A new season for Israeli unity
Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all … (Ezekiel 37:21,22)
Here is the heart of God. Yet what sounds idyllic and obvious in the phrasing of Ezekiel looks unrealistic and uninformed when viewed through the lens of modern Israel. The fragmentation of our nation is well known. We are divided over the Palestinian issue, governed by an array of political parties at each other’s throats, and we swing compulsively between the extremes of religious fervour and secular scepticism. No wonder the Almighty said “I will make them one nation.” Only He can do it.
As Israeli followers of Messiah Yeshua, this is our cue. Was it not our Rabbi who prayed “that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that you have sent me …” (John 17:23)? In the midst of a reassembled, yet fractured nation, a Messianic community united in its obvious variety will speak volumes about our Messiah. In this issue there is no doubt about the will of God. It is His design to unite us, here in Israel, with all of our differences in national origin, theological background and worship style.
Why aren’t Israeli leaders more unified?
If it’s so clearly God’s plan and if we share a common persecution for our faith in Yeshua, “then why aren’t the Israeli Messianic leaders more unified?” is a question I am frequently asked. I am glad to answer this question in the form of an encouraging and inspiring reminder of relationships among believers across the nation of Israel.
Before describing these developments, it is important to keep one fact in mind. Israel is a small, new country, even though we are thousands of years old as a God-ordained nation. The presence of an active body of local believers in Yeshua is even newer. In the mid-1950’s there were only several Messianic meetings in all of Israel. Furthermore, there is a vast difference between Israel and other nations in which there are city-wide or national efforts to bring together leaders from many streams of faith in Jesus. Such efforts are, at best, successful in uniting only a fraction of all those who proclaim Yeshua as Lord. Yet here in Israel, at our regional and national gatherings of Messianic leaders we are seeing a remarkably wide spectrum of congregations and ministries represented. A proportional comparison in North American terms would be a meeting of some 400,000 pastors across every conceivable denominational line.
It is true that Israeli Messianic leaders have had their challenges getting together. I can remember an effort at unity that took place almost 25 years ago, when we first arrived in the land. At that time there were several believing families who were at risk of being expelled from Israel because of their faith. In response to the crisis leaders came together a few times, yet much tension was still in evidence.
Since then, many initiatives have born fruit in bringing us together. One can now participate in multi-congregational projects ranging from evangelism to music composition to humanitarian aid to leadership training. By now there are precious relationships among pioneers in the faith that stretch back over the decades. Bar Mitzvahs, circumcisions, weddings and funerals have a way of bringing believers together from all over the land – both to celebrate and to mourn the major turning points in our lives. Israel’s compact borders create intense feelings of belonging to one another in Messiah.
Together with Brothers at the Feet of Yeshua
“Sitting at Yeshua’s Feet” is the name of one initiative that began a decade or more ago, to bring together leaders of congregations and ministries from across the land. Both Dan and I have been able to participate in this on many occasions. We gather twice annually in the Negev Desert and the hills of the Galilee to worship and pray corporately, to experience much-needed spiritual refreshing in solitude, and to “wash each others’ feet” through prayer for personal needs. These are stretched, weary servants of the Lord, each of them aiming high—giving his all in the gospel resistant environments of Jewish and Arab society. Involved are ministry heads and pastors of Jewish, Arab, Russian-speaking, and Ethiopian congregations. One senses God’s pleasure in the breadth of His sons praying and breaking bread together. A national community of shepherds is forming.
At the opening evening of our fall gathering one year, we were invited to prepare for the Messiah’s Supper (a.k.a. communion) by examining our hearts toward one another. I was reflecting contentedly on harmonious thoughts of love and affection for other leaders in Israel, nearly 65 in the room. Suddenly my reverie was interrupted by different thoughts’ from “above.” God began showing me relationships in which I had subtly judged a brother and withheld full “favor” (as if it was mine to give — Lord, forgive me!). When we were invited to approach men with whom we needed to work something out, I approached those God pointed out to me. In confessing the partiality of my heart, something inside broke and I began weeping repentantly. I was “nailed” in the very area I thought I was “OK.” He gave me new love for the guys I saw all around the room. We received the wine and the matzah … better knowing His mercy.
Genuine friendships and commitments to support one another “in the trenches” are arising from sitting together at the feet of the Master. It’s a new season for Israeli unity. Lately I have been drawn into a growing number of gatherings devoted to prayer with brothers and sisters nationally and regionally. There are now literally too many to attend! In addition to “Sitting at Yeshua’s Feet” I am excited about the Haifa Bay Area congregational leaders’ monthly prayer time. Another prayer initiative, guided by Reuven Berger, is causing us to take hold of our calling to be a prophetic priesthood, interceding as Moses, Nehemiah, Daniel and Paul did for our people. In the Galilee, fellowship times joining Arab and Jewish pastors have come to be known as “One Shepherd, One Flock.”
HaKatzir: Uniting the Youth of Israel
This new season of unity also expresses itself in a national conference of Messianic youth. Called “HaKatzir – The Harvest,” it began when a small group of us inherited the challenge of raising up an indigenous Israeli national youth conference ministry. Since our first Chanukah conference twenty years ago we have made many mistakes and often felt frustration. But in recent conferences we have seen the fruit of these years of working together. A new generation of leaders is functioning naturally in Hebrew with a concentration of love and commitment to the youth of our nation, equipping them to be used of God in their generation.
The end-time revival foretold by the prophets of Israel will demand of us all pure hearts and clean hands. This call to purity and tenderness toward other leaders provokes spiritual opposition. The enemy resists true unity among shepherds, because he knows the authority we gain from being one. There is inspiration, however, from powerful examples of city-wide revival springing from leaders united—on their knees. A video called “Transformations” documented such revivals during the 90’s in distant points on the globe. There are men and women serving Yeshua in Israel today whose hearts yearn for such revival born of true union in God’s Spirit. Please join us in interceding that we will be “one nation under one King.”
This article originally appeared on Tikkun International, February 27, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Eitan is the Founder and Executive Director of Tents of Mercy Network of Messianic Congregations is Northern Israel. He's a published author, having written "What About Us?", which answers the question about Gentile participation in the restoration of Israel.
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Unrolling the red carpet for the neglected – Israeli beauty shop becomes safe place
How a small beauty shop is dispersing the darkness of south Tel Aviv
The most pressing issues in this world are difficult in and of themselves, and still, majority of them are even more complicated when you look under the surface.
Tel Aviv, apart from being the tech capital in this part of the world, holds also some very dark secrets. When one takes up the challenge of standing against abortion which is very prevalent in Israel, it is impossible to detach it from its complexities.
In Tel Aviv unwanted pregnancies are strongly linked with the issue of human trafficking.
This was the realization of an Israeli couple, Ishai and Anat, who were moved to take action against abortion by providing practical help to troubled mothers, but also felt a heavy burden in their hearts to reach out to women controlled by mafia and human traffickers.
They started an organization called Chaim Beshefa (Hebrew for ‘Abundant Life’) where they are surrounded by dedicated staff and volunteers who share in their mission.
A turning point came when Anat got a phone call from a social worker in Tel Aviv old bus station area. She asked Anat to meet and care for a victim of sex trafficking from Uzbekistan who was also a drug addict and just gave birth to a child she could not support. Thus a new avenue of work was initiated for Chaim Beshefa: reaching out to women in prostitution by the old bus station in Tel Aviv.
The southern neighborhood of the city near the old bus station is home to brothels and drug hangouts, dealers and crime – a place where many women have long abandoned the dream of leading a free and comfortable life.
Chaim Beshefa team stepped into this miserable place with a novel, and possibly risky, idea: let’s open a beauty shop! The center, ingeniously named “Red Carpet Nail Center,” offers manicures, pedicures and hairstyling free of charge. But more importantly, it is a safe space for the women to enjoy a hot meal, take a shower and receive counseling.
The main goal is to send them to rehabilitation centers, to move from their current situation and experience true breakthrough.
Men are not allowed inside, so even Ishai, Anat’s husband, does not enter the center during its opening hours, and guards the entrance instead. The Red Carpet center gives them an escape from their weary lives, where local and international volunteers show them care and are willing to pray with them.
They offer the mistreated women of the slums something they may have never experienced in their lives, respect and unconditional love.
The stance of Chaim Beshefa is straightforward: each woman who enters the center is a king’s daughter, precious and loved, who is stepping on a red carpet to meet the King of Kings.
This article originally appeared on FIRM and reposted with permission.
Estera Wieja, born and raised in Poland, moved to Israel in 2010. She is a journalist and in 2018 joined the staff of Fellowship of Israel Related Ministries (FIRM) in Jerusalem.
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Messianic senior citizen home in Israel looking to expand
Here in Israel, many Messianic believers and ministries run establishments including guest houses, schools and performance centers, and the list goes on. However, there is currently only one home for the elderly – Ebenezer.
Established in 1976 by the Norwegian Church Ministry to Israel, the Ebenezer Senior Citizens’ Home in Haifa is currently home to 27 residents, all of whom are more or less independent.
The home, however, is now raising funds for much-needed renovations – including the addition of an underground space for use during war time and a nursing ward – in order to meet governmental requirements and so that a greater number of elderly Messianic believers can live at Ebenezer and receive adequate care.
The need for a new nursing ward became evident in 2012 after an inspection by the Welfare Ministry. The ministry deemed Ebenezer’s current facilities and staff insufficient to meet the needs of some of its residents and recommended that Ebenezer’s residents be relocated to an assisted living facility. But Ebenezer was able to make short-term changes in order to keep the residents there while also planning urgently needed structural and staff changes.
Because Ebenezer has always received top ratings during inspections by the governmental ministries of health and social welfare, the government is giving the organization some time to implement the changes.
Johnny Khoury, Ebenezer’s manager since 2003, has finalized plans for the expansion and is now raising money for the project.
“The new ward will be built and equipped according to the requirements and standards of the Ministry of Health (larger rooms and bathrooms with wide doors, etc.),” he said. “The rooms the residents live in at the moment are designed according to the residents’ personal taste and are furnished with furniture brought from their homes. For practical reasons, residents living in the nursing ward will be limited in their ability to design their rooms according to their personal taste.”
So far, less than 20 percent of the estimated 25 million shekels needed for the project have been raised.
Ebenezer is raising funds through attendance at conferences, exhibitions and charity concerts, and interviews on radio and TV stations abroad. Another unique fundraising effort was the participation of 50 locals in the annual Tel Aviv Marathon on Feb. 22. The runners were sponsored by friends, family members and local companies.
Raising money for these essential changes has presented bureaucratic and legal hurdles, but with God’s help these have been sorted. And in the meantime, non-believing neighbors and government representatives have encouraged the project.
“[A]s a Messianic organization, we have a responsibility before God and people to do everything in a worthy manner,” Khoury said. “We thank God that not long ago we also successfully completed a long process of an in-depth audit by the Registrar of Amutot [Non-Profit Organizations]. The process itself was tedious, but it was an opportunity to examine ourselves and improve – all for the Lord’s glory and honor.”
If you’d like to support Ebenezer’s expansion project, please visit https://www.ebenezer.co.il/donate.
Violet moved to Israel in 2013. She lives in Haifa with her husband and their daughter.
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Press Release: Reconciled Identities – Israeli and Palestinian Disciples of Jesus Share the Search for Peace
Messianic Jewish and Palestinian Christian disciples of Jesus met in Antalya, Turkey, February 14-17, 2019 for the 5th conference of the Lausanne Initiative on Reconciliation in Israel/Palestine (LIRIP). 27 participants from Israel, the West Bank and Gaza met in Antalya, Turkey, for three days of prayer, study and discussion. Their focus was how to make a difference through practical demonstrations of the reconciling love of Jesus across the boundaries of intractable conflict and the seemingly irreconcilable dividing walls of politicised identities. The group was comprised of Jewish and Arab disciples of Jesus, including participants from Muslim, Orthodox Jewish and Orthodox Christian backgrounds, all committed to working together to achieve peace. Together they affirmed their unity and commitment to work for reconciliation and a just peace in Israel/Palestine.
The conference was sponsored by the Lausanne Initiative for Reconciliation in Israel/Palestine (LIRIP). Its vision is “to promote reconciliation within the body of Christ and our wider communities in Israel and Palestine by creating a network that encourages, under the auspices of the Lausanne Movement, models of gospel-based, Christ-centered reconciliation that will have prophetic impact in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Under the theme of “Exploring our Conflicting Identities” participants gave presentations on Israeli and Palestinian identities and our reconciled identities in Christ/Messiah. Presentation topics included identity theory, Palestinian identity in Israel, Christian focus on Palestinian nationalism, an exploration of Zionism, contested issues in Palestinian society, military service in Israel, and being a Palestinian in Israel under the new Nationality Law. The legal and practical implications of this recently passed law (an Israeli Basic Law which specifies the nature of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people) were discussed in frank, open and at times heated discussion, with respectful acknowledgement of the various and differing positions held.
The three groups – Palestinians living in Israel, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and Messianic Jewish Israelis – discussed how their own identities challenged them to be more accepting and understanding of others, and to recognise the issues needing to be addressed in their own identity construction. The three groups met separately to discuss their own group’s weaknesses and identified what each group saw as the weaknesses of the other group, subsequently presenting their views to the full group. Challenging discussions followed in an atmosphere of openness and respect.
The fifth conference of the Lausanne Initiative on Reconciliation in Israel/Palestine built on the momentum of previous meetings. The Larnaca Statement and Cape Town Commitment affirm the need for peace-building and justice in ethnic and political conflict. Future meetings will involve joint activities, mutual hospitality and theological consultations. The group plans to further address the many theological, social and practical challenges that arise in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Lisa Loden, co-chair of the Initiative, said “We see each other across the walls and barricades of two separated communities. We are divided amongst ourselves and across our communities yet we are here to seek peace and pursue reconciliation. Living in the context of the intractable Israeli –Palestinian conflict, together we are choosing to cross the divides and build bridges of understanding, trust and mutual commitment; to stand together for justice, peace and reconciliation. Our faith in Jesus as Messiah and Saviour of all unites, empowers and calls us to action.”
Botrus Mansour, co-chair of the Initiative, said: “As followers of the Messiah in the land we are called to be a prophetic voice calling for justice and equality regardless of our conflicting identities in the midst of conflict. We have shared candidly with empathy how we can do that.”
Grace Matthews, previous Vice-Chair of the Global Board for the Lausanne Movement, thanked the participants “ . . . for taking the time to be here at a time when there seems to be increasing polarisation between denominations, religions, governments, and races. It is good to see a group gathering together, to reconcile differences rather than to live in the animosity of estrangement. We are called to love even our enemies. As Christians we can no longer afford to be silent in a world crying out for honest voices. My fervent prayer is that we can continue to chart a course that will glorify the redeeming love of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
For more information and details of future meetings, contact:
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Pray for our leaders and the April elections in Israel
Our nation has elections coming up on April 9, 2019. Whatever your political allegiance might be, God’s word instructs us to pray for those in authority.
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. –1 Timothy 2:1-4
When the first believers prayed together the ground shook and captives were set free.
Starting on the March 1, I challenge you to commit to pray for the next 40 days for our nation and the upcoming elections. Pray for integrity in our leaders. Pray for righteousness. Pray that our leaders would seek God’s wisdom and follow God’s paths. Pray for favour for the Messianic and Christian believers. For more suggestions, request a free copy of the pdf prayer guide 28 Days of Prayer for Nations from email@example.com
If you want to pray with other believers, we will be meeting online from 8-8:30pm every day. Join when you can. It’s a team effort, and we value your prayers for our nation. We are not praying for a political party or agenda. Praying in Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, English and Amharic welcome!
For details on how to join the online prayer, please contact Wendy Halloun firstname.lastname@example.org
Wendy Halloun lives on Mount Carmel with her husband Sharbel and their four children. She is passionate about the Word of God and equipping fellow believers to be anchored in the Word of God and flowing with the power of the Spirit. Her book, Identity in Messiah is releasing February 2018. Find out more on wordsofclay.com