Henry Paris and Steve Vassallo of Oxford have more in common than not having a middle name. The two Ole Miss graduates meet weekly at a popular Oxford dining establishment to attend a Wednesday morning Bible study. What is unique about Henry’s participation is the fact he is Jewish. Steve is an Episcopalian.
Quite often the group discusses topics other than the Bible and religion. Recently the conversation turned to the nuclear arms agreement with Iran that is being debated currently in the U.S. Congress. Both Henry and Steve share similar concerns about Israel’s future should the agreement be ratified.
“Henry and I want to do whatever we can to send a message outwardly that members of the Judeo-Christian community here in the United States are coming together voluntarily, every Monday at noon, to pray for Israel’s safety, security, and future,” stated Vassallo.
Paris added, “Israel is of the utmost importance to the U.S. as a strategic ally as allies in the Middle East are particularly scarce. Because I’m Jewish, this has special meaning to me and the fact that Israel is the homeland for many displaced Jews especially from Russia.”
It is estimated that the current Jewish population worldwide is about 13 million—with about 5.4 million living in Israel, and also almost the same number in the US.
Israel’s size is of particular concern to Henry and Steve as the vulnerability to a nuclear strike is problematic. (Israel is slightly larger than New Jersey). In addition, the distance between Tehran and Tel Aviv is approximately 955 miles. “These nations are neighbors in the truest sense and a nuclear war of any magnitude would be devastating.”
“Our Wednesday morning group has stressed on numerous occasions the power of prayer, especially when large numbers of people are praying for the same result. Should this message go viral, we believe the results could be immeasurable,” added Vassallo.
“I don’t think Iran can be trusted when their mission is to destroy Israel. The Israelis are not a warlike people, but prefer to live in peace. However, they will not be pushed around, especially when their existence is threatened,” stressed Paris.
Henry traveled to Israel in 2004 and during his ten-day sabbatical came away with many lasting impressions. “The fact that boys and girls, upon turning 18, must serve two years in the military emphasizes the urgency and concern they have for their security and defense,” added Paris.
The current uncertainty in the United States as to what we would do in the event of a military strike by either Iran or Israel is of major concern. The involvement of other nations could easily set off another world war, which is anything but a stretch.
The two gentlemen are seeking media attention for this initiative and plan to utilize social media extensively to further their mission. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have thousands of individuals praying weekly for this objective? The power of prayer has no limitations—which is the primary reason the countries of Israel and the United States have so many God-given resources.”
Henry and Steve referenced the beginning of the Memorial Day holiday as an encouragement. There are varying descriptions about the genesis of Memorial Day. One account is a small number of ladies from Mississippi coming together to decorate graves of Civil War casualties on both sides, and this innocent activity led to the attainment of national attention.
Almost 160 years later, these two Mississippi residents are hopeful that yet another simplistic gesture of unification and peace can move a mountain that has previously been immovable.