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Bringing Israel Back to the Church

5 August 2020

Marie-Louise Weissenböck is Chairperson of Christians for Israel Austria. She is also Regional Director Europe, and a member of the Board of Christians for Israel International. She grew up in South Africa and came to Vienna to study piano. She has lived there ever since.

Why and how did you start working with Christians for Israel?

“When I came to Austria in 1980, I noticed that there was not much communication between Jews and non- Jews/Christians in Vienna. As a young person I could not understand this, as already 35 years had passed since WWII, and for a young student that is a long time! The Jewish Museum in Vienna had not reopened yet and there was no official Holocaust remembrance. I prayed to God that if he wanted to use me in some form to help further dialogue and understanding between Jews and Christians, I would make myself available. When I heard the teachings of Willem Glashouwer in Vienna in 2005 and 2007, my biblical understanding of the role of Israel (the land and the people) was confirmed and of course deepened/broadened immensely. In 2007 I was invited to participate in a Christians for Israel “Train the Trainers” weekend in the Netherlands and from there my involvement grew. The Austrian branch of C4I was founded in January 2008.”

What inspires you most about C4I?

“What inspires me most is the ministry’s deep and sincere love of Israel and the Jewish people. I grew up with Jewish friends as a kid and it was heartwarming to meet a whole family of Christians who resonated this love and respect that I already felt from a young age. It is based on love for the God of Israel and for Jesus the Jew – which is related to the love of the Jewish people – His first love. Through getting to know the Jewish character of Jesus better, we gain a deeper understanding of what it means as gentiles to be engrafted into the Jewish Olive tree.

Meeting and talking with Karel van Oordt – the founder of Christians for Israel – was a blessing in my life. His deep love for God, for the Jewish people, and for the Word of God, together with his humble character, touched me deeply. He is unforgettable!”

“What inspires me most is the ministry’s deep and sincere love of Israel and the Jewish people.”

You have pioneered the establishment of Christians for Israel in Austria – which is not exactly the most pro-Jewish country in the world. What have been some of the highlights of this important work (difficulties, challenges and successes)?

“Austria today has a very Israel-friendly government. Our chancellor, Sebastian Kurz has a very good relationship with Netanyahu and Israel. He has been there often in the past years. Netanyahu was the one warning our chancellor against coronavirus and Austria took similar actions concerning the lockdown as those in Israel.

Austria is also at the forefront in Europe in the fight against anti-Semitism. Two very important international conferences against anti-Semitism have been held in Vienna in the past years.

A highlight, or rather a blessing, is our really good relationship with the Jewish community, the Israeli Embassy and the Holocaust survivors living in the Jewish Retirement home (Maimonides Centre) in Vienna. We cooperate with the Jewish Museums in different cities, and we have developed a relationship of trust and respect. This is invaluable.

I get invitations to speak about Israel from Catholic, Charismatic and Protestant Christians, which is a great blessing. Our Israel tours are inter-denominational – apart from getting to know Israel and learning more about our roots in Judaism, we also learn from each other, resulting in deeper understanding between different Christian denominations.

A big challenge for us is that our support group is getting older. The generation above 60 is definitely more supportive than the generation below 60. This seems to be a challenge in many countries.”

You are also the Regional Director for Europe. What does that involve?

I am responsible for overseeing the work of C4I in Europe. Our German, Belgian and Dutch branches are large and independent, though they work closely with each other, and have been very supportive of our teams in other countries. I work closely with our “younger” branches – helping them get established, training and inspiring them, and developing strategies for reaching the churches in their countries. Our team in Italy is doing a great job, in an exceedingly difficult and complex country. The work in the Ukraine led by Koen and Ira Carlier is simply wonderful. A highlight has been to establish branches in Denmark and Switzerland in the past three years, and to work with our wonderful representatives in Greece and Albania. The message about God’s purposes for Israel in connection to His purposes for the Church in redemptive history is continuing to be spread throughout Europe. I am so thankful!”

Looking forward, what opportunities and challenges do you see for the ministry in the coming years?
“I think the biggest challenge is the rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism throughout the globe – from the right and the left. Radical Islam is also a challenge. Another big challenge is connecting with the young generation. At the same time, we have a tremendous opportunity to reach a new generation through social media.”