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Filipino church stages major Israel tribute

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Church members perform at last year's tribute to Israel in Earl Bales Park.

Pastor Teck Uy is keenly aware of the Jewish significance of the number 18.

That’s why he’s even more upbeat than usual about his church’s annual tribute to Israel, held each year on the third Sunday in August.

Taking place in Earl Bales Park on Aug. 19 at 5:30 p.m., this will be the 18th consecutive year his mostly Filipino congregants will honour Israel through song, dance and music.

Told of the number 18’s auspiciousness, Rev. Uy added that “Israel Rejoicing 2018” also coincides with the Jewish state’s 70th birthday.

Rev. Uy sees his church’s love for Israel as part of evangelical Christianity’s strong support for the Jewish state and people.

His evangelical church in Scarborough, The Friends of Jesus Christ, has an “Israel ministry” that not only stages the annual tribute in Earl Bales Park, but also takes congregants to Israel each September for about 10 days.

He’s been on every trip since 1995.

“We read the same Bible as yours – except for the New Testament,” Rev. Uy told The CJN with a chuckle. “And there are commands for us to bless and to comfort Israel.”

He quotes from the biblical book of Isaiah, in which God exhorts to “comfort, comfort my people” and to “speak tenderly to Jerusalem.”

He estimates that more than 90 per cent of the church’s members are Filipinos who migrated to Canada in the late 1980s and mid-1990s.

Filipinos “take the scripture to heart.”

What has managed to raise eyebrows in shows past is that churchgoers perform Israeli tribute songs in perfect Hebrew.

“In the beginning it was hard for them,” Rev. Uy said, “but now they are accustomed to it.”

But Filipino culture is not ignored. Included in the performance is a notoriously difficult folk dance called tinikling, in which dancers must step over and between bamboo poles that are opened and closed repeatedly.

Rev. Uy sees a “natural alliance” between Jews and Filipinos “because we are both hospitable by nature.” That was best shown, he noted, in a little-known chapter of Holocaust history when the Philippines gave refuge to some 1,200 Jews fleeing Europe during the Second World War.

In fact, there is still a functioning synagogue in Manila, he pointed out.

In Israel, there are thousands of Filipino caregivers to the elderly, and hundreds who work in Jewish homes in Toronto, he said.

 

Admission to the church’s tribute to Israel is free.