Why We Reach Out to Israel’s Arab Community?Published on: 17.8.2022
By: David Parsons ICEJ Vice President & Senior Spokesman and Nicole Yoder ICEJ Vice President for Aid & Aliyah
Sometimes, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is asked why we engage in social aid projects directed towards the Arab community in Israel.
It is true that when the ICEJ was founded in 1980, we received a clear biblical mandate to be a ministry of comfort to Israel and the Jewish people, especially in light of all the past wounds inflicted on Jews by Christians. We have faithfully carried out this mission ever since. But we also have compelling reasons for reaching out to Israeli Arabs – including Muslims, Christians, Bedouin and Druze.
First, we know God loves all humans – no matter their ethnic background. When God first called Abraham into a special covenant relationship and birthed Israel, His clearly stated goal was to “bless all the families of the earth.” (Genesis 12:3) That includes Arab “families” – who after all are also descended from Abraham.
Further, the Law of Moses commanded the Israelites to be kind to the stranger in the land, because they were once strangers in the land of Egypt. They could not “mistreat” or “oppress” them (Exodus 22:21; 23:9), but rather had to “love” them (Leviticus 19:33-34; Deuteronomy 10:19). In fact, the rabbis point out that Abraham ‘ran to the strangers’ and offered them a hearty meal when three visitors appeared before his tent (Genesis 18:2). Many Jews in Israel today consider these biblical standards to be guidelines for how they should treat the Arab minority in their country. So, we are always looking for ways to encourage reconciliation, harmony and goodwill between Jews and Arabs in Israel, just as Jesus taught in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).
As Christians, we also are called to a way of peace (1 Corinthians 7:15), and to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). Therefore, we have sponsored many joint Jewish-Arab social aid projects (particularly for the younger generations) to promote peaceful coexistence and mutual respect.
The Hebrew prophets, such as Isaiah 19, also inspire us with a vision that one day there will be a broader reconciliation between the restored nation of Israel and the surrounding Arab countries. We are seeing the first fruits of that vision today, especially in the Abraham Accords and the growing fellowship between Messianic Jews and Arab believers.
In practical terms, Arab citizens make up 20% of the Israeli population and they enjoy the same democratic rights as Jewish citizens. Thus, while most of our aid budget goes to benefit the Jewish majority, a good portion is directed towards the Arab sector, often to projects that bring the two peoples together. We do this to promote societal cohesion, knowing it helps strengthen Israel if the nation does not have to spend time, energy and resources dealing with ethnic clashes inside the country – as happened in May 2021.
Many of our social aid programs also promote economic opportunity for the poor, and unfortunately many Israeli Arab families are stuck in poverty. If they are not able to keep up with the Israeli mainstream, it can lead to crime, violence, drugs and civil unrest.
Israeli Jews themselves regularly ask the ICEJ for help in giving Arab citizens a better chance to succeed. For instance, while Israel’s hi-tech industry is booming, we learned that only 3% of the hi-tech workers are Arabs, with Arab women comprising only 0.1%. Thus, we are funding a very promising program which teaches computer programming to select Arab students in need.
Also remember that Israel is constantly defamed as an “apartheid state”, while we as Christian supporters of Israel are accused of “racism” for our perceived indifference to Arab concerns. But we know Israel seeks to treat its Arab minority fairly, while the ICEJ has a proven track record of reaching out to the Israeli Arab community for over 40 years now.
We at the Christian Embassy want to see Israel preserved and strengthened. And while our primary mandate is to comfort the Jewish people, the local Arab community also is an integral part of Israeli society. For all these reasons, we are pro-actively reaching out to them as well with a sincere witness of Christian love.