Every year in Haifa, a multi-cultural city where Jews, Arabs and many others live side by side, there is a month-long festival to celebrate the holidays of the three main faiths; Hanukkah, Christmas and Eid. The roads are shut off, stalls are put up, and shows are planned for each weekend. People come from all across the city for the celebrations and cultural events.
While some might feel uncomfortable putting these faiths in such close proximity, the “Holiday of Holidays” provides a wonderful opportunity to share the gospel of Yeshua.
This year, Arab and Jewish congregations joined together for the campaign “There is hope!” and brought the message to all the communities of Haifa, whatever their background might be. There is music and dancing, artisans selling their wares, lots of fun, and large crowds… most of whom do not know the most famous Israeli who personally paid for their salvation. There are many good intitiaves in Haifa to foster intercultural harmony, but they will always ring a bit empty until people find the one in whom their true identity, treasure and reward lies. However, a group of believers, young and old, made it their mission to bring this wonderful news of full life in Yeshua to the bustling crowds.
Israel is mostly secular Jewish, but has large communities of Christian Arabs as well as Muslim Arabs – about twenty percent of the population altogether. However, only a small percentage of those Christian Arabs truly love and follow Yeshua. All the rest of those who are termed “Christian” Arabs are those who have holidays at Christmas and Easter rather than Eid and Ramadan. Their history, culture and heritage usually lies in Orthodox or Catholic expressions of Christianity, but they may not go to church or know much of the faith at all. Much like the majority in Western “Christian” countries, they might celebrate Christmas, but have no great interest in the one whom they are supposedly celebrating.
Each year, Messianic and Arab believers join forces and go out in unison to bring the good news to anyone who would listen. Local believers set up a book table, full of resources in Hebrew, Arabic and Russian, which always garners a lot of interest.
Candles and light are a theme in each of these traditions’ winter festivals, but the true light of Yeshua shines forth from these living stones of God’s temple in Israel.
One of those who went to share the hope that she has found was Dina Aweida, daughter of Shmuel Aweida – the only Arab pastor of a Messianic congregation in the world. Although Shmuel was born and raised Arab, he loves the nation of Israel and supports the state – even to the point of his children serving in the army. Dina and others, some of whom came up from Tel Aviv to join the outreach, went out among the people to warmly invite them to come to one of the local congregations.
Like their shirts proclaim – there is hope! Yeshua, light of the world, brings real and living hope into this dark and confusing chaos. He is the only true answer, and we praise God that more and more Arab and Jewish people are finding this hope for themselves across Israel and the Middle East region. Now that’s worth celebrating!