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Remembering Yuri Shtern — Founder of the Christian Allies Caucus

March 18, 2007
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We knew of his battle with cancer. He had publicly requested prayer from Christian friends, and we encouraged groups around the world to pray. Yuri appreciated that love and support and often expressed his gratitude. I will never forget walking into a session of the Feast of Tabernacles last year. He looked at me, beamed a broad smile, came down from the platform, embraced me in a bear hug, and whispered, “Thank the Christians who prayed for me.” He returned to the podium and testified that he owed his presence at the feast to the wonderful Christians who prayed for him.

A Friend of Christians
Yuri Shtern identified Christian love and support for Israel and the Jewish people as a crucial force to be harnessed. Thus, he launched the Knesset (Parliament) Christian Allies Caucus in January 2004. “Our relationship with Christians makes Israel more secure,” he told Front Page Jerusalem. “Our enemies are always trying to demonize us. I initiated the Christian Allies Caucus to upgrade our dialogue with Christians and help Israelis be better informed about our Christian friends, especially evangelicals. If you ask a Jewish person on the street, [he will] say, ‘Some of the Christians are even more radical in their support than our own people!’”

He continually emphasized the importance of Jewish–Christian unity in defending Judeo–Christian values. “Israel has no better friend in the world than the United States, and that is in no small part due to our evangelical Christian friends. We hope to see the same happen in Europe and elsewhere,” he said more than once. “Our shared values and beliefs, based on our common Judeo– Christian heritage, are the source of the strong ties between us, and in the post 9/11 world, our long-standing relationship has become more important than ever before.”

A Humble Statesman
Dr. Shtern was elected to the Knesset in 1996. He was a member of the Y’Israel B’ Aliya Party with his fellow Russian, Natan Sharansky. Three years later, he switched to join Avigdor Lieberman in the Israel Beiteinu Party, where he rose to the number two position. He served two years as deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and chaired several Knesset committees. Yuri was loved and respected across party lines. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert described Shtern as “a man of culture and letters, with a deep awareness of Israel’s heritage and of Jewish tradition [whose] uncompromising political views were alongside his extraordinary cultural and social sensitivity.”

I have vivid memories of Yuri. He was a runner. When the bells rang in the Knesset, Yuri could be seen running from one meeting to the other. His schedule was always packed tightly.

He had an impish smile and an affable nature, but anyone who interpreted his demeanor as a weakness was wrong. He was a Russian Jewish Zionist activist who was refused permission to emigrate to Israel, but arrived in 1981 at age 32. He had a PhD in economics and could have easily succeeded in the business world, but, typical of the man’s humility, he lived simply. He even flew economy class on his political travels. His home was a modest apartment only blocks from the Knesset. He shocked the locals when he chose to travel on the buses. Yuri was known to hitchhike across Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) to visit his sister. He was one of the folks.

He stood against all that smelled of arrogance. He was well known for supporting and strengthening the weak or disadvantaged. We visited his home days after his funeral. There we met a young man whose sister had been murdered by terrorists five years before. Yuri had taken action on behalf of the family to have the girl buried according to Jewish tradition.

Malcolm Hedding, executive director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, said, “We are deeply saddened by the passing of our beloved friend Dr. Yuri Shtern. In our hearts, he will always be remembered as a gentle, selfless champion of the historic deepening of Christian–Jewish relations in our time.”

Rebecca J. Brimmer, International President and CEO of Bridges for Peace, expressed her hope that “we will not let something die because a good man died, but we will press on to fulfill the dreams he had of forging better relationships between Christians and Jews and that God will use it for His Kingdom and for His glory.”

By Ron Ross
Israel Mosaic Radio

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