Living in a small Israeli town, I rarely see the coach buses full of tourists that residents of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv encounter every day. It is a rarity for me to meet with Christians, let alone spend an evening with them dining, and sharing stories about our families, our communities, and our faith.
So I felt especially fortunate this past week to share a Shabbat meal with a group of Christian supporters of The Fellowship who traveled to Israel on our latest tour. On top of the Shabbat meal, I was also blessed to join them again for dinner on Tuesday night, and to bid my new friends farewell as they boarded the bus to the airport.
It would have been nice to spend more time with the group, as each individual I met had so much to share and was so full of love and admiration for this land I call home, and for the people I call my fellow Israelis.
The tour group consisted of Christians from the U.S., Canada, and Jamaica, with many having backgrounds from the Middle East and Europe. One of our supporters – a true defender of Israel – was born and raised in Iran, while his wife was from Poland. We shared deep and personal conversations about our faith, and marveled at the miracle that is the modern state of Israel.
I met a doctor from Jamaica who came to Israel with his wife and a group from their church, led by Pastor Mary, who eloquently addressed the group during the farewell dinner, thanking Rabbi Eckstein and his daughter Yael for their groundbreaking work in Jewish-Christian relations.
I spent some time with Christian Zionists from California and New York, as well as a pastor from Kentucky.
It was quite a week for me, considering the people I’m used to interacting with are my wife, children, neighbors, and the checkout clerk at my local grocery.
The mutual respect our two faiths share today is a miracle in and of itself. A hundred years ago, what Jew would have believed that not only would we be back in our land – the Holy Land – but that we would be welcoming Christian friends and allies?
We cannot take the times we live in for granted. Jewish-Christian relations, especially in light of the bridge-building work Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein has done for more than three decades, is testimony that we are living in a time when biblical prophesies written over two thousand years ago are bearing fruit.
“This is what the Sovereign LORD says: ‘See, I will beckon to the nations, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their hips’” Isaiah 49:22.