In order to understand the deep meaning of the Bible and to draw its spiritual life we need to read the Bible in its original language and environment. This is true also for the plays of Shakespeare whose message is more fully understood by visiting England and witnessing its social, cultural, and historical background.
Teshima Ikuro started in 1962 to send his students to study in Israel. These students first study the Hebrew language in Kibbutz Heftsi-bah and later in higher classes in other Kibbutzim or universities. They also tour the Holy Land where the Bible was written, and study the history and culture of the Jewish people.
The students also learn the pioneering spirit and the patriotic love of the people of Israel, who have established their own country after their long history of persecutions and are trying to build a free and prosperous nation. Thus, they learn the love of God, the love of the Bible, and the love of Israel.
There is another purpose of studying in Israel: they have their identities awaken as a Japanese and a believer, and discover their own missions in life. Like the prophets of Israel and the disciples of Jesus they wish to start a consecrated life by listening to the voice of God and by praying earnestly for their spiritual growth.
Studying and praying and living together in Israel, they develop a life-long friendship; their experience of deepening love and concern for their peers will be a treasure in their remaining life. Upon returning to Japan, each student continues to live for the sake of Japan with the faith in the Bible.
No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate.Isaiah 62:4
But you will be called Heftsi-bah, and your land Beulah;
For the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be married.
Kibbutz Heftsi-bah is located in the Jezreel Valley on the foot of Mt. Gilboa, in the northern region of Israel. It is a communal village settled in 1922 by the immigrants from Eastern Europe. They cultivated the inhabitable land, full of swamps and malaria, into a fertile granary; its economy is based on agriculture, dairy farming, fishery, water gauge and plastic pipe factories. Now it holds about 400 members.
Makuya has established the sister-city relationship with Kibbutz Heftsi-bah since 1962 and sent thousands of students to study the Hebrew language for a period of 5 months. Each student is assigned to a kibbutz family and experiences the Jewish home life.
According to the wish of Teshima Ikuro, Makuya built a Japanese garden, which is a symbol of the Japanese culture, in Kibbutz Heftsi-bah, which is a symbol of the Jewish pioneering spirit. It has become a tourist attraction and a place of relaxation to the Israeli people.
Every once in two or three years groups of high school students are sent from Heftsi-bah to Japan and from Makuya to Israel for 10 day-visit; thus the younger generation continues to build the mutual understanding and friendship, develop interest in other countries and cultures, and encourage one another to contribute to the advancement of their homeland.
Makuya Center in Jerusalem
The law (Torah) will go out from Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.Isaiah 2:3
Makuya Center in Jerusalem was founded as NPO (non-profit organization) in Jerusalem in 1988, as a place of the cultural exchange of the two countries. It has a small Japanese garden, tea ceremony room, and a library. It also serves as a place of prayer and study for Makuya students. Various seminars are held here by Israeli professors, philosophers, religious leaders, musicians and artists.
Israeli elementary pupils and high school students also visit the Makuya Center and learn about Japan.