Last week we had an opportunity to take a group of students to the Jordanian resort city of Aqaba for a gathering of Arab and Jewish believers, organized by Tom Hess. Jordan was chosen because it is one of the few places in the Middle East where both Israelis and Arabs are allowed to travel. Aqaba is located on the northern point of the Red Sea across the border from the Israeli resort city of Eilat.
Israeli Jews are used to mingling with Israeli Arabs as well as Palestinians. But contact with Arabs outside of Israel is rare.
After a six hour bus/taxi trip through the desert and across the border we arrived at the hotel just in time for the evening meeting. Although we were staying at a 5 star hotel with conference facilities, the Jordanians felt it was "safer" to meet in a private local church in the city. This is indicative of the "peace" that exists between Israel and Jordan. Israelis, always looking for a new experience, flock to Jordanian tourist sites. Jordanians don't enter Israel at all. Apparently the feeling of peace has taken a long time to trickle down from government officials to common citizens, and mingling with Israelis is taboo.
As we sat in the church and saw the Arab brethren enter in, our emotions ranged from a sense of pleasant surprise to shock. There were representatives from throughout the Arab/Muslim world including Jordan, Tunis, Sudan, Kurdistan, Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq.
All the brethren came fully aware that they would be meeting with Jewish Israeli believers and were filled with excited anticipation! This in and of itself was disarming. Although many of the Arabs were obviously meeting Jews for the first time (one brother said to me, 'I see you are human just like we are!'), they radiated warmth, joy, and unconditional love.
At one point during a message the speaker rhetorically asked, "Do you really love the Jews and accept Israel...?" A unanimous shout of, "YES!!!!" roared through the auditorium. It was a moment I won't forget.
One highlight of the conference was a reconciliation time between the Israelis and Iraqis. An Iraqi former army officer told how he was instructed to hate and kill Jews during his service. His plea of repentance was heartfelt and brought us to tears. Others shared as well, and this session ended with hugs and kisses between former enemies!
Afterwards some of our young men, also former combat soldiers, felt that it wasn't right to be only at the receiving end of repentance. They too wanted to ask forgiveness for racist and derogatory attitudes towards Arabs.
Many good words went forth. Reuben Berger gave a deep and meaningful message on honoring the Fathers. A Lebanese pastor delivered a powerful exhortation about going into ALL the world to preach the gospel. Asher gave a message in Hebrew with Arabic translation about blood covenant. Some of these brothers were truly risking their lives to make covenant with us, giving new meaning to the "blood" part of the covenant. We ended the conference sharing the Lord's Supper together.
Please pray for these dear Arab believers who are in most cases a hated minority in their home countries. Pray for protection for them, for continued breaking down of the wall of partition, and for the seed that was sown at this conference to have powerful and positive spiritual repercussions in the Middle East!
Also in this issue of the newsletter:
|Dan Juster: Dry Bones and Israel's Restoration|
|Marty Shoub: Gil HaZahav - The Golden Age of Promise|
|Leora Mazurovsky: Speaking Boldly|
|Eddie Santoro: To Us a Child is Born|