My name is Andre Moubarak, and I am from Jerusalem. My ancestors are Aramaic-speaking Christians, indigenous to Southern Lebanon, northern Israel, and Western Syria. To this day, our community says the same prayers as Saint James, the head of the Jerusalem Church in the Book of Acts, and the half-brother of Jesus.
I grew up in the Christian quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, and I am an Israeli citizen as well. I speak 5 languages: Aramaic, Arabic, Hebrew, English, and French.
I work as a tour guide, and I regularly travel throughout all of Israel. I’ve also had the opportunity to travel the world. I’ve been to Europe, the UK, the United States, Canada, South Africa, the Philippines, and Singapore.
Interestingly, every society I have visited in the world is more stable and peaceful than my hometown of Jerusalem. In a land with a fierce rivalry between our Muslim and Jewish neighbors, we Christians are the minority. The Christian culture here is very peaceful, and we avoid conflict to the best of our abilities. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9, NIV). We take such admonitions very seriously.
I remember back in 2019 tourism in Israel was at its peak and we expected 2020 to be even better. Everything from hotels to guided tours were fully booked for the whole season.
When COVID-19 first hit us in early March 2020, we were surprised by how fast the pandemic spread around the globe. The Israeli government shut down all tourism and closed the borders indefinitely.
I was grateful for the break from tour groups because I was really drained physically and needed an extended rest to restore my health. The COVID-19 shutdown was the perfect time to take a sabbatical in the US. My wife’s family lives in Maryland and Texas, and we ended up spending a whole year splitting our time between those 2 states. It was a fun experience, and a wonderful time of personal growth.
But each season must come to an end. My sabbatical ended, and I finally returned to Israel in early May 2021. But as soon as I was back home safely, a huge protest was taking place. It was so bad that the police were forced to close the roads to Jerusalem. Tensions were already escalating around the city. But the worse was yet to come. On a Monday, as I went to sit on my balcony to drink my morning coffee, I was surprised to hear a loud war siren. I immediately knew that Jerusalem was attacked. After 15 seconds I heard at least 5 explosions. This confirmed my worst fears. War was upon us once again.
The war intensified the next day, with most of the rocket attacks from Gaza targeting Tel Aviv.
Outside in Jerusalem, street violence erupted between the Arab Muslim and Jewish communities. The violence lasted for days. Throughout the whole country, neighbors turned against each other, and the ethnic hatred exploded even in cities where the Jewish and Muslim residents lived in relative harmony.
My first thought was to use social media to update my friends and followers and ask everyone to start praying. With my team in Jerusalem, I was able to host three virtual prayer meetings. People joined these prayer meetings on Zoom from all over the world and we prayed together for the Lord to have mercy and bring peace and healing to the people of both Israel and Gaza. Many of my former tour participants sent their prayers by messenger and email. We were all experiencing shock and grief.
The war lasted 11 days, with thousands of missiles landing both in Israel and in Gaza. While there were many casualties on both sides, the numbers were higher in Gaza. At least 243 people, including more than 100 women and children, were killed in Gaza, according to its health ministry. In Israel 12 people, including 2 children, were killed. Both sides claimed victory in the conflict. After they agreed to a ceasefire treaty, the problems subsided.
As Aramean indigenous Christians, we believe our primary role is to pray for peace between the Muslims and the Jews. In the US the atmosphere is very peaceful, for the most part. People live a very secure, prosperous, and quiet life. In Jerusalem, it’s the opposite— tension, stress, and war are the order of the day, and sadly, the tension isn’t gone.
In all my life living in Jerusalem, I’ve never seen such hostility and violence in the streets.
People are planning to resume their group tours to Israel in the fall of 2021 and spring of 2022. We are doing extra training and preparation for the coming seasons. We desperately need Christians to pray for the body of Christ in Israel. Us Christians need to continue bringing reconciliation between Arabs and Jews through the proclamation of the Gospel.
I will leave with you with 5 prayer requests that are badly needed today:
1.Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, including all its inhabitants and all surrounding areas—for both Israelis and Palestinians.
2. Pray for leaders and all those in authority, that they may pursue peace so we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness (1 Timothy 2:2).
3. Pray for healing of relationships between Jews and Arabs, especially for our young people who are exposed to this kind of hatred for the first time.
4. Pray for protection for our churches, communities, and our families. Some churches had to cancel their services or hold them online because of fear. Pray especially for Haifa, Acre, Lod, Ramle, Jaffa, Cana of Galilee, and Jerusalem.
5. Pray for us to remember to turn our eyes to God, our refuge and strength, and to Jesus, the prince of peace.
I’m still continuing my teaching on Zoom and we are reaching a lot of people from all over the world. To see the virtual tours to Israel you can join us for free.
Andre Moubarak is the owner and co-founder of Twins Tours & Travel in Israel, and is a licensed tour guide and an ordained minister. Andre was born into a Christian Aramean family along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem’s Christian Quarter, and speaks Aramaic and Hebrew, the Old Testament's official languages. His published work can be found at: www.walkingtheHolyLand.com.