It was an honor and privilege to interview Shoji Ishiida and his son, the leading representatives of “A Bridge between Zion and Japan” (BZJ), a Japanese organization that connects Israeli Messianic Jews and Japanese believers in Yeshua. I also spoke to Alec Goldberg, the Israel Director of Caspari Center, one of the Messianic ministries supported by this organization.
Shoji was excited about the enthusiastic response to BZJ in his country. “’A Bridge between Zion and Japan’ was founded to connect the people of Japan more closely with Israel in several areas: news, faith, people and funding. As a bridge for news about Israel, we send out Japanese email updates twice a week, to a list of 4000 Japanese subscribers, most of whom are believers in Yeshua. We include reports from Israeli media outlets in order to provide an Israeli point of view. We also promote other pro-Israel organizations managed by believers, like Bridges for Peace-Japan and the Japan branch of LCJE.” Shoji emphasized that this effort is a vital measure, needed to counter-balance the Japanese media outlets, which mostly report the news from an Arab or Palestinian point of view.
BZJ likewise serves as a bridge to strengthen the faith connection between Japan and Israel. Shoji explained how that is accomplished. “We send out a postal magazine four times a year, focusing on the Messianic Jewish movement in Israel. We regularly report on leading Israeli Messianic groups and their activities: Netivyah, Tents of Mercy, Maoz Israel, Caspari Center, Kehilat HaCarmel and others. We also host some of these Israeli organizations’ home pages in Japanese.”
In 2006, BZJ produced a 35-minute documentary of the growing movement in Japan to pray for Israel, entitled “For Zion’s Sake”. [Click on the video below to watch.] With justifiable pride, Shoji added that this video has gone international, and is now translated into English, Hebrew, Korean and Chinese.
The personal connections forged by BZJ has proven that meeting people is the best way to nurture fellowship. “Building unity between Jewish believers and Gentiles is very important,” affirmed Shoji; “that is why we invite Israeli Messianic leaders to many places in Japan where we sponsor seminars together with other organizations. We also send teams to Israel to have fellowship and study the Word of God.”
When it comes to practical help, BZJ makes it easy for Japanese believers to financially support Israeli organizations, by providing a special account where they can send their contributions. BZJ handles the process of wiring the funds to Israeli organizations, allowing Japanese supporters to easily contribute without the complications and expenses of international transfers.
Shoji’s son reported on the international conference that BZJ helped organize in the Philippines in early November, called the Asia Messianic Forum (AMF 2015). “We are happy to say that the conference drew around 500 people from more than 10 nations. It was not a deep theological symposium, but more focused on fellowship, to give the participants an impression of what God is doing with the Messianic movement in Israel. What a blessing it was to host three prominent Messianic Israeli pioneers as speakers at this conference. They all shared their perspective about Israel and her salvation, along with their relationship to the Gentile Church.”
He added that the 2015 conference was unique: “This was a milestone year – 70 years after the end of World War II. So the AMF delegations came in August, three months before the conference, to participate in a special memorial tour of Nagasaki, Hiroshima and Fukushima. Together we proclaimed reconciliation, forgiveness and healing to Japan.”
The next AMF Conference will be held in Taiwan in 2017, and he is excited that the Asian churches can be one united vessel to bring “the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” to Asia through the AMF. The conference’s main organizers represent six Asian nations: BJZ (Japan), Israel Ministries Network (Korea), One New Man Asia (Singapore), Watchmen of the Wall Jerusalem (India), Filipino Christian Friends of Israel, and Bread of Life Church in Taiwan.
Alec Goldberg, the Israel Director of Caspari Center in Jerusalem, remembers meeting Shoji Ishiida about six years ago, shortly after he started working at the Center. “Shoji visits Caspari at least once a year, and he has become a dear friend over these years.” Alec noted that “A Bridge between Zion and Japan” has been supporting the work of Caspari Center since before he arrived. “I want to thank BZJ for being such a faithful ministry partner. Shoji knows the Israeli Messianic movement very well, is very supportive of it, and we have always enjoyed open and warm fellowship.”
Asian and Israeli believers alike are looking forward to the next Forum in 2017. It’s clear that “A Bridge between Zion and Japan” will continue impacting the nations in Asia as a leading example of how to support Israel. Surely they will receive the blessing of Abraham as promised in Genesis 12:3: And I will bless those who bless you.