Every year, the ELAV youth conference in Israel brings together young believers from Israeli Arab and Jewish backgrounds, together with other Arab Christians from the Palestinian Territories, Jordan and Egypt.
The three day conference inspires participants to go deeper in their walk with God and in relationship with each other. This year, the conference was held in Jerusalem.
These young people, who have grown up in the Middle East, are no strangers to political and religious strife. But, with the growth of ISIS in recent times, the level of tension has dramatically increased. On the first evening of this year's conference, organiser Rick Ridings (from Sukkat Hallel prayer ministry in Jerusalem), read out a flier written in Arabic that had been distributed around Jerusalem by supporters of ISIS threatening death to Christian Arabs in Jerusalem. As a physical act of solidarity the young people stood together in circles of about 10, arms interlocked, as they pledged themselves to each other as brothers and sisters - Messianic Jewish youth with Christian Arab. That when times of trouble come, when persecution spreads, each community would stand with the other. They would not be alone, they would open up their homes to each other, they would pray and support each other as God's family. In these interlocked groups, the young people earnestly prayed for each other. We do not know what this generation will have to face during their lifetime but here, in the centre of Jerusalem a foundation was laid between these young people from such diverse backgrounds. United by their faith in Jesus, they stood side by side and hand in hand, one family in the Kingdom of God.
"God has been doing something through this conference," shared one Messianic Jewish youth leader, "Every year, we see something new happen. There is something very powerful happening right now because God is preparing us for the days ahead, when we will have to stand with each other in the face of death. It will take the fullness of God's love in our hearts to be able to do that."
"Its not easy to do this...as we are doing it right now," shared one of the Arab youth leaders, "It's Jesus."
A Jewish and Arab youth leader, linked arms and addressed the conference, they got down on their knees still with arms around each other. and declared, "We are going to dedicate our lives for one another, to serve one another, and to be willing to lay down our lives. That we will be willing to say yes, to the end."
These young people are serious. They are on fire for their faith and there is a real sense that God is raising up this generation to go deeper with him. Much of the conference is dedicated to worship and many of the worship sets were led by local young people in Hebrew and Arabic. During these extended times of worship, the majority of the young people