November 2, 2020
by Sondra Baras
I am often asked about the origins of CFOIC Heartland. People are particularly intrigued at the thought of an Orthodox Jew heading up an organization called Christian Friends of Israeli Communities. I always respond that the idea was a Christian one but I launched the organization’s Israel office and turned the idea into a practical reality. With my Christian friends and partners of course. But I rarely have the chance to talk about that Christian who first had the idea, who first introduced me to the concept of Christian Zionism, who first helped me understand that Christians could be great friends of Israel, and especially of Judea and Samaria.
Just a few weeks ago, that Christian man passed away. His name was Ted Beckett and he was a dear friend. I want to tell you who Ted was for me and take this opportunity to express my appreciation and the appreciation of hundreds of thousands of people in Judea and Samaria for what he envisioned and set into motion.
Ted was a big man. He towered above most of the people he met in Israel and his booming voice often dominated the conversation. He loved Israel because he loved G-d and he was determined to follow G-d’s direction and do everything he could to help Israel.
I first met Ted and his lovely wife Audrey in Ariel. I was the assistant director of an organization based in Ariel that represented the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria to American Jews. The work was rewarding even as it was frustrating. Frustrating because so few American Jews cared about Judea and Samaria. The large American Jewish philanthropies boycotted Judea and Samaria and there were few congregations who would be willing to listen to what we had to say.
It was 1995 and Israel was deeply embedded in what became known as the Oslo Process. Israel had already signed two agreements with the Palestinian Authority and was giving away large chunks of the Land of Israel as if it were a bankruptcy sale. The world thought we had gone bankrupt. How could we convince them that we were actually the most authentic expression of G-d’s restoration of Israel? Terrorism was on the rise. We were demonstrating nearly every week against some injustice being perpetrated against the settlement movement by our own government. We felt abandoned by our leadership and by most of American Jewry. It was a very difficult time.
And then one day Ted and Audrey Beckett walked into our offices in Ariel and wanted to know what we did. A chance meeting with an old friend in Tel Aviv had pointed them in our direction. After hearing about our work advocating for the settlement movement, Ted was driven to action. He offered to start a Christian arm of our organization and convinced us that Christians were Bible believers — they only needed to understand the prophetic connection to the settlement issue and they would be on our side. I have to admit, I was skeptical. I had been speaking to both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences for years and had only rarely found strong support and then only from Orthodox or strongly identified Jews. But from Christians? The idea was so odd, it was amusing. But we agreed to give it a try.
One thing led to another. The organization I was working for died a natural death and just at the right time, Ted offered to fund the start-up of the Israel office of CFOIC. He paid my salary, then added funds for basic administrative expenses. Next thing I knew I was on a plane to the US to meet American Christians in person. It was a slow process, where we gradually got to know one another. But the result was CFOIC — the only organization that reaches out to Christians on behalf of the people of Judea and Samaria.
Ted always shied away from the headlines. He was not interested in running organizations or controlling the direction of any given project. He started a number of projects in Israel but he saw his mission as finding the right people to run with his idea while he would fund it during its early, struggling years. He found me as a result of a chance meeting in Tel Aviv with a mutual friend and he found Kimberly Troup as a result of a chance phone call that she had made to him to inquire about Israel. He hired us both, set the vision before us and encouraged us to run with it. And we did. And while I may not be objective, I am convinced that CFOIC was the single most effective project he ever launched.
When we first met, I was naturally hesitant about leaving my job to work for a man I barely knew. And I was extremely hesitant about the nature of the Christian audience Ted was so confident would be good for Israel. But he taught me what I needed to know and introduced me to those Christian Zionists in Israel who would give me guidance on the ground as I began this pioneering work. And he was always honest and forthright. He understood my concern about the hidden agendas of some Christians whose support for Israel was a cover for an evangelizing agenda, and he taught me how to identify the real supporters and reject the manipulators.
Ted was a Christian dedicated to his faith. He was never shy about the differences in our faiths and we would occasionally spar, in good humor, about those differences. But I knew that he respected my Jewish faith and would never try to evangelize me, even as he knew how much I respected his faith and his strong support for Israel.
I last saw Ted in person three years ago when I spoke at an event in Colorado Springs. He had aged and he was not in the best of health. But he was so happy to see what had happened to the CFOIC he had birthed so many years earlier. We did not keep up as much as we should have in recent years and I regret that I will no longer have the opportunity to chat and catch up. But there is no doubt in my mind that as Ted entered Heaven, he was greeted with warmth and blessing, because he had indeed blessed Israel. May he rest in peace.