ICEJ has been friendly with the repressive governments in Guatemala and Honduras and has associated with U.S. evangelical groups active in the "war against the godless communists." These relationships coupled with ICEJ’s staunch anticommunism have led the group to participate in supplying materials to the contras. It also has been linked indirectly to Oliver North’s contra supply network. (5,26)
Along the way, the ICEJ has formed alliances (as an unofficial representative of Israel) with other decidedly anticommunist "pariah governments" with a poor record on human rights. These include Alfredo Stroessner’s Paraguay and South Africa, the home country of ICEJ director, Johann Luckoff. (26)
The ICEJ is a self-described "embassy" and has no diplomatic or official status in Israel or any country other than Honduras. (5,25) However, it has "open doors" to government leaders in Israel, and can count on continued official support there because–as one Israeli official put it–"Israel doesn’t have a lot of friends around the world, and to write off a force of millions I think would be foolish."(5,25) Israeli officials also noted that in the U.S. alone there are some 40 million evangelicals whose support is welcomed by Israel. Israel has also benefited from the political pressures exerted by U.S. groups such as the Moral Majority. In the 1980 U.S. elections ICEJ, the Moral Majority, and other fundamentalist groups worked to elect candidates friendly to Israel. (12) Another reason for Israel’s embrace of the group is the ICEJ’s ability to attract tourists and tourist dollars to Israel, particularly around its major celebration, the Feast of the Tabernacles. (12)
The ICEJ acknowledges that it has been and will continue to be politically involved around the world. It will take action as "guided by the scriptures."(6) The ICEJ has close connections to government leaders and politicians in Israel, Honduras, Guatemala, the U.S. , and South Africa. (26) It has and will continue to work for official recognition by all nations of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and for the recognition of the "West Bank" as a legitimate part of the State of Israel. (6)
The ICEJ is located in the former Chilean embassy in Jerusalem and has a full-time staff of 30 and 200 part-time workers. (3,20) It has affiliate "embassies" in 50 countries. (29) The organization has an excellent public relations component. It produces numerous multi-color professional brochures, and has managed to garner coverage in major magazines and newspapers around the world. (5,6)
Funding: According to spokesman Jan Willem van der Hoeven, the Christian Embassy operated in 1984 on an annual budget of about $1 million. (4) In 1986, donors from around the world sent a total of $47,000 to the ICEJ Social Assistance Program. (15) According to author Sara Diamond, the bulk of ICEJ’s support comes from individual born-again Christians who attend its Feast of Tabernacles and Christian-Zionist conferences.
Annual membership to the ICEJ is $25. Larger contributions are solicited from those who wish to become "honorary ambassadors."(6) Additional funds are raised from tours to Israel and through the sales of video tapes and books. (6)
The U.S."embassy" has received support from Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network and Gerald Derstine of Gospel Crusade. (24)
Since 1980, over 600 gifts totaling nearly $750,000 have been given to needy institutions and individuals. The ICEJ paid the administrative and handling costs on these gifts, allowing all of the donors’ contributions to reach the recipients. (6) It is unclear whether or not these pass-through gifts are included in ICEJ financial figures.
Activities: Annually the ICEJ conducts an extravagant, week-long Feast of the Tabernacles which draws thousands of people from around the globe and brings millions of dollars to Israel. While the Feast is held during the Jewish festival of Succoth, it is a Christian celebration. (6) According to ICEJ director, Luckoff, the Feast is the largest tourist event in Jerusalem–bringing in an estimated 70,000 people in the seven years between 1981 and 1987. Representatives of ICEJ travel year-round to encourage delegates to come to Israel for the event. (15) The U.S. and South Africa have been well represented at the Feast. (10) In 1986, the ICEJ was expecting large delegations from Norway, Korea, Zaire, Zimbabwe, and Honduras. In 1986, the Feast was also celebrated in the Philippines, Australia, South Africa, Puerto Rico and the U.S. , all nations where the ICEJ had or has active embassies. (15) The 1988 event was expected to draw tourists from over 70 countries. (9)
In 1988, the ICEJ spearheaded the second International Chris
tian Zionist Congress (the first was held in 1985) in Basel, Switzerland, the site of the original World Zionist Congress in 1897 where Theodore Hertzel called for the creation of a Jewish state. (9,14) It was a meeting of fundamentalist Christians devoted to Zionism with the belief that "Christian Zionism is biblical Zionism."(2) The congress reaffirmed the biblical right of the Jewish people to live freely in the entire land of Israel including the Gaza and the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). (2) The delegates, 1,100 evangelicals from 27 countries, called for all nations to recognize these borders for Israel and to locate their embassies in Jerusalem. (2) In addition, delegates called for the release and return to Israel of Jews being detained in the Soviet Union, Syria, Iran, and all other countries. Finally, the conference recommended the establishment of an economic task force directed by the ICEJ to develop and report investment possibilities in Israel. The conference, held on the 40th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel received the endorsement and support of a huge number of fundamentalist congregations and individuals in the U.S. (2,9) The congress attracted virtually no one from churches of the World Council of Churches, an organization of mainline and progressive churches which has remained cool in its support of Israel. (14) The conference also received flack in the Jerusalem Post for holding a Zionist conference that shunned the involvement of Israel and for urging Jews to return to Israel to fulfill a fundamentalist Christian agenda. (19)
The ICEJ runs a Social Assistance Program with projects that assist the children of Israel, Jews and Palestinians in Southern Lebanon, and the elderly and handicapped in Israel. (11)
Stanley Goldfoot, a member of the original Stern gang that bombed the King David Hotel in 1946, admitted that he has received monetary support from the ICEJ. Goldfoot is involved with the Jerusalem Temple Foundation, a group formed by Goldfoot and two Americans, Douglas Krieger and Terry Risenhoover. (27) The Temple Foundation is dedicated to rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem to prepare for the Second Coming. The group believes that there will be a horrible nuclear showdown at Armageddon (a place west of Jerusalem) preceeding the rebuilding of the "Third Temple." Goldfoot is an extremist who feels "We should be running a worldwide propaganda campaign and using clever promotions and preparing public opinion for the day we drop a nuclear device on Damascus… . and time it possibly with another on Libya."(27) The ICEJ denies giving money to Goldfoot. (4)
The ICEJ wrote letters and lobbied Congress against the delivery of AWAC planes to Saudi Arabia. (6)
Joan McWhirter, coordinator of Radio Ministry, sends weekly ICEJ radio broadcasts to New Zealand, Australia, the U.S. , and Canada. (15) The ICEJ also runs media tours to Lebanon to show the press the plight of southern Lebanese Christians.
In a 1987 interview Marta Rodriguez said that the ICEJ has representatives in all the Central American countries and that she expected embassies to open in Costa Rica, Panama, and El Salvador before long. (34) Luis Monge, former president of Costa Rica went to Israel in 1986 and met with the director of the ICEJ. The ICEJ presented Monge with a special medallion of Jerusalem in appreciation of the establishment of Costa Rica’s embassy in Jerusalem. (39) In 1986, ICEJ work in Costa Rica was led by Dr. Conrado Umana. (39)
Guatemala: The ICEJ embassy in Guatemala opened in June 1986. The head of the embassy is Jorge Lopez, founder and pastor of Fraternidad Cristiana Pentecostal Church in Guatemala City. (35) He studied religion in Guatemala and at the rightwing Liberty Bible College in Pensacola, Florida. (35) Lopez promotes ICEJ’s Feast of the Tabernacles in Guatemala, and twice has led tour groups to Israel for the celebration. (35) Lopez is on the World Advisory Council of the ICEJ. (6)
ICEJ runs Materno Infantil, a food program, where monthly rations are given to pregnant mothers and families with children under the age of seven. The project serves 800-1000 families in Guatemala City. Some of the food comes from the National Reconstruction Committee’s (CRN) LEMACE feeding program. (35) CRN is a semi-autonomous government agency that works in cooperation with the Guatemalan army. Until 1988, CRN was managed by a highranking military officer. (40) The LEMACE project also offers some medical monitoring and education programs on cooking and health. (35)
Honduras: Gerald Derstine of the Gospel Crusade, Inc. founded the ICEJ embassy in Honduras in December 1984. (26) He was a major financial supporter, and as late as 1987, was covering the costs of the office and secretary. (34)
The embassy is directed by Marta Rodriguez who is married to the former director of the social security institute of the Ministry of Health. (33) Rodriguez is one of the 16 international directors on the World Advisory Council of ICEJ and has gone to Israel 11 times. (6,36) While the ICEJ embassy has no direct connection with the Israeli embassy in Honduras, they work cooperatively. Israel provides 30-40 scholarships annually for Hondurans to study in Israel. (33) There were 80 people in the Honduran delegation to the Feast of the Tabernacles in 1987. (36)
The ICEJ has special diplomatic status in Honduras and its shipments into Honduras are not examined by customs. (25,33) The ICEJ brings some of its supplies into Honduras on U.S. military transport. (26) The ICEJ in Honduras has been involved in the contra supply network. The ICEJ admitted that it has provided humanitarian assistance to the Nicaraguan contras. (34) Director Rodriguez said,"Freedom fighters used to come to the embassy and tell us of family members who had been tortured by the Sandinistas. We had to find a way to help them out."(34) A December 1987 Bill Moyer’s show "God and Politics" contains a film clip of Phil Derstine unloading boxes of supplies stamped ICEJ from a Honduran military truck. (24) Derstine has boasted of delivering 100 tons of "humanitarian" assistance to the contras and he freely distributes photographs of himself with contra leaders Aldofo Calero and Enrique Bermudez. (37)
The ICEJ has a number of projects in Honduras. It runs a children’s center that provides medical care and food for 200 children. Gerald Derstine provided clothing for the children in the feeding project. In San Pedro Sula, ICEJ operates Cristianos Ayudando a Ninos Resistol, a drug rehabilitation center. (34) It also operates a medical clinic, Santa Maria, which served 30,000 people in 1987. (34,36) ICEJ worked with the Jimmy Swaggart mobile clinic and helped Swaggart with arrangements for his crusade in January 1987. (24) The ICEJ receives material and financial support from Larry Jones’ Ministries International, Bethel Center, MAP International, the 700 Club, Jimmy Swaggert Ministries, and Gospel Crusade. (38)
United States: In 1982, Jim Jackson opened the first ICEJ embassy in Montreat, N. C. Jackson was named the ICEJ national director and announced plans to open "consulates" in 15 cities: Atlanta, Georgia; Boston, Massachusetts; Bradenton-Tampa, Florida; Burlington, Vermont; Chicago, Illinois; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Houston, Texas; Los Angeles, California; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Nashville, Tennessee; Orlando, Florida; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; and Washington, DC. The purpose of the consulates is to build support for Israel. (16) On the original board of directors of the national "embassy" were Jamie Buckingham, Rev. Morris Sheats of Dallas, businessman John French of Scottsdale, John Heard of Houston, Gerald Derstine of Bradenton, and Bible teacher Tim Ruthven of Colorado. (18)
Jim Jackson and board members Buckingham, Sheats, French and Heard resigned from ICEJ in 1984. Buckingham left because "God has
not called me, individually, to get involved in politics and lobbying efforts–neither pro-Israel nor proChristian." Jackson acknowledged that interacting with American politicians was becoming an increasing focus of ICEJ’s work. (18) Methodist minister Barry Perez, an area coordinator for ICEJ, was selected to take over as director. Bud Moyers of Decatur, Illinois and real estate executive Ed McGrath joined the board. (18)
A major activity of the ICEJ organization in the U.S. is the promotion of official ICEJ tours to Israel to celebrate the Feast of the Tabernacles. The tour includes visits to sacred sites around Jerusalem and a trek around Israel following the path of Jesus. (13)
Government Connections: The ICEJ has always enjoyed the endorsement of the prime ministers of Israel starting with Menachem Begin and continuing with Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres. (4) Teddy Kollek, mayor of Jerusalem, and Yitzak Rabin, former Defense Minister, participated in ICEJ activities. (7) All of the above wrote letters of endorsement and appreciation to ICEJ at the time of the 1988 Second International Christian Zionist Congress. (32)
Private Connections: A number of U.S. evangelicals who have worked with ICEJ have produced slick magazines and documentary films used in the U.S. to promote Israel and ICEJ causes. Among them are "His Land," a film by the Billy Graham Evangelical Association and "Jerusalem, DC " by Texas evangelist Mike Evans. (12,22) The Christian Broadcasting Network and the Campus Crusade for Christ often proselytise on behalf of Israel on TV and radio. (12)
Gerald Derstine is president of the Christian Retreat and Gospel Crusade, Inc. He also runs Gerald Derstine Shares, a media organization that "spreads the word."(8) Derstine, who founded the embassy in Honduras, not only helped the ICEJ distribute goods to the contras in Honduras, but also trained pro-Israeli Palestinian leaders at his Gospal Crusade headquarters in Florida. (24) Derstine confirmed that Oliver North had placed him in contact with the contra leadership, and he says he met with Adolfo Calero and Enrique Bermudez about a dozen times. Derstine also boasted that he had delivered over 100 tons of "humanitarian" assistance to the contras. (37)
George Giacumakis is director of the American Institute of Holy Land Studies and a founder of the ICEJ in Jerusalem. (12)
Ed McAteer, head of the fundamentalist evangelical Religious Roundtable, hosted an International Prayer Breakfast at the ICEJ’s Second Annual Christian Zionist Congress. (16) Jim Jackson is the president of the board of directors of Christian Believers United, a fundamentalist group with the motto "Equipping the Saints."(23)
Dr. John Montgomery, Dean of the Simon Greenleaf School of Law, was the chief English-language defense attorney for three members of Youth with a Mission who were charged with proselytizing in Greece. They were acquitted. (31)
The ICEJ in Honduras receives medical supplies, food and financial aid from the Larry Jones Ministries, MAP International, Bethel Center, the 700 Club, Jimmy Swaggart Ministries, Gospel Crusade, and CARE. (34,38)
Misc: Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network was quoted saying "I think a war with the Soviet Union is inevitable, if I read the Bible properly… . The chances are that the U.S. will come in as a defender of Israel. It looks like everything is shaping up."(12)
The ICEJ in Jerusalem can give U.S. citizens a tax deductible receipt for donations mailed to their Jerusalem headquarters. (21)
Comments: The joining hands of evangelical fundamentalist Christians and Zionists is a natural one–up to a point. The millenial evangelicals believe that the founding of a Jewish state, the Jewish repossession of Jerusalem, and the rebuilding of their ancient temple on its historic site must precede the Second Coming. However, in their eyes, the appearance of the anti-Christ and the ultimate battle at Armageddon will also precede the second coming. In this scenario, most of the Jews of the world will have gathered in Israel and will be destroyed in the battle; the remaining few will see the light and convert to Christianity. So while the alliance between the Zionists and the Christian fundamentalists seems to be beneficial to all parties at present, in the long run, the interests of the groups will diverge and lead to conflict. Meanwhile both groups are open to political manipulation and involvement by the U.S. government in its anticommunist efforts around the globe.
Address: ICEJ, P. O. Box 1192, Jerusalem 91010, Israel.
Principals: The 1988 board of directors was: Margaret Breunesse, Dr. George Giacumakis, Dr. Ulla Jarvilehto, Timothy King, Johann Luckhoff, and Prof. Halvor Ronning. (6) Dr. John Montgomery of the U.S. served on the board in 1986. (31)
ICEJ executives in 1988 were: Johann Luckhoff, director; Jan Willem van der Hoeven, spokesman; Timothy King, financial director; William Wolford, administrator. (6)
Members of the International Council in 1988 were: Glann Anderson, U.S. ; Pieter Benard, Holland; Hansjorg Bischof, Switzerland; Prof. Roelf Botha, Dr. Michael Harry, Denmark; Rev. E. M. Ishmael, India; Dr. Ulla Jarvilehto, Finland; Seow Kway Kee, Singapore; Alan Lazerte, Canada; Pastor Jorge Lopez, Guatemala; Bishop Mac O. Nwulu, Nigeria; Rev. Hector Pardo, Columbia; Marta Rodriguez, Honduras; Rev. George Rowlands, Australia; Christian Stephan, Germany; Leif Wellerop, Norway; and Michael Young, England. (6)
Other staff in 1986 were: Wildad van der Hoeven, administration; Yona Williams, secretary; Pamela Massey, secretary-research; Ray Harvey, chaplain-prayer; Beverley Huch, secretary; Reuven Berry, African liaison; Wendy Palmer, secretary; Jurja Jarvinen, finance; Marja-Leena Tauriainen; Shirley Wolford, receptionist; Joke Schipper, administration; Corrie van der Van, music-housekeeping; Zvi Givati, Israel liaison; Joan McWhirter, editorial-radio; Diet Bokma, social assistance; Larry Hawks, radio-recording; Lily Pereboom, secretary; Leonore Muhlbradt, German translation; Rajia-Liisa Jarvelainen, cook; Doak Scott; maintenance; Joel Baker, administration; Kelvin Crombie, feast logistics; and Hela Brand, feast tourism. (1) In 1988, Rev. Malcolm Hedding was ICEJ chaplain and Sandra Snelson was associate editor to Joan McWhirter. (30)
Sources:1."A Word from Jerusalem," ICEJ newsletter, Jan/Feb 1986.
2."Proclamation," ICEJ, April 1988.
3."An Israeli Feast for Gentiles," Time, Nov 2, 1981.
4. Grace Halsell, Prophecy and Politics: Militant Evangelists on the Road to Nuclear War (Westport, CT: Lawrence Hill & Co, 1986).
5."Evangelical Christians Back Israel in West Bank," The Washington Post, Nov 21, 1984.
6. ICEJ booklet, undated, received in May 1988.
7."A Word from Jerusalem," May/June 1988.
8. Letter from Christian Retreat, March 3, 1988.
9."Second International Christian Zionist Congress," supplement in the Jerusalem Post, Apr 11, 1988.
10."Israelis Accept Fundamentalist Allies," Nov 12, 1986.
11."Soldiers Welfare," a flyer from ICEJ, undated.
12. William Claiborne,"Israelis Look on U.S. Evangelical Christians As Potent Allies in Battle With Arab States," Washington Post, Mar 23, 1981.
13. Tour brochure, ICEJ, Sep 23 – Oct 6, 1988.
14. Marvin R. Wilson and Lawrence E. Frizzell,"Two Reports on the First International Christian Zionist Conference," 1985.
15."Feast of the Tabernacles," a supplement in the Jerusalem Post, Oct 20, 1986.
16. An invitat
ion to the Second International Christian Zionist Congress, 1988.
17."Christians Support Israel; ‘Open Embassy’," Charisma, July/Aug 1982.
18."Christian Embassy Leadership Resigns in U.S. ," Charisma, Dec 1984.
19. Charley J. Levine and Zev Golan,"Zionism Without Israelis," Jerusalem Post, Sep 2, 1985.
20. John Burman,"Christian Zionist Visits Bay Area to Promote Jerusalem Meeting," the Northern California Jewish Bulletin, Sep 11, 1987.
21."Invitation to Become an International Christian Embassy Jerusalem Member and/or Honorary Ambassador," ICEJ membership and donor form, undated.
22. Letter from Don Wagner, director of the Palestine Human Rights Campaign, April 1, 1985.
23. Letter from Jim Jackson, Christian Believers United, May 16, 1988.
24. Sara Diamond, Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right (Boston, MA: South End Press, 1989).
25. Letter from Timothy King, May 26, 1988.
26."Christian ‘Embassy’ Funnels Funds to Contras," The Guardian, Aug 31, 1988.
27. Robert I. Friedman,"Sacred Ground," Mother Jones, Aug/Sep 1987.
28. Memo from Charles M. Fischbein, Dec 30, 1984.
29. Ruth W. Mouly, The Religious Right and Israel: The Politics of Armageddon (Chicago, IL: Midwest Research, 1985).
30."Christian Zionism and Its Bibical Base," Joan McWhirter, 1988.
31."A Word from Jerusalem," ICEJ newsletter, July/Aug 1986.
32."Second International Christian Zionist Congress," program for the banquet at the Knesset, 1988.
33. Interview with Marta Rodriguez, Aug 14, 1987.
34. Interview with Marta Rodriguez, Aug 10, 1987.
35. Interview with Jorge Lopez, Feb 23, 1988.
36. Interview with Marta Rodriguez, Mar 10, 1988.
37."Oliver North’s Religious Side–How the ‘Born Again’ Colonel Set Up Contras’ Christian Donors," Pacific News Service, Feb 24, 1987.
38. Private Organizations with U.S. Connections in Honduras (Albuquerque, NM: The Resource Center, 1988).
39."From the Director," A Word from Jerusalem, Jan 1986.
40. Private Organizations with U.S. Connections in Guatemala (Albuquerque, NM: The Resource Center, 1988).
The underlying cites for this profile are now kept at Political Research Associates, (617) 666-5300. www.irc-online.org.