In a surprising spectacle, a group of Christian natives from Papua New Guinea recently chanted together, in Hebrew and English, one of the most central Jewish prayers – Shema Yisrael.
Those unusual moments were documented on video by missionary Yakov Damkani, who claimed, “We came to Papua New Guinea and found a real, genuine love for Israel.”
Shema Yisrael is a Jewish prayer first found in the Five Books of Moses, copied by Christians and put in the New Testament .
Shema Yisrael is central to the morning and evening Jewish prayer services. Morning services mandate reciting it by a specific time called "zman kriat Shema", the time up to which one may say the prayer as part of the service.
The complete “Shema” prayer includes three parts taken from Devarim (Deuteronomy) 6:4–9, 11:13-21, and Bamidbar (Numbers) 15:37–41.
The first verse, Deuteronomy 6:4, encapsulates the monotheistic essence of Judaism: “Hear, O Israel - the Lord is our G-d, the Lord is one." It is said with the right hand covering ones eyes and the last word is prolonged for emphasis.
The Midrash says that the twelve sons of the Patriarch Jacob, also called Israel, reassured their father of their firm belief in the Jewish faith with that verse before his death. It is said by devout Jews on their deathbeds.
Rabbi Akiva, killed by the Romans, and Jews through the ages, cried out the first words of Shema to affirm their faith at the moment of martyrdom throughout generations of anti-Semitic persecution.
Christians have tried to claim it refers to the trinity, which may well be what was taught to the chanters in Papua, who are not adopting the Jewish faith. However their wish of Shalom at the end of the video is a pleasant sign of friendship with Israel.