Israeli Baptists Desire to Build „Bridges of Reconciliation“
L y o n (EBPS) – In the wake of the war in Lebanon between Israel and the Islamic Hezbollah, Israeli Baptists desire to continue building “Bridges of Reconciliation”. Computer specialist Bader Mansour (Nazareth), Treasurer for Israel’s Baptists, reported this at Council sessions of the European Baptist Federation (EBF), convening in Lyon, France from 26 to 30 September. Northern Israel, where all 20 Baptist congregations are located, “suffered severely from the war”. The 38 dead civilians included a woman from a charismatic congregation. Hopes that Israel’s largest Arab city, Nazareth, would not be attacked, were dashed. Roughly a third of the city’s 70.000 inhabitants are Christians. Hezbollah rocket attacks on Nazareth resulted in the deaths of two small children. During the war Christians of all stripes had mutually encouraged each other. All foreign relief aid was shared with other Christians.
The war also strengthened ties with Messianic Jews. According Mansour, this movement has grown strongly in recent years. He estimates that Israel presently is home to 10.000 Messianic Jews. Its members, usually immigrants from Russia or Ethiopia, are strongly opposed by Orthodox Jews.
The war also dashed Baptist hopes of renewing international contacts and mission relationships during the summer. The political instability of recent years has isolated Baptists further. The congregation in Rama had expected visitors from Canada, the one in Kana had hoped for guests from England for a vacation Bible school, and the Nazareth congregation was anticipating young adults from the US to lead a summer camp. Yet all plans were cancelled because of the war.
Mansour conceded that life is not easy for evangelical Christians in Israel. They are a tiny minority within Israel’s Arab minority. For the 800 Baptists, the temptation to emigrate has been strong. They have not done so because they felt called by God, “to be salt and light for society at the location in which the Word became flesh”. The government has generously compensated all war damage, yet a number of Baptists were particularly hard-hit by the war: They lost their employment.