Every day you will see men and women praying in the plaza that extends from the wall. There are also public prayers on the High Holy Days, and Jews from around the world come to the Wall to celebrate weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and Bat Mitzvahs (coming of age) and other Simchas (celebrations).
In the video below, our Vistas crew were in the Old City when they came across a parade of people. They were singing and dancing their way through the streets to the Western Wall. The celebration was for a Bar Mitzva. You can see the young boy walking under a Chupah (a cloth, usually a prayer shawl, tied to four poles carried by friends or family). Everyone, young and old, joins the celebration!
Over five years ago, when Jay and Meridel were in Eilat a chance meeting introduced them to a very special young man from South Sudan, named Michael. They immediately “clicked”. As they spoke, Michael revealed an amazing story. Fifteen years earlier, he and his family were horrifically attacked by Muslim extremists~Simply Because They Were Christians.
As the village elders were slaughtered and burned, Michael and his only surviving cousin, Dobuol Bouy, hid in the bulrushes of a nearby riverbank. The next day he was forced to try to identify his parents but could not because they were so badly disfigured.
An officer in the conquering Muslim army held Michael and his cousin as virtual slaves. When the officer commanded them to convert to Islam, they said, “We will die first.” Seven years later, they escaped to Khartoum.
All Sudanese refugees were harshly persecuted by the Egyptian Police who burned their hard earned identification papers. Seeing other refugees killed, Michael and his cousin decided to spend their last savings to try and reach the Israeli border in the Negev desert. Michael and Nicole (now pregnant), parted not knowing if they would ever see each other again.
Escorted by Bedouin smugglers, amidst gunfire from the Egyptian police, they scrabbled over the barbed wire border fence and arrived in Israel battered and bleeding.
They soon learned that their fear of the Israeli Border Police was unfounded. They were given water, food and medical attention.
Finally, they were transferred to a holding center for refugees near Beer Sheva. Some time later they were sent to work in Eilat, Israel’s southern most tourist town.
The Hotel where they worked recognized their natural leadership qualities. Michael and his cousin were quickly promoted to positions as department managers.
Miraculously she was sent to Eilot Kibbutz five kilometers north of Eilat, and she soon found her beloved Michael.
It was in the hotel where Michael and his cousin were working when Jay and Meridel met them. Since that time, they have been linked by the Lord in a powerful way. Immediately Jay and Meridel adopted them and became ”Abba and Ima” (Hebrew for Dad and Mom).
Jay learned of Canada’s refugee and human rights resettlement program for which Michael, Nicole and family~including his cousin~certainly qualified. Thus began a long process at the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv~filling out numerous application forms, locating a sponsor church in Toronto and eventually getting scholarships for them to study in a college in Scarborough, Ontario. Jay also appealed to Ottawa for help.
Finally in May 2013, an email from the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv arrived, asking for help in locating Michael, Nicole, the children and cousin Dobuol Bouy. Jay found Michael and Nicole in a refugee camp in Ethiopia and Dobuol Bouy in South Sudanl. We all wept when we heard each others voices.
Once there, we will film them as they tell their amazing story, and show the world what conditions they are now existing in.
This could then be used not only as a teaching tool, but as a means for this family to finally achieve their goal~Freedom~to live, work, worship, study and raise their children without fear of persecution.