by: Ilse Posselt
Monday, 16 May 2016 | Some 2,500 years ago, God pledged through the Hebrew prophet Isaiah, “Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, She gave birth to her children” (Isaiah 66:8).
On 14 May 1948, more than two millennia later, the promise was fulfilled: the State of Israel was reborn–in one day, as God had promised.
The restoration of the Jewish people to their God-given homeland has long since been regarded as nothing short of miraculous. Every Independence Day, Israel marks the occasion with thanksgiving and praises to God. This year, as part of the “Day to Praise” initiative, a group of Christians traveled to Gush Etzion in Judea to join their voices with a group of Jewish people to praise God as one for the creation of the modern State of Israel.
The initiative is the brainchild of Dr. Shlomo Riskin, Chief Rabbi of the Israeli town of Efrat, and founder of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation [CJCUC]. Now in its fourth year, it aims to unite Jews and Christians—particularly on such a miraculous occasion—in praise to God, their voices resounding across the world, acknowledging the tremendous miracle He has done in our lifetime.
This year, “Day to Praise” took place on Thursday, 12 May 2016, Israel’s Independence Day. According to tradition, the 120 Jewish and Christian attendees celebrated by reciting the Psalms 113-118.
“Psalms 113-118 has a rich history in Jewish liturgy. It is recited during the morning prayers on biblical feasts such as Passover, Shavout (Pentecost) and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles)… This series of psalms is entitled Hallel, which means praise.”
A year after Israel’s rebirth, the Chief Rabbinate instituted Independence Day as a minor holiday within the sacred calendar of the Jewish people. That is why reciting the Hallel on this day is regarded as an integral part of the celebrations.
The purpose of Hallel, says David Nekrutman, Executive Director, CJUC, is to thank God for His extraordinary redemptive acts towards His people. The rebirth of the State of Israel according to God’s promise is not only a Jewish miracle, but something that Christians can also rejoice in.
According to Nekrutman, the inspiration for the initiative is found in the Hallel itself. Psalm 117 issues a clear invitation to the nations to praise God for His covenantal love and faithfulness towards Israel. At first glance, Nekrutman argues, this mandate may appear strange. “It makes sense that the recipient of God’s loving-kindness should be the one to thank God. However, why does the psalmist require the nations to praise God for what He has done for Jewry?”
The answer lies, explains Nekrutman, in the two reactions of thanksgiving and praise in response to a miracle. Thanksgiving, he says, comes from “the beneficiary of the miracle itself.” Praise, on the other hand, is the reaction of one who sees something awe-inspiring or miraculous.
The return of the nation of Israel to its homeland after some 2,000 years in exile arguably qualifies as awe-inspiring and miraculous. “No other rational explanation in the world can explain the phenomenon of Israel’s existence today except that God continues to be faithful to His covenantal promise made thousands of years ago to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” says Nekrutman. “The miracle of Israel today should serve as an inspiration to other nations to bless the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is our hope that one day the fullness of Psalm 117 will be witnessed in our lifetime.”
This year, the reading of the psalms was done in a particularly prophetic manner. Each of the participants recited Psalm 117 in his or her mother tongue, after which all attendees read the psalm together in Hebrew. According to Nekrutman, this fulfils the prophecy in Zephaniah 3:9, “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they all may call on the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord.”
The location for this year’s event is not without significance. Over the past six months, the Gush Etzion region has seen numerous terror attacks. The Gush Etzion junction is also where three teenage boys were abducted and murdered by Hamas operatives in 2014, resulting in Operation Protective Edge. “The affirmation of faith in a place where Israel’s enemies have attempted to crush the Jewish right to the land made the event especially poignant,” Breaking News Israel reported.
“This gather[ing] is meant as an act of solidarity intended to comfort Israel in the heart of its suffering,” Nekrutman affirmed.
Next year’s “Day to Praise” will take place on 2 May 2017.
Posted on May 16, 2016
Source: (Bridges for Peace, 16 May 2016)
Photo Credit: David Nekrutman/facebook.com
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