JERUSALEM, Israel – As new polls show a global rise in anti-Semitism, a group of ministers and young people from all over the world are gathering in Israel, many of them for the first time, to gain firsthand experience with the land and with Israelis.
It's called "Jerusalem Encounter," and it's being sponsored by the Fellowship of Israel-Related Ministries (FIRM). Wayne Hilsden, president of FIRM, believes the gathering comes at a strategic time.
"Jerusalem is the center of the world, as Ezekiel talks about. It's the navel of the world, and we have people coming from all over the world – many of them for the first time – to Israel," Hilsden said. "And that's one of the key things we're trying to achieve is to get people in the land to experience the land of the Bible – the people of this nation – and to experience God – to encounter God. That's why we call it the "Jerusalem Encounter."
Hilsden was a senior pastor at King of Kings Congregation in Jerusalem for more than 30 years. He and many others who have lived in Israel for a long time believe that much of the world gets a skewed and incomplete view of conditions in Israel.
The conflict with the Palestinians is accentuated, while dramatic Israeli advances in medicine, agriculture, technology and economic growth are ignored, as is the miraculous restoration of the nation and the return of the Jewish people.
The experience for the first-time visitors includes tours throughout Israel. They will also meet in Jerusalem from May 31 to June 2, and FIRM plans to live stream the events on its website.
"I believe it's an urgent hour," Hilsden explained. "I believe that the enemy, Satan, wants to come against the purposes of God for Israel and Jerusalem. And he's doing everything he can to stop that. So we're trying to get a message to the world that God is at work in this land. He's restoring people to the land physically, and He's about to restore the people of this land spiritually to Himself."