Julia Fisher looks back at 2014

Julia Fisher
Julia Fisher

Why should we be interested in what is going on in Israel when that little country with its small population is causing so much 'trouble' in the region?

Well, it all depends on your point of view!

The purpose of The Olive Tree Reconciliation Fund is to build bridges of understanding and support, in a spirit of reconciliation, between believers (both Jewish and Arab) in the Holy Land (Israel and the Palestinian Areas) and Christians worldwide. We tell their stories via our weekly radio programme, The Olive Tree, which is broadcast in the UK, in the US and all programmes can be heard on our web site (www.olivetreefund.org).

As we approach the end of the year it seems appropriate to highlight some of the stories told through The Olive Tree radio programme.

Recording interviews for The Olive Tree involves travelling to Israel and the West Bank. Earlier this year, Ann Pawson and I were privileged to meet David and Leah Ortiz when they invited us to their home for lunch. It was in their apartment that their son Ari was dreadfully wounded when a bomb hidden in an attractive basket of food to mark the feast of Purim was left on their doorstep. Ari in all innocence picked it up, carried it into their kitchen and put it on the table; then it exploded in his face. He survived and the family have survived and continue with their work leading a congregation as well as working amongst the local Muslim population. The cost has been huge, but David and Leah are seeing many Muslims becoming Christians. David took us to meet two Muslim background believers. For Christians who only have a 'heart' for Israel and the Jewish people, such stories are challenging. How can it be that God would save the 'enemies' of Israel? However, in reviewing the past year, one of the trends we have observed is the vast numbers of Muslims who are turning to Jesus both in the West Bank and the nations surrounding Israel.

Recently I interviewed Salim Munayer, director of Musalaha - an organisation dedicated to encouraging reconciliation between young Messianic Jewish and Arab/Palestinian believers in Jesus. When asked about the numbers of Muslims turning to Jesus he is in no doubt that they are the people God will use to turn the hearts of Israeli Jews to their Messiah. Watch this space!

Another trend we have noticed is the growth in the number of Messianic congregations within Israel. In a country that has embraced so many immigrants, settling people from diverse regions of the world and creating a harmonious society is costly and challenging. Pastors find they have people from Russia/Ukraine, Ethiopia and Europe - and not all of them speak Hebrew fluently enough to understand so it is necessary to provide translators. This requires manpower and the right equipment! Additionally many in the congregations are poor and so humanitarian aid, including the running of soup kitchens, is becoming more commonplace.

We have also become aware this year of Jewish believers living in Israel who are travelling to nations surrounding Israel to share the gospel and in many instances provide humanitarian aid to refugees - Muslim and Christian people fleeing tyranny in their own countries, especially Syrians and Iraqis. These stories are extremely sensitive and when recording interviews we respect the right to total anonymity of those involved.

Looking ahead to next year we are ready to gather more stories as they emerge - stories that illustrate God is fulfilling His Word. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.