Evangelical Donations to Israel - What Christians Should Know

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 |  Michael Decker

What should Evangelical Christians know before donating to Israel-based ministries? How is it possible to make sure that these donations will be used for the purposes they were donated for? These important questions and others will be dealt with in the article below.

A breakdown of Evangelical donations to Israel

Evangelical Christians donate hundreds of millions of dollars towards Israeli causes each year. It is our desire at the Jerusalem Institute of Justice to protect these donors at the highest level possible so they can know that their donations are being used for the purposes to which they are designated.

Israelis of all walks of life appreciate Christian donations, a large portion of which is donated towards Jewish entities which advance various forms of humanitarian activity, and/or the general advancement of Zionism, and/or even towards the advancement of settlements in Judea and Samaria. 

A lesser portion of these donations go to Christian and/or Messianic ministries, some of which are involved in humanitarian activity, Zionism, and the building of Jewish Christian relations, others which are involved in Church/Congregation planting, and the advancement of the local Christian and/or Messianic movement in Israel, and a large portion is also donated toward the direct spreading of the gospel in Israel.

Other donations go to charities of the Christian Evangelical Arab community that exists in Israel, in order to build the Christian Arab community, and also in order to spread the gospel in Israel.

Ever since Israel has opened its gates to migrant foreign workers from various third world countries, and also as a result of a large amount of asylum seekers in Israel from various third world countries, many Churches of foreign workers/asylum seekers were established, and many times this was done in the name of a large Evangelical Christian ministry from Africa, Asia, etcetera, and many of these Churches registered local charities. These charities in Israel have received some donations from the mother entities, even though they are probably mainly funded by the local Christian Evangelical community of these migrant workers, and/or asylum seekers. 

The largest among all of the aforementioned charities in Israel are also established as 501c3s in the USA, and in other countries (according to the relevant legislation), but then are registered locally in Israel as well, for local operational purposes.

How to make sure your donation is meeting its purpose

It should be noted that the vast majority of Israeli charities and aid organizations, faith-based or not, are honest and transparent organizations. Israeli law is quite clear regarding management and reporting of funds by aid organizations.

However, some "charitable organizations" operate outside of the law either by incomplete disclosure of activity or by flat-out deception. Moreover, international donors are often unaware of Israeli regulations and therefore are unable to litmus-test aid organizations before making a donation. They are often too far away, moreover, to take legal action or any kind of other legitimate action, if they discover that they have been taken advantage of.

For example, in one case which I have represented, an "Israeli evangelist" solicited funds amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars from several specific donors in order to renovate a "ministry center." Fake photos of this "ministry center" were sent out to these specific donors, as evidence to the presumed need for urgent funding.

This "Israeli evangelist" mentioned to these donors that it is not possible for him to register an official charity, or even to receive these funds through an official bank wire to an actual bank account in Israel, since, according to him, evangelism in Israel is illegal, and he therefore cannot risk that these funds will be traced.

However, evangelism is not illegal in Israel. It is also perfectly legal to register an Israeli charity, even if the sole purpose of this charity is to propagate a certain religion, philosophy, worldview, etcetera.  Jews for Jesus, for example, is a registered official non-profit (Amutah) in Israel, and their registration can be viewed by the public on the website of the Registrar of Amutot.

Had the well-intentioned donors been aware of this, they could have avoided being robbed. 

I hope that the investigation of these cases will expose what really happened, and I am happy that the Israeli police forces, and the prosecution office of the Jewish and democratic state of Israel, are seriously investigating these matters.

The legal framework for the protection of donors

We do not want to discourage Christians from giving towards biblical causes, but believe that any potential donor from within the Evangelical community should take advantage of the legal framework which exists in Israel in order to protect donors.

Our purpose is that Christian donations be used for the purpose to which they were designated and that donors will be protected from scoundrels. Accordingly, I have provided below a review of the Israeli legal framework regarding donations.

There are essentially two types of charities in Israel: Amutot and "Companies for the Benefit of the Public."

Prior to 2007, a Company for the Benefit of the Public was not obligated to register with the Registrar of Public Endowments, and therefore many Companies for the Benefit of the Public operated without real legislative supervision.

Today, however, both Amutot and Companies for the Benefit of the Public are subject to legislative supervision, and those that meet basic requirements are issued a Proper Management Certificate, which serves as a validation that the organization in question is efficiently structured and run.

The requirement for a Proper Management Certificate was established in 1998 as a prerequisite for government funding, and since 2001 every Amuta which provides services to the government must hold a Proper Management Certificate. This can also help to protect donors, and many donors will only donate towards a charity which holds a Proper Management Certificate. 

Amutot that do not hold a Proper Management Certificate are usually in a primitive stage of funding and development, really are not functioning properly, or are simply oblivious in good faith to these very basic requirements. There is no reason for an Israeli Christian/Messianic charity not to possess a Proper Management Certificate.

Please see the article I have written on this subject for a description of the requirements to obtain a Proper Management Certificate.

For the sake of clarification, in this article I am focusing only on donations which are given directly to Israel, not via registered charities in the USA, or any other country in the world.

An encouragement to give

In light of the above article, I strongly encourage any potential Evangelical donor to consider requesting information regarding the ministries you are supporting. I encourage you to see to it that they are within the confines of biblical principles, as well as possessing a Proper Management Certificate, which would confirm legal registration.

I invite you as Evangelicals to continue supporting Israel. Your generosity is a tremendous blessing to the reputation of Evangelicals within Israel. Your generosity is both a provision and a statement of support, both in prayer and in finances.

I hope this article solidifies how to properly investigate where donations are going in order to guarantee that these donations are fulfilling their purposes, which will, in effect, hopefully increase the donations that are generated into Israel.

The information stipulated above is obviously generic, and should in no way replace official legal consultation.

About the author:

Michael Decker has a B.A. in law and is a licensed attorney in Israel. He is a partner in the law offices of Yehuda Raveh & Co., which represents more than 150 charities in Israel on a regular basis. Michael also serves as Senior Legal Advisor to the Jerusalem Institute of Justice.

For further inquiries regarding the issues mentioned in this article, please do not hesitate to contact Michael at: mdecker@yrlegal.co.il.

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