Christians from across the world have been sharing the love of Yeshua with Israelis by opening their homes and offering free, or almost free, accommodation to them as they travel.
In the year 2000 Israeli-born Messianic believer Omri Jaakobovich founded a network organization called Hosting Israeli Travelers (HIT) through which believers who love Israel can offer hospitality to young Israelis abroad.
HIT now has over 1800 registered host families in New Zealand, Australia and Britain – with plans to add further destination countries and hosts to the network. Currently more than 15,000 Israelis have been in contact with Christians and with the gospel through HIT.
Young people in Israel typically travel abroad after finishing their compulsory army service and before going to college. Many travel far as Australia and New Zealand. As the travelers are usually on a backpacker’s budget, the provision of safe, quality accommodation that is free of charge or available for a nominal amount, is greatly valued by these young travelers.
Jaakobovich himself came to faith in Yeshua while traveling in New Zealand following his military service. An important step towards his accepting the Gospel was hearing the bold witness of a Gentile Christian woman who ran a hostel in which he had stayed.
“I was confronted with the claims that Yeshua is the promised Jewish Messiah that was foretold by the Hebrew prophets in the Hebrew scriptures,” Jaakobovich said in one of two videos about HIT posted on KNI. “Ever since, my heart’s desire and prayer to God has been for the people of Israel that they might be saved.”
“I started the HIT network to create opportunities for host families to talk about Yeshua when the opportunity arises,” he told KNI.
Because of Jaakobovich’s personal connection to New Zealand, HIT began there. Indeed, New Zealand continues to be where most of the current host families live.
“A wide-range of people host on the HIT network,” Jaakobovich said. “But no matter what their backgrounds are, they all love the Jewish people and the nation of Israel.”
One such HIT host is Rosalie Schischka who lives in New Zealand with her husband, a retired mechanic. The Schischkas have been hosting Israeli travelers since 2002.
“Before I became a believer years ago, I had read Anne Frank’s diary, and the novel Exodus by Leon Uris,” Schischka told KNI. “I remember wondering even then why the Jewish people were so hated. I remember thinking it didn’t seem fair.”
“When I became a believer it seemed natural to join with like-minded people who love and pray for Israel,” she continued. “I was very fortunate that my husband felt the same and had been bought up to have a sympathetic heart toward the Jewish people.”
In 2001 the Schischkas attended a meeting at which they heard Jaakobovich speak about HIT.
“We learned that we could host Israeli travelers in our home, and became excited,“ Schischka recalled. “We only knew one Jewish person at the time, so the thought of having Israelis come to stay with us was amazing.”
During their first season of hosting between December 2002 and April 2003, the Schischkas welcomed some 150 Israeli travelers, and have continued to average around 100 to 150 guests a year.
“That is the number we have taken in, but it is up to the hosts to decide how busy they want to be,” Schischka explains.
Concerning sharing the Gospel with guests, Schischka noted, “We have been able to do a lot of bridge building, sharing our faith and explaining what it means to be a believer. We have ironed out a few misconceptions.”
It is not only Christian Gentiles who are invited to become HIT hosts. As the website explains: “We also extend our invitation to Jewish people (whether Orthodox, Reformed, Conservative, Secular or Messianic) and to native-born Israelis living out of Israel, to come and take part in our network as hosting and service providers.”
One Australian host is David Morris, a Jewish believer. Morris told KNI that he and his family try to share about Yeshua within a Jewish context. The family keeps kosher and follows traditional Jewish practices which helps guests feel at home away from home.
“We create a distinction between our guests’ understanding of a Christian Jesus that is alien to them, and the real Jewish Yeshua,” Morris said. “Many are open to this as they are generally fearful of Christian dogma associated with Jesus.”
However, HIT travelers are not be put under pressure to hear the Gospel.
“We instruct our hosts never to share against their guests’ will,” Jaacobovich said.
Through this ministry, the hosts often become close to their guests.
Matt Davis, a 41-year-old New Zealand police officer told KNI that he and his wife Sara and their daughters have been hosting for around seven years.
“I remember we once had two guests who stayed for four or five weeks. They really became part of the family – as does any Israeli who stays,” he said.
Morris reported that the hospitality is a two-way street.
“The parents of one guest we had were so relieved to know their son was staying in a kosher home that they returned the favor when we came to Israel in November 2016,” he said. “They fed us, fussed over us and opened their home to us. We were like family.”
Schischka concludes: “We have made life-long friendships and, when we visited Israel, we stayed with families of guests we had hosted. We are just a small part of the bigger picture and are thankful that we can be part of this amazing work God is doing among his chosen people.
“We are truly blessed.”
“Salvation has come to the Gentiles to provoke the Jewish people to jealousy.”
– Romans 11:11