Discovering Jesus in His Jewish Context
Are you a theologian? A pastor? Are you involved in missions or ministry or perhaps just interested in learning about what it was like to live in Jesus’ time? Culturally, socially, economically, politically… the context of first-century Israel was very different from what we know today.
Our upcoming “Discovering Jesus in His Jewish Context” course is set to take place from April 23-May 4, 2018. This exciting theological course will go deep into contextual theology and attempt to answer all your questions. For more information, please go here.
To sign up, please fill in the form here.
Sign up for KNI weekly updates
LISTEN: John 1: Transforming revelation
In this season of Epiphany, we see Jesus revealed. We saw John preparing the way for the Messiah, Jesus hears a voice which calls him the “Beloved Son”, an affirmation of Jesus himself. He then begins his public ministry. These words also apply to us, Rev. David Pileggi reminds us, in that we should properly understand both his and our own identity. If we know who we are in Christ many of our problems would be resolved.
There is a line that goes right from the baptism to the cross. In today’s passage and in the context of discipleship, our task is to go and find others. Just as God so loved the world, Jesus sends us. “Come and see who Jesus is!” People will not just see Jesus but also Jesus living in us. What does Jesus see in Nathaniel? He looks past his faults and sees something greater, He does not define him by his cynicism. As with Jacob, in which patterns of family mistakes abound, he wrestles, alone, coming to the end of himself with an angel, who is God Himself. He will never be the same again, this is the moment Jacob becomes Israel, the point of transformation. It has been said, “Never trust a leader who does not walk with a limp.” Brokenness resulting in transformation, characterised by humility are the marks of a true shepherd.
Readings: Genesis 28:10 – 22, Genesis 32:24 -32, John 1:43-51
David Pileggi lives in Jerusalem with his wife Carol and their three adult children where he is the rector of Christ Church in the Old City of Jerusalem. They have lived in Israel for 33 years where David has worked as a journalist/researcher and for 19 years was director of a study program dedicated to teaching Christians about the Jewish context of their faith. David has an M.A. from the Hebrew University in Jewish Studies and is a licensed tour guide.
Sign up for KNI weekly updates
Pride comes before a fall
The State of Israel is preparing to celebrate its 70th Independence Day this April 18-19.
Seventy years of the impossible being made possible. After nearly 1900 years of exile from the land God promised on oath to give to the children of Israel; after prayers and hopes of one day returning to Jerusalem; after centuries of suffering persecutions and unending dislike and mistrust; after forced expulsions from other countries; after trying to show that they are like the Gentiles among whom they live; after failures of other nations to keep promises to assist them in their return to the land; after the Holocaust which sought to destroy their aspirations once-and-for-all; after wars against their surrounding enemies throughout the 70 years of statehood: Israel and the Jewish people here are thriving and prospering beyond all expectations, and blessing the world through its acquired knowledge and innovations born of necessity.
Just last week, following the destruction of another cross-border terrorist tunnel from Gaza, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai has praised the technology behind its discovery.
“Israeli genius and the Jewish brain have found a solution for all the terrorist tunnels,” he said in an interview with the Arabic-language al-Hurairah television station on Sunday. “Just as there is the Iron Dome in the air, there is a technological dome of steel under the ground.”
Despite its small size, Israel has played a large role in global affairs and ranks relatively high among the nations in several categories.
But as the Spirit of Messiah spoke through Moses to the Israeli people long ago in its very beginnings, he warned us that becoming powerful and wealthy would also lead to forgetting YHVH our God, and boasting in our own abilities and intelligence and might and power to accomplish all that the LORD enabled us to do. And God’s warning was that just as He will destroy all the nations opposing Him and His people, so would He do to His own when they become like them. Unless YHVH of Hosts (Armies) would leave to us a very small remnant, we would become like Sodom and Gomorrah. (Isa. 1:9)
As we relish in our own country’s (wherever we live) successes and greatness, there remains a particular calling upon Israel and the Jewish people with whom YHVH has cut covenants and given promises and oaths. We are held to a higher accountability than are other nations. Yet believers in Yeshua/Jesus, from whatever nation or ethnic group, are held individually to a higher standard than even unbelieving Israel is: we know the God and Lord who has forgiven us our sins and given us a new heart and the Holy Spirit, and given us peace and gift of eternal life with Him. We have the whole Bible, the whole counsel of God.
We are called to intercede and to take the gospel to the Jew first, that they might repent and believe it, and come home to their Father in Heaven, looking on Him whom they pierced. From the days of Samuel the Prophet and Judge, the Jewish people have wanted a king like the Gentiles have to rule over them, and go to war for them, and to judge them. YHVH, in the person of Yeshua the Messiah/Christ and Son of God, will restore the Kingdom of God to them and be their King when He returns. He is holy and righteous, attributes which God has called His people to become, to the glory of the Father.
“The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength eighty years. Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath. Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psa. 90)
This article originally appeared on Streams in the Negev, January 29, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Howard Bass is the congregation pastor/leader of Nachalat Yeshua (Yeshua's Inheritance) in Beer Sheva, Israel.
Sign up for KNI weekly updates
The cost of following Yeshua in Israel and around the world
The now internationally recognized “World Watch List” calls out the worst 50 countries for persecuting followers of Jesus each year. It should be no surprise that the top spot is held by North Korea, the same as it has been for the last seventeen years. Open Doors, the organization that compiles the list, says,
“Each year, the World Watch List provides a searing glimpse into the 50 places around the world where it costs the most to be a Christian. In some countries, familial and social pressure make it terribly difficult to follow Jesus, while in other places, faith in Christ is threatened by daily risk of violence and physical oppression.”
Israel is barely visible on the World Watch List map of persecution, which marks countries from yellow to red indicating increasing levels of severity and danger.
Zooming into the Middle East, you can just make out a thin, grey strip surrounded by a sea of orange.
Israel is, by and large, a safe place for the disciples of Yeshua. However, this is only in comparison to nations where Christians are regularly experiencing violence and death for their faith.
But it would be wrong to think that there is no cost to following Yeshua in Israel. There certainly is.
Though we are not killed for our faith in Israel, and very rarely physically hurt, opposition through social, political, judicial and economic means puts believers under great pressure.
The religious leaders of Israel are just as threatened by Yeshua today as they were when He walked among them two thousand years ago.
We received a message from believers who have recently opened a “Walk-In House” ministry center near Beersheva in the south of Israel. This is a first hand account of what persecution in Israel looks like, from believers in Dimona:
“From the first day we felt the tension, which increased every day. This week a group of demonstrators gathered in front of our “ Walk-in House”, summoned by the rabbis.
Our windows were smeared, we were photographed and filmed. The rabbis screamed to Albert, “You are Amalek! Haman! And they must be killed!” Esther was called the representative of satan… and much more. We were provoked and the name of Jesus was blasphemed. The rabbis incited the people against us. One rabbi started a slander campaign. Yesterday, someone from the Yad L’Achim [an anti-missionary organization] stood in front of the door, intimidating us the whole time.
The police were called by bystanders who were supporting us. The police officers told us that we had to follow them to the police station to write a statement. They escorted us to their police car. We have been four times at the police station this week, and every time we had to tell the whole story to a different police officer. This coming Sunday we will have a meeting with the head officer of the police station.
Some shop owners went to the mayor to asked him to stop this ‘’stupid’’ behaviour of those rabbis, but they told them that’s it’s now a case between the rabbinate of Dimona and the police.”
Sadly, Albert and Esther are not the only ones to experience this kind of harassment. The situation today is far better than it has been in previous decades, but believers especially in southern cities such as Arad and Beersheva have experienced considerable trouble. I know one couple in Arad who are surrounded by crowds of Orthodox Jews every week when they walk to their Messianic congregation. They are shouted at, cursed and spat upon. Their infant daughter was called a rat by a shrieking protester, yelling into her buggy. There have been break ins and vandalism, and the judicial system will rarely decide in favor of the Messianics, who tend to come out of the ordeal with huge bills to pay and no compensation or redress.
The justice system is also profoundly tipped against Messianic Jews who want to immigrate Israel, both denying those who believe in Yeshua the right to apply in the first place, and even attempting to turf out those who make it through, stripping them of their citizenship.
There are Israeli believers who have been fired from their jobs, Messianic businesses shut down, and on extremely rare occasions, there have been firebombs thrown into buildings. I know a man who was thrown down stone stairs for talking about Yeshua, and of course if an Orthodox Jew comes to faith they will more than likely be cut off completely from their family, and ostracized from their community. A funeral is held for them, and they are considered dead.
It is against this reality that it is all the more remarkable that the body of Messiah just continues to grow and grow in Israel, and that more and more people are coming out in support of believers.
Messianic believers have hit the mainstream media several times in the last couple of years, with varying degrees of acceptance. News channels have done media segments about our faith, before being unceremoniously pulled due to threats from religious leaders. There have been a number of very gifted Messianic singers on national talent spotting television shows being quite open about their faith, and recently a Messianic wedding was covered in an Israeli website, including details about what the couple believed. The article explained in a positive way how their wedding ceremony combined elements of traditional Jewish wedding along with their faith in Yeshua. Generally speaking, society is still quite hostile to the idea that a Jew can believe in Yeshua, but the news is spreading more and more all the time, that whether they are accepted or not, tens of thousands of Israeli Jews do, in fact, follow Yeshua as their Messiah.
Albert added in his report,
“All the negative attention and riots cause people to come and ask questions and they are so brave to come in and show their solidarity towards us! The wall painting with the text from Psalm 42:1 “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God”, attracts the attention of many, both friends and foes!
We would like to ask you to struggle with us in praying for a breakthrough. It is a battle of lies and truth, darkness and light. The love of God overcomes the darkness! Please pray that the Kingdom of God will become visible here in Dimona. May all of us be able to stand firm in His victorious power! Praise the Lord for He is good, His goodness endures forever!
”Righteousness lifts up a nation, but sin is a disgrace in any society”. (Proverbs 14:34)
Righteousness… That is we want to see this in our society.”
Amen to that.
ONE FOR ISRAEL strives to be the leading organization in sharing the Gospel of Yeshua the Messiah with Israeli Jews and Arabs in the Hebrew language. Our staff is comprised of both Jewish and Arab Israelis, with the shared belief that true peace in the Middle East can only come into existence under Yeshua.
Sign up for KNI weekly updates
With BDS friends like these, we’ll never lack enemies
Israel’s Jan. 7 blacklist of BDS agents includes the 100-year-old American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). Of all groups included in the ban, the AFSC peacemakers received the lion’s share of sympathetic media coverage. Is Israel stifling courageous Christian rebuke, or exposing world-class hypocrisy?
Also known as Quakers, the Society of Friends is a Christian sect founded in 17th-century England that is known for its members’ refusal to serve in the military or carry weapons. However, Quakers don’t use their pacifism as an excuse to stay home. They serve in conflict areas as humanitarian workers dedicated to peacemaking, justice and aid for the oppressed.
The AFSC in particular is recognized for its decades of efforts to eliminate slavery, prison abuses and anti-Semitism. Media reports mentioned the “irony” of the Jewish state ejecting a group awarded a Nobel Prize in 1947 for their aid to Jewish Holocaust refugees.
For others, the irony runs in the opposite direction. Israelis claim that the AFSC tunes out Palestinian Authority government-sponsored incitement of its citizens to violence against Jews in Israel and worldwide, along with daily indoctrination of future generations. In full view of genocidal anti-Semitism that rivals the Nazi era, the organization gives the perpetrators a lifetime free pass.
One day after Israel published the BDS blacklist, the AFSC responded with dignified outrage and Christian fortitude. They accused Israel of suppressing human freedoms and claimed the moral high ground: “We will continue our legacy of speaking truth to power and standing for peace and justice without exception.”
This brief overview tests the Friends’ declaration of righteousness by reviewing their track record.
We start with the AFSC’s ethical justification for supporting boycotts against Israel: “Palestinians under Israeli control enjoy few or none of those rights or privileges” that are granted to the “Israeli Jews.” Setting aside the subtle repackaging of Israeli Arabs as “Palestinians,” this racially loaded statement is easily and frequently refuted with lists of Arab leaders in many fields of Israeli society. Nevertheless, forcing Israel to grant these rights to “Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel” is a declared goal of the Quaker BDS campaign.
Glaringly absent is a call for equivalent rights and privileges for all Jews living under Palestinian control. Then again, it wouldn’t do to draw attention to the complete absence of Jews in the PA.
The proclamation of “justice without exception” notwithstanding, the AFSC message to Israel is indeed exceptional. During 100 years of service in conflict zones, the group has called for whole-country boycotts in only two cases: South Africa and Israel. The organization defends the equivalence by describing BDS against Israel as nonviolent pressure to end Israeli “apartheid.”
It doesn’t matter that Israel has been exonerated by African victims of real apartheid, or that the PA preaches and practices anti-Jewish apartheid throughout its territory. Neither do Quaker injustice sensors detect the scandalous segregation of thousands kept in “Palestinian refugee camps” on Palestinian land by the Palestinian Authority. The triple irony is heightened by the AFSC’s “components of a just peace,” which proclaim that “what holds true for one side in a conflict should hold true for the other as well.”
As advocates for children caught in the crossfire, the AFSC is micro-focused on IDF treatment of young Palestinians involved in violence. Their website section entitled “No Way to Treat a Child” declares that Israel arrests or detains “more than 700 Palestinian children” every year. An email query to the AFSC to clarify their age range was answered by another group called Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP), which provided links to their own website. There we learn that most of the “child detainees in Israel” are 18… the same age as first-year Israeli soldiers. A few are reportedly aged 15–17 — much older than these tots who are encouraged to “stab a Jew.”
The DCIP markets itself as “an independent, local Palestinian child rights organization based in Ramallah dedicated to defending and promoting the rights of children living in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.” So I wrote back, sending links to documented abuses of Palestinian children by older Palestinian combatants. I asked about DCIP’s activism for the rights of those children. The organization has yet to respond.
Because the Society of Friends traditionally rejects military service on moral grounds, the AFSC actively supports Israelis expressing pacifist convictions. But here too, “speaking the truth to power” fails the truth test. A 2013 article condemning Israel’s treatment of pacifists revolved around a double accusation: (1) “conscientious objection in Israel is an offense [punished by law];” and (2) “international human rights law (including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Israel has ratified) protects the right to reject military service on grounds of conscientious objection.”
Fact Check: The International Covenant actually excludes compulsory military service from the category of human rights violations. The relevant clause, Article 8.3(c), implies that allowing the option of conscientious objection is subject to the discretion of each country. The OHCHR’s 90-page dissertation on this issue confirms (p. 7) that “the right to conscientious objection to military service is not a right per se since international instruments of the United Nations do not make direct reference to such a right.”
To support their fake news that Israel’s military draft violates “international human rights law,” the AFSC highlighted the story of Natan Blanc, a “conscientious objector” whose refusal had earned him a shocking “10 jail sentences.” His actual jail time: less than six months.
More serious was Blanc’s testimony that he was denied the nonmilitary option of National Service. This route, called Sherut Leumi in Hebrew, is available for religious women, ultra-orthodox men, permanent residents, Israeli-Arab citizens and others who for personal reasons don’t want military duty; they can instead fulfill their patriotic obligation with one to two years of community service.
Other leftwing draft-refusers have told Israeli media that National Service was closed to them, but in those interviews we find out why. The IDF rightly defines pacifism as an objection to military service in principle. Those receiving jail sentences are willing to serve in the IDF but refuse to serve in Judea and Samaria. Although the distinction and its consequences have been upheld by Israel’s Supreme Court, Israel’s liberal community tends to equate pacifism with leftwing politics. When a genuine pacifist is exempted from IDF service, opponents of “the occupation” often declare victory regardless of his/her political leanings.
It can be argued that Israeli liberals who are troubled by the thought of serving in the disputed territories should be able to opt for National Service. In Blanc’s case the IDF thought likewise: shortly after his story was publicized, he did receive that opportunity. Instead of reporting the peaceful resolution of that impasse, the AFSC insinuated that the IDF was defeated by Blanc, a soldier in the Quaker-sponsored battle “to transform the system.”
This defamation against the IDF is extended to all Israel by the AFSC’s claims that the Jewish state raises its children on “militarism.” Their short Hebrew film, “From Holocaust to Revival,” hints that Israeli education misuses the Holocaust to indoctrinate youth with military ambitions and paranoia about potential enemies. Among other insults, that one-dimensional portrayal of Israeli society denies our generosity to proven enemies like Hamas terrorists, and censors the phenomenon of Palestinians in distress seeking help at IDF checkpoints. But the caricature is necessary to justify the one-dimensional goal of AFSC activity in Israel: to “promote the demilitarization of Israeli society.”
And what of Palestinian militarism, which dresses kindergarten kids as soldiers and teaches them to sing to their Jewish neighbors: “You come to this land alive, but you will leave it as body parts…”? No AFSC rebukes are published in any language, let alone in Arabic.
When such words are backed by action, the organization soft-pedals it as “resistance.” Their background piece, “Popular Resistance in Palestine,” adds watercolor visions of peaceful Quaker-brand demonstrations:
While the story of armed Palestinian resistance is known, the equally important history of nonviolent resistance is largely unacknowledged. The most well-known early example of popular protest is the 1936 six month long general strike by Palestinians in protest over British colonial policies and the exclusion of local peoples from the governing process.
That passage is exposed as a fabrication by none other than the United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine (UNISPAL). Although its Palestinian sympathies are beyond dispute, UNISPAL documentation describes the 1936 general strike as repeatedly violent. Moreover, it was not sparked by “exclusion… from the governing process,” but by the anticipated arrival of Jews (emphasis added):
Despite strong Palestinian resistance to Jewish immigration, the British Government issued permits for several thousand new immigrants, offering further provocation to Palestinian nationalists.
An unprecedented feature of this nationalist movement was the open identification with it by senior Arab officials of the Palestine administration who protested to the High Commissioner that Palestinians had been forced to violence because of loss of faith in British pledges [to bar Jews from Palestine] ….
As the strike prolonged, violence increased…. The end of the strike was to prove a lull in the rebellion. The issue of the Royal Commission’s report [on the causes] brought an almost immediate renewal of violence.
Today’s “popular Palestinian resistance” still claims all territory “from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea” and demands that it be handed to them Jew-free. Quaker supporters of the two-state solution see no problem with that. The only “armed resistance” the AFSC condemns is the Israeli kind.
The Friends call on all fellow-Christians to pressure Israel into repentance by joining the BDS movement. One recommended ally is Kairos Palestine, a like-minded organization also involved in the spiritual BDS sponsored by Christ at the Checkpoint. Another is PACBI, whose founder urged the world to boycott all Israeli universities while studying at one of them.
That BDS primarily harms Palestinians is seen from the movement’s few tangible “victories,” which cost hundreds of Palestinians their livelihood. Global financial experts have pointed out how BDS damages the Palestinian economy and actually sabotages the coexistence that could bring peace. Even the PA has (grudgingly) acknowledged the benefits of Palestinians and Israelis working together in the companies targeted by BDS. The Quakers are deaf to all voices but their own.
How did the AFSC so completely lose its ethical moorings? According to researchers Asaf Romirowsky and Alexander Joffe, the “long slide” began in the 1950s when the organization abandoned political neutrality to defend leftist regimes, and even repressive dictators, as victims of America’s militarism. That hostile bias eventually included Israel: the AFSC excused Yasser Arafat’s terrorism, supported Saddam Hussein’s 1991 war, and befriended Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who dreams of “a world without Israel”. Romirowsky and Joffe also noted that the newest AFSC General Secretary, Ramallah-born Joyce Ajlouny, intends to target the many Jewish pupils in American Quaker schools with anti-Israel propaganda.
The evidence demonstrates that AFSC’s place on Israel’s list of banned visitors is appropriate and even overdue. No country should issue humanitarian visas to this organization, whose human rights hypocrisy has such far-reaching consequences. To paraphrase scripture, those who sow disinformation will reap dis-invitation. That goes double for those who attach God’s name to lies.
Hannah Weiss lives in Israel with her husband Hillel, their three children and two grandchildren. Besides writing on issues relevant for followers of Yeshua, she also works as an English writer, editor and translator for Israeli exporters and academics. Hannah is part of a small home fellowship, Restorers of Zion, which serves the Body of Messiah by focusing on neglected or dysfunctional areas of Scriptural teaching and practice.