, news editor, Adventist Review
Seventh-day Adventists have acquired two adjacent buildings in central Haifa, the largest city in northern Israel, and plan to turn them into a vegetarian restaurant, kindergarten, and church hall that meets the needs of both the local community and tourists.
The final contracts for the properties were signed last week, and the $2.2 million Life Hope Center will open under Adventist ownership early next year, said Roger Robertsen, leader of Seventh-day Adventists in Israel.
“If I were to put my finger on a Haifa map and show where the ideal location of a Life Hope Center would be, I would put it right on the properties we have now bought!” Robertsen said in announcing the acquisitions in a newsletter.
The location is in the tourist hub of Haifa, just below the Baha’i gardens, a tourist magnet, and the view from the flat restaurant rooftop is spectacular, he said.
Robertsen credited the acquisition of the Haifa properties to “the miraculous intervention of a gracious Lord, the sacrificial spirit of two donors, and the untiring support from the GC team working with and for the Israel Field.” The two private donors contributed $1.1 million and $100,000 toward the project.
“We are extremely grateful for the sacrificial spirit behind these tokens of love, and we pray that the Lord will bless the donors and make the new Life Hope Center in Haifa a blessing to the community and a light to the world since many restaurant guests will undoubtedly come from around the globe,” Robertsen said.
The front building already operates as a restaurant, and the only changes that the new Adventist owners will make on the ground floor will be to the menu and to the name of the establishment. The restaurant’s new name is under discussion.
The second floor will be used by a local congregation of 40 Russian-speaking Adventist members who currently worship in a cramped apartment, Robertsen told the Adventist Review on Friday.
The rooftop will still be used for the restaurant.
The building behind the restaurant will be turned into a small kindergarten serving the neighborhood, but rooms also will be available for small group studies, youth work, and meetings by the 18 local Pathfinders.
The plans for the combined restaurant, kindergarten, and church hall match an initiative by the Adventist world church to make every church a community center that meets local spiritual and physical needs.
“It is a comprehensive ministry involving health, youth and children,” Robertsen said. “We also will have many programs and lectures on various topics.”
As an example, Robertsen said he has been involved in archeological excavations in Israel over the years, and he involves local pastors in educational excursions bimonthly.
“This means that they will be able to appeal to the Israeli population with lectures and programs focusing on the history of the people and the land,” he said. “So we will use a very comprehensive approach in order to get in touch with the people in Haifa.”
For this and other reasons the Israel Field published Ellen G. White’s Patriarchs and Prophets in Hebrew this year and will publish her Prophets and Kings in late December. The other three books in the Great Controversy Series will be published at a rate of a book per year.
A total of 831 Adventists live in Israel, a sharp increase from less than 100 members before 1990 but a dip from the high of 1,140 in 2003. Many Adventists are immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Robertsen said the decline came when Romanian members gained the right to work in the European Union in 2004 and started leaving Israel.
Haifa’s Adventist congregation, however, is expected to grow in the upcoming weeks with the baptism of five people, the first results of a health club that Adventists have operated in the city for about five years.
Robertsen is now eying a vacant plot of land adjacent to the second building and will approach the city, which owns the land, to inquire about purchasing it.
“It would be a real blessing both for the kindergarten and the Pathfinders,” he said.
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