Israeli believers mourn, remember Eddie Santoro, Messianic pastor and spiritual father
The believing community in Israel lost a great leader, pastor, mentor and spiritual father when Eddie Santoro passed away on Shabbat after a long battle with brain cancer.
Just a few months ago Santoro underwent another surgery to remove more cancerous material from his body, but his health deteriorated over the last few weeks. Santoro, 70, had battled cancer on and off for four years.
Through this time, friends close to Eddie say that he never lost faith, but remained strong, brimming with love until the end. He saw the outcome of his illness as a win-win: Either he would be healed for God’s glory or he would be with Him in glory.
Santoro and his wife Jackie made aliyah from New York 22 years ago and he has been a pastor in Israel since then. He was most recently serving as a pastor at the Ahavat Yeshua congregation in Jerusalem, which he helped establish 13 years ago. Prior to that, the Santoros were instrumental in raising up Congregation Tiferet Yeshua in Tel Aviv. He and Jackie have been dedicated to discipling the younger generation of Israeli believers for leadership.
Santoro was remembered as the quintessential pastor known for his prioritization of relationships and his big heart. He and Jackie frequently hosted gatherings at their home and Eddie was known – and revered – for his Italian cooking. While a big part of their focus was on mentoring young couples, the Santoros also opened their home to a ministry for believers 50 years old and up.
During Eddie’s sickness people would come from around Israel and from overseas to encourage him.
“But without fail, it was they who left encouraged,” Jim Schutz, a long-time personal friend of the couple, told KNI.
Schutz said that Eddie was always encouraging people and testifying even when he was undergoing treatments in the cancer ward of the hospital.
“Frequently I would declare to whomever I spoke to in the hospital that I was a child of the Messiah Yeshua and that by His stripes I was being healed,” Santoro wrote in his book, published a year ago.
Santoro’s book, Lifted Up: Overcoming through the Power of Love (available here on Amazon), is about his miraculous journey after the doctors gave him low odds of surviving at all. When the brain tumor was discovered it was already in an advanced stage and was called “the worst types of brain cancer that existed.” Despite a successful first surgery to remove the tumor, doctors gave Eddie a 15 percent chance of survival and high chances that the cancer would return. But during his subsequent treatments Santoro shared the love of Jesus with doctors, nurses and other patients – Jews and Muslims alike.
“Our journey had begun. With joy we looked not only to God’s healing me, but also to the wonder of sharing God’s love and power with many who did not know Him,” Santoro wrote.
Santoro was born to a Jewish family with Italian roots. He has a twin sister who came to faith through him. Eddie and Jackie pastored a Messianic congregation in upstate New York before they made aliyah in 1997. Eddie turned 70 this year.
Ron Cantor, a Messianic leader who worked with Santoro in Tel Aviv, said he looked to him as a true pastor.
“When I became a pastor, the example that was used to give me an idea of what a pastor does was Eddie and Jackie Santoro,” Cantor wrote on Facebook. “They led a young adults ‘revival’ here in Tel Aviv at Tiferet Yeshua, before becoming pastors at Ahavat Yeshua in Jerusalem. The proof of their impact is the lasting fruit, as Ahavat continues to thrive.”
Though his strength was sapped due to ongoing treatments, Eddie and Jackie continued attending Shabbat services in the past few years so that they could encourage others!
“We wanted to be an encouragement to our brothers and sisters as they watched us walk through this trial. I wanted them to see that God is good and His grace is sufficient!”
When he was diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer last year, Eddie said he was shocked but not discouraged.
“No matter what comes my way, whether life in this world or a far better life with Yeshua, I am not fearful,” he wrote. “I am both satisfied and content.”
He is survived by his wife Jackie and their son Evan and his children. Please keep them in your prayers.
The Kehila News Staff is a team of Israeli believers in Yeshua.
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VIDEO: HaSneh HaBoer // Ethiopian Congregation
Watch about how God is blessing the Ethiopian community of HaSneh HaBoer (the Burning Bush) in the Haifa area, in the King of Kings Family of Ministries.
King of Kings Community is called to be a compelling, Messiah-centered, Spirit-empowered, disciple-making community revealing the true face of Yeshua (Jesus) to Israel and the nations.
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Pay it forward – The Harvest of Katzir youth camps
Impassioned, Yosef poured out his heart before the silent teens. His words rushed over the stunned youth like a rapid stream over well-worn rocks. He exhorted them to put aside every distraction and pursue God with all their souls. Yet his tone was without condemnation. He spoke from his own struggle as a young Israeli serving in the army, questioning faith in Yeshua and living in moral compromise.
Now 30, Yosef was a regular in our early camps during his teenage years. His intensity as he addressed the group erupted from a volcano of concern for today’s youth—often living in the bubble of social media. Yosef carries a burden for kids who’ve grown up in a believing home. I felt his longing to light a fire in their hearts – a burning desire to know the Lord, to walk with Him, and to make Him known.
Time stopped. The kids blinked. What just happened? Yosef came to the end of his message. When he urged them to receive prayer, to be real in turning it all over to God, they came forward. There was no requirement. No grade being given. Each of them was compelled by the Spirit of the Lord. I couldn’t stop looking at them – Israeli teens from 14-18 years old. The counselors, whose own teen years were not so far in the past, wrapped their hearts around those responding. This was the crescendo to a spiritual momentum that grew during our three day Passover camp this spring, 2019. What a scene!
Yosef, a Youth Leader for Katzir
Years ago a movie came out called “Pay It Forward.” In it a boy created a school project to change his town. The concept was doing something good for three people, who in turn, would do something good for three more people. I remembered this phrase while thinking about Yosef’s message. Fifteen years ago he had experiences with God and his life was changed in a Katzir camp. Now he is “paying it forward” by sharing his experience and by opening the words of God for the next generation. The fruit of these youth events is multiplying before our eyes.
But this effort is not just for those of us who live in Israel and speak Hebrew. We need the help and participation of brothers and sisters around the world, who understand the drama of Israel’s rebirth. Our physical restoration as a nation only sets the stage for spiritual restoration. The ancient prophets were united in emphasizing this end-time restoration/revival once the Jewish nation would be replanted in our land. They pointed to the calling of youth in this final outpouring preceding the coming of the Lord. And Isaiah expressly anticipated the prominent role of God-lovers from all nations in Israel’s last days’ return to Messiah.
This August we will again gather with young people from some 40 congregations throughout Israel. For a solid week there will be youth-led worship, challenging messages from God’s word, small group discussion and prayer with trained counselors, together with service projects to give something back to the needy in our society. Won’t you join us in equipping Israel’s Messianic youth for the harvest (katzir) spoken of by the Hebrew prophets and by Yeshua Himself? “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray to the Lord of the harvest (Adon haKatzir) to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Eitan Shishkoff is the Founding Director of Katzir and Founder of Mercy Network of Congregations
This article originally appeared in Moaz Israel Report, June 2019, and reposted with permission.
Eitan is the Founder and Executive Director of Tents of Mercy Network of Messianic Congregations is Northern Israel. He's a published author, having written "What About Us?", which answers the question about Gentile participation in the restoration of Israel.
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Love thy neighbor – On the attacks at the worship concert in Jerusalem
You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. –Leviticus 19:17-18
I think it is straight forward, do you? It doesn’t leave too much room for interpretation.
The Lord commands us to love our neighbors. Now, some might say he’s referring to our Arab brothers, as they are surrounding our small country all around our borders. But, how then shall we feel, if I told you that the day shall come, when we are to love our own? And not bear any grudge against the children of your own people?
As a Sabra, a native born Israeli to a Yemenite father and an Egyptian-Libyan mother, always living in the land, never did I think that I would have to protect myself and my family from protests of other Jews in the land.
For 15 years I’ve been conducting and producing events, and though there have been some resistance and protests by our Jewish brothers (the extremists of course), it had never escalated this much.
Last Thursday, a private event was held on a private property in the center of Jerusalem. My family and I purchased tickets to partake in a concert. I came straight from the office, met with my family and started walking towards the place where the concert was held.
As we were approaching the hall, we heard a strident sound, extremely hurting our ears. My daughter who was healed from hearing problems at a young age could not bear the pain. As we came downstairs there was a mob with whistles in their mouth trying to disrupt the guests and partakers of the event, holding big signs and preventing people from entering the hall.
Having the experience that I do with large events (much bigger than this one), I quickly sent my daughter inside and ran to help to the producers. One of them then took of her production badge and gave it to me so I could help. I ran back outside, only to find the protestors, members of an orthodox organization called “Lehava” pushing, hurting and even hitting not only the organizers and owners of the hall, but also people who were just passing through (the hall is inside a business and shopping building).
Though in Israel you have the legal right for free speech and protesting (as set in the Supreme Court precedent in Kol-Ha’am verdict), the respected judge Agranat set the existence of the freedom of speech as an essential component of a democracy, and set it as an obligating legal right in Israel directly from its democratic structure. The right is now included in the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty (5752 – 1992), though not specifically written, it is derived from the basic law. In any case, the law though allowing the freedom of speech also states clearly that you are not to violate the life, body or dignity of a human being… (sec. 2 to the law).
What the protestors were doing was mainly because they are against Jews assimilating. They hate seeing Jews and gentiles together. The Lehava organization website openly states their demonic plans and ways to disrupts and destroy any event that includes Jews “assimilating” with Arabs, gentiles, and any other form of Jews gatherings with anyone else other than Jews.
The difference this time they protested versus other times in the past, was the fact they use children and youth to be a barrier between them and us and/or between them and the security forces. Because in that way, they are protected, since you are not allowed to “touch” minors or you will be facing legal consequences.
That night they have hurt us and others in so many ways, one of which was throwing frogs (yes, living frogs) at us. So, not only they are hurting Jews, gentiles and just, well, people, they were also breaking the law by hurting innocent animals (also forbidden by law in Israel).
The thing that astounds me the most, is that whilst “keeping the Torah” they are breaking the law. Even their leader was trying to calm them down, and told them not to touch us, but rather to demonstrate legally, but no success. They were enraged with fire in their eyes, and what I saw as a Jew, is sad. My own people was looking to hurt me.
While everyone is worried about Iran, Syria and other nations and terrorist groups, they are overlooking the terrorists within us. Our own people looking to destroy us in the cover of “saving the Jewish people”, because in their eyes, we are lost.
One of the main reasons I am in law is because I am fed up with the power the orthodox have in this country. The police “can’t do anything”, the army “can’t do anything”, and even our security forces are paralyzed in front of them.
I think there is one thing we can learn from these organizations. Yes, your eyes are seeing right. We can learn to be united like they are, having a united front is the best thing we can have these days. No matter what theology you’re believing, what “stream” you are from as a believer, Jew or gentile. This is our time, and our chance to stand united in the face of the enemy.
And that is why we are calling all who want to join our new initiative (long overdue if you’re asking me) – God’s Army. Yes, that’s right. Simple but powerful. The group will be established in order to protect our own, not by might and physical strength, but rather to form a united group of believers from all over the country, and even the world, to stand united against Satan. These are the last days, and we are called to be united and shine.
If you are a local, join our FB group – God’s army. If you are outside of Israel, join us in prayer. Support us however you can. We will notify on the FB page on events and call for volunteers to attend and assist us in protecting our own. Because let’s face it, if God is with us who can be against us?
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One personal experience from the violent protest at the Messianic concert in Jerusalem
Dozens of members of an Orthodox Jewish organization violently rioted outside a Messianic concert in downtown Jerusalem, physically threatening concert goers and injuring several in a frenzied mob scene at the Pavilion on Thursday night.
One concert goer describes his experience:
When we arrived with a full mini-bus to the Clal Building, we had already received reports of demonstrators at the concert outside the Pavilion auditorium. I was used to demonstrators before at these Messianic concerts, so thought it was just a relatively small group of Haredim hanging around just to make a presence.
We were led another way into the Pavilion in order to avoid the demonstrators, and that went very well. During the concert — which was great — there was no problem inside. All of the demonstrators were outside the Pavilion complex.
After the concert, we were all informed of different routes to take out of the building to avoid the demonstrators, but the protesters figured out what was going on and sent groups to all of the exit routes in the building and parking lot areas below.
They were from the Lahava group, which are aggressive in their activities as we found out (also against Palestinian Arabs, which we knew). They blocked our way, cursed, spit, were verbally abusive, called us all dirty missionaries who should go back to Russia. They were very unpleasant, and the children that were part of them are already full of hatred for Yeshua and those who believe in him in a similar way that Hamas indoctrinates Muslim children to hate Israel and the Jewish people. It is a similar spirit, maybe the same, but both hating God the Father and His Son, and those who know and love Him.
The police were not really present, and it is not clear why these protesters focused on this concert, which was in no way an evangelistic event, but rather “for the choir”.
Pray for the eyes and hearts and minds and ears of the Jewish people will be opened for the truth of the good news, which came to them first, and is coming round again.
The Kehila News Staff is a team of Israeli believers in Yeshua.