Finding Spiritual Oneness in Interfaith Relationships

Meet Peter and Yarden Nasser

Intermarried: How an Arab and a Jew found common ground.

Peter and Yarden Nasser met at a festival in Akko (in the Western Galilee region of Northern Israel). Unlike most of the participants, they went to celebrate Y’shua and to tell festival-goers about Him. In the course of evangelizing, Yarden, a Jewish believer, asked Peter, an Arab believer, to translate something to help her witness. They made such a good team that they continued witnessing together at other events following the festival. Soon they were telling one another about books they had read and things they had thought about. Peter wanted a wife who loved to evangelize, but Yarden, who really did love to witness, wasn’t thinking of marriage at the time. Still, she couldn’t help being interested in the fact that Peter was not only a great guy, but obviously cared for Jewish people—and wanted to tell them about Jesus. He eventually won her heart, and three years later they were married.

The Jewish-Arab couple encounters various reactions. Yarden, who moved to Israel from Ukraine when she was 15 recalls, “When I was at Haifa University, I invited a couple of friends to visit me. Peter and I were engaged at the time, so my friends of course wanted to know, ‘Who is the nice guy?’ I explained that he was my fiancé. They asked if he was Russian and I said, ‘No he’s Arab.’ One said ‘Oh, that is so wonderful; Arab and Jew together!’ The other said, ‘That’s scary; are you sure he’s a believer?’”

In some ways, Peter has the advantage in witnessing to Jews, while Yarden has the advantage in witnessing to Arabs.

Yarden says, “I am not fluent in Arabic, but I have learned some words, and when I witness to Arabs I use them as much as possible. People are very surprised and ask me where I learned Arabic. I tell them that I’m married to an Arab guy who believes in Jesus, like I do. I would say that 90% of Arab people are quite open to me at that point, making me feel very much at ease with them, and listening to what I have to say.”

Jewish people are not as impressed when an Arab speaks Hebrew, but Peter says what does impress them is that he, an Arab who was born and raised in Israel, approaches Jewish people with their Bible to speak about their God. Yarden explains, “Many Israelis assume that all Arabs are Muslims, so they think they only read the Koran.”

Peter laughs, “When I tell them, ‘My faith in Jesus is coming from your Tenach,’ and I begin to show them prophecies, they’ll say, ‘How do you know better than us? We’re Jewish and we don’t know these things. How do you know these things?’

“Then when it comes up that I’m married to a Jewish woman, some are incredulous. They wonder why she would marry me or why I would marry her. I say, ‘It’s God’s plan for us. I love Jews and she loves Arabs and we have peace with each other.’”

Some try to judge, telling Peter that he needs to convert to Judaism; if not, they say, his wife is not a Jew anymore. But others are really fascinated. Peter explains, “It gives them ears when they know I am Arab. They want to know more when I tell them I went from being someone who did not like Jews to someone who married a Jewish woman. I always tell them that the Messiah did it.”

Yarden witnesses by telling both Jews and Arabs that we are all sinners, and we all need the Messiah to bring peace. The life that she and Peter have built, with Y’shua at the center, is a case in point that peace, love and forgiveness are possible between Jews and Arabs.

Meet Peter Nasser

Many people are surprised to find that an Arab and a Jew can live together peacefully and I, too, would have been surprised at one time. But with Christ, all things are possible!

I grew up in a small Arab village. Both my parents are Christians and we went to church every Sunday. We rarely were in contact with Jewish people and I did not think much about them—until I moved to “the big city.” I was often treated with fear or suspicion and always it seemed at some point in every day I was regarded as a terrorist or friend of terrorists. Of course the fact that I was raised in a Christian family was not known, and I was not living a life in keeping with that upbringing. I rarely prayed or consulted God about my life. Yet I was angry with Him for abandoning me (so it seemed) in the midst of people who did not respect me.

I spent some time in Switzerland where I met a woman, fell in love, and planned to marry. When we returned to Israel, things changed and the relationship fell apart.

I left Israel, angry and depressed, but the God of Israel never left me. I flew to Australia hoping to start a new life. I’d been offered a job there from a man who turned out to be a liar and a thief. He stole pretty much all I had and left me on the street. God had mercy on me and a Christian evangelist helped me through this time. I was able to get to New Zealand where I did start a new life, but not in the way I expected.

My brother was living in New Zealand. He and other believers challenged me to turn to God. It was the right time for me; there was no other answer to my problems. As I trusted Jesus with my hurts and my anger, forgiveness flowed through me. And as I was forgiven, I was able to forgive others. To my surprise I began to feel a love for Jewish people I had not known before, and I sensed that God wanted me to go back to Israel.

There I began to meet Jewish believers in Jesus and to evangelize with them. At a festival in Akko, I was the only Arab on the evangelism team. Yarden was witnessing to some Arabs, and someone pointed her to me to help with translation. Our love for Jesus and desire to tell others about Him brought us together. When we were engaged, we were invited to participate in a 2005 Behold Your God campaign in France. There I learned more about the goals and practices of Jews for Jesus, and once more I found Jewish people who were like-minded about Jesus and the need to tell others about Him.

When I tell Jewish people, “My faith in Jesus is coming from your Tenach, [Bible]” and I begin to show them prophecies, they’ll say, “We’re Jewish and we don’t know these things. How do you know these things?”

When it comes up that I’m married to a Jewish woman, some are incredulous. They wonder why she would marry me or why I would marry her. I say, “It’s God’s plan for us. I love Jews and she loves Arabs and we have peace with each other.” Together we are a testimony that Jesus truly is the Prince of Peace.

Meet Yarden Nasser

I was born in a small town in Ukraine to a Jewish father and Gentile mother. When I was seven years old, my mother came to faith in Jesus and began taking my older brother and me to church. I grew up knowing about God but not really understanding much about who Jesus was.

Through my grandmother I learned about my Jewish heritage and culture and became interested in Israel. As a teenager I was focused mainly on myself . . . yet I began to feel that God was going to change my life in a way I could not predict.

I made aliyah (moved to Israel) when I was 15, without my parents. Once there, I went to a religious school for three years. At first, living in my new country was fun, an adventure—but after a while I grew lonely and depressed. I missed my parents and began to remember what my mother had tried to teach me about Jesus. I asked my teachers and friends why we were not supposed to believe in Him. Their answers did not satisfy me, so I began to search the Old Testament, looking for the promises about the Messiah. My search sometimes kept me awake at night but I would not stop until I found the answer.

When I did find the answer I was so happy to know the truth of the Messiah. Even though my mother had believed and told me about Him, I felt I had discovered something brand new. Right away I began to share the good news with my teachers and friends, who thought I had lost my mind. The rabbi at the school told me that if I persisted in this, he would not allow me to pass my final (oral) exam after three years of studying.

It felt like I was the only Jewish believer in Jesus in all of Israel, but I prayed that God would help me find others. One day I saw a lady on the street passing out some kind of literature. It turned out to be invitations to her church and when I attended the following week I was amazed to find many more Jewish believers in Jesus.

Back at school I had to take my final exam. I responded well to all the rabbi’s questions and was about to pass when finally he asked me about Jesus. “I believe He is the Messiah,” I replied. The rabbi told me with regret that he could not pass me—but I know that I passed the exam of faith.

I joined the national service and worked as a doctor’s secretary, and the Lord opened doors for me to share my faith and meet other believers. I started to evangelize on the streets with other believers whenever I had the chance— and that is how I met my husband-to-be.

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Emmanuel • November 21, 2008

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