From Aliyah to the IDF: One Courageous Young Messianic Woman’s Journey
Coming to live in Israel is hard. One has to really want to be here, and even then, it’s hard. The issues of language, culture, family, and faith are magnified in the Land. Coming as a believer, with one’s family, is difficult. Coming as a young person, without family and friends, is a brave and gutsy thing to do.
Many young people who make Aliyah join the army. This constitutes a rite of passage, and helps tremendously with the process of learning about and truly connecting to society, and developing relationships. However, they may find themselves thrust into a world they had never even imagined.
From the safety of a protected environment, these young men and women find themselves defending their adopted country. This has far reaching implications, for Israel, their own lives, and their witness in the future.
Here is one courageous young woman’s journey. Her name is Naomi and her humility and dedication shine through in her words.
Naomi had been raised in a Messianic congregation in America and spent most of her time around other believers. Then, she joined the Israeli Army. Talk about total immersion in a culture!
She says, “It was definitely hard at the beginning, being in a secular environment. But after over a year in the army I’ve gotten more used to it. I don’t think I realized how much of a “bubble” I lived in before; how much I barely even knew how to be friends with secular people, how little I actually knew of loving people. For a while (and still today sometimes) I struggled with feeling like I was behaving too similarly to everyone else when it came to getting stressed, losing my temper, saying harsh and unnecessary things. Today I feel that God has taught me a lot about being a friend and about loving others no matter who they are and what their background is, and he has taught me to rely solely upon Him and not upon others for my spiritual fulfillment. When I’m the only believer in the area, it’s all I have – to fall on and look to Him”
She was asked if she experienced loneliness or if she was rejected after telling people about her faith and her response was that she was not! Most of the people she told were indifferent. Some asked a few questions, but most were happy enough to “live and let live”. This shows a shift in the thinking of many Israelis. Just a few years ago, there was a great deal more isolation as a result of being a believer in Messiah. However, through melting pots like the army and the workplace, believers now rub shoulders with secular, as well as religious, people. There seems to be less fear and more openness.
The army is a great equalizer, and often secular soldiers serve right along with those who are religious, and form close friendships.
Naomi had not originally intended to join the army. After she had moved to Israel she decided to enlist,, but didn’t know what to do in the army. Then one day while she was praying, she asked God what He would have her do, and she felt led to join a unit, in which she would be dealing with Palestinians and learn Arabic. In her own words, “I ended up in a unit called COGAT (Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories), and I personally serve in the permits department (any Palestinian who wishes to enter Israel for whatever reason must pass through one of our regional Judea and Samaria offices). My job is exceedingly interesting, and there is no shortage or challenging moments. I feel that through this job I am not only working exactly where God placed me, which is fulfilling in and of itself, but I am in a crucial position – I have the opportunity to represent Israel as positively as possible in front of the population who hates Israel most, and am able to assist both them and Israel in the process.”
Naomi’s family is in America and has undergone many different reactions. Her immediate family has been very supportive and proud, though her mother has dealt with worries and fears.
In her own words, “My mother and brother were able to visit recently, and because she’s now seen where I live and work and the life I’ve made, she feels a lot more secure in what I’m doing. Soon I will be going to the Officer Training Course, and instead of fear she is immensely excited for me. This is a great blessing and answer to prayer! Among my extended family I’ve received a mixture of reactions as well; most don’t truly understand the magnitude of what I believe I am doing and are more concerned about my personal safety than anything.”
Many believers go on to serve above and beyond what is required. There are many soldiers who are commanders, officers, medics and have received the “outstanding soldier” award. Their faith and commitment impel them towards service and success.
Joining the army has helped Naomi in many ways. It has forced her to improve her Hebrew. It enabled her to meet many Israelis and understand society better. It provides a salary and a place to serve, and also, perhaps, it will open up doors for the future.
Naomi said that the Messianic community in Israel has been a great support to her. She has attended meetings and conferences, and has felt a great deal of love and encouragement. She is, frankly, more worried about how her family and those abroad experience her service. So, she is finding herself in a sort of public relations position, both toward the Palestinian population and her family and friends in the States.
Perhaps it is time for those abroad to “come and see” for themselves!
Pray for Naomi and for all of our committed young men and women in the service of their country.
K. J. Kruger is a mother of four and has lived in Israel for over 20 years. As teacher, life coach, writer, and speaker, she has been passionately involved in reconciliation between Arabs and Jews, and sees her role as being part of tikkun olam.
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LISTEN: Working with Youth and Striving for Unity in Spite of Diversity
There is much in our world today that can divide us, yet there are those striving for unity in spite of diversity, like the youth ministry Sarigim King’s Kids in Jerusalem.
The name ‘Sarigim’ (Hebrew for ‘branches’) comes from John 15:5 – “I am the vine and you are the branches. Those who stay united with me, and I with them, are the ones who bear much fruit; because apart from me you can’t do a thing.”
Their vision is “to be imitators of God through Jesus’ example of a life focused on making Him known among everyone in Israel and outside of it”. They seek to fulfill this calling through various children and youth activities focused on social help and outreaches.
Paul Calvert of Focus On Israel-Radio interviews Ruut Ben Yosef from Sarigim King’s Kids in Jerusalem. Click below to listen to the interview, in which Ruut shares about the children and youth ministry’s focus of reconciliation and its recent trip to the UK.
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Ebenezer: 40 Years of Care for Elderly Believers in Israel
“Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly, and revere your God. I am the LORD.” – Leviticus 19:32
In the early-1970s the growing number of aging Israeli believers who needed care prompted believers here and overseas to seek a solution; and in 1976, Ebenezer Home opened its doors in Haifa. On its 40-year anniversary, Kehila News Staff visited Ebenezer’s manager Johnny Khoury, to learn more about this unique ministry.
Holding an MA in Gerontology, Johnny was hired by Ebenezer in 1998, and in 2003 he became its first Israeli manager. Until that time, managers from overseas rotated in and out on short-term assignment, usually for three or four years. “The manager before me was Norwegian, and he did an exemplary job,” Johnny says, but the need for Israeli management was making itself felt; first to interact with local government offices, and second to carry out long-term planning that could only be actualized by someone who was here to stay.
That first year, Johnny noted, was definitely challenging. “We had problems trying to receive visas for our volunteers from the Interior Ministry, but so did other Messianic organizations in those days.” As relations with the government became more cordial, it still “took a few good years” to stabilize the Home’s operations, to the point where eventually the Amuta (non-profit organization) replaced the “foreign company” in the management and running the Home in 2011.
Ebenezer’s manager is justifiably proud of the top ratings the Home is receiving today in inspections by the Health and Social Welfare Ministries. But what makes this senior-citizen facility unique in Israel is its designation for Israeli believers in Yeshua. Johnny related how Ebenezer is highly regarded not only for its quality care to its seniors, but also for its core values as a Messianic institution. He has even been congratulated by managers of other nursing homes for Ebenezer’s good testimony.
Ebenezer is currently home to 29 Jewish and non-Jewish believers from all backgrounds, some of whom have been residents for almost 20 years. They are served by 35 professionals including nurses, social workers and physical therapists, along with kitchen, cleaning and administrative staff. Also assisting are six volunteers on two-year visas. Residents pay a scaled fee according to their income, which is supplemented by private donations.
Grateful to God for this success, Johnny Khoury is focusing on the next stage of development: a growing need to add a Nursing ward. Despite our anticipation of eternal life, “biology is what it is,” he quipped. Many Ebenezer residents are independent octogenarians who are nevertheless becoming frailer with time. Johnny remembers a dramatic struggle four years ago, when a Welfare Ministry inspector suddenly decided that their weakest members should be forcibly relocated, because Ebenezer lacked full nursing services. The crisis erupted right before Passover. It was resolved in the end, but Johnny saw it as a warning from God to start working toward providing these services.
Legally, Ebenezer cannot provide assisted-living care without a license from the Ministry of Health, and there is no Messianic facility in Israel that can receive seniors needing such care. There is one Christian nursing home, which admits only non-believing Holocaust survivors. The government, says Johnny, is granting grace to Ebenezer on this issue for as long as they can, “because they see not only the quality of care we give, but that we are also unique in the country.” Sooner or later, however, they will have to insist on licensing.
Meanwhile the Messianic community here is growing, as is the average life expectancy of Israelis. This means more elderly believers applying to live at Ebenezer, and increasing numbers are asking about nursing care.
Johnny is determined to answer the need so that Seniors in the Body can enjoy fellowship with one another to the very end of their earthly lives. This after all was the founding vision of Ebenezer Home.
What will it take to materialize the vision? He estimates the required investment will run approximately 23 million shekels, to cover not only renovations of the 40-year-old facility but also building a new wing for a nursing ward and an underground “reinforced” wing for war conditions. Although it’s a huge undertaking, this expansion would make Ebenezer eligible for government subsidies earmarked for assisted living. Johnny reports that there are organizations interested in helping, and land available; he has already finalized plans for carrying out the expansion as funding comes in.
The Health and Welfare Ministries are both enthusiastic about Ebenezer’s expansion plans. Thanks to the Home’s sterling reputation built over the years, officials have assured Manager Khoury that the licensing process will go quickly.
As Ebenezer Home moves ahead, they remain firm in their commitment to the aging Messianic Israeli community, confident that God’s provision for the last 40 years will continue for the next 40 years.
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VIP Prayer Tower: A Place of Intercession and Unity
We would like to share the following 2 testimonies to encourage all of you that pray for and support the VIP prayer tower here in Tel Aviv:
Light in the Darkness
“Several years ago, Pastor Avi responded to God’s leading to open a prayer room in Tel Aviv. On the 12th floor of a building called “Light House”, the prayer room looks out over much of the city, and was to be part of preparing the way for a “new thing” God has promised to do in Tel Aviv-Jaffo, which will go out to the nations.
I arrived in the city in 2011 and began using the room to pray. As part of my journey there, I passed the spiritually dark Central Bus Station and continued along Allenby Street until I arrived at the VIP prayer tower building on the corner of Allenby and Ben Yehuda St, a corner which is full of immoral businesses. Over time, a passion developed in my heart to see these places transformed by God’s light.
As I pursued this passion further, the Lord revealed to me that one of the major areas of spiritual collision was the Central Bus station. During a time of seeking God in prayer, I had a vision of the bus station with many open doors, I could see that God was grieved as he looked upon the people saying, “they have been persuaded that evil is good, and so many doors have been opened that shouldn’t have been”.
I asked God if we should go to the doors and pray them shut. He said no. Instead, people need to go there and worship Him, and He would build His throne there and would bring His Kingdom. I asked for confirmation from His word. He gave me Jeremiah 17, and I was amazed to read in verse 19: “Go and stand at the Gate of the people through which the kings of Judah go in and out, stand also at all the gates of Jerusalem”, and then verse 25: “then kings who sit on David’s throne will come through the gates of the city”. God provided 4 other intercessors with the same heart to worship at the bus station 10 times!
The Central Bus Station prayer assignment has just been completed, but this is by no means the end of the story. A month before the prayer walk took place, God gathered over 25 local intercessors for a prophetic “round table” event, in which we began to share what God has been showing each of us. We were excited to hear many similarities in the impressions and passions God has given each of us, as well as a desire for a unified “push” in prayer. It seems that this may be just the beginning of a prayer strategy that God has for our city “for such a time as this”.
-Grace, Intercessor and member of Adonai Roi Congregation
Jerusalem and Tel Aviv Prayer Connection
“In the last few months, the leadership of ELAV (a youth & young adult ministry from Succat Hallel, 24.7 House of Prayer in Jerusalem) has been sensing the Lord’s heart for the young people of Tel Aviv. There has been a significant history already between Succat Hallel/ELAV & the VIP Prayer Room in Tel Aviv, but we really felt God wanted us to begin investing in the young people who are regularly worshiping & praying there as well as call others in the area to join them.
So, since the beginning of the year, we have been coming once a month with a few young people to fellowship, worship, pray & share some foundational teaching concerning God’s heart & the house of prayer. The gatherings have been small, but the young people from Tel Aviv & the surrounding area have been strengthened in their heart for God, and we’ve really felt the Holy Spirit’s strong encouragement that he is up to something great!”
-John Mark, Leader at Succat Hallel House of Prayer in Jerusalem
This article originally appeared on Dugit, May 14, 2016, and reposted with permission.
Dugit as an evangelistic outreach center located in the heart of Tel Aviv. The Hebrew word “Dugit” means little fishing boat, like the ones used by the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. Functioning as a coffee shop and outreach center, Dugit provides a friendly environment where Israelis can hear about Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah and receive teaching. Periodically, Dugit hosts “Dugit Live”, an evening outreach in which believers can share their testimonies with unbelievers through live music and fellowship.
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SURVEY: The Israeli Army – The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and Yeshua (PART 3)
The Israeli army is the topic of this third article in our four-part series of surveying Messianic Jewish and Arab Christian leaders in Israel. Our survey results clearly show that the Israeli army is a hot and divided issue. Not only did the responses from both sides differ greatly, but both had objections with how the questions were phrased.
Below is the infographic with the survey questions and the results.
The overwhelming majority (87%) of Messianic Jewish leaders view terrorist attacks against the Israeli soldiers as being rooted in religious extremism, as opposed to social, economical, or political reasons. However, only 47% of Arab Christian leaders shared the same opinion. Some of the comments submitted in the survey by Arab Christian leaders explaining their response included:
“Many of the attacks are [religious extremism] but others are coming from suffering as well”
“Only few of them are related to extremism, most of them are out of depression because of the occupation and out of despair for lost ones and lost lands and jobs”
“Not all attacks are motivated by religion but some are.”
It was a surprise to KNI that more than half of the Arab Christian leaders surveyed could not generally categorize terrorist attacks against IDF soldiers as being rooted in religion (Islam). On one hand, it is generally accepted that terrorist organizations, certainly ISIS, Taliban, and Hamas, are rooted in radical Islam. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine that terrorist attacks targeted at IDF soldiers are not rooted in religious (Islamic) extremism. Yet the reality is that many in the Arab sector hold this viewpoint. Just last month, the only Arab Knesset Member of the Labor (Zionist Union) Party, MK Zouheir Bahloul claimed that attacks on soldiers are not terror. He contended that a Palestinian who attacked an IDF soldier in Hebron is “a murderer, not a terrorist”. This statement was a surprise to many in Israel. However, according to the results of KNI’s poll, it can be inferred that this viewpoint is also prevalent among the Israeli Arab Christian community.
The survey question about the Israeli army’s presence in the Palestinian territories was also sharply divided between Messianic Jewish and Arab Christian leaders. Some Messianic Jewish leaders even expressed disdain for the question, saying that KNI should not even compare terrorist attacks against soldiers with the Israeli army’s mere presence in the Palestinian territories. Only 3% of the Messianic Jewish leaders surveyed responded that the IDF’s presence in Palestinian territories is a form of extremism. Conversely, the majority or 58% of the Arab Christian leaders responded “Yes” that the IDF’s presence in Palestinian territories is a form of extremism. Only 16% responded “No” and the remaining 27% of Arab Christians responded “Not sure, it depends and is complicated”. This result was also a surprise to KNI as we were not expecting such as vast difference of opinions. Perhaps it was because the definition of “extremism” (not “religious extremism”) is too general and open for interpretation. For example, one Arab Christian leader responded “This question is vague. What kind of extremism?”
Even though the survey responses were dissimilar, we hope that the results of this survey show to our readers, both in Israel and around the world, the reality of the situation among Messianic Jewish and Arab Christian brothers in faith. There are sharp differences in how each side views the issues. It is interesting, and somewhat astonishing, to note that the Messianic Jewish and Arab Christian leaders surveyed by KNI were statistically identical in speaking out against terrorism yet were nearly polar opposites regarding the two questions related to the Israeli army. Why do you think this is? Let us know your opinion in the comments below.
The next and last question in our four-part survey series on Messianic Jewish and Arab Christian leaders is whether or not Christian Zionism is a form of religious extremism.
NOTE: Survey results were calculated from 37 Messianic Jewish leaders (approx 20% of the total) and 19 Arab Christian Leaders in Israel (approx 20% of the total) who responded to the survey in March 2016.