Julia Fisher considers the living conditions, acts of reconciliation and work serving the poor of those living in Israel and the West Bank.

Julia Fisher
Julia Fisher

In November 2014 about a dozen people joined the trustees of the Olive Tree Reconciliation fund on a tour of Israel and the West Bank. The tour was primarily to meet some of the Jewish and Arab/Palestinian leaders we work with through the OTRF whose sole desire is to see the Kingdom of God come to Israel and the wider Middle East. As we journeyed up and down the country we paused at several biblical sites and museums.
We started the tour with a visit to the Hall of Independence in Tel Aviv. In May 1948 the leaders assembled at this building to announce to the world the establishment of the State of Israel. During a 24 hour time span, the United States issued a statement recognizing the State of Israel, British control of the land ceased and Israel declared its independence.

Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Isaiah 66:8.

From Tel Aviv we travelled to Netanya, Haifa, Carmel, Galilee, the Golan Heights and finally, up to Jerusalem. We visited many congregations, organisations and leaders and heard about the wonderful work they are doing, despite the difficult circumstances. These men and women work tirelessly: feeding and clothing the poor, looking after the alien in the land, caring for the sick and setting free those dependant on drugs and alcohol. One man, in addition to pastoring a church, is the director of a media company that reaches millions of Arabs in the Middle East. A Messianic pastor shares the gospel with Muslims in the surrounding countries. Another pastor from the West Bank talked with honesty and humour of his struggle to share the gospel with and embrace his Muslim neighbours.

To better understand, empathise with the people of the land, encourage and pray for them, we visited some people who were not from a Messianic or Christian background. We went to an army base in the Golan Heights. The soldiers were delighted to receive friendly visitors. From there we went to a kibbutz at the northern most tip of Israel. Here, from a glass fronted building high on a mountain overlooking Lebanese villages we heard an Israeli right wing perspective about the current conflict. We then visited Mt Bental - just a few metres away from the Syrian border. There the reality of the war in Syria and the vulnerability of Israel struck us as we heard the rumble of tanks and gunfire, saw flashes of heavy artillery fire and smoke. Our thoughts at that moment were on the poor Syrians just a few metres away who were experiencing the impact and terror of that attack.

From the north, we made our way south through the West Bank. We were privileged to have Labib Madanat, director of the Middle East Bible Society as our guide for the day. As we passed farms, villages and settlements along the way, Labib told us stories of individuals from these places, both believers and non-believers, who were doing works of reconciliation. Labib told us of a massacre that happened in a small Jordanian enclave there in 1997. A Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli school girls who were on a field trip to the Jordan valley. Shortly after the incident, King Hussein personally apologised to the families and along with his teenaged daughter visited each of the bereaved families and the wounded schoolgirls. His sincere act moved the mourning Israeli public and improved relations between the two countries.

We went to Mt Gerizim which is a sacred site for the Samaritans, a small community of which are still living in the area. It is also the mountain from which God commanded the Israelites to proclaim His blessings from, on entering the Promised Land. As we stood among the ancient Samaritan temple ruins overlooking Nablus (biblical Shechem), Labib said "If the Lord said He would give this land to the Israelites, then He will. We don't need to understand how or why. We (Jew and Arab) need to forgive each other. Forgiveness is more important than justice." Reaching out to each other, as King Hussein and many others have done in love and compassion is the balm that is needed in this troubled land.

It is a privilege to know and meet the leaders and people who work tirelessly to share the love of Christ against very difficult circumstances.

If you would like to visit Israel on a future OTRF tour please email or write to us. 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.