Israeli Youth Center Combines Faith, Fun

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ARIEL, Israel - A partnership between Jews and Christians is building a one-of-a-kind youth training center in the heart of Israel.

"It will be the center for youth leadership in Israel," said Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman.

The facility uses physical challenges, teamwork and the Bible to teach principles of leadership -- a concept that came about after a group of Israeli teens visited the JH Ranch, a Christian retreat center in the U.S.

"Every time I come here, I've done these things a couple of times and it's fun again and again," one visitor at the Israeli center said. "You learn things about yourself that you didn't know before. You overcome fears. It just makes you better."

Watch video of the grand opening of the Ariel National Leadership Development Center here.

When the group returned from the JH Ranch, Ariel says the young people "changed their whole behavior."

"And mothers said to me, 'what I did not succeed to do with my child in the last 16 years, you did it in two weeks,'" he added.

Nachman is excited to welcome a similar training center to Israel's biblical heartland.

"There's nothing like that in Israel. And the concept... is the key. [It is] the essence of everything. It's not just climbing the high ropes or something," he said. "Beyond it, there is a whole theory of a concept of how to enrich the child, boy or girl. How to enrich a leader, how to enrich a community, how to enrich a country."

Heather Johnston and her husband, Bruce, direct the JH Ranch. They suggested the idea to Nachman for a national training center for Israel's youth.

"He agreed that maybe this would be a great idea and so he came to JH Ranch," Heather explained. "He is the one who really had burst the vision in the nation of Israel for this."

The program - endorsed by Israel's Ministry of Education - is based on the characters of the Hebrew Bible.

"Leaders like Abraham, Moshe and Esther and all of these leaders who really rose up at climactic times in Israel's history -- how did they relate to God?," Heather said of their vision.

Israelis want to develop what they describe as a "Joshua Generation."

"A generation that can come forth with a real new dynamic inside themselves, [a] spirit of courage and of faith and God and an understanding of who they are in relation to themselves, the nations and also the world," Heather explained.

The Israeli leadership center is just a few months old and so far, only a few hundred have attended the course. But the goal is for thousands of Israelis to go through the center.

Nachman says developing the facility has been a remarkable partnership of Christians and Jews.

"Without the connection... and relationship between us and our friends -- the Christians in the United States -- I could not raise the park."

The center has already had an impact on the kids.

"If you want to enrich the young boy or girl, you need to give them some values to escort them for the rest of their life," Nachman said.

WATCH MORE:

  • Heather and Bruce Johnson direct the JH Ranch in northern California.  The pair say they use examples from the Bible to teach kids life lessons, while also providing a fun atmosphere.  Watch as Heather expounds on the example of Joshua and how his life applies to the work being done at the ranch and in Israel. Click here to watch
  • Ron Nachman, mayor of Ariel, Israel, sees the new center for youth in his country as a product of a unique partnership between Jews and Christians.  He spoke with CBN News about this and also the significance of the Promised Land. Watch more here. 

     

*Original broadcast July 16, 2010.

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