First prep course for Messianic Israeli soldiers a success
In response to a crisis of faith that many young adult believers experience during their mandatory army service, Messianic leaders and former soldiers established a program for young believers about to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces.
An estimated 30 to 40 percent of Messianic youth turn away from their faith during their army service. While some may return to faith later, sadly, most do not.
Many factors contribute to this. Soldiers are busy 24/7 and they lack time for prayer, reading the Bible, quiet time and attending a fellowship. They experience a loss of identity and may feel isolated, many times being the only believer in their unit.
In recent years, leaders in the body of Messiah have become aware of this and have come up with a program to support the Messianics currently serving and strengthen them during their service. They hold meetings, conferences, a pre-army preparatory program called Natzor (besieged) and now the army preparatory program, Hitzim (arrows), which was launched in September.
Matan Ohana, who runs the program on behalf of the Netivah center, is on a mission to reduce the number of Messianic soldiers who leave their faith.
“We, the body of Messiah in Israel, fight in various battles on the subject of our faith, but we are losing the war when such a big percentage leaves the faith,” Ohana told KNI. “If we do a rough calculation we would understand that at any given moment there are 350 to 450 Messianic soldiers in the army. If 30 to 40 percent leave their faith during the service, it means about 100 to 150 teenagers leave their faith every three years. This statistic is troubling and sad and we have to pray and work to improve it.”
So why a preparatory army program?
“The religious Zionists were in our place not too many years ago. In the 1960 to ’70’s they numbered tens of thousands. They understood that their youth, who serve in the army, were losing their Jewish faith and assimilating with secular Jews and the secular army lifestyle. So they decided to open a number of army preparatory programs to strengthen the faith their followers.”
Today there are dozens of religious Zionist preparatory programs in Israel and hundreds of graduates every year. The success is apparent: Hundreds of thousands still belong to religious Zionist communities, comprise parties in the Israeli parliament, are ministers in the government and army commanders. Moreover, the percentage of religious Zionists who leave their faith is smaller than those who come to faith.
“During my service I saw how the graduates of pre-army preparatory programs were more prepared for the difficulties and challenges of the army and many of them rose to commanding positions,” Ohana said. “It confirmed to me that we, the body of Messiah, also need a preparatory program. I realized that we need to strengthen our youth in their faith prior to the army, develop their character and help them succeed in the army and beyond.”
Yoel Goldberg, director of the Netivah center that works with Messianic youth in Israel, took on the challenge. Together with Lech Lecha, a discipleship organization, they have founded the Hitzim preparatory program, which began in September.
Ohana told the leaders it was crucial to assemble a suitable team. They selected two female and two male counselors who had completed their military service and stayed strong in their faith in the army.
During the course of the program, the team saw a positive change in the youth on both a social and spiritual level. They became serious and developed a willingness to learn from the duties and responsibilities placed on them.
“Towards the end of the program we started to realize what we went through, what a powerful, unique, special and learning process,” Ohana said. “The youth learned so much and we learned from them. For me the end of the preparatory program was very touching, it was hard for me to stop crying: To see the 19 young people who invested time to prepare spiritually and draw near to God prior to their army service, was a significant and powerful experience for me.
These youth are now graduates of the first Messianic preparatory program in the body of Messiah in Israel.
“That has been a vision for many and an event that I, personally, have been waiting, working and praying for,” Ohana said. “This is the beginning of something much bigger that will bear much fruit for God.”
The Kehila News Staff is a team of Israeli believers in Yeshua.
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Fellowship and Fun with Holocaust Survivors
This week, Vision for Israel partnered with a local tour agency in Jerusalem and a group of friends from the United States to provide a fun, helpful experience for Holocaust survivors in Pisgat Ze’ev. The event was specifically held to provide practical aid for the wintertime, so the survivors received knitted winter blankets, warm clothing, money vouchers and other necessities. A meal was also provided to the survivors and they had the opportunity to sit and listen to different speakers sharing about the humanitarian work they are doing around Israel. The event concluded with music and fellowship; and many of the survivors shared their stories on film, providing us with a documented account of their experiences.
One of the visitors commented on how the survivors initially seemed pretty mellow. “You can tell they have lived difficult lives, and still maybe wrestle with the heaviness of everything,” he said. “As the event went on, though, it was amazing to watch as their countenances were lifted, and their eyes became filled with life! By the end, a few were even dancing with us!”
At the end of the event, the survivors used their broken English to say “thank you” and “we love you” to our volunteers and friends, hugging them with appreciation. It is such a blessing to interact with and assist these precious members of our community.
This article originally appeared on Vision for Israel, November 18, 2016, and reposted with permission.
Vision for Israel is a non-profit organization created by Barry and Batya Segal in 1994 out of the desire to help build and restore the Land. VFI freely provides aid to the poor and needy people, both Jewish and Arab, living in the nation of Israel today through The Joseph Storehouse, an international humanitarian aid center operating in the Judean Hills just outside of Jerusalem.
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Can the American-Israeli Alliance go to Sea?
“In a world of important and rapidly transforming regions, none is more strategically significant and wildly volatile than the Eastern Mediterranean.”
During a recent Hudson Institute panel, former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith echoed a report that has been co-written by the Hudson Institute and the University of Haifa and which calls for the United States and Israel to collaborate in a mutually beneficial Mediterranean naval buildup amidst increasing global naval threats.
According to Hudson Institute naval expert Seth Cropsey, the United States Navy’s Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean once had two aircraft carriers and a large contingent of marines permanently assigned to it. This is in dramatic contrast to the report references, which pointed out that following post-Cold War cuts, the “Sixth Fleet’s permanent naval presence is now a single command ship in Italy and four Aegis destroyers equipped for ballistic missile defense, all based in Rota, Spain, just outside the Mediterranean.” Retired United States Navy Admiral Gary Roughead said that Americans “have essentially ceded the Eastern Mediterranean, at least from a maritime perspective.”
According to Cropsey, “the presence that was predictable – that was credible – that many of us recall from decades past is essentially gone. He added that this phenomenon is just part of the general decline in global American sea power. Roughead reported that warship transit and repair times mean that the permanent deployment of one warship anywhere in the world necessitated a total of four vessels. Therefore, if the United States wanted to permanently deploy aircraft carriers to four separate crisis zones, the USN would need a total of 16 aircraft carriers – but it currently possesses only 10.
America’s NATO allies “are in the same, if not a more dire, situation,” Roughead said, while Cropsey noted that Turkey’s “future in NATO, if not in doubt now, will be in doubt eventually.” Ankara’s recent political history under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has created an undemocratic country that could not even qualify for NATO’s Partnership for Peace for non-alliance members. Cropsey wondered whether America and its allies like Israel could contain an “increasingly assertive and avowedly Islamist Erdoğan.”
Turkey “used to be one of the most reliable countries, from an American perspective, and it’s not reliable in any important respect anymore,” Feith said, noting in particular the strong relationship that once existed between Israel and Turkey in the fields of defense and tourism prior to Erdoğan’s ascent to power. “It’s dizzying when you think of how Erdoğan made a special effort to essentially destroy the relationship between Turkey and Israel that had been built up in an extremely friendly way,” he added.
Roughead noted that while Western power waned, potential threats waxed. “China has a strategy that clearly has shifted toward the maritime domain,” he said, pointing out that Russia has made impressive seaborne strikes against targets in Syria’s civil war. This “showcased to the world the military reach and the military power that Russia wants to be known for. When you can wage a war in Syria from the Caspian Sea, that is quite a demonstration.”
Meanwhile, Iran “sees itself as the power in the Middle East and in the forefront of the Shia-Sunni conflict that is taking place,” Roughead said. According to Cropsey, after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’s sanctions relief, Iran “is likely to use its newfound resources to increase its naval presence in the region.”
The recent report also noted the July 2006 Hezbollah attack upon the Israeli corvette INSHanit off Lebanon with a Chinese C-802 anti-ship missile, indicating growing threats at sea from terrorist groups. Amidst these dangers, the eastern Mediterranean’s importance is only growing.
The panelists also highlighted Israel’s recent natural gas findings. “The discovery of large energy reserves within Israel’s Mediterranean exclusive economic zone is one of the Eastern Mediterranean’s transformative recent developments,” read the report. Therefore, Israel “could supply domestic natural gas needs for 30 years and still allow for substantial exports.”
Israel’s new natural gas reserves only emphasize the mismatch between Israel’s sea dependency and its lack of naval power. “Israel is an economic island, with virtually all (approximately 99 percent by volume) of its foreign trade transported by sea,” the report said. Naval power in the Eastern Mediterranean “gives Israel strategic depth – more area from which to operate militarily than is afforded by Israel’s landmass, [which] is geographically small and narrow. It is therefore impossible to overstate Israel’s interests in maritime security. Yet surprisingly, the maritime domain is almost absent from public discourse in Israel, a nation not known for its maritime culture or history.”
Retired Israeli admiral and report author Ami Ayalon discussed these findings from Israel via video chat. “More than 600 military campaigns were fought on this small piece of land,” he said of the Holy Land, yet pointed out that Israelis never fought at sea. Nonetheless, he recalled how Jews like his father illegally immigrated via sea to the British-ruled Palestine Mandate prior to Israel’s independence.
“A strong, present Sixth Fleet and a strong Israeli navy … will allow both states to maximize limited resources to achieve joint strategic objectives,” Cropsey concluded. Roughead noted that although the Israeli navy is small, the “quality, the professionalism, the ethos that runs through that navy is absolutely extraordinary.” He referenced the increasing importance of ocean sensory technologies – in which Israel is a global leader – while Cropsey noted a complementarity between the American and Israeli navies. “We are good at things that they don’t have, and they are good at things that we are struggling to get for a long time,” he said, indicating small vessels in particular.
The panel’s title “Can Israel Become a Maritime Power?” calls for thinking outside of typical Biblical understandings of Israel. Jonah’s being thrown overboard and swallowed by a whale, Jesus’ first apostles’ fishing in Lake Galilee, and the Apostle Paul’s shipwrecking provide little maritime guidance for the men who “go down to the sea in ships” in Israel’s region. When the Israelites needed to cross the Red Sea and Jordan River, God miraculously provided a dry path. Unsurprisingly, Cropsey noted that the “U.S. and Israel have large substantive interests in the Eastern Mediterranean’s maritime security, but strategy, resources and a significant presence remain over the horizon.”
This article originally appeared on Philos Project, November 16, 2016, and reposted with permission.
Andrew E. Harrod is a freelance researcher and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School. He is admitted to the Virginia State Bar. He has published over 200 articles concerning various political and religious topics at the American Thinker, Breitbart, Daily Caller, FrontPage Magazine, Gatestone Institute, Institute on Religion and Democracy, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Mercatornet, Religious Freedom Coalition, and World, among others. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project, an organization combating the misuse of human rights law against Western societies. He can be followed on twitter @AEHarrod.
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Ima’s Goodies – bringing Yeshua’s love to the Israeli army
Ima’s Goodies, founded by Renee Shmuel in 2014, is a ministry of kindness that aims to show the love of God through the delivery of home-baked cakes, muffins and other goodies to Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers on their bases.
“It is important that our soldiers know that Messianic Jews and Christians both here and abroad love them and are praying for them,” Renee TElls KNI.
The idea for the ministry came when three Israeli Jewish boys were kidnapped by Palestinians and murdered on June 12, 2014 in Hebron in the West Bank. During this period rockets from Gaza were also slamming into Israel. it was a tense time and the country was on high alert. Renee felt it was necessary to do something to help.
“The boys had disappeared and my nephew, who was serving in the military down South, was among those trying to find them,” Renee recalls. “I had already been badgering him to tell me what he and the soldiers on his base needed, and finally he said: ‘We have lots of regular food, but we don’t have things to snack on at night when we are guarding.’”
Renee continues: “We live up north, near Haifa, and I decided that if I was going to drive down South with things for my nephew’s unit, I might was well load up the car and deliver snacks to soldiers along the way, as well.”
And so Ima’s Goodies was born. Ima is mother in Hebrew.
From that first trip on, Renee has sought out army bases and battalions – even off the beaten track.
“I just follow the road,” Renee explains. “Once I found a whole tank battalion on a very hot day. Dust was blowing everywhere too. I remember I waited for the dust to settle for a moment, then opened my trunk and called out to them: ‘Come and get cold drinks!’
“Whenever I hand things out to the soldiers, I tell them: ‘these are from Messianic Jews in Israel and Christians here and from abroad. We love you and are praying for you.” Renee reflects: “I take Yeshua’s Presence out and if there is anyone I can talk to about Him, I do.”
Renee affirms: “This work can lead to amazing conversations about the Lord. Some of the soldiers ask me: ‘What is a Messianic Jew?’ and I can tell them they are Jews who believe that Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah.’ I tell them that Yeshua is described in Isaiah 53.” She adds: “When you go out with a cake, cookies and muffins it opens up the door to conversations. And no one has ever become angry or rude to me about it.”
Married to Gidon Shmuel, an Israeli Messianic Jewish believer and deacon at Haifa’s Kehilat HaCarmel congregation, Renee is a Christian who moved to Israel from New Mexico 35 years ago. While also working for the Carmel congregation itself, in hospitality among other things, Renee does the baking for Ima’s Goodies in her own kitchen.
Ima’s Goodies home-baked goods are ‘parve’ – having neither meat nor dairy ingredients – so as to comply with kosher requirements that soldiers might have.
“I do sometimes buy things from the store when I think I might not have enough, but I give out home-baked treats,” Renee explains. “The soldiers like to have things their moms made them, and I think they all enjoy it when they have something from home.”
Renee goes out on delivery once a week. While she does most of the baking herself, with the support of her husband and children, volunteers are welcome to join her and set a date to come and help.
“People call and ask if they can help, and they come from various places. I remember that once two girls from France, whom I did not know, came over to bake. One girl was from a Messianic family, but the other was secular,” Renee recalls. “They just found out about the ministry and called to ask if they could help because of the soldiers. We baked a lot that day and it was great!”
Assistance is also welcomed from those with computer skills and other talents. For more information visit the “get involved” page on her website. Finances going forward are needed and donations may be made here.
“I love doing this,” Renee concludes. “I am just myself, and I go out in obedience to God. I am always making sure the soldiers know there are Messianic Jews and Christians who love them, support them and pray for them.”
Karen Faulkner is a British Israeli citizen. She has a Master's degree in Human Rights & Transitional Justice from Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
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Messianic involvement at the ‘Christian’ Feast of Tabernacles
Messianic leaders, businesses, organizations and youth from congregations around the country took a more active and influential role in the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles this year.
“The partnership of Messianic congregational representatives in a conference like the Feast of Tabernacles contributes to the fact that the Israeli government considers a positive and strong correlation between the friends of Israel abroad, to the body of Messiah in the country,” Daniel, a congregational pastor in northern Israel, shared with KNI.
“This cooperation also contributes to the local Messianic body to create these connections. People from around the world will continue to pray for us and it is a matter of great spiritual value.”
Daniel, who has been a guest speaker there for the past several years, shared a new insight this year.
“I shared with the audience lessons on the spiritual significance of the Feast of Tabernacles and also a lesson about the shatnaz* as part of the teaching on the ‘new man.'”
*Shatnaz comes from a prohibition in Deut 22:11: ” Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together” and Lev. 19:19: “Keep my decrees…. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.”
“The approach to the Lord’s word that I represent is usually different and new to the audiences from abroad,” Daniel said. “The combination of the guidance of the Holy Spirit as a teacher, with the knowledge of the Hebrew language, the culture, the Israeli geography and the fear of God, are new to the listeners. These things are new to them and they mention so. Sometimes its elders that come to thank me and say things that really encourage me. One of the responses from an older sister in Messiah was: ‘I always asked myself what is the meaning of these laws but I have not found answers…’”
Among other speakers from the local believing community were Israel Firstfruit CEO Mordechai Wiseman, a representative from TBN Israel, lawyer Calev Myers from the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, pastor Oded Shoshani, Be’ad Chaim national director Sandy Shoshani, and other congregation leaders from around the country.
Messianic youth – guests of honor
On the third day of the conference youth from across the country were invited as guests of honor. Some 250 young people from Eilat to the North attended and met with representatives from abroad and the ICEJ chairman. In the afternoon the youth were treated to a BBQ and in the evening they were invited to participate in the songs that were played.
“I learned life lessons from meeting with representatives from around the world who shared their life stories,” said Sofie, 15. “It was encouraging to see how God works in Israel and abroad. The atmosphere was very good and I was able to meet new teens.”
In between activities and seminars, conference participants were able to shop among the local vendors which included Messianic vendors selling creams and Dead Sea cosmetics, jewelry and, sometimes just information.
Among them was Dugit, a Messianic book center that operates in Tel Aviv. Avi Mizrachi, pastor of a congregation in Tel Aviv and executive director of Dugit, manned the booth.
“Although renting a booth in this arena is not cheap at all, there is another aspect beyond the financial aspect: Christians from around the world are happy to make contact with local congregations,” he told us. “They feel that they have someone to keep in touch with and there is always a chance that there will be someone who would also want to contribute to our activities and to our center.”
General background about the ICEJ Feast of Tabernacles
The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem was established 36 years ago. One year later, the Feast of Tabernacle’s conference began in Israel.
The conference this year was held on October 16-21 during the Feast of Tabernacles holiday in Israel. The conference took place in the Pais Arena adjacent to Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem.
Pilgrims from around the world attended the conference, among them some from some surprising countries such as Cambodia, Laos, the United Emirates and Turkey.
The nations that come up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles with the nation of Israel believe the link between this special holiday and the prophetic verse of the prophet Zachariah: “Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.” Zechariah 14:16
Over the years, representatives from the Israeli government, Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, the Jerusalem municipality and the army have been invited to attend.
One example of the ICEJ’s activities in the land was featured through their honored guests at Israeli Night – Holocaust survivors from a home in Haifa supported by the Christian organization. The entrance to Israeli Night is free to Israelis and features speeches, videos and musical performances.
The Feast of Tabernacles is undoubtedly good for Israeli tourism. Israeli officials are appreciative of this and of the other contributions from the “Israel-loving Christians” around the world.