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Church. He is also chairman of the Evangelical Convention in Israel that brings together all
evangelical churches and para-church institutions in the country. The Association is going through
some major organizational changes to meet the challenges of the era now that the missionaries have
left and a new generation is emerging. Recently, a draft constitution was proposed to replace an old
constitution from the 1960s.
The Baptist community in Israel is trying to make an impact. Living in a multi-faith and multi-
cultural society can be tough. It isn’t easy being a minority group. Arab-Israeli citizens are considered
second class citizens who receive less state benefits than Jewish-Israelis. “Between a rock and a hard
place” describes it well.
Even though the churches are growing in number, they have a great need for development. Lots of
the pastors are untrained and some have to work more than one job in order to survive. Many churches
do not own a church building and meet in rented apartments, which limits their activities. Even the
crown of the Baptist witness in Israel, Nazareth Baptist School, is located in an outdated building in
central Nazareth with hopes to move to a new, modern campus.
With all these difficulties, the small Baptist community in the land where God became flesh and
dwelt among us is experiencing revival and growth. The dynamic outreach ministry led by Ashraf
Abishai has greatly blessed the surrounding communities in Galilee, and involves many volunteers
from ABCI churches. Many families have opened their homes to begin Bible studies and hear the Word
of God in different towns. The ministry has fruits where people are coming to accept Christ as their
personal savior. Recently, 35 new believers were baptized in the Jordan River on one occasion and
many more are coming forward. Some young people are makings decisions to study for the ministry.
A major step toward realizing and meeting the need for training local leaders was the opening of
the Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary (NETS) in 2007, which is a Baptist initiative with
other evangelicals invited to participate. There are around 30 students in the seminary today, many who
are active leaders in their churches already. They study in the beautiful “Nazareth Baptist Missionary
House” that was purchased recently and is in walking distance from the town’s major historical sites.
Baptists are peacemakers and work for social justice in the Holy Land. From one side, they are
united with fellow Christians in the Palestinian Territories who are under lots of pressure. At the same
time, they have fellowship with Messianic Jews in Israel, another persecuted group that tries to witness
to the peoples of this land. This unity of the followers of Christ has been a counterbalance to fanatics
from all sides, including Christians who favor one side or another in the conflict. Baptists in the Holy
Land are raising the banner of love and forgiveness, walking in the footsteps of Jesus, ministering in
some of the same locations where Jesus himself ministered 2,000 years ago, trying against all odds
to be salt and light in the land with 100 years of conflict that does not look like it is coming to an end
soon.
Please visit the Association of Baptist Churches website, www.baptist.org.il.
Bader Mansour is the Secretary of the Association of Baptist Churches in Israel.
Photos: Participants in the First Century Nazareth Village. Baptists, together with other Christians
have established a living presentation of the life, times, and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth for the
world.

Monther Naoum, Chairman of the Association of Baptist Churches in Israel
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