On the Saturday morning of Oct. 7, Pastor Saleem Shalash and his wife Nasreen were getting ready to go to the gym before coming back to prepare for their service at Home of Jesus the King Church.
Shalash reached for his phone to check messages before they left. When he saw the news of the terror attacks, his heart fell.
“You know what I felt? I felt huge rockets fall on all the bridges that I built all my life with the Jewish people,” Shalash shared with ALL ISRAEL NEWS.
Pastor Shalash is no stranger to his Jewish neighbors in Nof HaGalil, the Jewish neighborhood in Nazareth.
His relationship with the community there started in 2020 during the Covid-19 crisis. That was when he first expressed the desire to be a blessing to the Jewish community there. Their relationship has continued since that time.
Seeing the news of the attacks, Shalash took his phone and called the mayor of Nof HaGalil, with whom he has cultivated a relationship over the years.
He remembered the worried tone in the mayor’s voice.
“We talk almost every week,” Shalash said, “but I felt he is different.”
“I’m here for you,” Shalash told the mayor. “I’m here because we want to help. We want to be light in darkness.”
At that point, Shalash recalls, “his tone changed. ‘Ah, this is Saleem,’ he said.”
“You were the first person to call me,” the mayor told him.
Since then, the Home of Jesus the King Church has had volunteers almost every day from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m., working, helping and visiting.
“My children with me, my wife with me, my congregation with me, working and being light in darkness. This is the message and this is the time,” Shalash said.
Shalash said he told God, “I will not stop building bridges. Even if it is destroyed, I will build again and again until the day that you call me back home, then I know that it’s done.”
At first, Shalash was apprehensive due to the large amount of evacuees. Where would he get the funding to get so many supplies? So he began to pray.
“God, to fix this, it’s a lot of work, a lot of funds, I have nothing.”
He felt God telling him: “It’s not your business. I have the hearts of the kings in my hand.”
“And suddenly, from here, from there, you know, people start to connect and to send funds to help Home of Jesus to be light in the darkness,” Shalash shared.
By the end of November, the church had donated close to 700 hygiene kits, including toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, deodorant and shampoo, for every evacuee family.
The church has donated hundreds of food boxes to the families and has donated gas stoves to families who had not yet found accommodations with cooking facilities.
“We donated everything that we can to help the Jewish community, because here all the Arabs, 90%, they want to live in peace,” Shalash said.
Shalash has partnered with Meno Kalisher, who leads the Jerusalem Assembly House of Redemption, several times. Following the Oct. 7 invasion, the two ministries have partnered on several aid projects.
Shalash recalled: “I was meeting with the mayor of Nof HaGalil when Meno called.” Shalash told the mayor, “This is my friend, he is a Messianic Jewish pastor in Jerusalem.”
The mayor was surprised that a Jewish congregation and an Arab congregation were working together.
“Meno tells the mayor, ‘Because you’re talking with Saleem right now, instead of sending 10,000 shekels for buying shoes [for the evacuees], I’m going to send 15,000 instead.’”
Shalash said the motivation for his work in helping the evacuees and showing love to his Jewish neighbors is grace.
“It’s called grace. Do you know why salvation is free? Because no one can pay Jesus back. It’s a very expensive price he paid, his blood, for all the world,” Shalash said. “That’s what we’re doing today, sharing the love, starting here from Israel to all of the world.”
J. Micah Hancock is a current Master’s student at the Hebrew University, pursuing a degree in Jewish History. Previously, he studied Biblical studies and journalism in his B.A. in the United States. He joined All Israel News as a reporter in 2022, and currently lives near Jerusalem with his wife and children.