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Cocoa/Beit Shemesh Sister City Program

Click Here for information on past, present and future Sister-City Projects and Events.

History of the Sister-City Program

In October 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

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What does Beit Shemesh mean?  House of the sun

 

 

 

 

 

How did this all happen?

 

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 Bridges For 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 Yakim. 

 

 

 

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 www.chrisminerva.net

 

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 or word. 

 

 

Beit Shemesh

Blue Sox

 

     

Archeological dig

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:  friendsofbeitshemesh@yahoo.com

 

Scripture tells us to bless Israel and you will be blessed.  We look forward to the harvest time of those blessings!

 

Theresa Miles