Palestinian Christian reaches out to Jews
Ava Thomas, Baptist Press
March 30, 2011

Palestinian Christian reaches out to Jews

Palestinian Christian reaches out to Jews
Ava Thomas, Baptist Press
March 30, 2011

BETHLEHEM, West Bank — It stings when people think he’s a


Esa* is a follower of the Messiah who was born in his

hometown — Bethlehem — 2,000 years ago.

“When I was in America, my wife and I visited different

churches, Esa recounted. “I met a lady and she started to shake my hand.” But

when she found out Esa was Palestinian, she snatched her hand away before he

could shake it, and she left. “It really hurt,” he said.

“Christian” and “Palestinian” just don’t go together

sometimes for people, Esa said. “But we have Palestinians here who love Jesus.

We pray for our brothers in Christ.”

A Dutch photographer plastered portraits of Palestinians across a 30-foot wall that divides Bethlehem from the rest of Israel in an attempt to make light of the otherwise tension-laden coexistence of Jews and Palestinians.

That includes those on the other side of the dividing wall

that separates Bethlehem, where so many have yet to know Jesus as Savior, from

nearby Jewish communities adrift in spiritual emptiness.

“God is at work in my heart,” Esa said. “It’s very hard when

you grow up and someone hits you … it is very hard to give them forgiveness.

Growing up in this land, I saw blood — the Arabs and the Jews were always

killing each other, no peace, no love, nothing.”

It is a reality he has seen up close and personal amid the

ongoing Israeli-Palestinian tensions. When he was 10 years old, Israeli

soldiers occupied his home, dictated when his family could leave the house and

took his brother to jail after breaking three of his ribs, Esa said.

Then one turned to him and told him he was a terrorist.

“I could not understand what he was talking about — I was 10

years old. And I’m crying and shaking and scared with five soldiers with guns

coming into my home,” he said.

It wasn’t the last time he heard that accusation.

But years later after he’d become a believer, when he felt

that hurt again in an American church, he said God began to work on his heart

and the way he felt toward the Jews.

“I said, ‘God, in the name of Jesus I give forgiveness to

the Jewish people with all my heart and I don’t need anything from them. I love

them, and I believe you heal me and you work in my heart to love Jewish people,’”

Esa said. “And I heard Him say, ‘You have to make peace.’”

After that, in addition to his passion for reaching his own

people in Bethlehem, his heart burned to reach out and love his Jewish

neighbors across the way. Every Christmas and Easter he gets permission to

cross into Jerusalem, and when he does, he goes straight to the Western Wall.

“I go there to meet Jewish people and build relationships

with them,” Esa said. “I want to be able to take our (ministry) teams to work

with them, too, and for us to work alongside Jewish (Messianic believers). For

us to work as a group … it’s still my vision, and I never give up.”

*Name changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Thomas is an International Mission Board

writer/editor based in Europe.)

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Israelis, Palestinians in never-ending battle

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