Haredi Jews bully Jewish believers until law steps in
Graffiti on the entrance to Congregation Beit Hallel's building in Ashdod. It reads: "Missionaries are a danger. No to missionaries." (Photo courtesy Israel Pochtar)
Since 2011, Israel Pochtar, congregational leader in Ashdod, has become accustomed to the hundreds of ultra-orthodox Jews who would systematically harass, bully, shame and threaten the 300 believers who would attend Shabbat services in their hometown.
After a short spell of relief, once again a group of Haredi Jews took matters into their own hands and on Thursday afternoon defaced the congregation’s new buildings with slurs against “missionaries.”
An IDF soldier, who is also a member of the congregation, saw the vandals inside the compound, wreaking destruction on the brand new building only recently completed. He chased them out while filming them. Security cameras outside the building also captured the break-in and police are now in the process of identifying the perpetrators.
Pochtar is no stranger to these attacks. What began with noisy and intimidating demonstrations in 2011 soon morphed into a full-blown campaign over the past several years to demonize Messianic Jews and spread word throughout Ashdod that not only were these individuals unwelcomed but they were harmful, dangerous and toxic to the Jewish nation.
With that declaration began a campaign to rid the city of these “undesirables.” This included stalking believers, confronting them, invading their space and filming and threatening them. Leaflets were printed and distributed as wanted posters placed on car windshields, in personal mailboxes and on street poles. Newspaper articles and television appearances by members of the Haredi community began to surface as they did all they could to discredit and smear these Jewish believers whose only crime was attending their Sabbath services just as other Jews are permitted to do in the land of Israel.
This daily, systematic persecution continued over the course of the next three years. Pochtar’s assistant, who is also an attorney, decided to get involved. Unfortunately, this backfired on her when Haredi Jews told police that she attacked them. Of course, the authorities then opened up a case against her and the situation intensified prompting Pochtar to hire a high-powered attorney from Tel Aviv.
Up until that time, local police weren’t helping persecuted believers and largely ignored their complaints failing to take their claims seriously. It wasn’t until the new attorney began to exert legal pressure that they suddenly realized that continuing to ignore the systematic violation of civil rights could backfire on them, especially in a nation which promises freedom, democracy and civil rights for all its citizens.
After this, police began to show up at the homes of believers when they were threatened, bullied and harassed, providing much needed relief for those being haunted and terrorized by Haredi bullies whose mission was to stamp out anything Messianic in their city. Police also immediately closed the case against Pochtar’s assistant.
The new attorney also succeeded in getting police to enforce a law prohibiting no more than two demonstrators at the congregation. They are forbidden to scream, curse or cause any kind of disturbance on penalty of arrest.
Since then the congregation has enjoyed relative peace over the last two years. Until Thursday.
Rather than gleefully celebrate the imminent capture of those who have caused him, his family, his congregants and others harm and ill-will for years, Pochtar, who immigrated from the Ukraine in 1995, remembered a dream he had in 2004. In the dream he heard the voice of God loudly tell him to get up, leave Tel Aviv with his family and begin a congregation in Ashdod. He recalls how he spent the next year in preparation for this move, and, once there, 70 Jewish believers joined his effort within the first year.
Today, the Hebrew-speaking congregation is a blend of 300 Jewish believers comprised of sabras (indigenous Israelis), Jewish immigrants from many countries especially Russia. Although some became fearful during the years of intimidation and chose not to attend, the vast majority of congregants continued to come and simply prayed each week for those who were persecuting them.
Perhaps, they took their example from Pochtar who, even after this recent break-in, does not wish to see these lawbreakers imprisoned to the full extent of the law. Rather he simply desires for them to clean up the graffiti which they scrawled on expensive marble walls, doors and windows stating, “Missionaries are a national danger.”
“I’m fine if they will just fix the damage that they caused,” he said.
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”
Chava Stein, the granddaughter of Jewish European immigrants to the U.S., made Aliyah to Israel in 1993. Married to an Israeli, they live in the center of the country.
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An Orthodox Israeli woman follows Yeshua
Orthodox Israeli Woman Follows Yeshua
A few months ago, my good friend, Ido (a new believer at our congregation) had to give a speech in the framework of a course he was taking. During his speech, he decided to share about the process of deliverance he had experienced at Tiferet Yeshua. Even though he did not mention the name of Yeshua, it was clear that there would be people from the audience who would ask him for more details at the end of his speech.
Noa, who was visibly Orthodox, approached Ido after his lecture and began asking him questions about the congregation and what he meant by “deliverance.” Ido joyfully told her about his faith in Yeshua and invited her to come to the congregation.
First time in Tiferet Yeshua
Noa came to the congregation and loved learning about Yeshua. She loved the praise and worship—it is so different than the repetitive liturgical singing in the synagogue, where every aspect of the service is dictated by a strict, traditional format. Slowly, Noa began to understand that faith in Yeshua was not a “foreign import” but, rather, a faith that is firmly rooted in Judaism, that all of the first believers were Jews and our faith is based on the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament—a book also written by Jews.
Noa began a discipleship course I lead, which delves into the fundamentals of faith in Yeshua, such as Yeshua’s sacrifice, repentance, Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew scriptures, the importance of studying the Word of God, and, finally, the importance of water immersion.
Interestingly, Ido joined some of the lessons and even took part in discipling Noa. Although he is a relatively new believer, it is clear that Ido has a gift for evangelism and discipleship. For me, it was a very special experience to see a man, who just recently became a disciple himself, lead someone to faith in Yeshua and begin discipling them.
The First Prayer from the Heart
It is important to understand that for religious Jews, praying means reciting prayers written in the prayer book called the Siddur. In Orthodox Judaism, prayer is central and important, but there is no such thing as simply talking and communing with God through prayer. Every prayer in Orthodox Judaism is written out in a pre-prescribed format, determining when and what one should pray throughout the day.
Religious girls are exempt from some of the mandatory prayers that observant men must pray throughout the day. However, every morning when Noa woke up, she would recite the prayer “Modeh Ani,” a prayer thanking God for waking up in peace. After each meal Noa would pray “Tifilat Mezuman,” thanking God for food. There are many more prescribed, mandatory prayers in Judaism, some of which are profoundly beautiful, but none of which come from a personal, spontaneous heart-cry to God.
At Tiferet Yeshua, Noa was exposed to a different type of prayer, one that she had never experienced before; having only ever read prescribed prayers from the page. Noa loved how we prayed in the congregation, but she did not succeed, at first, in praying spontaneously. However, all that changed during one of our services. Towards the end of the sermon that day, the entire congregation divided into small groups in order to pray about a number of topics—and also to pray for one other. Noa was in one of the groups and really enjoyed hearing the spontaneous, personal prayers that people in her group prayed. When her turn came, she simply opened her mouth and, for the first time in her life, began to pray directly from a heart overflowing with love. She was overjoyed that God had given her the ability to pray a personal prayer from her heart!
Praise God! One more Israeli knows how to petition heaven!
Last week, we went to the Jordan River near Tiberias where Noa would be immersed in water. She was so excited about this special day. Ido came with us, along with two cars full of witnesses. It was important that Ido immerse Noa with me because he was the one who led her to Yeshua. We explained to Noa that at the time of baptism, we identify with the death of Yeshua, signifying the death of the old man, with all his lusts and sinful desires. And, as soon as we come out of the water, we identify with the resurrection of Yeshua from the dead (Romans 6: 6) and begin to live, by the power of the Holy Spirit, a new life (Romans 6:4).
Noa proclaimed that she was dedicating her life to the Messiah of Israel, Yeshua. She thanked God for her new salvation and went into the water. It was a powerful and holy moment, and there was a strong presence of the Holy Spirit at the time of her immersion. God filled us with joy, which was a sign to us of how happy He was that this “daughter of Zion” had made a decision to follow His ways. We sang and prayed together and returned all the way to Tel Aviv with great joy and peace in our hearts.
This article originally appeared on Messiah’s Mandate, September 3, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Moti serves on the pastoral staff at Tiferet Yeshua Congregation in Tel Aviv.
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This Sukkot, Vision for Israel to highlight local believers
Joshua Aaron leading worship at Vision for Israel Succot Celebration (Photo courtesy)
As the nations come up to Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, local believers from across Israel will be the focus and highlight of the Vision for Israel’s observation of the holiday.
The VFI celebration of Sukkot will take place at The Pavilion, an auditorium in the Clal Building in downtown Jerusalem, from Sept. 25 to 27. An emphasis this year will be placed on the Body of Messiah in Israel.
The sessions will kick off with a worship session by Paul Wilbur, internationally renowned worship artist with a Messianic style of music, which will be recorded live for a future album.
“This year is going to be the first time we do a joint first evening session with Paul Wilbur who is doing a live recording in Israel,” Benjamin Siegel, marketing director for VFI, told Kehila News. “It is really nice to be a part of that. And it’s not only Paul Wilbur, but he has the whole band with him.”
Siegel said that the Vision for Israel Feast, in its 20th year, is expecting up to 600 participants, many from around the world including China, the United States and the United Kingdom.
This year’s Feast will focus on the believing community in Israel and feature local musicians and speakers. Israel musicians include Sarah Lieberman and Joshua Aaron. One of the speakers will be Naim Khoury, an Arab Christians who pastors a church in Bethlehem.
Barry and Batya Segal, co-founders of Vision for Israel, will be leading the event.
“We want to promote this event to get as many locals as possible. Obviously there’s a big feast going on with the Christian Embassy (ICEJ) and they bring in a lot of groups from overseas,” Siegel noted. “Ours is a little smaller and a little more personal, focusing on the body of believers.”
While the focus will be on locals, the event itself is timed to include the Jerusalem March, an annual parade that winds through the streets of the capital city. Israelis gather on the sidelines of the parade and watch as thousands of people from all over the world march through the streets handing out gifts and blessing the people.
“We as a conference join the Jerusalem March because we want to bless the Israelis on the street and pray and worship during the march,” Siegel said. “As part of the Sukkot celebration event, the purpose of that is to allow our participants to worship on the streets, connect with locals who are not necessarily believers. It is always a really special, amazing experience.”
The theme of this year’s event is based on Israel’s 70th year rebirth of a modern nation: Israel United. Last year’s theme focused on the 50th year of Jerusalem’s unification under Israeli rule.
While the ICEJ event tends to draw an international crowd, VFI is one of few Feast events in Israel geared for local believers. To encourage more believers to participate, VFI offers a large discount for locals which they can access by registering online.
VFI is a humanitarian aid organization that helps the poor and needy in Israel across a wide swath of religious and ethnic boundaries. This summer VFI helped to sponsor a fun day at one of Israel’s leading water parks for 840 terror victims and their families. The organization also helps new immigrants, lone soldiers and Holocaust survivors among several other outreaches.
For more information or to see the schedule, follow this link.
Israeli locals and long-term residents in the land can register by clicking GET TICKETS at the link above and use the promo code: 2018LOCAL to unlock a 75 percent discount.
The Kehila News Staff is a team of Israeli believers in Yeshua.
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Adoption – Foundation of a blessed life
God’s opening line during His first conversation with Moses on top of Mount Sinai was, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and BROUGHT YOU TO MYSELF…” (Exodus 19:4, emphasis mine).
Barely out of Egypt, the supernatural drama of the Exodus, the miraculous escape and the epic destruction of Pharaoh’s army are still fresh in the minds and conversations of the sons of Israel. Instead of being driven by oppression and terrorized by the taskmasters’ whips, a pillar of fire and of cloud, God’s presence, now leads them forward.
It is time to start shedding the slave mentality and picking up the concept of sonship. Israel is about to become God’s nation, a brand new prophetic community that never before existed on earth, and it all started with firming up their legal status when God’s voice thundered from heaven, saying, “I brought you to myself.” The Lord was building on His already established provision of “redeeming” Israel from Egypt when He “bought” them with a price and gained lawful ownership of them from their Egyptian masters.
The four cups we drink during the Passover meal recall the four great provisions God supplied when it was time to bring His people out of bondage and into their divine purpose. As God commanded Moses, “… say to the children of Israel: I am the LORD; I will BRING you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will RESCUE you from their bondage, and I will REDEEM you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you as MY PEOPLE, and I will be your God.” (Exodus 6:6-7, emphasis mine)
Physical rescue, changed location and circumstances and a brand new legal status (being redeemed for a price) were necessary before God could declare, “You are mine!” From that time forward, Israel shares in the obligations and privileges of belonging to our great new parent, God our Heavenly Father, and it all started with adoption. Adoption is foundational for humanity’s relationship with the Almighty, whether Israel or the elect from the nations who are brought in through the spiritual new birth and are grafted (adopted) into a brand new family.
Adoption was Israel’s first experience as a new nation. The people now belonged to someone: a great and awesome someone – the creator Himself. The Apostle Paul recognized this foundational position when he wept for the people of Israel thousands of years later crying out, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Messiah for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the ADOPTION, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises…” (Romans 9:3-4, emphasis mine).
This principle of adoption is not only foundational in Israel’s relationship with God, but is applicable for all His children from all nations. Writing to the disciples in Ephesus, Paul declared, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to ADOPTION as sons by Jesus the Messiah to Himself…” (Ephesians 1:4-5, emphasis mine). All God’s children are adopted by Him, and the spiritual new birth is the doorway into this new and privileged status.
Divine adoption, therefore, is basic to our standing with God. However, human adoptions – the way we treat orphans and at-risk children who need care – are an expression of this amazing miracle and a witness to the community around us.
ADOPTION IN ISRAEL
Adoption in the State of Israel today can be complex. Jewish laws, religious principles, heavy bureaucracy and moral and cultural differences add to the expected emotional and relational challenges. Most families who are interested in adoption prefer to take in a baby from birth, but because of the high abortion rate (nearly 40,000 babies are aborted each year) not many infants are available. Consequently, only about 120 successful adoptions are made in Israel each year.
To make matters even more complicated, Jewish law requires that the child and the adopting family must be matched according to religion, meaning that Israeli Jewish families can only adopt Jewish children resulting in a “short supply” and a waiting list of about five years. Thousands of children cannot be adopted at all due to the “no religious match” clause and are raised in government-run boarding schools waiting for the perfect family to show up. No doubt, the need for adoptive and foster families willing to embrace older children and children with special needs is great.
IS THERE A SOLUTION?
A bright point of hope in this troubled arena is the vision and work of HaTikva Project, a Messianic ministry based in Jerusalem that is dedicated to helping the needy and strengthening Messianic believers in Israel. Statistically, with one out of six Israeli children considered at-risk in some way, HaTikva Families was launched in early 2018 as a family division of the HaTikva Project in order to focus specifically on providing solutions for those thousands of children waiting to find a safe and loving home.
HaTikva Families operates a new program equipping couples and families (in and out of the community of faith), preparing them to host, foster or adopt orphans and at-risk children. The ministry’s new initiative will also lead national media campaigns in order to raise awareness of the vast needs of disadvantaged children in Israel.
This new program not only prepares the participants to become host, foster, or adoptive families, but also provides professional, financial and community support throughout the process. Their six-week training course covers trauma-informed care; understanding children from complex backgrounds; tools to “rewire” the child’s brain through compassion and connection, and much more.
Messianic couples and families are presently not allowed to adopt Jewish babies in Israel because these couples and families are considered non-Jewish by the rabbinic authorities who govern the Ministry of Interior. Consequently, only Christian babies or “no-known-religion” babies are available for adoption by Messianic families, and the only known adoption by a believing family in Israel was that of a Christian baby.
For as long as the true of identity of Yeshua, Jesus of Nazareth, remains hidden from mainstream Jewish hearts and minds, His Jewish followers will also continue to find themselves outside the camp in this “rabbinical limbo,” and Messianic adoptions will remain a gray area in Israel. Nevertheless, HaTikva Families intends to change all that with God’s help, working with various state and private agencies to expand adoption by Messianic Jewish families.
HaTikva Families partners with other Israeli nonprofits with similar goals, supports their shared interests through media initiatives and together fights for the rights of children.
HaTikva’s big vision is to spark and facilitate a national movement that will see the Israeli Body of Messiah take a leading role in seeking true justice for the orphaned, unwanted and unborn children of Israel.
Anybody can do something: adopt, foster, host a boarding school child for the holidays or support a foster or adoptive family. Details on how you can share in this great vision can be found at http://hatikvaproject.org/families/.
“Defend the poor and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy.” Psalm 82:3.
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Latest methods used by anti-missionaries in Israel
Illustrative image - view of Ashkelon, southern Israel (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Carmiyah ministries based in the Ashkelon region have recently been the target of a well known anti-missionary organisation in Israel.
I received a call from someone saying that he and four others that finished their military service, wanted to stay in my home to learn about the life of Messianic Jews to get credits for university entrance.
I don’t publicise my mobile number, only a number not registered in my name. However when I messaged him on WhatsApp, he saw my registered mobile number and with this he could get my name and through his friends in Misrad Hapnim (Ministry of the Interior) he could illegally get my address. I knew someone trying to find out who is behind Carmiyah ministries could do this.
I did not agree to have them stay in my house and stopped communicating, however they already knew who I was and they continued their anti-missionary effort.
After this they went to the religious Jewish school where my landlord’s children go and they told his children bad things about me. They are very experienced at persecuting missionaries and they know how to make Jewish landlord’s afraid enough to evict their tenant. They feed the media with fake stories about missionaries to get them identified in society as pedophiles or some sort of criminal so that Israelis will stay away from them and not listen to them. These fake stories also discredit the Gospel of the Jewish Messiah. Nonetheless the Talmud contains lies about the Son of God too.
So my brothers, be wise, and know they are scheming against us. They think we are stealing Jewish souls.
Look up! Your redemption draweth nigh!
Carmiyah Israel is a Messianic based in Ashkelon. Founded in 1996, it's mission is to reach Jews and Muslims with the Gospel of Yeshua.