The First Church Building to be Erected in the Modern State of Israel
Lately many new church buildings have or are still being built by congregations of our denomination. Some of these are the congregations’ second buildings since their founding. What a contrast this is to the situation in Israel. During the entire history of Israel as a modern state, not a single building was erected and dedicated as a church building until April 6, 2013. On this historic occasion, the building of the Grace & Truth congregation of Kanot was dedicated.
This congregation began in the home of Baruch Maoz and was officially founded in 1976. In the early 1990s it experienced significant growth through the large influx of Russian Jews in Israel. For years it met in the office building used by HaGefen Publishing, a leading Reformed publisher of material in Hebrew. A new building has been a work in process for over a decade. Orthodox Jews took their case against its erection all the way to the Supreme Court of Israel — and lost! This 13,000 square foot building (including the basement) is designed to fit into the architectural structure of Israel and witness to the presence of the Christian Church in that land. It is to serve as a church, school, library, and conference centre.
Through the generosity of Christians throughout the world, including from North America and especially the Netherlands, the building could be finished enough to be dedicated this past April. As a representative of Christian Ministry to Israel, I was privileged to attend this event, together with others from Canada, America, Holland and England. After the service was opened by elder Reznitzky, Pastor David Zadok preached on Jehovah’s faithfulness to his covenant people Israel, in spite of their unfaithfulness throughout Scripture and history. He said,
My prayer is that we will be able to use this large and beautiful building as a place where God’s Word is faithfully proclaimed with joy, a place where many will hear the gospel, and many will be deepened in the knowledge of God’s Word and in fellowship with God, and a place where God and his Messiah is glorified.
A presentation highlighted aspects of the building project. Then Pastor Zadok cut a red ribbon in the front of the church to mark its official opening. Throughout the ceremony there was congregational singing, as well as singing by the children and young people. It was moving to see a group of deaf people, who had been following the service through someone using sign language in the front corner of the church, sing for us using their hands rather than mouths.
Several guests also had an opportunity to speak, including Rev. K. Hoefnagel of the Dutch da Costa fonds (fund), which had contributed over 1.5 million euro towards this project. The secretary of da Costa, Mr. Johan de Jong, came forward with a tulip in his hand. I first thought he had it as a symbol of Holland, but he eventually explained it was to remind them of the five points of Calvinism summarized by the acronym TULIP. As David Zadok later indicated, it is beautiful that the first church building in Israel should belong to a church of Reformed persuasion. It gives hope that many more will come to know the wonder of God’s sovereign grace in Christ Jesus.
The dedication of the Grace & Truth church building was a highlight of my first, brief trip to Israel. I had to think of the many through the years whom the Lord inclined to support his cause in Israel and even this very building. I also had to think of the many Jews who have never set foot in a church. How fitting was the thanksgiving for this foothold of Christ’s kingdom in Israel and the prayers for him to use his Word to open many eyes to see God’s glory, their sin, and himself as the Messiah.
Rev. D. H. Kranendonk is a board member of Christian Ministry to Israel and pastor of the Free Reformed Church of Oxford County, Ontario, Canada. Christian Ministry to Israel was established in 2007 by the initiative of the Free Reformed Churches of North America. This article is taken with permission from the Messenger, September 2013.
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