Israelis curious to hear about Yeshua as local believers reach out to festival attendees
Haifa is one of Israel’s most religiously and culturally diverse cities, home to Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Druze, and Bahai communities. Every December since 1993, the city has attracted tens of thousands of visitors from all over the country as well as from abroad to the festival known as the Holiday of Holidays. This event, held in the downtown areas of Wadi Nisnas and the German Colony, celebrates the city’s and country’s three major religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – and the winter holidays Hanukkah and Christmas.* Like every year, this year’s festival included special holiday lights and decorations, food, various forms of entertainment, and children’s activities, with the goal of cultivating tolerance and mutual respect.
As has become the local Messianic community’s custom, various congregations organized groups to sing carols, hand out hot beverages, and engage festival-goers in conversations in Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, and English about the real reason for the season: Yeshua’s humble descent to Earth in order to show us His love.
For three years now, the Tree of Life ministry together with the HaCarmel, Kerem-El, and two Arabic congregations have led an outreach – inviting all local believers to participate – that involves sharing the Gospel amid the Holiday of Holidays festivities. While one group is on the street handing out apple cider, painting faces, and holding conversations, another stays back to lift them up in prayer and worship. This year, they were able to hold one outreach in downtown Haifa on Saturday, December 21, 2019. Wearing red sweatshirts with the words Unconditional Love, they handed out 2,400 servings of hot apple cider and spoke to hundreds of passersby who were curious about the phrase on the sweatshirts and reason behind the beverages being free.
Eliel, the outreach’s main organizer, says, “God is opening hearts because so many people pray for Israel and for the nation’s salvation. And that is so important. Every year, more and more people are willing to talk about Yeshua and sometimes even be prayed with. Often, we had families and groups of sometimes 10 people at a time listening with great curiosity and asking questions. Our main message is that God’s love is free and unconditional.”
In fact, there was so much interest that the team wasn’t always able to engage every person who stopped by. “We are overwhelmed by God’s work in people’s hearts and just how many were interested and potentially willing to hear the Gospel,” he says. “The need is great for more believers to join us at such outreaches in the future. That was our greatest challenge: not enough team members. We pray that God will lead more to participate – both on the street and behind the scenes at the prayer and worship meeting. We can’t do anything by our own strength; we are dependent on God. This event is such an excellent opportunity to spread the Gospel.”
The plan was to hold another outreach on Saturday, December 28, 2019, however the stormy weather currently battering Israel caused the organizers to call it off.
The group holds similar outreaches during Haifa’s annual International Film Festival in the autumn.
* Due to the difference between the Islamic and Gregorian calendars, Muslim holidays fall in different seasons every year. In 2019, there were no Muslim holidays in December.