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Shelley Neese

The Jerusalem Connection International or
Ocean Springs, Mississippi, USA

What is the main focus of your activities today?
The Jerusalem Connection fights against anti-Zionism, BDS, and antiSemitism. We promote Christian support of aliyah, especially from Ukraine and France. We educate other Christians so they can be advocates for Israel in an informed and effective way.

How long have you been doing that?
15 years.

What are some of the successful related programs or projects that you have done this year and in past years?

I was promoted from Vice President to the President of The Jerusalem Connection International (TJCI) in 2019. My book, The Copper Scroll Project was published in October 2018 and was a number one best seller. I was interviewed on the Eric Metaxas show, Cornerstone television, Skywatch TV, The Watchman on TBN, Jerusalem Dateline, Total Christian Television, and more. I have matriculated into a new archaeology program at The Bible Seminary to continue my education about biblical archaeology.

The Jerusalem Connection also started work this year with Liberty University on a Holocaust art exhibition to educate college students on the horrors of the Holocaust and personalize the stories of the victims through art. We are publishing a new booklet called The Auschwitz Album Revisited that tells the story of the victims as well as the Christian artist who painted their last days and moments.

The Jerusalem Connection held an event at the Washington Post building in Washington DC for young Christian adult activists about why Israel matters to both their faith and politics.

As an Anglican, I was asked by my rector to teach a weekly forum on Sunday mornings about Israel and Jewish-Christian reconciliation. The class culminated in a conference with Yoram Hazony about his new book The Virtues of Nationalism. I have also started a new website, along with Arlene Bridges Samuels, called Anglicans4Israel. We have not launched yet but we have built a group of Anglican contributors in various fields.

How did you get to where you are today?

I got involved with this kind of work after living in Israel for four years with Brian, my husband. We moved their on a whim and knew nothing about the country or the people. The intifada broke out soon after we got there. Many of our American classmates went home. We were left with Israeli friends and orthodox Jews committed to stay out of solidarity. We had no plan B so we stayed too. I had to learn about what was happening around me. All the sudden the conflict didn’t feel far away. It felt very close and very personal.

I was a student at the time, mostly taking math and science courses. But I immediately enrolled in every Jewish studies class that the university offered. I studied Middle Eastern history and the politics. I couldn’t get enough of it. I had to give context to the passions and violence that were our new normal. I also wanted to better understand the traditions and customs of our Jewish friends. I thought I understood Judaism since it was the root of my faith but I realized I knew nothing about it. Before I knew it I had accidentally graduated with a masters in Middle Eastern Studies.

In the course of studying Jewish history, I also got a crash course in Christian history. The two are obviously closely intermingled. I began writing articles, and still do, on turning points in Jewish Christian relations. For the first two thousand years of Christianity not many of those turning points were positive.
The plague of anti-Semitism is as old as the Abrahamic covenant. It’s a disease that when let loose will fester and choke a once thriving nation or culture.

Anti-Semitism has been alive and well in the church for 2,000 years even though it has taken on different faces in various periods and places. I have spent the last 20 years trying to right these wrongs and gather an alliance of Christians who will work with me.

What is your “testimony”?
I grew up in the church. I am the daughter of a pastor from a small town in Louisiana. My parents are wonderful Christians and they instilled a love for the Bible and the one true God in me from an early age. I committed my life to the Lord as a small child and never waivered from that commitment. I did not really even know any Jewish people growing up. Only once I moved to Israel did I gain Jewish mentors in my life. We had neighbors who invited us over to Shabbat dinner every week and it was there that I learned to study the Bible in a new way. And it was there that I began to see the need in my life for Jewish Bible teachers. These are relationships that I have still kept and maintained because they are life giving to me.

What do you think God is doing with regard to Jewish-Christian relations?
One thing that I am very passionate about is a call for Christian repentance, a true act of submission and forgiveness for the mistakes that we have made as a church. In the writings of the prophets, God continually reminds the Jewish people that he not only appreciates collective repentance. But he demands it. I certainly thing he would demand it of Christianity. Paul says that we were grafted into the Olive Tree of Israel. That through Jesus the covenant became available to us and to all who believe. For too long Christians hacked away at the root to our own olive tree. Now its time to repair nurture and care for that tree. Both Jews and Christians will be better for it.

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