The believing community in Israel lost a great leader, pastor, mentor and spiritual father when Eddie Santoro passed away on Shabbat after a long battle with brain cancer.
Just a few months ago Santoro underwent another surgery to remove more cancerous material from his body, but his health deteriorated over the last few weeks. Santoro, 70, had battled cancer on and off for four years.
Through this time, friends close to Eddie say that he never lost faith, but remained strong, brimming with love until the end. He saw the outcome of his illness as a win-win: Either he would be healed for God’s glory or he would be with Him in glory.
Santoro and his wife Jackie made aliyah from New York 22 years ago and he has been a pastor in Israel since then. He was most recently serving as a pastor at the Ahavat Yeshua congregation in Jerusalem, which he helped establish 13 years ago. Prior to that, the Santoros were instrumental in raising up Congregation Tiferet Yeshua in Tel Aviv. He and Jackie have been dedicated to discipling the younger generation of Israeli believers for leadership.
Santoro was remembered as the quintessential pastor known for his prioritization of relationships and his big heart. He and Jackie frequently hosted gatherings at their home and Eddie was known – and revered – for his Italian cooking. While a big part of their focus was on mentoring young couples, the Santoros also opened their home to a ministry for believers 50 years old and up.
During Eddie’s sickness people would come from around Israel and from overseas to encourage him.
“But without fail, it was they who left encouraged,” Jim Schutz, a long-time personal friend of the couple, told KNI.
Schutz said that Eddie was always encouraging people and testifying even when he was undergoing treatments in the cancer ward of the hospital.
“Frequently I would declare to whomever I spoke to in the hospital that I was a child of the Messiah Yeshua and that by His stripes I was being healed,” Santoro wrote in his book, published a year ago.
Santoro’s book, Lifted Up: Overcoming through the Power of Love (available here on Amazon), is about his miraculous journey after the doctors gave him low odds of surviving at all. When the brain tumor was discovered it was already in an advanced stage and was called “the worst types of brain cancer that existed.” Despite a successful first surgery to remove the tumor, doctors gave Eddie a 15 percent chance of survival and high chances that the cancer would return. But during his subsequent treatments Santoro shared the love of Jesus with doctors, nurses and other patients – Jews and Muslims alike.
“Our journey had begun. With joy we looked not only to God’s healing me, but also to the wonder of sharing God’s love and power with many who did not know Him,” Santoro wrote.
Santoro was born to a Jewish family with Italian roots. He has a twin sister who came to faith through him. Eddie and Jackie pastored a Messianic congregation in upstate New York before they made aliyah in 1997. Eddie turned 70 this year.
Ron Cantor, a Messianic leader who worked with Santoro in Tel Aviv, said he looked to him as a true pastor.
“When I became a pastor, the example that was used to give me an idea of what a pastor does was Eddie and Jackie Santoro,” Cantor wrote on Facebook. “They led a young adults ‘revival’ here in Tel Aviv at Tiferet Yeshua, before becoming pastors at Ahavat Yeshua in Jerusalem. The proof of their impact is the lasting fruit, as Ahavat continues to thrive.”
Though his strength was sapped due to ongoing treatments, Eddie and Jackie continued attending Shabbat services in the past few years so that they could encourage others!
“We wanted to be an encouragement to our brothers and sisters as they watched us walk through this trial. I wanted them to see that God is good and His grace is sufficient!”
When he was diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer last year, Eddie said he was shocked but not discouraged.
“No matter what comes my way, whether life in this world or a far better life with Yeshua, I am not fearful,” he wrote. “I am both satisfied and content.”
He is survived by his wife Jackie and their son Evan and his children. Please keep them in your prayers.