Spreading the light of Jesus in the Holy Land
There is an ever increasing demand for Scripture in the birthplace of Christianity. United Bible Societies’ presence in the Holy Land of Israel is an unusual one – there are not one, but three Bible Societies! The Arab-Israeli Bible Society serves Arab-Israeli Christians and is based out of Nazareth. The Palestinian Bible Society (based out of Jerusalem) serves Palestinian Christians in East Jerusalem, West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. And also based in Jerusalem, the Bible Society in Israel serves Christians across the rest of the country.
All three Heads of Bible Society’s Bible Lands team (Victor, Dina and Nashat, pictured left to right) are working hard to reach people with God’s Word. Read on to hear first-hand about the rising Christian faith in this ancient and holy part of the world…
Arab-Israeli Bible Society a bridge for peace
“This area (the Middle East) is overwhelmed with darkness which at times can feel oppressing. However, we still hold to the true living Word,” says Dina Katanacho, CEO of the Arab Israeli Bible Society (AIBS).
Based in Nazareth, the presence of AIBS is critical in this part of the world, where a Christian minority is living amongst a Muslim community within the state of Israel, which has a Jewish majority. “We are a double minority,” commented Dina.
AIBS is providing Arabic Bibles and other tools for Arab citizens to help them understand and engage with the biblical worldview.
But more importantly says Dina, “We can be a bridge for peace making and for transforming our torn region. The Bible is important in restoring this group of people.”
More than just a Bible store, AIBS acts as a community centre hosting meetings, offering discipling and counselling. It’s a safe place to engage with the Bible. “The demand for Scriptures from churches is huge,” says Dina but because of a lack of storage, AIBS is unable to supply the need. However, despite its small size and limited resources AIBS is making a difference.
Last year, they launched a pilot project in the village of Renie (close to Nazareth). This was the result of an incident where a young Christian man was killed by Muslim neighbours over a parking spot. His father pronounced his forgiveness to the killers on national television and radio.
Dina said, “We believe violence of all kinds is not accepted by God. We can be peace makers and introduce resources and context that transform lives.” So AIBS worked with teachers, parents and students on the issue of bullying and social violence by producing biblical resources. One teacher commented, “I think the fact the session elaborated on the importance of caring for the attacked and the attacker is an eye opener.
I want to learn more about the biblical foundations presented to us.” Another AIBS event which encourages people in the Word of God is an annual Bible Quiz with churches and their families. There were many testimonies from this event including a mother, who said they always had a Bible in their home but never read it until their son, one of 400 participants, joined the tournament.
This is the story of Ellaria*, pictured above, who turned up at a Bible study group after being invited by an AIBS worker.
She had never read the Bible. She wasn’t even overly interested in God. But something had spurred her to go. She came to the study full of questions, ready to challenge whatever she heard.
But instead, as the Bible was read aloud, she felt an inexplicable peace rush over her. Dina said Ellaria eventually decided to pray and accept Jesus Christ as her Saviour.
“She held the Bible in her hands and praised God for changing her life,” said Dina.
*not her real name
Israel continues to open up to the Bible
A growing tolerance and openness in general Israeli society towards the Gospel of Christ is creating more and more opportunities for Victor and his team at Bible Society in Israel to share the Bible.
“In Israel there are Jews from all over the world and of course there are people of different backgrounds and cultures.
Amongst them are Arab speakers as well as migrants from a variety of countries. “The common thing is that all of them need the Gospel,” said Victor.
Pictured right, Victor shares the gospel with a Jewish kindergarten teacher. She decided to take the New Testament after Victor explained the story was written by Jews and happened mostly in Israel amongst the Jewish people.
This local also ended up taking 101 Bible Stories for her kindergarten children. “It is encouraging to see the local body of Christ is growing with more and more people coming to faith and new congregations being established.” A survey done in 2018 shows the number of Messianic believers grew to about 30,000 (up from 20,000).
“There is also a similar number of Jews who believe in Christ but do not yet go to a local church. Amongst these are Orthodox and religious Jews. “The Messianic movement continues to grow and with it her testimony in Israeli society. More and more people are aware of the Messianic Jews and their faith. An example of this is the fact there are hundreds of young Messianic believers in the army and universities.”
Victor recounts talking with another man about Jesus. “Do you really believe that he is alive?” This was the question Victor was confronted with. Victor replied, “Of course I do!” and asked the man if he believed in the resurrection of the dead. To that he said “of course”. So Victor told him, “Well how can the Messiah resurrect us from the dead if he himself is not resurrected?”
The man replied, “Wow, you are correct.”
“Thank you for your prayers, financial support and partnership with Bible Society in Israel. It’s a special blessing, privilege and a practical testimony of the unity we have in Christ. I thank you for that,” said Victor.
Palestinian Bible Society breaks new ground
God’s Word is being revived in the lives of Palestinian Christians through creative initiatives by the Palestinian Bible Society (PBS).
This is even though Palestinian Christians make up less than 1% of the population compared to 1948 when they were 20%.
Most people in general are not even aware of their presence in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, yet they are the heartbeat and hope of the nation, reports Nashat Filmon, Head of the Palestinian Bible Society.
Nashat and his team have been declaring the Word of God among Palestinian youth in boldness and joy all over the West Bank and the Gaza strip. They have also been upholding the role of the Bible in Jerusalem.
One key event is Bible Day which is creating peace and unity among different church denominations. Last year, more than 1,400 people attended PBS’s fifth annual Bible Day event in Jenin. Thousands of Bibles, books, audio players and USB drives were given away to encourage local Christians to work together. The programme included greetings from the Governor of Jenin, performances, worship songs, drama sketches and videos.
This event was the first large scale Christian event to take place in the north of the West Bank and received many positive testimonies.
“Through these kinds of events we can show others that we exist and we have an effective role in Palestinian society,” said Nashat.
Make a donation
If you would like to make a donation to help these three Bible Societies continue their work of sharing the love of Jesus with people in Israel, then you can use the secure form below. We greatly appreciate all those who are able to help us in this mission.
In the event that this appeal becomes oversubscribed, funds will be distributed where most needed.
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