A unique travel programme aimed at providing cheap accommodation for young Israeli backpackers is quite literally becoming an international hit!
Hosting Israeli Travelers (HIT) offers the hand of love and welcome to the many youngsters touring the world after their demanding stints in the Israel Defense Forces.
It is seen as an opportunity for Christians to express their indebtedness to Israel for the Bible, salvation and, above all, their Saviour – the Jewish Messiah Yeshua (Hebrew for Jesus).
The scheme began in New Zealand, which has become a favourite destination for young Israelis travelling abroad following their IDF service.
This has now been made more attractive by the HIT programme, offering inexpensive rooms in a friendly home environment and used by more than 15,000 young travellers over the past 15 years. Having expanded to Australia, over 1,000 homes in the two countries are now participating in the project, which has also been introduced to Fiji and Hong Kong.
Founder Omri Jaakobovich, who came to faith in Yeshua while backpacking in New Zealand, has just completed a speaking tour of Britain and Ireland to help launch the project on this side of the world.
HIT membership cards are available for a nominal fee and most hosts make only a small charge of up to £5 a night to cover overheads, though many still prefer to offer rooms free, explains Susette, who organized Omri’s tour.
“The young travellers were ecstatic at the money they were able to save and the hosts were equally happy to have them.”
The minimum requirement from hosts is the provision of bed, bathroom and cooking facilities, with the young people usually preparing their own meals.
“One of the most significant developments over the years has been the ever-increasing openness of these young people to spiritual matters.
“Their questions, with special interest in knowing why they should be made so welcome, often begin over the very first meal together… Learning their host’s personal belief that Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah leads to endless discussion – examining the completeness with which Yeshua’s life fulfilled prophecy, for example, and discovering that the New Covenant was made with them and not the Gentiles.
“Every believer taking part has testimonies of God’s personal intervention, direction and provision in their life and it is these evidences of personal relationship and assurance of salvation that speak the loudest.”
Omri is encouraging the Church to take up its calling to provoke the Jews to jealousy by sharing the gospel with them (Romans 11.11 &14).
“How can they believe if they have not heard?” he asks, quoting Romans 10.14. “And how can they hear if we do not tell them?”
Susette, a secondary school teacher who has been involved with the ministry since its inception in 2001, says the launch in Britain is a fulfilment of a word God spoke to her during a visit here two years ago when she attended the CMJ (Church’s Ministry among the Jewish people) UK Conference and the London CWI (Christian Witness to Israel) Summer School on Jewish Evangelism. She also served as a missionary to Indonesia for 15 years, ten with Asian Outreach and five with Derek Prince Ministries.