For those who set foot in the Holy Land for the first time - regardless of if they are Christian or Jewish - the act of doing so is a life-changing experience. JNS' Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman reports on the inspiration and bridge-building that occurred on last week's Fellowship-hosted visit to Israel by a group of African-American church leaders:
“Just being in Israel, in the Holy Land, and walking where Jesus walked, is incredibly inspiring,” says Barbara Wright, president of the Senior Women’s Missionary Union of the National Baptist Convention of America (NBCA). “We are all one in Christ.”
“My faith, as we interpret the scriptures, we identify with the people of Israel as God’s chosen people, and therefore we understand that those who bless Israel receive blessings and those who curse Israel are really fighting against our culture and faith,” says A.W. Mays, an African-American Christian leader from Austin, Texas.
Wright and Mays were two of the 26 African-American members of NBCA, a predominately black church, who were hand-picked to travel from the United States on a six-day educational mission to Israel from May 23-29. The International Fellowship of Christian of Jews (The Fellowship) sponsored the trip to help deepen Christian-Jewish ties and black leaders’ bonds with Israel...
Participants stopped at Christian and Jewish holy sites as well as biblical and archaeological landmarks, and experienced The Fellowship’s humanitarian work in Israel through site visits to some of the programs the Christian-Jewish group sponsors, including its efforts to support Ethiopian immigrants and their families.
“African-Americans are the Jewish people’s natural partners,” says Yael Eckstein, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s daughter and senior vice president of The Fellowship. “They know what it means to be suffering and reach freedom, to be slaves and come to enjoy the full benefits of American peoplehood.…We have not had positive ties throughout the years because no one ever put an effort into creating those ties..."