Robert Stearns at Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem Conference 2015
Ari Bussel is Jewish. I can’t remember if Ari resides in Israel or if he is American citizen that often travels to Israel. The memory thing might be a sign of old age because I have been corresponding with Ari long enough that I should remember. The point though is this: Ari is one of those guys that gives me the bird’s eye view of things that go on Israel and the mindset state of American Jews residing in America.
Below is a Jewish perspective of the noisy kind of Church worship services I am accustomed to but occurred in Jerusalem sponsored by the New York based Eagles Wings (EW bio & FAQ) operated by Rev. (“Bishop”) Robert Stearns. If you are a Christian Ari’s experience at this annual Jerusalem conference is joyfully amusing and if you are Jewish his experience might be informative of noisy Christian Zionist coming together in prayerful support for Israel.
The First Sunday in October
By Ari Bussel
Sent: 10/12/2015 12:49 AM
The Festival of Tabernacle is a gathering time for Christians from around the world. They come to Israel to celebrate and pray.
For years now, Eagles Wings, a New York based church, holds its Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem on the first Sunday of October in Jerusalem, Israel.
The event is broadcast live on G-D’s TV, as a guest program. This year, it was scheduled to begin at 4 P.M. Israel time, and some 15 minutes earlier we were seated and were being given instructions: “If you are tapped on your shoulder, please accept it as a request to tone down your enthusiasm,” we were told, apparently in continuation to some faithful who in years past were overly drawn into the prayer festivities.
Mendi Safadi, Tania Beshkov, Ari Bussel, Daniel Pereg 2015
I was seated next to a close Druze friend, his Israeli wife (who emigrated with her family from the former Soviet Union) and an American guy who made Aliyah and now lives in Judea and Samaria. Three Jews and a Druze in a sea of Christians.
On the surface, this sea was calm, with rays of sun able to penetrate the most beautiful color blue. Only minutes later we would witness that the sea was about to erupt (though not to part), and while uniform in substance, its elements gathered from some forty countries around the world.
One after the next, people called out their countries: “Hong Kong, China,” “United States,” “Korea,” “Philippines,” and it went on and on, each time my head jerking toward a different direction from which the country name was called, my heart filled with joy and gratitude.
I sat amazed. There were few of us Jews. There were several reasons for that: The start of a major holiday was nearing with great rapidity (at sunset just hours later), the event was held inside a church and many were cognizant of the obvious attempts to proselyte.
The organizers were very aware of it as well, and asked us, their Jewish guests in attendance, to stand up, which we did. We did nothing heroic, quite on the contrary – we came to give our thanks for those gathered, recognizing their faith was so deeply rooted in ours; belief and action.
On the screen above where we sat, 120:00 started the countdown. Two hours of a live broadcast from Zion, Jerusalem. First were the sermons (“speeches” in layperson’s terms), captivating, energizing, with direct messages. But then the event transformed. We, the lay (secular) people would describe it: “Let the Party Begin!” And by all means, it was a prayer party the likes of which we Jews, rarely experience.
Everyone was standing. Heads held high and hands stretched upward. The music was live and there were singers to assist. But whether on stage or in the audience, everyone knew the words and melodies. Verses from the Bible turned into songs of prayer.
The rhythm, repetition and melody were contagious. One had to join in. Over and over again, with every fiber in the body being energized, with a force that was gaining momentum, our prayers were ascending up, up and upward.
The power of music and prayer have long been recognized, but for me, I always see King David, “making a fool of himself,” almost in a trance, worshipping God the Almighty, for all to see and join. And we too were in Jerusalem, just inside the Old City – walking distance away from the holiest place for every Jewish person, almost equidistance from the Church of Holy Sepulcher – Jews and Christians together worshiping our One God.
Boy, it was hot. The church air-conditioning was either not working or without sufficient capacity to accommodate the throngs of people. All seats were taken and people were standing around the walls and in some of the isles and passageways. It was a “standing room only,” everyone in their most beautiful dresses and suits, coming to worship, to be close to God the Almighty, and we were all sweating.
Oh, what a sight. Bishop Robert Stearns, who led the service and the program, used a white towel to wipe off his shaved, thus glowing, head every few minutes. We, the attendees and worshipers, stopped noticing the flow of sweat. We were all drained. Rivers flowing from us, but our eyes were fixated straight and up, our bodies almost inconsequential, whereas our souls were ascending, higher and higher, upward.
When it ended, and we exited the church, a refreshing breeze greeted us. Only then we understood how hot it was inside, but it mattered not. We came back to earth, as if from long distance travel that took us only two hours, yet transformed our very beings.
Was it like taking the Concord from New York to Europe? I think it was greater, many times over.
Except, next year, if the event is to be held at the same location, without air-conditioning, I will not attend. Now we know better, and we have become spoiled. Almost like refusing to fly coach if one can fly business!
Some years ago I attended the day of celebration. It seems that despite the passage of time, neither the enthusiasm nor the passion has subsided.
With increased vigor and strength, and a complete devotion, our Christian sisters and brothers descend on Israel, during the Festival of Tabernacles, but other times of the year as well, and express their deep love and support.
Vanessa Frank's parents ("Let the Lion Roar"), Laurie Cardoza-Moore ("Proclaiming Justice to The Nations"), Robert Stearns ("Eagles Wings"), members of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and so many others:
We stand at awe and salute you – for we are most grateful for your standing steadfast with us. You and seemingly no one else.
This is the latest in the series “Postcards from America – Postcards from Israel,” a collaboration between Zager and Bussel, a foreign correspondent reporting from Israel.
Ari Bussel and Norma Zager collaborate both in writing and on the air in a point-counter-point discussion of all things Israel-related. Together, they have dedicated the past decade to promoting Israel.
© Israel Monitor, October, 2015
First Published October 9, 2015