Gathering the Children Together
by Marty Shoub, International Liason, Tents of Mercy Network

Guy and Tali
The heart of Israel's faith is the Shema, "Hear O Israel: the Lord our God is one" (Deuteronomy 6:4). What may be surprising to some is that immediately following this great declaration of faith is a command directed to parents:

"and you are to teach them [the commandments] carefully to your children. You are to talk about them when you sit at home, when you are traveling on the road, when you lie down and when you get up" (Deuteronomy 6:7 CJB). Israel's parents are charged with passing on their faith in the God of Israel to their children; not just in formal, religious settings, but also "on the road", concurrent to the busy rhythms of everyday life. Guy and Tali Cohen have a vision. They know how difficult it can be for Messianic children in Israel to grow in their faith while "traveling on the road". Guy explained, "there is a lot of pressure on our children. They are a small minority in Israeli society and other children don't always understand. Our children need fellowship - many of them only interact with other Messianic children on Shabbat mornings."

Ping Pong anyone?
To that end Guy and Tali are working towards establishing a Messianic educational center in Akko to serve the children of Western Galilee. Their first step in this ambitious project was to start an after school program for children in the region. Once a week, children from Akko, Carmiel and Nahariyah are bused to Katzir Asher to enjoy fellowship, have fun, maybe learn some new skills and build their faith. After everyone gathers around in a circle for prayer, the children go off to the different work stations which include ping pong, art, voice and English. Each of these stations is headed up by a professional teacher in that field. After participating in two of the four skill specializations, the children all gather back together for a hot meal, catered by Katzir Asher volunteers.

"Yeshua is the center," explained Guy. "The important thing is the fellowship. It is creating a unity among the children of Galilee - here they do not feel like outsiders, they feel like they belong." Guy and Tali are moved to invest in this young generation. The Messianic movement in Israel is still in a foundational stage. Guy likens the present adult generation to the generation that came out of Egypt. Most of us are immigrants to Israel and like that generation in the wilderness, cannot help but bring along the baggage of our previous life in the Diaspora. Guy is optimistic: "This generation of children is like the Joshua generation, they are the ones who will go in and take the land."

Tali and the art teacher showing some of the children's work
Guy's wife, Tali, is the administrator for the after school program. "The children have been very happy. They really look forward to our times together. The parents are also very pleased - many of them could not afford to pay for these sorts of programs." One of the three congregations sending children to the program is a Lebanese Christian congregation from Nahariyah. Many Lebanese Christians had to flee their homeland in the aftermath of the First Lebanon War. Their integration into Israeli society has also been a challenge. Tali explains, "These Lebanese children speak Arabic at home but study in Jewish schools. At first they were a bit isolated when they joined our program, but now everyone is interacting very well. This is creating good relations between Arab and Jewish children."

Guy and Tali are looking forward to the day when they can open up a full time school for these and many other children from Western Galilee. They are dreaming big, but they know that the same God who prepared a generation to enter the Promised Land beckons to this new generation through the words of Yeshua: "Let the children come to me, don't stop them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these" (Matthew 19:14 CJB).

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