Yesterday at Christ Church in Jerusalem a simple plaque was unveiled commemorating Welsh Christian and military heritage in the Holy Land.
The ceremony was attended by a cross-party group of six Members of the Welsh Assembly.
As we listened to the brief but pertinent speeches, I was struck by the remarkable contribution of the Welsh to this country, particularly at times of great crisis. Welsh soldiers were part of General Allenby’s forces that conquered the Holy Land and overcame the Ottoman resistance in Jerusalem in November 1917. Welsh soldiers, we were told, were the first European forces to act as military watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem since Crusader times. Their contribution to the liberation of the city was critical, and largely unheralded.
As I listened, I was reminded of our visit last year to Wales, and particularly to the Bible College of Wales in Swansea, now lovingly and beautifully restored by the Cornerstone Community Church of Singapore (https://www.cmj-israel.org/directors-corner/bible-college-wales). Rees Howells established the College in 1924, and in the years that followed he sensed a call from God to trust him to raise up intercessors to pray for Britain, and for the Jewish people. In the dark years of the Second World War, Howells and his students interceded for the Jewish people as they went through the horror of the Holocaust, and then after the war God led them to pray through the birth of the State of Israel.
Just as in 1917 when Welsh people played a significant role in the liberation of Jerusalem from Ottoman rule, paving the way for the British Mandate and ultimately to the establishment of the State of Israel, so in the 1940s Welsh people once again played a critical yet unseen role in laying a foundation in prayer for the protection of the Jewish people at the time of their greatest persecution, and then at the founding of the State.
There is a thread, perhaps we can say a red Welsh thread of quiet, undramatic and yet hugely significant activity when it comes to the critical moments in Jewish history in the Holy Land over the last century.
Let us hope that the erection of this plaque commemorating the Welsh Christian heritage here will inspire others, Welsh and everyone else who sees it, to take courage and stand with the Jewish people in times of need in the future.