Christian Arab church teams up with Jewish city for Passover outreach

Pastor Saleem Shalash with mayor of Nof HaGalil, Ronen Plot (Photo courtesy)

For many years now, Home of Jesus the King Church in Nazareth has used the Passover holiday as a way of demonstrating the love of Jesus in action, distributing food packages to the needy for the feast. 

But this year, in light of the coronavirus, the church — comprised of Arab Christians — wanted to double its efforts and help the municipality ensure a proper Passover holiday for its Jewish residents.

“I took a chance and I called the mayor’s office in Nof HaGalil,” Saleem Shalash, pastor of the church, told Kehila News. “To my shock, and to his, he answered.”

These days, government officials are preoccupied with controlling the spread of the coronavirus through Israel. But with the mayor miraculously on the phone, Shalash explained that his church wanted to distribute Passover gifts to needy people in the city to show its appreciation for Israel. 

“This virus knows no boundaries. We are grateful for how the State of Israel is doing all it can to protect us in the Arab community,” Shalash told Mayor Ronen Plot. “It affects both Arabs and Jews alike and we stand together with the State of Israel to fight it.”

Silence ensued and Shalash worried that he had upset the mayor. 

Just the opposite.

“The mayor told me to meet me in his office the next day despite the fact that he was not meeting people during this time,” Shalash told us. “He wanted to know more about who we are and what we believe.”

Word of Arabs working with the municipality to help Jews in need at Passover spread quickly and was even reported by Israel’s Channel 12 News.

On Thursday, volunteers from the church donated 150 bottles of wine, 150 boxes of matzoh and 150 packs of toilet paper to the city of Nof HaGalil for those in need. Wine and matzoh are staples of the Passover seder, a meal remembering the exodus from Egypt and God’s deliverance of the Jewish people.

Packing for Passover distribution, Home of Jesus the King (Photo courtesy)

“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.

“We are living in a very special time and I believe in the plans of God Romans 9:10-11,” Shalash said. “I want to be a witness by showing them the love of Jesus through my actions.”

Shalash did not always believe this way. As is typical for many Arabs living in the Jewish state, he was raised hating Israel. But when he saw Jesus in the Old Testament scriptures, in Isaiah 53, Psalm 22 and Jeremiah 30, he was filled with appreciation with Israel and the Jewish people. 

“God loves his people, He loves His nation and He keeps his promises,” Shalash said. “And by sharing this, especially in the Passover period, it is very important because you can show the real love of Jesus in action, and they can listen and know why you are doing that.”

Pastor Shalash and volunteers preparing to deliver Passover packages (Photo courtesy)

The church has several outreaches a year to its community including one at Christmas and another at Ramadan when the Muslims usually have the same shocked reaction as the Jews that Christians are reaching out to them.

“That makes people ask this question why are you doing that and then we have the door open for us to share the love of Jesus,” Shalash said. “That is the point.”