Arab Christians in Nazareth show love of Jesus to Jewish neighbors with aid following massive fire

Food distribution at Home of Jesus The King Church following forest fire, October 2020 (Photo courtesy)

For many years, Home of Jesus the King Church in Nazareth has distributed food packages to Jews in need from the adjacent city of Nof HaGalil on the Jewish holidays to demonstrate the love of Jesus. Not even the coronavirus could stop them from helping their Jewish neighbors last Passover – on the contrary, they even doubled their efforts.

After the devastating fire just last week, which affected most of the forest around the two cities, forced 10,000 people to evacuate, and damaged at least eight homes in Nof HaGalil, the church stepped up its efforts to distribute food to those in need.

“The Lord spoke to my wife, Nisreen, the night the fires broke out,” Saleem Shalash, pastor of the church, wrote in a newsletter. “His word came from Isaiah 60:1 – Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. It was clear that the Lord wanted us to mobilize, to rise and shine, to be the love of Jesus to the Arabs and Jews affected by the fires.”

The following day, Shalash called the mayor of Nof HaGalil, Ronen Plot. “We can’t rise and shine the love of Jesus just by talking. We need to get up and do something. Genuine love is expressed through actions,” Shalash told KNI. He asked Plot how they can help and Plot said that they needed food parcels.

“We decided to donate 300 food parcels. Some of them we distribute through the municipality, and some directly through our contacts. We are trying to help in as many ways as possible. The municipality helped us reach the specific people who needed our help,” Shalash said.

“When they ask me, why is an Arab bringing food to Jews, I tell them the answer is always because of your Messiah, because it’s your scriptures,” Shalash said. “I know that KNI already wrote about Passover 2020, but since then we have also sent schoolbags to children for the new school year, and we also sent food parcels to holocaust survivors on Rosh HaShana. That effort we did together with Sergey,” he says, referring to Sergey Bocharnikov, the pastor of the Russian-speaking Messianic congregation in Nof HaGalil, “Spirit of Life,” whose home was damaged by the wildfire.

“The powerful message here is that the Arabs are giving to Jews,” Shalash says. “We need to show the love of Jesus in every possible way, even though it’s not always easy. There are Arabs who dislike what we do, both among Muslims and Christians. They don’t say it out loud, but there is a resistance there. But God didn’t create me to satisfy people – but to satisfy him. What we see happening between Jews and Arabs is historic – and I think it’s a sign of the last days.”

Pastor Saleem Shalash and church volunteers preparing for food distribution (Photo courtesy)

Israeli channel 12 also reported about cooperation between Arabs and Jews in the wake of the wildfires, although the love of Jesus was sadly not mentioned. The municipality of Nazareth provided 200 hotel rooms for free to people evacuated from Nof HaGalil. The report, aired as a segment at the 8 o’clock evening news on Israeli prime time TV on October 10, showed Arabs from Nazareth helping their Jewish neighbors.

“We work together, we are one heart, one body. We made the rooms ready within a few hours,” said the owner of one hotel in Nazareth. One of the evacuated Israelis said to the channel 12 reporter: “They received us with open arms, and during corona. It’s not to be taken for granted. They sent food and drinks, we lacked nothing.”

Channel 12 also interviewed a non-profit in Nazareth, called “48” which also distributed food to the evacuated. “Neither the wildfires nor the coronavirus make a difference between people,” said Gazi Isa, the manager of the non-profit.

So far the government has offered no direct help, and all assistance during this difficult situation has come from private non-profit organizations and the local municipalities.

While the government has made vague promises of assistance, Mayor Plot insists that Prime Minister Netanyahu must instruct the relevant government departments to cut unnecessary bureaucracy and immediately transfer the aid.