UN diplomats drew inspiration from universal message of Jewish Passover 'Freedom has always been spoken with a Hebrew accent'

New York, March 30th, 2015, - UN diplomats from 35 nations came together at the UN Headquarters in New York on Thursday to mark the upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover and draw inspiration from its universal message of freedom from slavery. The ECI luncheon was organised in conjunction with the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell reminded the guests of how the San Remo Resolution of 1920, promising the reconstitution of a Jewish national home in Palestine, is considered to be the start of the de-colonisation process as it proved that a people who had been under foreign occupation for over 1,800 years could regain independence.

In his speech, Ambassador Isaiah Z. Chabala, former Permanent Representative of Zambia to the UN, shared how the Jewish struggle for freedom from slavery and occupation has inspired many African nations in their own quest for freedom and national independence. 

Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris, reminded the audience of how the American Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King, drew much of his inspiration from the story of Moses and how two decades later the call to ”let my people go” led to the modern exodus of more than one million Jews from the Soviet Union. 'This proves that the story of Passover is not only a message from the past, but a contemporary one’,  he said.  

In a personal written message to the luncheon, the President of Albania, H.E Bujar Nishani, explained the relevance of Passover for his own country, where breaking free from Egyptian slavery meant leaving behind anti-Semitism, racism, chauvinism, Communism, persecution, totalitarianism and terrorism. Last December, President Nishani hosted ECI at his own Hanukkah event at the presidential palace in Tirana, thus illustrating his commitment to the universal values of the Jewish holidays.

Israeli Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Ron Prosor, quoted the 19th century German poet Heinrich Heine, in stating that, since the Exodus, freedom has always been spoken with a Hebrew accent.  'The Jewish experience is that freedom can never be taken for granted', Prosor noted.  Commenting on the crucial last phase in the negotiations with Iran, he drew a parallel with the Passover story of the four sons - one wise, one wicked, one simple and one who does not know how to ask a question. Naming Iran as ”the wicked son” who is trying to wipe Israel off the map he went on to name those countries that are negotiating with Iran as ”the son who does not know how to ask the right questions” and refuses to acknowledge the threat that Iran poses to Israel and the international community as a whole.

This was the second ECI luncheon to mark a Jewish holiday at the UN. Last September, ECI hosted a similar luncheon event in preparation for the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, to learn about the values of forgiveness and reconciliation in international relations.

The Jewish holiday of Passover commences on Friday, April 3rd, and ends on April 11th.



What next after Copenhagen?

Brussels - The New Year could hardly have started on a more tragic note. Just a little more than a month after the terrorist massacre in Paris, jihadists struck again - this time in Copenhagen. Less than two months into the New Year, Europe has been hit with two major terrorist attacks, where Jews have been the target alongside advocates for freedom of expression.

Sadly, it will not stop there. For many years, ECI has warned against the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, but now the time for warnings is over and we need to act.

ECI had the great privilege to be invited to the funeral of the slain guard Dan Uzan. Among the guests were the Prime Minister of Denmark as well as the Crown Prince. But our solidarity with the Jewish people cannot be limited to attending funerals of murdered Jews - we need to stand up for them before terror strikes again, and regardless of whether the victims are in Jerusalem or in Copenhagen.

There were no marches of solidarity in Europe when the four rabbis were shot down in cold blood in a synagogue in Jerusalem in November. There would probably have been no rally in Paris either if it were not for the attack against the journalists at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
As I write this note, we are only a few hours away from Purim. (You will receive this letter after Purim.) Once more, the spirit of Haman is back in our midst. (You can read more about the plot of Haman to destroy the Jews in the book of Esther.) It comes in different shapes and forms but its origin is the same - Jew hatred to the point of wanting their complete extermination.

Today it is perhaps most visible in the form of radical Islam but it can also be found in neo-Nazism and left-wing extremism. But not only there - as Jew hatred is taboo in the intellectual classes of today it does not mean that they are immune to anti-Semitism. What can no longer be said against the individual Jew can be said about the Jews collectively - the modern State of Israel. Let there be no mistake: behind the calls for boycotts and divestments from Israel is the same. age-old, deadly virus of anti-Semitism.

This is a time when we need to remain vigilant and pro-active. As ECI activists across Europe you can make a difference through prayer, education and advocacy.
To give you an example; when a seasoned radio journalist from Sweden recently asked the Israeli Ambassador whether Jews were not partly to blame for the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, the public reacted immediately. Later the head of Swedish Radio had to issue a public apology. It happened simply because someone reacted.

At ECI, we hear about events like this almost every month when people like you take action.
This month, let us make a difference. Pick up the phone and talk to your editor or local MP. Write a letter. Say a prayer. Just like Queen Esther at Purim, you can also make a difference !

What can the ECI offer the US?

Dallas, Texas - Why would ECI travel all the way to Colorado whilst Europe is facing an epidemic in anti-Semitism and radical jihadism? This is a relevant question that needs an answer. In early February, Tomas Sandell travelled to Colorado to speak at an Israel summit which launched a new network of Israel-related ministries (FIRM ) in support of Israel. The new ministry is lead by our good friend Wayne Hilsden. Since the inception of ECI 12 years ago, when in the US, we have never travelled outside of the New York-Washington D.C corridor. But this time we made an exception.

As the situation in Europe worsens every week, we need the help of the outside world. As many believers in the US and elsewhere in the world are worried about the situation in Europe we want to be your diplomatic boots on the ground, simply by raising the Christian voice that was missing in the 1930´s. Only we, as European Christians, can raise that voice, but it would be foolish to pretend that we do not need the help of others. We do.

In meetings in Colorado and Texas, Tomas had the opportunity to share about the work in Europe about which most believers are not yet aware.

We do have American friends. For the last few months and until May, we are being assisted in Brussels byFaith Collins from the US. In Florida we have Steven and MaryAnn Lewis who are helping us to connect with churches in prayer and whose non-profit organisation can receive tax deductible donations on behalf of ECI. (Please write us for more information.)

Needless to say, the focus of ECI will continue to be in Europe and at the UN, but in a globalised world we are happy to partner with our friends in the US and elsewhere in the world. If you, or your church, want to become a partner, please write us at info@ec4i.org.

ECI seeks solutions at the UN in New York and Geneva

New York/Geneva - As friends of Israel, our attitude to the United Nations has often been negative, and often with good reason. The UN has not been a fair mediator in the Middle East which is simply due to the composition of the UN member states with a very large contingent of sworn enemies of Israel. But at the same time, friends of Israel have not seized the opportunities that exist within the UN to have a positive influence which can benefit Israel and work towards a solution instead of focussing on the problems. To quote the Chinese - ‘Don´t curse the darkness - light a candle!’

Similar to our relations with the European Union, ECI has chosen to engage with the UN Secretariat in a constructive way. This work has already been fruitful in that our efforts have received the support of the Secretary General and many UN missions have come together in support of Israel due to our various initiatives. For the first time ever, Yom Kippur is mentioned in a UN resolution because of its universal importance and meetings are to be avoided on this Jewish holiday. This is a first step towards the recognition of Yom Kippur as a UN holiday.

In the second week of February we visited New York again to plan our next event at the UN - a luncheon to recognise the importance of the Jewish holiday of Passover and its importance in the context of the struggle for freedom of slavery worldwide. Many nations are eager to join the luncheon and find inspiration from the story of Moses and the Hebrew people as we continue to face new forms of slavery in the world.

Over the years, the African nations as well as the black Civil Rights Movement in the US have found much inspiration from the experience of Moses. As Israel is portrayed as an apartheid state by its enemies, we want to debunk this myth by showing what the Jewish aspiration for their own homeland is all about - freedom from slavery and the right to self-determination.
In the last week of February we had similar discussions with the acting Director General of the UN office in Geneva - Michael Moller, who showed great interest in our initiative and was very helpful in trying to find solutions.

If we want to stay relevant in the international fora of influence and decision-making, we need to come up with constructive and creative ideas as to how we can help the Jewish people and Israel. This does not prevent us from also criticising the UN (and the EU) and holding them accountable for their policies.

Thank you for your continuous support for this work.
Upcoming events

First ECI Study Tour of Israel, May 10th-17th, 2015

The European Coalition for Israel is organising an educational tour in Israel from May, 10th- 17th, 2015.
The tour includes the Global Prayer Call conference from 10th - 13th May. The 4-day advocacy tour will include:
(1) addressing current geo-political issues facing Israel
(2) meeting with Middle East specialists;
(3) hearing from leaders from different spheres of Israeli society (i.e. media, government and legal) who will offer a first-hand perspective on the main challenges for Israel and the region.
From Jerusalem, the participants will go to the Gaza border, pass the security fence at Betlehem, and visit disputed territories and Palestinian cities. They will also learn about the relevance of the Temple Mount in the Arab-Israeli conflict and visit governmental institutions such as the Knesset and other official places.
For more information, visit:

Editor Tomas Sandell tomas.sandell@pp.inet.fi
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