“But Hashem will pardon Yaakov, and will again choose Yisrael, and will settle them on their own soil. And strangers shall join them and shall cleave to the House of Yaakov.” Isaiah 14:1 (The Israel Bible™)
“There’s a move from Nations that want to be part of Israel in a deeper way,” explained Chaim Malespin, Director of Operations at the Aliyah Return Center in Israel’s Galilee region. Responding to that desire, Malespin and his team offer opportunities to Christians to learn, serve and grow.
The Aliyah Return Center (ARC), “is focused on building bridges between Jewish and Christian communities and mobilizing the church to understand and embrace God’s call to bless and serve Israel and the Jewish people. ARC is committed to standing with Israel and the Jewish people as ambassadors and advocates for Israel.”
Volunteer interns live on the grounds of the center in the north of Israel for three months. Other opportunities to serve, even as short as a single day, are available upon request, all year long. For those deeply committed to the work of the Aliyah Return Center, a 2-year volunteer visa can be arranged after the internship period.
Interns are assigned to one of seven departments, based on where they can best be of service. Each of the departments is led by a long-term volunteer who orients and trains new interns.
Although each intern has a different task, the entire group, which typically numbers 20 at a time, participates in morning Bible study. The group focuses on what Malespin calls, “The Aliyah Scriptures” – 64 verses that emphasize the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and the role of the Nations in that return.
There is also private time spent in the designated prayer room. Malespin told Breaking Israel News, “Each of the prayer requests, including one for a new lawn mower, have been answered, one by one and checked off the list.” Now the group is focusing their prayer on the need for a new 7-seater van.
Meal times are communal times. Alaska resident Garrett Rubio, who has been with the Aliyah Return Center for about 18 months ago and serves as Foreman of Construction and Project Oversight, told Breaking Israel News, “Sometimes Dean [Bye, the Founding Visionary] comes and gives a teaching. Meal times are more like time to socialize and get to know one another better. That’s our time to be together.”
To date, approximately 250 Christian volunteers have served at the Aliyah Return Center.
Thus said Hashem: I will raise My hand to nations And lift up My ensign to peoples; And they shall bring your sons in their bosoms, And carry your daughters on their backs. Isaiah 49:22
Amber Williams is a teacher from Seattle, Washington. She came to Israel on the 19-day Shagririm (Ambassadors) program, which Malespin describes as akin to “Birthright for Christians” and a journey of discovery, and stayed on as an intern. “I’m a teacher. I’m on the presentation team. When people want to know more about the Aliyah Return Center, I give them a presentation of the Center and the kind of work we’re doing here.”
Amber has been in Israel about a month. Discussing her experience with Breaking Israel News, she said, “I quit my job to be here. I felt such strong calling to Israel in my heart, a calling and a love that I can’t even explain. I quit my job and flew to Israel to serve.
“My walk with the Lord started about a year ago. I’m planning to stay until the end of July, which will be a total of three months. If God calls me to serve longer, I would love to.
“Being here has hugely impacted me. It’s really matured my spiritual walk. Coming from the Western world, we don’t have the education, or we get misinformation from the media about Israel. Serving Israel and the Jewish people, I’m learning about my part in the aliyah prophecies. I’m starting to understand what God’s purpose was for me being here in Israel, for the Jewish roots of my faith and for my calling. I think it changes everything. I have a new filter to look through to life and faith and relationships and falling in love with Israeli culture.”
Reflecting on how serving in Israel has prepared her to face Israel’s detractors, Williams said, “I have something to say when I get back to Seattle. I actually have a binder full of articles that I’ve been looking though and annotating. I’m getting educated at each place we go to. I’ve started practicing with friends and family back home. Every day, I feel more equipped to share the truth about Israel. Part of that involves flipping people’s conceptions and misconceptions upside down.”
Malespin explained that the interns have a chance to travel and see more of Israel. “We try to do a trip once a week, on Wednesdays.” He described the Center’s two flagship day trips. The “Galilee Experience” focuses on the history of the Galilee and the Golan Heights, from Biblical times to the modern day. There is also the “Destiny Experience”, where interns are taken to sites all over Judea and Samaria, where, Malespin said, “83% of the Bible happened and aliyah began. This is offered complimentary for new immigrants.”
The Aliyah Return Center does not have an upper age limit for interns. Rubio said, “We’ve had 80 year-olds. The head cook is in her 70s.
“They have to be flexible. It’s a tight community with people from all different cultures. There needs to be a degree of willingness to work together. Someone who comes with a heart that’s flexible, someone willing to sweat and work (It’s HOT here!). It’s a labor of love. You have to come with the mindset, ‘I’m here to bless and support Israel.’ A willing heart and a flexible mindset [are key].”
Interns have a weekly Shabbat experience, including homemade challah, and participate in study of the weekly Torah portion, led by an Orthodox Jew. There’s also a bit of introductory Hebrew offered.
According to Malespin, the Aliyah Return Center has developed a thorough application process. “We want them to be vetted properly. We try to develop them as people who can do hasbara (Israel advocacy). We’re here to learn how to show love with our actions. We make it really, really clear that we’re not here to exact anything in exchange.”
Rubio said that he watches for interns who have a tendency to proselytize. He takes them aside and helps them understand how to relate. “Each individual leader has a responsibility to curb [the tendency to proselytize],” he emphasized.
There is a focus on what the leadership team calls “intern development”. Interns are taught the anti-semitic history of the Church, which comes as a surprise to many. Rubio reflected, “I was totally shocked and horrified learning what the Christians have done. Most Christians don’t know the history and that’s the reason why the walls are up.”
Aware of that history, Malespin said, “Now there’s an opportunity to rectify. People are learning and gaining education in a practical application that betters tomorrow for our children.” Smiling, he quoted the Center’s motto: “We are not here to debate but to learn to relate, participate, and celebrate what God has got going in the Galilee.
“It has been a faith journey every day, and donations have made all this possible. The Membership program,” Malespin explained, “which, for a 10-year period provides one week per year lodging and programming for Christians from the Nations, while also providing sponsored complimentary lodging for the needy in Israel, has also been a wonderful financial boost to the work here.”
Malespin expressed appreciation for his colleagues who are doing similar work, bridging the gap between Jews and Christians. “We recognize that it’s not just us. The Wallers [of HaYovel], Rabbi Yehuda Glick [who chairs the Knesset Caucus for the Encouragement of Bible Study], Rabbi Tuly Weisz [editor of The Israel Bible and Director of Israel365], and so many others are part of something phenomenal – that the Jewish people would come home and the Nations would be part of it.”