Israeli Pastor laid to rest: A tribute to Eddie Santoro
If the number of people who attend your funeral is any indication of the kind of life you lived, then Eddie Santoro, Senior Pastor of Jerusalem’s Ahavat Yeshua for many years, lived an amazing, selfless life. Tikkun President Asher Intrater remarked, “Despite the sadness, it is a great joy to see this man of God finish his race well, with faith, grace and love.”
Eddie and his wife Jackie immigrated to Israel in the late nineties, when Eddie was already in his late forties. It is hard enough to learn a second language as a teen or young adult, but very few undertake such an effort in their fifties. Eddie loved Israel and loved Hebrew. Even though he was stronger in English, he preferred Hebrew.
I met Eddie and Jackie when I was in Bible school in 1985. I accompanied Dr. Michael Brown on a ministry trip to upstate New York. During that particular trip, Dr. Brown prophesied over Eddie that he was going to plant a Messianic congregation. He did so successfully and, later, joined that congregation to Tikkun America. “Eddie’s love, passion for Yeshua and zeal for the work soon produced a vibrant congregation,” writes Tikkun America leader Dan Juster.
In the early to mid-nineties when revival hit Toronto and Pensacola, Eddie was all in! He loved the presence of the Holy Spirit and had a passion for a move of God that would sweep people into the Kingdom. Later on, he felt that to fully fulfill his calling as a Jewish believer in Yeshua, he needed to move to Israel.
Like many of us, upon his arrival in Israel, he put vocational ministry aside to give the whole of his effort to learning Hebrew. When my family arrived in 2003, Eddie and Jackie were overseeing the young adult ministry at Tiferet Yeshua. However, it was more than just a ministry. It was a mini-revival. Every week, on Wednesday nights, the fellowship hall was filled with young Israelis, hungry for God.
Eddie and Jackie were famous for giving their time in counseling. They would fill up their schedule, meeting with people—and not just from their congregation. Even after moving to Jerusalem, they continued to regularly have people come from the Tel Aviv area, just to meet with them.
If Eddie and Jackie invited you over, it meant a good meal. Eddie was a gourmet Italian cook. His lasagna was the best I’ve ever had! My wife Elana would always ask him to cook two trays when we came over, so she could take one home. And Eddie cooked from his heart. It was all part of his pastoral orientation. When I became a pastor, the example used to give me an idea of what a pastor does was Eddie and Jackie Santoro. They were everyone’s example.
In 2006, Eddie was sent out from Tiferet Yeshua in Tel Aviv and, with the help of Asher Intrater, planted Ahavat Yeshua. Eddie was soon the senior pastor and he was beloved by many. It was no coincidence that he was laid to rest on Father’s Day, as he was a father to many.
“Eddie is one of the most guileless and one of the most loving leaders I have ever known,” Juster continues. “For ten years he lived this love as the senior pastor of Ahavat Yeshua, and after this he continued to serve as an elder, to love, to counsel, to practice amazing hospitality and more.”
Four years ago, Eddie noticed that he could not remember things. He was disoriented. After a doctor’s appointment came the devastating news: brain cancer. The doctors gave him less than a 10% chance of survival after surgery. Eddie and Jackie began to pray. He studied the word of God. He took hold of God like never before and, before long, he was cancer free. The doctors were amazed and so was every Israeli with whom Eddie shared this testimony—which was nearly every Israeli whom he encountered! It was a miracle. Jonathan Moore (a current pastor at Ahavat Yeshua) shared at the funeral, “Eddie became a super evangelist, boldly speaking to anyone… and everyone! Doctors, patients, random people at restaurants, everyone Eddie saw…he preached the love of Yeshua and the same power that raised Yeshua from the dead.”
But, sadly, the cancer returned. And again, Eddie stood against it. But it was this third recurrence of the disease that proved to be fatal. Eddie slipped in and out of consciousness several times over the past week. One of his closest friends, Barry Mevarech, said when Eddie came back to consciousness, he blurted out three words boldly, “Amen! Amen! Amen!” He did this several times.
It was as if Eddie was visiting his new home and returning to say, “It’s a good place; a better place; I approve!”
This article originally appeared on Tikkun International, June 17, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Ron and wife Elana make their home in Tel Aviv. He serves on the pastoral team of Tiferet Yeshua—the Glory of Yeshua—a Tel Aviv-based, Hebrew-speaking Messianic congregation. Ron is a published author with Destiny Image Publishers, having written books like “Identity Theft”, “Leave Me Alone, I’m Jewish” and “The Jerusalem Secret”. Ron is a sought-out conference speaker and shares passionately about the Jewish Roots of the New Testament and God’s broken heart for His ancient people Israel.
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Prayer alert: Head of IFI in serious condition after leg amputation
Eliyahu and his wife, Hannah
A call has gone out to pray for Eliyahu Ben-Haim who is in critical condition at a hospital in Scotland after having his leg amputated in emergency surgery due to a flesh-eating bacteria that he picked up while traveling last week.
Ben-Haim, one of the leaders of Intercessors for Israel, was in Scotland for his organization’s conference. IFI, an Israel-based ministry, “seeks to raise up a prayer army in and for Israel” through teaching about prayer for individuals and congregations.
According to Ben-Haim’s wife, Hannah, after the conference Eliyahu went to a hospital in Scotland after noticing that some pain he had been experienced had creeped up his leg. Doctors discovered he had “necrotizing fasciitis” commonly known as a “flesh-eating disease.” Removing limbs is almost always necessary to save a person’s life.
Eliyahu remains in intensive care on life support with 24/7 care in order to prevent contamination. He remains sedated and on life support in critical condition.
Hannah Ben-Haim sent out praise reports and prayer requests:
1) For the excellent medical facility and care he is receiving;
2) That Rachel (Eliyahu and Hannah’s daughter) can be there with her mom;
3) That the two of them have very good accommodations with friends who live close to the hospital.
Urgent prayer needs:
1) That Eliyahu’s blood pressure stabilizes so he can be removed from life support;
2) That his organs will overcome the trauma and function normally;
3) That the new sedation medication would allow Eliyahu to wake up calmly.
Thank you for your prayers!”
Eliyahu made aliyah to Israel from the United States and is a member of member of Kehilat El Ro’i in Jerusalem. He is one of the Body of Messiah’s leading teachers and publishes a newsletter about what is really happening in Israel and how to pray.
The Kehila News Staff is a team of Israeli believers in Yeshua.
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A few words about Eddie Santoro
Eddie ,on the right, praying for the sick in the hospital with Zvi.
I have known Eddie and Jackie since they made Aliyah, but especially from when they moved to the Jerusalem area. They began to pioneer the Ahavat Yeshua congregation with Asher. They also became involved with a monthly meeting of some of the Jerusalem pastors for fellowship and prayer. It was there that we began to really know Eddie: always full of the Yeshua’s love, passion, zeal, faith. He loved the Ruach HaKodesh.
When the brain cancer was discovered 4 years ago, Eddie’s reaction was to trust God for healing but to also do his part. He drew close to the Lord. His days became filled with God’s Word, proclaiming the promises of the Lord. His passion for unsaved became am example to all of us, witnessing of Messiah’s love to as many as he could. Jackie and Eddie would witness and pray for countless sick in hospital as they waited for treatments.
God graciously answered prayers and gave Eddie 4 years (almost 3 years more than expected by doctors). Those years were not in vain as he served the Lord with all his heart. His love for God and others was always a testimony, as well as his boundless faith and optimism.
Heaven has received a real champion of the faith. Our hearts go out to you, Jackie and Evan. We know how difficult a time this must be for you. Know that we, the Body of Messiah are here for you. We are so appreciative of Eddie’s and your labor of love among God’s people. We love you!
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Remembering Eddie Santoro – The genuine article
It was 1997 when I first laid eyes on Eddie Santoro at a congregational lunch just after the weekly Tel Aviv Shabbat service. He and his wife Jackie had just moved to Israel, having left their own congregational pastoral role in upstate New York. Immediately after being introduced, Eddie, in true “Eddie” form began to brag about his wife’s incomparable mandel bread which she had baked for the event that day. It would not be the only time we shared a meal, and over these many years, I have lost count just how many times we have eaten together at one another’s house.
Eddie and Jackie were well-known for their gracious hospitality, opening their homes just about every night of the week to congregants, friends, neighbors and most anyone who crossed their paths. What was important to Eddie was the time spent, not just eating, but getting to know each other intimately and becoming deeply involved in their lives. It was what made him happiest.
A true shepherd, in every sense of the word, Eddie was so much more than a listening ear. The minute he was made aware of a need within someone’s life, he would stop to pray powerfully for them, no matter where he was. Eddie was convinced that prayer truly changed things, but it wasn’t a one-time prayer on his part. He’d follow up with many phone calls, visits and invitations to eat. Perhaps, that’s what we loved most about him. The fact was that he was the genuine article. No one was more true and committed than Eddie in his desire to be the pattern of a loving, caring and nurturing father.
It was in those early years of Congregation Tiferet Yeshua that Eddie saw a need and filled it. He would weekly gather the young adults, often new believers in the faith who either had no parents or parents who did not believe as they did, and he would provide a cozy, homespun setting for these 20 somethings to grow and mature in their faith, spending hours counseling and encouraging them. Some eventually became the next leaders of the Messianic community in Israel who would also care for those who needed a guiding hand and provide a source of blessing just as Eddie had for them. As the years went by and the group flourished and expanded, Eddie and Jackie knew that it was time to leave Tel Aviv and partner with Asher Intrater to birth a thriving Jerusalem congregation called Ahavat Yeshua (the love of Yeshua).
Just as before, Eddie and Jackie did what they did best – gathered those around them, providing a place where they could fellowship, feel loved, nurtured and well-fed. How many of us remember Eddie’s thin and crunchy homemade pizza, his many pasta dishes, chicken Marsala and winter soups of every kind. Eddie, joyfully, spent much of his time in the kitchen, concocting innovative meals out of whatever he had in his cabinets.
It was the rare evening that someone was not at his dinner table. Friday nights and holidays were usually open to whoever wanted to come, with crowds spilling out into Eddie’s beloved garden where he also cherished puttering around, planting and decorating to the nines for the holidays. He was so proud of his succa each year and invited most everyone he knew to be part of the celebration.
Eddie was simply a lover of people. He loved their souls and made sure that they felt it. In fact, I can remember one example where a needy family lacked the money to join the community swimming pool. This was unacceptable to Eddie, and so he paid for the entire family to join up, because he knew how much it would mean to them, especially the many children. In retrospect, it probably excited him so much more to see them enjoy that summer than it did the family who enjoyed that extremely generous gift.
Eddie had an almost childlike innocence about him which many of us never quite understood but most certainly admired. He always chose to believe the best about people even when sometimes giving the benefit of the doubt didn’t seem wise or prudent. He probably did so, because he knew that this was how God chose to deal with us.
Eddie also seemed to be impervious to what others thought about him. While many of us are more guarded and reserved, Eddie could be heard by his neighbors shouting praises early in the morning or he could be seen dancing wildly during a worship service. More important to him was his unabashed, unashamed devotion and expression of worship to His God. Only His approval mattered, and so if you thought Eddie was going a bit overboard, you just had to “get over it.” That was Eddie, and, secretly, don’t we all wish we were more effusive and less proper.
Eddie spent 22 years of his life in Israel, savoring each day, making the most of each moment and living life to the fullest, being with those he loved, sharing his faith and, most importantly, consistently living it before each one of us.
There aren’t enough Eddies on planet earth, and it is for that reason that he will be missed so sorely. We have lost a great prayer warrior, a great man of faith who still believed in miracles as an everyday occurrence, a loyal and faithful friend, a hospitable host, a generous giver, an effusive worshiper, lover of men’s souls and the warmest of humans whose own vulnerable humanity caused us to sit and take notice of someone whose faith was more than just words and platitudes.
One of Eddie’s last wishes which he spoke to his beloved Jackie was that he would sleep in the kingdom. He is there right now, enjoying all that has been prepared for him because of the life he lived here.
He is watching us, cheering us on and waiting for us to, one day join him, in the same way that he was ushered in by his Maker who greeted his enormous smiling face, dimple and all, saying, “Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.”
We will miss you Eddie. In life, your profession was that of a builder. Thank you for being the blueprint of the selfless and jubilant life which we are meant to live before one another and to one another! May your legacy remain with us until we meet again.
Cookie is the former managing director of Makor HaTikvah Messianic School in Jerusalem.
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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.