It’s no secret that the one issue that dominates most of Israel’s headlines is the “peace” process between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East. When I was a child, I was certain that by the time I would enlist in the army that Israel would have achieved peace, and I wouldn’t have to fight in the army. However, by the time I reached my 18th birthday, the dream-of “peace” between Jews and Arabs was still elusive as ever, and I had to enlist in the Israeli Defense Force. I even participated in the Second Lebanon War. Today, 18 years after completing my mandatory military service, peace still can’t be found, and the soldiers of the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) are still fighting to keep the citizens of Israel safe. Today as I write this, I don’t know if there will even be peace by the time my own children turn 18. I no longer think as a child and understand better the complicated reality of life in the Middle-East.
Despite Israel’s being in an almost constant state of war, I have seen and experienced moments of peace. I’m not talking about fake political peace, one that’s not worthy of the paper it’s written on, but of real peace, one that goes into the heart, breaking the “dividing wall of hostility”. A peace that transforms the reality of hatred between Arabs and Jews into a reality of love.
I have been privileged to experience that beautiful and special kind of love at Tiferet Yeshua congregation in Tel Aviv, where I came to realize that faith in Yeshua the Messiah is the bridge that is able to span the divide between Jews and Arabs. One of my favorite teachers in the Body of Messiah is Yosef Hadad, the pastor of an Arab congregation in the north of Israel. He has a great relationship with Tiferet Yeshua and actually comes to teach at our congregation from time to time. What I love about Pastor Hadad is not only the content of his teaching but his ability, as an Arab, to share with us as Jews his love of the nation of Israel—truly a miracle! Seeing an Arab pastor at a Jewish congregation in the heart of Tel-Aviv, teaching, encouraging, blessing and praying for us, seeing him as a part of our family—that, for me, is true love and peace.
An interesting fact about Pastor Hadad’s congregation in the north is that it includes believers from the South Lebanon Army (SLA). During the time that Israel was in a constant war with the terrorist group, Hezbollah, in southern Lebanon, entire villages of Christians (and some Druze) experienced serious persecution by their Muslim neighbors. They knew that their only chance of survival in the “jungle of the Middle-East” was to fight alongside Israel. This is how a 3,000 man army of Lebanese Christians rose up to fight alongside the IDF in the ’80s and ’90s against Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations there. In the year 2000, Israel withdrew from a strip of southern Lebanon which it had occupied in order to buffer the constant terrorist attacks against communities in northern Israel. When Israel did so, around 6,000 refugees from the South Lebanon Army and their families fled Lebanon to Israel because they knew that they and their families would be slaughtered as soon as Israel’s protection was gone. With only a moment’s notice they had to leave everything behind, an act that reminds me of the Jewish nation’s exodus from Egypt.
Pastor Hadad and his congregation have served and helped the families who came from Lebanon. Some of them saw the congregation as their spiritual house, others received help from the congregation in getting along in Israel, and some got to hear the good news from its people. We, at Tiferet Yeshua, are very happy to be friends with Pastor Hadad’s congregation, and this, as far as we’re concerned, reflects true moments of peace.
A riveting Testimony
A few weeks ago, a young woman named Sephia came to our congregation. Sephia grew up in a devout Muslim family in Kuwait. She shared with us her desire as a child and young woman to be a good Muslim, to be pleasing to God. However, she constantly struggled to connect to a god she felt was so far away and displeased with her. At the age of eight, her family made their pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, a mandatory religious duty for all Muslims. Sephia described a harrowing scene she saw there which she would never forget: as she was walking with her father in the streets of Mecca, they suddenly came upon a crowd of people gathered around a woman dressed in black, kneeling in the center of the crowd. Next to her stood a Muslim preacher who declared to the crowd that the woman had transgressed the rules of Islam.
Sephia was standing with her father, very close to the event, and was able to see clear as day when the preacher drew a sword from his cloak in front of everyone and cut off the woman’s head with the sword. Sephia became anxious and started to cry and asked her father why it happened.
His reply to her was, “That’s what happens to a woman who doesn’t obey the laws of Islam, and that’s why you should be a disciplined Muslim woman.” Sephia shared her riveting testimony of how she, as a devout Muslim woman who was taught to hate Jews, came to believe in Yeshua and to love His people, the Jews. Needless to say, her testimony deeply touched the hearts of the congregation. When she finished sharing her testimony, the entire Tiferet Yeshua congregation prayed for her and for God to reveal His Son to the world’s Muslims.
Over the years, many Arab believers from places such as Iran, Egypt, Bethlehem and Kuwait who have a great love for Yeshua and the Jewish nation have visited us at Tiferet Yeshua. When Jews and Arabs come together in true brotherhood in our mutual faith in Messiah Yeshua, we are filled with hope that these few moments of true peace will someday turn into the one lasting peace which will be brought by the Prince of Peace Himself.
This article originally appeared on Tiferet Yeshua, July 13, 2017, and reposted with permission.