Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon / Flash 90
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) (R),and Head of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky stand with newly arrived Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia as they attend a rehearsal of a Passover seder organized by the Jewish Agency and IFCJ at an immigrant center in Mevasseret Zion, near Jerusalem, April 02, 2012.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed “deep sorrow” Wednesday evening in response to the news that the founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, z’l, passed away suddenly at his home in Jerusalem Wednesday afternoon at the age of 67.

Under Eckstein’s leadership, the IFCJ raised more than $1.3 billion – about $140 million annually – to help Israel and Jews, mostly from evangelical Christians.

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Netanyahu said in a statement that Eckstein “worked tirelessly to benefit the citizens of Israel and to strengthen the bond between Christian communities and the State of Israel. May his memory be a blessing,” Netanyahu said.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David M. Friedman also expressed his sadness upon hearing the news that his friend and fellow philanthropist had passed away.

President Reuven Rivlin likewise issued a statement, calling Eckstein “A great man, a great Jew and a great Zionist.”

Rivlin said that Eckstein’s contribution to the Jewish people and the State of Israel “will be felt for generations.” Calling him a “man of charity and vision,” Rivlin said, “We mourn his loss. May his memory be a blessing.”

Fellow activist and supporter of Israel and Jerusalem, Pastor John Hagee, founder and director of Christians United for Israel, was equally shocked at the news. The pastor issued a brief statement, saying, ““I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. His impact on the State of Israel and on bringing Jews and Christians together will be felt for generations. I pray God brings comfort to the Rabbi’s family during this very difficult time.”

And from the North American aliyah organization, Nefesh B’Nefesh, “Baruch Dayan Ha’Emet. We mourn the tragic, sudden, and untimely loss of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, a passionate champion of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. He was a gentle soul who yearned for the return of the exiles to our homeland. May his memory be a blessing.”

Yehi Zichro Baruch.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.