Remembering Chuck Kopp – A pioneer and a pillar in the Messianic community in Israel has gone to be with the Lord

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Charles "Chuck" Kopp (Photo courtesy)

Chuck Kopp served for 20 years as the chairman of the Evangelical Alliance of Israel (EAI), a position that allowed him to often represent Christian interests in Knesset committees and take part in the Government Christian Forum. He also pastored the Baptist church on Narkis street for 24 years. He retired in 2016 after he suffered from Parkinson’s disease. From 1966 to 1989 he managed the “Zion house,” a bookshop, coffee house and small church gathering of believers on Prophet Street 33. He was loved and appreciated by Messianic Jews and Arab Christians alike.

Victor Kalisher, General Secretary of the Bible Society in Israel, told to Kehila News Israel that until the very end, Chuck would come often to the Bible Society to be equipped with Bibles in many languages. Despite his Parkinson’s disease, and even though it was obvious that it was hard for him, he was always happy and enthusiastic.

When the news broke of Kopp’s passing, many leaders and pastors offered their condolences. Many reminisced about having visited his bookshop, or joining the early fellowship in the 1970s. A few examples:

Benjamin Berger, congregational leader at the Congregation of the Lamb on Mt. Zion: “Some of us who were there in the early beginnings… remember the place… led by Charles Kopp where messianic believers began to gather together. It was the time of new beginnings. We remember Charles as a faithful servant of the Lord who belonged to the pioneer generation.”

Zvi Randelman, previous pastor at Succat David and Yeshuat Yisrael congregations: “Yaffa and I are very sad to hear this news. We go a long way back with Chuck from the 1970s and the Zion House fellowship we were a part of. We remember him as a real servant of the Lord and a wonderful family man. He is with his Messiah and Savior now in glory! May the Lord comfort his family and loved ones.”

Peter Tsukahira, executive director of the Or HaCarmel Ministry Center: “His gentle spirit and quiet strength were an encouragement to the Messianic body over his decades of service. What he did and the battles he fought to advance God’s kingdom here in the Land were recorded in heaven where his reward is great.”

Ofer Amitai, pastor at El Roii Congregation: “In 1981, he was the first believer we met since we came to faith. We just showed up and knocked on the door. The Kopps opened not only the door but their hearts as well. We thank God for Kopps, and all Chuck’s life has meant, and means, to the Body of Messiah in the land. May his memory and legacy continue to bless the Body and the land.”

David Ortiz, congregational leader at Kehilat Ariel: “He was a father, not only to his family, but to many in Israel, and an example of what a Pastor and spiritual leader should be. There is a definite gap left in the Body of the Lord in Israel with his passing.”

Chuck was born on May 14, 1948, the same day the State of Israel was established. “When my grandfather heard about Israel’s declaration of Independence, he checked at what time it occurred and saw that my father was born even at the same hour,” Danny Kopp, Chuck’s son, told KNI.

Chuck was the 7th generation in his family to serve in Christian ministry. In 1959, when he was 11, his family served for 6 months in Jerusalem and he attended the Anglican school on Prophet Street. In 1966, after finishing high school in the US, he joined his father on a worldwide missionary trip that included Israel. When they reached Jerusalem, he decided to stay for a while.

That little while was the rest of his life.

There was a Christian bookshop on Prophet Street owned by the Zion Apostolic Mission, founded in the 1930s by William L. Hull. Hull is probably most known for having been the chaplain of Adolf Eichmann, trying unsuccessfully until the end to get him to repent.

In 1962, Hull transferred the mission to Kopp’s father and grandfather. Then in 1966, Chuck was appointed by them to head the ministry. The ministry changed its name in 1995 to Jerusalem Cornerstone Foundation. The bookshop was called the Zion House, and it was also where he lived and operated a small church gathering of young believers. “Today, we would probably look at it as a small English-speaking youth group, but many leaders of the Messianic Body started out there,” Danny said.

During the Six-Day War in 1967 he fled to southern Jerusalem, since his home was so close to the Jordanian border, and lived with friends in the German Colony for a few days. When he came back home, he saw that his bedroom had been hit by bullets, and there was a gaping hole from an artillery shell.

In 1969 Chuck married Liz Ozdinec. After 1967 the borders were open, and they moved to live in Bethlehem among the Arab population for many years, while also continuing the church meetings at the Zion House in Jerusalem. They even expanded it to include a coffee shop to reach out and communicate with the youth culture of the 1970s. “The guys from the ‘Black Panther’ movement in the 70s loved to come and chat to him,” Danny told KNI. “He had secret visitors also, who inquired about the gospel. And I guess the author Haim Be’er must have visited at some point, because in one of his books, he describes a book store and a keeper exactly like my father.”

In 1971 Chuck and Liz’s ministry came into fellowship with the Baptist Church at Narkis Street, pastored by Bob Lindsey. Lindsey retired in 1987, and Chuck became pastor in 1992.

“A Messianic place was not a simple thing. At that time there were very few Messianic book stores in Israel. There were some in Haifa and Jaffa, where half the city was Christian, but a bookstore right there in Jerusalem, openly Christian, so close to the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim, it was not a simple thing,” one pastor recalled.

Graffiti was often sprayed on their walls, and in 1974 the Zion House was attacked and ravaged by fire. In 1980, it happened again on two separate occasions. Eventually, the Zion House had to be vacated in 1989 because city rezoning for the expansion of the road. “It was very important to them to widen the road in that specific place for some reason,” Danny remarked.

But the ministry was more than just the building, and today the Cornerstone Foundation organizes biblical study tours to Israel and works as a charity for those in need. Already in 1974, they joined the United Christian Council of Israel (UCCI) which later became the Evangelical Alliance of Israel (EAI). Chuck became the general secretary in 1985 and chairman in 1996. From that position, he helped evangelical interests on the Israeli political stage, whether it was representing Christians before Knesset commissions about anti-proselytization laws, facilitating a pastor from Gaza to be reunited to his wife, appointing trusted liaisons to the airport authority to reduce negative experiences for Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land, or helping government agencies distinguish which Christian groups are legit and which are dangerous cults. Through his friendships and contacts in government, he was also able to get Israel to issue dozens of clergy visas for different ministries.

He worked tirelessly, both with Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians, without distinction. Danny told KNI that his father was unique in that way. “Many Messianic congregations are very Zionist, with little or no place for Arabs. But over 90% of the Palestinian churches are strongly anti-Zionists. My father was neither. He worked with everyone and loved everyone. He really believed the Palestinians were equally important to God, but he also insisted that the creation of the State of Israel and the return of Jews to the land was from God. And when I say that he loved all, it’s not just Jews and Arabs. He was also connected with the African and Philippine churches that were established here, and was active among them. I feel the body of Christ here in Israel is very divided, especially along theological and political lines, but my father was one of the few who attended everyone’s conferences on all sides. He was a bridge in that way.”

Anything else important that we need to know about him?

“He was a pastor who didn’t like to speak. He liked everything around it, he liked pastoring. Also, he didn’t care about status. The ambassador of the USA could visit his church, and talk to him, and if they were interrupted by a homeless man, my father would attend to the homeless man and give him that time, letting the ambassador wait. If anyone needed him, he attended it. People’s status and position never mattered to him.”

“It’s true that he had enemies, people who burned down the church, or vandalized the book shop. But no one who actually knew him personally ever disliked him. People who knew him couldn’t help liking him.”

There is a definite gap left in the Body of Messiah in Israel after Chuck Kopp’s passing. May his memory be a blessing.

The funeral service will be held this afternoon at 17:00 at the Alliance cemetery on Emek Refaim in Jerusalem.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Tim. 4:7-8