Bonding the Generations
Tensions often run high between the Jewish/Arab populations in Israel. Much of this is due to the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and surrounding Arab nations over possession of the land. From the beginning covenant that promised the land to Abraham and his descendants, there has been a descension between two brothers, Isaac (Jews) and Ishmael (Arabs), over its true ownership. Even though God promised Hagar that Ishmael, as a son of Abraham, would become a great nation (Gen. 21:17-18), the descendants of Ishmael were a warlike people, that “lived in hostility toward all the tribes related to them” (Gen. 25:18). Peace seems unobtainable in this volatile and hostile region. This is the reality the media would like us to believe.
However, there’s something unique about the body of Christ in Israel. In Christ, there is a coexistence between Jews and Arabs and peace that surpasses all understanding. When these factions come together to pray and worship together, it creates a powerful bond that can only be attributed to the unifying blood of Jesus.
This year’s gathering was held at the Sea of Galilee. It was a wonderful opportunity to walk in Yeshua’s footsteps and to sit at His feet as one new man in Christ. All the walls of separation seemed removed, His love uniting us as brothers of the same Heavenly Father. Unity flowed during our time together, and it felt as though God was releasing a very special anointing of peace and love. Our differences were gone, and our focus was solely on the Lord, His plans, and His purposes for His kingdom.
The first time I experienced one of these unique pastoral retreats was 25 years ago. It was during the second Intifada (Palestinian uprising). Terrorist attacks and suicide bombings were happening almost daily. Our family lived in Jaffa, side by side with the Arab community. As the news media became overrun with the reports of these hate- filled violent attacks, I noticed a fear started to creep into my son Sasson. He was only about 5 years old at the time, but the effect was noticeable. He would tremble with fear at just the sight of an Arab. That’s when I knew something had to change. I would not let hatred and fear rule our lives. I decided I would bring with me to the reconciliation retreat for Jewish and Arabs pastors in Galilee.
It was a life-changing moment for Sasson. As he came face-to-face with his fear, he soon found the Arab children were not so different and certainly nothing to be feared. It was not long before he found himself playing, swimming, and talking with the Arab kids that would become his great friends.
It transformed Sasson’s outlook on Arabs completely and created a new respect for his brothers. This change has helped in not only the IDF, but in the mission path he has chosen for his life. Today, he is a youth pastor who teaches Jewish and Arab youth at our current retreats. He brings his young daughters with him to teach them the unity of loving one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.
This shows just how impactful this retreat is, for not just Jewish and Arab pastors but for their families as well. At this event, there were no racial, religious, or political tensions between our two cultures; only love, laughter, and tears, as together, we shared our faith in Jesus. There is a transformative power in the love of Chris when Jews and Arabs come together to worship Him as brothers.