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Touching Heaven

Impacting Israel’s future through education

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26 Feb 2013 (All day)
Touching Heaven

The calling of Abraham and its enduring legacy have become one of the most impacting events in world history. This single individual set in motion a redemption process which would transform the world. No wonder the book of Galatians refers to those who have set their trust in the God of Abraham and His Messiah as “sons of Abraham”.

The book of Genesis gives us an important key to understand the unique calling of Abraham. It records that God said: “For I have known him [Abraham], in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” (Genesis 18:19)

One major ingredient for Abraham to succeed – to see all that “He has spoken to him” coming to fruition – would reside in the education and teaching of his children and the generations after them. If Abraham would instruct “his children and his household after him” to walk in the ways and principles of God, this would ensure the promises which God had spoken over Abraham’s life.

Consequently, the education and equipping of youth has become one of the pillars of Judaism until today. Other passages of the Bible strongly encourage the training of children. In fact, the most central confession of the Jewish people, the Shema prayer, relates to the education of children.

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

In the Jewish home it was mainly the father’s task to teach the children about the Bible, but even beyond the home very early in Israel’s history a system of learning and education was established. In the times of Jesus, all of Israel was covered by a network of schools. This emphasis on education was so strong that according to the Talmud a city which did not have a school for children “should be either destroyed or excommunicated”. Some Talmudic sages even declared that part of the reason why Jerusalem fell was because of the city’s “neglect of the education of its children”.

Already in Jesus’ times school attendance for children was compulsory, and by the age of ten a child would have studied most of the books of the Bible. According to the Bible scholar Alfred Edersheim, the starting point of a child’s education was at age 5-6 and would commence with the study of the Book of Leviticus. Paul relates to this in his letter to his Jewish co-worker Timothy, saying “that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures…” (II Timothy 3:15)

This should inspire all of us as parents today, in particular fathers, not only to invest in the academic advancement of our children but to make our homes a place of learning and studying of the word of God. It will shape every child for the rest of their life.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

This ancient culture of learning from a young age is most certainly part of the intellectual success story of the Jewish people. It is no coincidence that 30% of all Nobel prizes in science have been awarded to Jews and that Israel today leads the world in patents granted per capita. Nor is this due to a mere intellectual advantage, but it is based on a biblical culture of study and learning.

This emphasis on education and learning also has become critical to having a long-term impact on developing nations. Investing in education rather than just mere food programs empowers the recipients to take charge of their lives and to uplift families and even whole communities.

For this reason, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem has felt the need to put an increased emphasis within our social work towards the empowerment and education of Israel’s youth. It is not that Israel’s education system is in need of much change – on the contrary. But we want to assist youngsters growing up in socially and emotionally challenging situations to succeed in life, and to give talented students opportunities their families might not be able to afford.

Over the years, we already invested in a variety of educational programs in Israel, such as special scholarships for Ethiopian Jewish students and educational grants to needy students at Ariel University. Yet we sense that God is leading us to expand this outreach to another level. And after much prayer, it has been amazing to see over just the past few months some of the new and incredible doors suddenly opening up to us in this area.

Several years ago, the Christian Embassy began sponsoring a program called “Touching the Horizon”. This unique program reaches out to young people from broken and dysfunction families and alters their destinies through a special mentoring program which follows their progress for seven years, even after high school and into army service. This pilot program – the first of its kind in Israel – was so successful that it attracted the attention of the Ministry of Education. It became obvious to ministry officials that after only a few years the prospects for these disadvantaged students had dramatically improved.

As a result, the Ministry of Education asked us to take the “Touching the Horizon” program to as many schools as possible. The ministry agreed to assist with two-thirds of the operating costs of the program and we have committed to sponsor the remaining one-third. Our vision is to expand the mentoring program to 30 schools across Israel and thereby empower hundreds of young Jewish and Arab teens-at-risk to succeed in life.

What is most exciting and unique about this project is that – at our request – the curriculum will include special classes about co-existence between cultures and religions and in particular classes on Jewish-Christian relations.

Another exciting door which has just opened is a possible new partnership with the Center for Excellence in Jerusalem. This premier scholastic center boasts an enrolment of some of the brilliant students from all across Israel and shapes them into future leaders of Israel. Some of these gifted children come from poor families and require financial assistance and the Center has asked the Christian Embassy to partner with them in providing the best education to the brightest students regardless of need.

In coming months we will keep you informed on this and other exciting opportunities opening to us in the area of educating Israeli youths. Please join with us is this inspiring vision and task to shape and impact the future of Israel. It is a great calling which promises blessing to all involved.

Remember that Jesus himself said: “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10)

Heaven indeed is watching as we care for the young and underprivileged in Israel! Send your donation today to help us make a difference!

Dr. Jürgen Bühler is the executive director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org

For more on the Educational projects in Israel currently being supported by the ICEJ,
CLICK HERE!



 

 

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