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BAPTISTS IN ISRAEL TO MARK 100 YEARS OF BAPTIST WITNESS IN 2011
BY BADER MANSOUR

Farewells were said as a determined young man left his family in Safed, the
crown jewel of the mountains overlooking the Sea of Galilee, to make his way to
America. In 1909, under the love and guidance of Dr. George W. Truett, Shukri Musa
found the desire of his heart and was baptized into the fellowship of the First Baptist
Church of Dallas, Texas.
In the spring of 1911, the Baptist Churches of Southern Illinois sent Mr. Musa, now
an ordained pastor, back to his people in Safed. Many hearts were stirred by the
soundness and power of his witnessing. One young man, Louis Hanna, became
convinced of the truth of the Baptist faith and interpretation of the New Testament
and requested baptism. Thus the first Baptist member in Palestine was baptized May
10, 1911 in the stream that flows through Wadi el Lemun (Valley of the Lemon),
near Safed.
(From “Southern Baptist Golden Anniversary, Palestine-Israel,” 1911-1961,
Dwight Baker)

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is referred to many times as a conflict that is “100
years old.” It is in this background that Baptists in Israel are preparing to celebrate
100 years since Baptist work began in Israel/Palestine in 1911 and developed into a
thriving church in Nazareth. The Nazareth Baptist Church was founded in 1926 and
still stands today and is referred to as “the Mother Church” within the Association of
Baptist Churches in Israel (ABCI). The 1948 war scattered many of the Palestinian
Baptist believers who became refugees in neighboring countries. Baptist work had a
new beginning following the war and one of the landmarks was the establishment of
Nazareth Baptist School in 1949. This KG-12 school – from kindergarten to grade 12
– is considered today to be one of the best schools in the country with its graduates
influencing the community in different ways.
The Baptist community in Israel numbers 3,000 people making up 20 churches
in Galilee and Central Israel. Of these churches, 16 are native Arabic speaking
churches in places like Nazareth, Haifa, Cana of Galilee, Shafamer, Kufur Yaseef,
Toraan, Ramle, Acre, Rama and Eilaboun. They are organized together under the
ABCI. The current chairman of ABCI is Monther Naoum, who is an ordained elder
at Shafamer Baptist

Photos: Bader Mansour, Secretary of the Association of Baptist Churches in Israel;
Ordination of a Baptist pastor in Nazareth in 2008
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