By MYRON LOVE I must admit that it was a bit incongruous to be hearing a devout Christian choir lustily singing well known and popular Hebrew songs such as “Am Israel Chai” and “Oseh Shalom”.  But, the member s of Bridges for Peace are also devout supporters of Israel and the Jewish People in our traditional homeland.

Thus, it was appropriate that the local branch of the international Christian Zionist organization held its annual fundraising banquet on Yom Ha’atzmaut – Israel’s Independence Day.
About 200 people, including several members of our Jewish community, attending the evening hosted by Gateway Church in East Kildonan, were treated to a humdinger of a speech by Reverend Dr. Cheryl Hauer, Bridges For Peace’s Jerusalem-based Director of International Development.
Hauer first noted the juxtaposition in Israel of Yom Ha’atzmaut following the day after Yom Hazikaron – Israel’s Remembrance day.  “The two days represent a combination of triumph and tragedy, pain and persistence,” she pointed out.  “Yom Hazikaron is a solemn day.  All Israelis stop wherever they are to observe a national moment of silence.  Television programming all day is focused on the fallen – the 23,000 Israelis who have died in war or as a result of terrorist attacks.
 “Then, at midnight, the music begins to blare, the tears are dried and the celebration begins.
 “The Jewish people are remarkably resilient.  They don’t give up or give in.  They know that their enemy wins if they stop living.”
Hauer argued the moral, legal and historical rightness of Israel.  She noted the 3,000-4,000 years of almost unbroken Jewish connection to the Land of Israel; the United Nations vote to legally recognize the Jewish state in 1948; and the Biblical prophecy that the Lord would one day gather the Jewish People, his Chosen People, from the four corners of the earth and lead them back to Israel where they would be a “light unto the nations”.
She cited several examples of Israel serving as a “light unto the Nations”.  She noted that Israel is one of only two countries in the world with more, rather than fewer trees, entering the 21st century.  Israel is at the forefront in almost every area of human endeavor - be it medical research, communications technology, transportation, solar power, improved agricultural techniques, refrigeration technology,  security and cyber warfare.
 “Israel has been rated as one of the ten happiest nations on earth,” she said.  “I know that it’s hard to believe from watching the local news.   It’s a wonderful, joyful place.
 “As Christians, we feel privileged to be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel no matter how tough the going gets. We are Israel’s friends. I am proud to call myself a Christian Zionist.”
Hauer and her fellow Bridges for Peace members have been backing up their words with deeds for the past 50 years.  The organization helps Jews in endangered communities in the Diaspora (e.g., Ukraine right now) make aliyah. It operates food banks that serve over 20,000 Israelis a month. It supports  50-100 needy families in 18 outlying towns, 400 children with hot lunches, school supplies and enrichment programs and 82 organizations – both Jewish and Arab.
Bridges For Peace also operates a home repair program, mainly for low income Jewish seniors. Real Bois is a Winnipegger who has been to Israel twice to volunteer with the home repair program.  He related his experiences to those attending the banquet.
 “We renovated several homes and one commercial building, which we transformed into a community centre,” he recounted.  “For homeowners, we did roof repairs, plumbing and electrical work.  There was one elderly couple in an apartment who hadn’t had plumbing for a year.  They couldn’t bathe or shower.  It didn’t take the three of us long to rectify the situation. The couple were amazed that Christian volunteers would do that for them at no charge.
 “What we do helps to change Jewish perceptions of Christians.”
The evening also featured video greetings from Israeli Consul General to Canada D. J. Schneeweiss; a presentation by Rob Berkowits, the Jewish National Fund’s executive director for Manitoba and Saskatchewan; reflections from Rebecca Malloy about her stay in Israel (along with her husband, Eric Malloy, national director, Bridges for Peace Canada) last December, where she witnessed the aftermath of a terrorist attack (by car) outside her hotel window; and photos and tales of our community’s Solidarity Mission to Israel last summer – at the height of the Gaza War – as recalled by Shelley Faintuch, the Jewish Federation’s community relations director (and organizer of the mission along with Michael and Danita Aziza) and Don James, Bridges for Peace national development director, who was one of three of the organization’s members who went on the mission.
 “Millions of Christians are standing with the People of Israel,” said Eric Malloy.  “The message that we are delivering to our Jewish friends and the State of Israel is that you are not alone.”