It has been three years since the Aliyah Return Center (ARC) moved from a hotel in Tiberias to a 14-acre abandoned boarding school on Kibbutz Beit Zera.
Close to 20 buildings had previously been condemned on the site, yet the vision of the Return Center to help olim hadashim (new immigrants to Israel) is now visibly coming to life. After driving past the kibbutz’s banana fields located at the base of the Sea of Galilee, guests are greeted with the sight of 53 national flags at the entrance of the ARC.
“The flags represent the people from the nations that have reached out to us and stood behind us is prayer, financial support, or volunteer support,” Chaim Malespin, director of operations explained. Malespin went on to describe how Christians from countries with poor relations with Israel had reached out to express their support for Israel, even defying their country’s laws to do so.
“For Adonai will have compassion on Jacob and will again choose Israel and settle them in their own land. The outsider will join himself with them and will cling to the house of Jacob.
The peoples will take them and escort them to their place. The house of Israel will possess them in the land of Adonai as servants and handmaids…” Isaiah 14:1-2
So far almost 5 buildings have been completely remodeled and modernized, with others soon to follow. Some of the buildings provide housing free of cost for new olim and lone soldiers (soldiers in the IDF that have no family in Israel). One of the buildings is a warehouse organized with clothes and shoes for the olim. At capacity the ARC can house 150 individuals, but the ultimate goal is to reach 500.
However, it’s not just the organization’s hope to house and clothe people, but to give them much-needed support as they start their lives in Israel.
“Most organizations will say [to new olim] ‘here’s a can of beans to eat’, but we say ‘no, let us teach you how to grow beans’,” Malespin says, when describing one of the first programs started at the ARC, the Agricultural Post Army School. The school was started in the first building renovated on the site and teaches classes of 16-20 people about Israeli agriculture. The course taught in 6 month blocks not only helps re-integrate soldiers, but also gives them practical life and career skills.
The fact that ARC is a partnership between the Christian nations and the Jewish community around the world and in Israel is felt in every fiber of the center. The staff and volunteers/interns are made up of Christians and Jewish believers in Yeshua. At the same time, The Jewish Agency, an international agency focused on Jewish immigration to Israel and outreach to Jewish people living in the nations, has stepped up to support the ARC.
Jewish Agency learned of the work and vision of the ARC, and through the encouragement of the kibbutz made a joint venture with the ARC. The Agency sponsored the start of a 7 month pre-army course for Israeli-Arab Christian and Israeli Jews. The students live and train together in one of the ARC buildings, and upon entering the army immediately go into elite units. The Jewish Agency also sends referrals to the ARC as well as assists with some of the basic financial costs.
The day to day work and upkeep of the center is conducted by Christian interns/volunteers. One of the goals of the ARC is to teach it’s interns about the Jewish roots of their faith as well as the Christian history with the Jewish world (both negative and positive).
“The goal here is not to proselytize, we’re here not to debate but to relate and participate,” Malspen says, describing the direction that is passed onto the volunteers.
The volunteers have opportunities to learn about Israel and Israel advocacy through coordinated trips, shabbat dinners, and weekly teachings. At the heart of it all, the staff wants to teach unconditional love in uncompromising faith.
As Jews living among the nations return home at an ever increasing rate, the demand for the services that ARC provides also grows. It is for this reason that the intersection of support from the Christian world and the Jewish Agency is so important.
The vision for ARC is ever-expanding, and Malespin and the rest of the staff look to the future. With more buildings to restore and an ever-expanding number of residents and volunteers, the Aliyah Return Center is turning the soil for what comes next.
To learn more about the Aliyah Return Center and how you can participate visit https://www.aliyahreturncenter.com/