In a peaceful Galilee forest, on the Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (October 4th), more than 1000 believers gathered to declare their oneness in Messiah Yeshua. Some 20 Jewish and Arab communities were represented (for the 20th straight year) as well as numerous international ministries. It was a celebration of unique and genuine unity in a portion of the world notorious for conflict between these two peoples. Songs of praise to the Living God echoed through the pines in both Hebrew and Arabic. An Arab pastor preached from the Hebrew Scriptures concerning repentance, emphasizing the traditional Jewish designation for this Shabbat (Shabbat Shuvah), returning to God. Prayers rose to heaven, lifted by hearts already graced by the peace the rest of the world longs for - a peace that defeats hatred by embracing God's Kingdom rulership.

At one point we broke up into small groups to pray in repentance for the sins of our communities and to ask God to send revival to the Galilee, Yeshua's home during most of His ministry. As we prayed the atmosphere changed. An unusual, magnetic calm settled over the earnestly interceding clusters. We were truly united as we came before the Throne of grace on behalf of the entire region, asking God to reign over both Jews and Arabs. It was a taste of heaven.

Akko Riots - A Native Son Comments

Sadly and ironically, only a few days later, a mere 30 minute drive from this scene, the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Akko, on Israel's northern coast, erupted in four consecutive nights of riots (October 8-11). Rioting between Jewish and Arab residents of Akko left 14 injured and 64 arrested. Located just 15 minutes north of us, at the upper end of the Haifa Bay, Akko is the home of one of our daughter congregations, Harvest of Asher. I asked our congregational leader there, Guy Cohen, born and raised in Akko, "What happened?"

'In the Jewish area of Akko, where my parents live, a large group of Arab Moslems came at the end of Yom Kippur, our holiest day, with their hatred, to destroy Jewish property. They started to break every car window in the street. My car was there also and thanks to God they didn't hit it. There were around 150 cars broken and other vehicles whose tires were punctured.

Arab Rioters in Akko
Courtesy - Solomonia.com
This happened because of one Moslem driving in a Jewish neighborhood the night before, at the beginning of the Day of Atonement. On the way he met some Jews who didn't like people driving in that area on this high and holy day. A fight started between them. He called his Moslem friends and they came from the Old City to protect the motorist. This became a mob of around 500 people. Suddenly everything went out of control and the Arabs started to break windows of the Jewish shops on the main street of the city, and to vandalize them.

For the whole day of the feast the Jewish people wanted to have revenge and it was the daily conversation in the synagogues. In the days following the attack two Arab apartments in the Jewish area were set on fire by the Jewish people. (Fourteen Arab families were evacuated from that mixed neighborhood for their safety.)

The spirit is still heavy. Both sides are ready to attack again. We have people who live close to the hot areas, so please cover them in your prayers. The answer is love ... much more love for each other. Akko is an unusual town. Jews and Arabs live so close together. As Messianic Jews we must pray that this incident will not change the atmosphere of the city, but that Yeshua will become known to Jew and Arab alike.'

Coexistence - An Elusive Goal

Why were police efforts unable to quench the flames of indignation felt on both sides? This theme of coexistence was addressed by Arab-Israeli journalist, Zoher Bahalul:

"Akko was never a model of coexistence as many people claim. This was no more than a virtual declaration. Not only in Akko, but all over the world, there is no model of coexistence. Arabs and Jews were never able to find the winning formula and were never able to bridge the immense gaps, which leaves both sides close but far; neighboring but suspicious. In essence, the abyss separating both sides is still there. It is lethal and destructive: The evidence of that is the latest outburst of fury and the violent clashes ... Unfortunately, we have been unable to identify the missing formula for coexistence." (Y-Net News, October 13, 2008.)

The same despairing note was sounded by movie-maker Julie Gal, director and co-producer of "October's Cry", a documentary on the Arab-Israeli riots in 2000. "I fear that situations like Akko will continue because we tolerate such an artificial coexistence. On both sides there are instigators, irresponsible politicians, (and) extremist religious leaders who will promote this type of behavior ... True coexistence is still artificial, and a slight mistake, innocent or not, by either Arab or Jew can escalate into racial violence."

Arab and Jewish leaders praying together
Arab leaders in Akko have published a manifesto condemning the driver who sparked the riots and decrying the violence. "We are facing trying times. We must display responsibility and maturity. Such a lengthy and blessed pact of coexistence is not to be destroyed in one day (Ibid)." Yet civic leaders and politicians, policemen and journalists admit that there are no easy answers. Akko will be hard-pressed to put the genie of mistrust, suspicion, betrayal and resentment back in the bottle. They do not have the key to true reconciliation. Does anyone?

Will Jews & Arabs Ever Live Side by Side?

To answer this question, I would like to conclude with some thoughts and a prayer I gave at the Arab-Jewish gathering on October 4, 2008:

The crowd of Believers at Levi Forest
'We are gathered today as an act of intercession ... even as spiritual warfare. Since the powers of darkness delight in death and hatred between our peoples, we must respond with true brotherhood. Reconciliation is not merely the lack of hostility, but the reality of friendship. We are not here for a superficial display of unity, but as shepherds in the Galilee, we have invited you to join us in appealing to Almighty God for a breakthrough in the heavens.

How dare we approach His throne? Only if our hearts are clean toward each other. If, as Arab and Jewish disciples of the same Lord we can truly say - "You are my brother, my sister. My heart is broken for what you have suffered." Then God will hear us. I want you to know, that as a Jewish follower of Yeshua, I place a high value on you, my Arab brothers and sisters in the Lord. I affirm you as co-heirs of the kingdom of God, and more than a neighbor ... as a member of the same family, with a common Father. There are NO SECOND CLASS CITIZENS IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD. I commit to walk out this kingdom brotherhood under the Lordship of Yeshua.'

 

By Eitan Shishkoff


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Comments:
13:27 05Nov08 anonymous -
Thank for the news and food for prayer. I had not heard about the riots. We will pray for your work. Jesus not only prayed, but also prophesied that there would be only one flock and one shepherd (John 10). In the midst of societal darkness, our love will shine the brighter.

21:59 13Nov08 anonymous -
Praise God Yeshua is the only way. How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news as ya'll did in the Galilee. By His Spirit Akko will be transformed.


Also in this issue of the newsletter:
Daniel Juster: The Corruption of Usury
Ron McDaniel: SHOFAR 2008: A Pilgrim's Perspective
Asher Intrater: Glorified and Human Appearances of Yeshua
Eddie Santoro: Immersion of the Eight