Sister City Program
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on past, present and future Sister-City Projects and Events.
History of the
2007, the City of Cocoa adopted a sister city in Israel called Beit Shemesh.
Sister-city relationships are common among cities around the world.
They are designed to create greater cultural knowledge which leads to better
diplomacy at the local level through citizens.
In an effort to connect all of Brevard County to America’s only democratic
ally in the Middle East, Cocoa led the way in establishing this mutually
beneficial relationship between our state and the nation of Israel.
So, where is
Beit Shemesh? It is 15 west of Jerusalem- almost right
in the middle of Israel.
The city is nestled in the hill country in the
vicinity of where Samson and Delilah lived. It's where the Ark of the Covenant
was rested on it's way to Jerusalem, and where David slew Goliath. Beit
Shemesh is mentioned in the books of Joshua, Samuel and ll Kings
What does Beit
Shemesh mean? House of the sun
The concept of adopting a Sister City did not
happen overnight. In 2003, Reverend Ron Shelton had a vision to bring a
team of people to a city in Israel and show love, support and good old-fashioned hands-on work. He contacted a group in Israel called
Peace and asked if they could recommend a city to visit. They said Beit
Shemesh! I was privileged to be one of those workers. We enjoyed a stay
at a local kibbutz where we helped renovate a bomb shelter that doubled as a
children's library. We renovated apartment buildings and homes which
were to house new
immigrants. Israel has a rapid growth rate and at times they
are unable to keep up with the demand. We wanted to be there and help as
God brings His people home! We wanted to be "repairers of the breech".
This is where Isaiah 58:12 took root as our ministry's scriptural base.
Right at Beit Shemesh!!
No one envisioned a continued relationship that
would include more trips by Floridian's to Beit Shemesh and Israeli's to
Cocoa. Relationships were being built between the communities. Ron brought
a second group the following year, and this time, they were invited to stay in
the homes of families living in Beit Shemesh. They experienced a priceless
time of learning how people halfway around the globe live, love, laugh,
worship and work. This team devoted time to painting a kindergarten.
2005 rolled in and I brought the Rejoice Dance
Ministry of First Baptist Church, Merritt Island for the third visit-- which
occurred during the Feast of Tabernacles. We visited a children's school,
bringing school supplies from Merritt Island Christian School. We
danced for the children and teachers, and they danced with us.
Shortly after our visit, Ron Shelton brought a
group at Hanukkah to share the holidays together.
Once the momentum began to build, Pastor Randy
Alonso of Central Community Church decided to start bringing the youth to
this vibrant city. Statistically, 50 percent of Beit Shemesh's
residents is under the age of 21! This trip was appropriately named
"Extreme Israel" and included all ages of those who were very
energetic! This group spent time in one of the high schools, meeting
students, and working on a botanical garden project within the school
grounds. More school supplies were brought to Israel-- supplies the children of Merritt Island Christian School had gathered
as a gift of love. These supplies went to MICS's sister school named El
We can't begin to tell all of the many ways
Floridian's and Israeli's were forging friendships. We were sharing cultures,
ideas, mutual respect and love. The Minister of
Foreign Relations, Meir Malka bathed us in hospitality on each visit. He
often took time out of his day to give us personally guided tours. In 2005
Meir traveled to Cocoa, Florida to visit us.
So what happened
October 7th, 2007? This year we brought the relationship to
the next level by becoming Sister Cities. Cocoa Mayor Michael Blake
and Mayor Daniel Vaknin from Beit Shemesh signed a covenantal agreement
between Cocoa and Beit Shemesh.
Standing around the mayors were the Coca City Council Members and watching
with exuberant approval were hundreds of citizens of Brevard County Florida.
There was representation from all community areas: government
officials, The Jewish Federation, Rabbis and Pastors, Ministry Leaders,
congregational members, Project Restoration, Bridges For Peace,
Brevard Community College, The Space Center, health and medicine, law
enforcement, and culture and arts. People were drawn to see a very unique
dynamic about to begin in our community, and they didn't want to miss it.
Spiritually speaking, we just opened the flood gates of heaven upon our
community. To view photo's of the event go to
What will this
mean to me? This project is a community-wide endeavor. This
new relationship crosses beyond church and synagogue doors. It touches all lives as we
seek to find ways to help one another, learn from one another and embark on
new adventures together. Brevard citizens have already shown an
interest in the areas of travel and tourism, student
exchanges, church and synagogue interfaith relations, arts and
entertainment, baseball, health and medicine, water management, and
technology. Did you know that Beit Shemesh's solar technology is 30% more
effective than any other? How about learning another language?
Hebrew is a very fascinating language with deep significance in each letter
The sky is the limit as each one of us now
has an opportunity to join in a project that suits our interests. A
committee is being formed that will become a think tank. There will be
regularly scheduled meetings for brainstorming ideas and projects. If you
would like to become involved email us at:
Scripture tells us to bless Israel and you will
be blessed. We look forward to the harvest time of those blessings!