by Claire Stewart
“Reconciliation is something bigger than just people who hate each other and making them friends. It represents the heart of God.” – Yoel
At the annual Musalaha Summer Camp, this statement rings true. Children play tag, paint pictures, compete in water games, and worship together. You would never guess that these children are breaking down cultural stereotypes and social barriers as they share meals and laugh with their cabin-mates. Each year, the camp brings together Israeli and Palestinian children to build friendships with the “other” as they learn to build relationships founded on peace.
Over 20 years ago, Salim J. Munayer founded the nonprofit Musalaha (which means reconciliation in Arabic). Out of a vision to see true peace between Palestinian and Israelis, he built an organization whose mission is to promote, advocate, and facilitate reconciliation based on the life and teachings of Jesus. Musalaha’s Philosophy of Reconciliation makes this clear: “It is our belief that Christ’s death and resurrection are the foundation of reconciliation, and that forgiveness and healing can only come through following His example and obeying His word.”
Today, an executive board of an equal number of Israelis and Palestinians leads Musalaha in the realization of Salim Munayer’s vision for peace through retreats, camps, conferences, training, and publications.
Efrat captures Musalaha’s mission well with these words:“I have made the decision to meet with [the other] and go on this path because it’s what Yeshua calls us to do. To be his disciples and take up our cross even though it’s not always easy.”
Musalaha’s reconciliation process begins with building relationships. They believe that it is only through face-to-face contact that believers in the Holy Land will begin to view one another as something more than a faceless adversary. Efrat explains: “I have learned through Musalaha to put myself in [the other’s] place … I realize that there is something more important than our differences.”
From Desert Encounter trips to interfaith Bridge Building programs with Jews, Christians, and Muslims to monthly women’s meetings, Musalaha brings Israeli and Palestinian men, women, and youth together to begin the process of breaking down biases, living at peace with each other (Romans 12:18), and using their new relationships as a foundation upon which to deal with issues of the conflict.
Beyond building relationships, Musalaha trains participants in reconciliation and leadership. Scripture says, “God, who reconciled himself through Christ … gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). Musalaha’s goal is not only to foster reconciliation between program participants, but also to create impact in communities across the Holy Land by training believers to be peacemakers and to spread the message of hope and love throughout the land. “However long the conflict continues, we need to carry on meeting,” said Zaire* in his testimony, “We need to influence the next generation.”
As an outside observer of the Holy Land, it can at times seem like there is no hope. It can appear that there are no Palestinians or Israelis working towards peace. Nothing could be further from the truth. Musalaha is a pillar of peace-building strength, spreading Christ’s love and showing the world that peace is possible.
*Zaire’s name has been changed for confidentiality.
We thank you for Musalaha and praise you for the work they are doing in the Holy Land. We pray for the safety of participants who are involved in Musalaha’s programs—that they would find open hearts instead of resistance in their neighbors and family. We pray also for the Munayer family and the Musalaha staff as they seek to continue the ministry of reconciliation you have given them. Give the staff the strength to work in hard circumstances and the wisdom to look to you for guidance. We thank you for their desire to show your heart to the Holy Land.
In your holy name we pray,