Keyword:

Land of Hope and Glory

An Israeli Messianic Arab Pastor in London, Cardiff, Belfast and Glasgow! Go figure, as our brothers and sisters on the other side of the Atlantic say.

From 3rd to 16th October Shmuel Aweida, the pastor of Beit Eliahu (Elijah’s House) congregation in Haifa, spoke to audiences in more than ten cities around the UK about the glorious work God is doing in Israel and his hope for the future. The Beit Eliahu congregation was established in the 1950s by a group of Holocaust survivors but 150 now worship regularly at the church.

Shmuel, who identifies himself as an ‘Israeli Arab’ rather than a ‘Palestinian,’ comes from a family that has lived in Israel for many generations. For the Aweida family the establishment of the modern state of Israel was a not a Nakba – a ‘Catastrophe’ – as many claim, but a blessing because in 1948 the country was suddenly a democracy – a flawed democracy certainly but a democracy nevertheless – and the quality of life for Jews and Arabs improved immediately.

Shmuel told audiences how, ten years ago, his congregation suffered a terrible tragedy that by the grace of God turned into a blessing for the church in Israel. A Palestinian man blew himself up on a bus full of schoolchildren killing Abigail Litle, the 14-year old daughter of American Baptist missionaries, who was also the best friend of Shmuel’s daughter. The funeral was broadcast on national TV and suddenly brought Jews who believe in Jesus – previously considered by most Israeli Jews to be mythical beings – to the attention of the nation. Since then the Israeli media has shown an interest in Messianic Jews and has begun to present them in a positive light. Young Israeli believers are unashamed of their faith and post biblical texts and photos of church services on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Believers are also being promoted to high ranks in some of the most elite combat units in the Israeli Defence Force and they share their faith with their comrades in arms.

Land of Hope and Glory was not a

political tour. Although Shmuel is an Arab, he believes firmly that the Jewish people are the people of God and that the gospel is to the Jew first. And he has seen the gospel break down barriers between Jews and Arabs. As a pastor he has had to solve problems between Israeli Jews and Israeli Jews; and Russian Jews and Russian Jews but he has never had to solve a problem between a Jew and an Arab! He told those at the meetings how, every year in October, as many as 1,500 Jewish and Arab believers gather in a forest near the Sea of Galilee to pray together. Last year was a particularly poignant gathering because of the threat of war that hung over the region. The day began with Jewish and Arab believers repenting of unworthy attitudes to each other, following which they spent the day praying for Israel and the country’s Arab neighbours.

This is part of the glory of what God is doing in Israel and demonstrates that the hope for the Middle East lies not in politics because the source of the problem is not political; it is spiritual. The only hope for Israel and the Middle East, Pastor Aweida declared, was Jesus. Israel, he said, was far from perfect and although Jews and Arabs complain about things such as high taxes, none of the country’s Arab citizens want to live in Gaza or the Palestinian Authority or any of the neighbouring Arab lands because life is better for them in Israel. Although Arabs are not obligated to serve in the IDF, a growing number do, including Shmuel’s two daughters and his son.

In the question times that followed each meeting, Shmuel fielded questions relating to the ‘Israel-Palestine’ conflict including, of course, ‘the Wall,’ and allegations of Israeli military brutality; all of which he answered with honesty and candour. There were also questions about evangelism in Israel, and congregational life.

Each evening concluded with Shmuel urging his audiences to love the Jewish people and to pray for their salvation. If they did that, he said, they would find themselves also loving and praying for Muslims and their own neighbours, and doing more to share the gospel with others.

The London event was filmed and is available on a professionally produced DVD for £9 (including p&p). To order please contact CWI Head Office by email to comms@cwi.org.uk or on 01865 887830

This article first appeared in the Winter Herald 2013

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