Undeterred, the organisers of ELAV, an annual youth and young adult conference held in Israel, trusted the Lord to move in powerful ways and break-through despite the obstacles. "These young people came carrying a lot of hurt because of all the recent violence here in Israel," said Rick Ridings, the Director of ELAV. "Many of them thought they had dealt with these feelings, but because of the kidnappings and killings they are in pain, on both sides."
Around 900 young people descended on the city of Haifa, to attend ELAV, which means 'Unto Him' in Hebrew. About 500 Israeli Jewish believers, 300 Arab Christians from Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan and 100 from other nations. Despite their diverse backgrounds, they had one important thing in common: they were passionate about God and expectant to meet with him during the 3 day conference.
|Rick Ridings (centre) with a Jewish and Arab Pastor praying |
before sharing the Lord's Supper together.
A Jewish Pastor blessed the bread and an Arab Pastor blessed the wine. Together they declared Yeshua/Jesus' victory: The power to break down barriers that divide and to transform fear and hatred into unconditional love. They prayed healing and peace not only for those at the conference, but also that they would bring healing to all around them, and be a channel of Yeshua's life to push back the power of death in the land. "As hundreds of young people came for communion," shared Rick Ridings, "we proclaimed that we would not allow the tensions of the past weeks to pull us apart, but instead demonstrate that:
'He himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one, and has destroyed the barrier, the middle wall of hostility...and has made of the two, one new man, Jew and Gentile.'"
|Arabic Church from Jerusalem leading worship|
Local teams led worship in Hebrew and Arabic. The young people were serious about entering into the Lord's presence and worshiped passionately in all languages. A message on adoption and acceptance led to a call to wash each others feet. There were lots of tears, hugs and prayers as Jewish young people washed the feet of their Arab brothers and sisters and Arab young people washed the feet of the Messianic Jewish believers. One of the young adult leaders of the event proclaimed from the stage that, "What we are doing here - This is the Kingdom of Heaven!"
"I just want to hug my Arab brothers and sisters!" said a young believer who had grown up in an ultra orthodox Jewish ghetto. "I had grown up with the view that Arabs are bad people but as I washed the feet of my Arab sister, I was able to ask forgiveness for the way my family, and my people look at them," she said, "to hear her say that she forgives me and loves me was so healing. It was the love from Yeshua, nothing else. I never had an Arab friend. Now I have daily contact with my sisters from Ramallah, Jordan and Lebanon."
|Jewish and Arab believers pray for each other after washing each others feet|
For the first time this year, there were two special seminar sessions where Jewish, Arab and Palestinian young people could share with each other in small groups. Some people had never spent time with believers from one of the other communities before and had an opportunity to ask very honest questions and share answers. The openness and sincerity of the participants led to a real deepening of relationships.
|Heidi Baker of Iris Ministries speaking at ELAV|
Guest speaker, Heidi Baker, who works in Mozambique, shared wonderful stories of whole Muslim villages coming to faith in the Lord, and Elisa Poluakan, a leader from the Indonesian youth movement, shared about the break through in his nation where thousands of Muslims are accepting Jesus as Lord. The conference was encouraged to hear these testimonies of revival among Muslims and prayed for an outpouring in their nations too. "The Middle East is not too difficult for our God!" declared Rick.
One of the Jewish youth leaders shared how he met with some of his youth over lunch and asked them what they felt God was trying to show them during the conference. Most of the youth said they felt God was calling them to commit their lives in a deeper way to Yeshua and that they also had a better understanding of how Jewish and Arab believers are one Body, the Body of Messiah. A girl from this youth group shared about meeting some Christian Arabs from Jordan and sitting with them for lunch, "They had never met an Israeli Messianic Jew. They told me they thought all the Jews hated them, that is what they are taught. They were surprised when I told them that most of the Jews do not grow up hating the Arabs."
|Hungry to receive more|
The vision of ELAV is "to provide a safe environment for Jewish and Arab youth and young adults to have personal encounters with the Lord, to wait on him through worship and prayer, to grow in unity, and to be challenged to minister the Kingdom of God into every area of society."
In the midst of political tensions growing throughout the Middle East region, ELAV was an oasis of healing and Agape love. This is the Kingdom of Heaven. As these young people fixed their eyes on the Lord, the differences of opinion they may have had was not the issue. Here were brothers and sisters, from different cultures, speaking different languages but sons and daughters of the same heavenly Father. They were with family and together, as one voice they gave glory and honour to God Almighty and he blessed them for it.
|Passionate worshipers led by a local Hebrew speaking worship team|
"For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility...His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility" Ephesians 2:14-16