JERUSALEM—Benny Lau, an Israeli rabbi, has spent much of his life working to bridge the gap between secular and religious Jews by making the Tanach accessible.
On Sunday, however he crossed another bridge and joined Evangelical Christians at the Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem.
“For many years I was focused inside Israeli society – the needs between the tribes,” he told ALL ISRAEL NEWS, adding that “swimming” between the “two pools” of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem is complicated enough.
But in the past few years, the founder of 929 Tanakh B’Yachad* (Bible together) spent time learning about and listening to the Christians who care about the future of the people of Israel.
This, he explained, is not simple. Lau’s father was a Holocaust survivor and, he noted, the memories of Christian persecution of Jews go back even further than that.
“But I believe that here in Israel, we need to move on, to look to our partners, to believe that they want to be something positive to the nation of Israel,” he said. “We both live by redemption, we believe that we are on the way, we believe that all the things that happened here in Jerusalem, in the State of Israel, is part of that journey of redemption. So we should share it together.”
Lau was one of the keynote speakers during the Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem, which took place in Jerusalem on Sunday and was broadcast live on God TV. Since 2002, the Day of Prayer has become an annual event galvanizing prayer focused on Jerusalem, as commanded in Psalm 122.
Eagles’ Wings founder Robert Stearns said the occasion underscores the importance of bringing Christians into alignment with God’s purposes for the Jewish people and land of Israel.
“How awesome to be together in this moment of God's divine unity,” he said.
Stearns recalled that this international event began in the Israeli embassy in New York City after officials invited Eagles' Wings – a ministry based in New York – to pray with them during the intifada in the early 2000s.
David Nekrutman, who was instrumental in organizing the New York City prayer meetings at the time, said it was worth “schlepping” the keyboards and drums through Israeli security in order to birth this global movement.
The timing of the Day of Prayer was chosen by Jack Hayford purposely to take place around the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) so that Christians could reflect on the Church’s past in relation to the Jewish people in order to determine its course for the future.
“For a Jew to accept this friendship is very hard because of the collective memory of the past,” Nekrutman said.
Nevertheless, the consul general at the time grasped the importance of Christians support of Israel, especially during the intifada, and fostering the relationship.
“The choices that we made are going to make the difference for us to be a part of the story,” Nekrutman said. “We are a remnant, but the difference is that now there is a Christian walking with me. This is a story about God.”
Pastor Teo Hayashi from Brazil spoke about how touring Israel and diving into the Old Testament is for him an ongoing “journey.”
“Christianity that only focuses on the New Testament is like you coming into a movie during the intermission,” he said. “It’s so much better if you get it from the beginning.”
Visiting Israel, Hayashi said, helped put his own life and calling in perspective. He said it enabled him to see God’s broader plan.
“Understanding the Jewish mindset – He has a plan for a nation,” Hayashi said. “The sense of awe and honor to be part of something greater than myself keeps me focused and grounded.”
“It’s about one nation that’s affecting other nations. It makes sense for me to keep praying for the peace of Jerusalem,” he said.
Lau spoke of the prophetic picture of redemption of the Jewish people and the nation of Israel in the Book of Ezekiel. First the Lord said, “Shalom, Jerusalem,” but the meaning of shalom in this context was “goodbye.” Then Ezekiel had the vision of dry bones coming back to life. After, the Lord again says, “Shalom, Jerusalem,” but this time He means, “hello,” or welcome – a sign of the restoration of Israel.
“We are living in a window in history – a window of redemption of the Jewish people,” he said.
Local Christian leaders – Kate Hess from the Jerusalem House of Prayer for All Nations and Rick Ridings from Succat Hallel – led prayer for the city and blessed the nation.
*929 is the number of chapters in the Old Testament.
Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.