During an event commemorating the 70th anniversary of the adoption of United Nations Resolution 181 recommending the creation of an independent Jewish State, Dean Bye, international director of Return Ministries in Canada, led one of several tours of a former boarding school at Kibbutz Beit Zera.
“We from the nations…acknowledge that Israel is the foremost of the nations and that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of this nation,” Bye told an enthusiastic group of international visitors to the kibbutz in the Jordan Valley on Nov. 29.
Return Ministries, whose theme is Working Together for Israel, established a base in Tiberias in 2013 and, in 2016, began working with Israelis to restore a former boarding school for 350 students, grades seven to 12, that had closed in 2008. The formerly abandoned campus of approximately 15 acres is currently being transformed into an educational facility focused on helping young Israelis become established in the land. Christians from abroad come to serve while demonstrating an unconditional love of Israel and the Jewish people with no hidden agenda.
Last week, Bye presided over a ceremony in which 37 flags were raised. The goal is that 70 flags will one day surround the Israeli flag at the main campus entrance representing nations that are actively supporting the restoration project. Bye compared that number to the 33 U.N. member nations who originally voted to adopt Resolution 181.
When Return Ministries met several years ago with leaders in Beit Zera to discuss procuring the inactive facility in the kibbutz, they learned that the other Israelis had already tendered an offer for the same facility with the same goal in mind, to help people settle in the land.
“What did the kibbutz [leadership] do?” Bye asked his audience. “Did they go with this little Christian ministry or did they work with the organization sanctioned by the [Israeli] government… It would seem like it would be an easy answer. Well, they made a decision; maybe they would work together.”
As a result, Return Ministries committed to “go through the awkwardness of what it might mean as Christians and Jews working together.” They see their involvement in the cooperative effort as partial fulfillment of Christians’ biblical imperative to serve God’s people according to the words of the prophet Isaiah.
“When the LORD will have compassion on Jacob and again choose Israel, and settle them in their own land, then strangers will join them and attach themselves to the house of Jacob.” (Isaiah 14:1)
RETURN MINISTRIES COMMITTED TO “GO THROUGH THE AWKWARDNESS OF WHAT IT MIGHT MEAN AS CHRISTIANS AND JEWS WORKing TOGETHER.”
Now, in 2017, Return Ministries is the primary fundraiser responsible for renovations to the school’s once-abandoned structures and for establishing a welcome center for Christian pilgrims who come for short visits or three-month internships with the ministry.
Though its restoration is incomplete, the campus is currently home to several who have completed their military service in Israel, providing, in Bye’s words, “a soft landing” for those who have served in the land.
“Literally thousands of hours have been spent here by Christians,” Bye added. “Thousands of dollars have been placed here by Christians saying it is time we serve and honor these kibbutzim [who] established the beginning of the modern State of Israel.”
The campus tours last week were followed by the formal flag-raising ceremony beside the Jordan River in which Return Ministries “declared God’s message to the nations, that we are intent upon being the ‘true’ united nations supporting the restoration of Israel and the return of her people from the nations.”
Resolution 2017, presented at the closing of the ceremony, begins: “Representing our nations in a spirit of repentance and humility, we believe we have a biblical mandate to enter into covenant with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
Return Ministries’ commitment to that covenant (complete text of Resolution 2017 can be found here) includes prayer for Israel “day and night,” renunciation of all forms of replacement theology and the intent to fulfill God’s mandate by serving His people sacrificially, with unconditional love, declaring as Ruth did to Naomi, “Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried…” (Ruth 1:16,17)
We are intent upon being the ‘true’ united nations, supporting the restoration of Israel and the return of her people from the nations.
The ceremonies concluded with a closing blessing and fellowship beside the Jordan River. Return Ministries urges prayer that 70 nations will commit to pray, serve and fund the restoration of the center at Beit Zera. They invite interested parties to serve and learn as the campus restoration continues, to pledge to pray in support of Resolution 2017 and they welcome online donations from well-wishers.