Believing IDF Soldier Recognized by Major Israeli News Portal for Israel Advocacy
In our technological age, it’s hard to ignore the fact that advocacy for all sorts of causes has become most effective through social media networks. Believing Israeli soldier, Hananya Naftali, who identifies himself as a Jewish Christian, uses this platform for a worthy cause – the image of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the State of Israel.
Last week, Mako, a leading Israel news and entertainment portal, ranked Hananya’s Facebook page fourth out of the top 10 most recommended Israel advocacy Facebook pages. Hananya has been receiving a lot of exposure as his videos are shared by major news outlets, such as the Jerusalem Post. He was even invited last fall to the Ynet News conference.
Hananya’s page now has more than 50,000 followers from all over the world. Most of the followers are from the United States, the Philippines, Brazil, Israel and Canada. Surprisingly, Hananya mentioned he also has followers from Dubai and Egypt.
Hananya first created his personal Facebook page to share short videos and songs from his personal life with his friends. Then something happened, which made him decide to take action. Hananya explains:
After the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict (Operation Protective Edge), which I took part in as a tank soldier in 188th Armor Brigade, I realized that the reality was misrepresented to the world. I decided to share the truth and set myself a goal- my Facebook page will be a trumpet of truth, and the truth will reach as many people as possible. The first video I posted was ‘what I learned in Gaza’.
The video was shared by many followers and by other pages, such as StandWithUs and The Messianic Times. The number of his followers multiplied and Hananya was encouraged to continue with daily posts, despite his busy army schedule.
Hananya knew that to reach the world he needed to post in English. Even though it’d be more natural to share with friends in Hebrew, he chose to maintain just one page and use it in a way to reach the most people. He posts short videos and personal stories about his life as an Israeli, service in the IDF, photographs from Israel, encouraging verses from the Bible and interviews.
One of his most well-known interviews was with Mohammad Zoabi, a young man active on social media who describes himself as a “proud Israeli Arab Muslim Zionist”. Mohammad – who himself has 36,000 followers – is expected to serve in the IDF this coming year. He and Hananya have formed a lasting friendship since that interview (click below to watch).
Hananya emphasizes that in his advocacy for Israel he’s not interested in arguing with Muslims and Arabs. He engages and tries to have civil dialogues with those who are against the idea of “a soldier in an army that commits war crimes”, as they claim. Hananya replies patiently and with love to the different comments, and even if they don’t come to an agreement, people appreciate the fact that they hear first-hand accounts. They see that he is a soldier who is testifying truthfully, not driven by a political agenda, but rather he’s trying to show the love of God.
During his military service, Hananya receives a lot of compliments from his fellow soldiers, some of whom even give him new ideas for videos. He has been interviewed several times advocating for the IDF, and even helped with recruitment of two Muslims soldiers.
Hananya is scheduled to be released from the army in four months, and, not surprisingly, is interested in getting a decree in Government and Diplomacy Studies.
Despite his contribution to this important area of advocating for Israel, Hananya has surprisingly been the target of hate speech on his social media accounts from fellow Jews, who claim that his main purpose is to convert his followers.
When Hananya opened his personal Facebook page, he didn’t expect it would transform into such a popular Israel advocacy page. As a result of the page’s success, Hananya considered focusing more on the advocacy activity and less on his personal life and faith. He shares:
While I was debating with myself, I received a personal message from a young lady who had gone through a depressed state, and wanted to share with me how God worked in her and changed her life through the daily verses that I posted on my page. Since that day, I decided to be who I am. A Jewish Christian Solider. Even if I will experience persecution for this reason or it will reduce the number of my followers, I will continue to share verses and videos regarding my faith.
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Over a thousand Messianic Israelis Come Together to Celebrate Shavuot
Over a thousand Messianic believers in Yeshua gathered from all over Israel to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) by coming up to Jerusalem to worship and fellowship together. A large outdoor canopy tent was erected in a field at the Messianic moshav of Yad HaShmona, located in the hills that surround Jerusalem. This annual event is organized by the Messianic Jewish Alliance of Israel (MJAI) and continues to be the largest gathering of local believers in Israel. This year, as in most, several groups of visitors from the nations, our brothers and sisters in faith, also joined the celebration.
Shavuot is one of the three major festivals where the children of Israel were commanded to go up to Jerusalem, the other two being Passover and Sukkot. Shavuot is special holiday as it commemorates the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, and it is also the day God poured out His spirit in Acts Chapter 2, which is known to Christians as the day Pentecost (the Greek name for Shavuot).
“You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain. Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the Lord your God blesses you. (DEUTERONOMY 16:9-10)
This year, the holiday of Shavuot was on Sunday, June 12, 2016. Buses and cars from the north, south, and central areas of Israel arrived in the morning at Yad HaShmona carrying believers of all ages. It is a big family picnic! Families spread out blankets on the grass. Children and teens are running around. Fathers and mothers are seen holding babies — the blessing of the fruit of the womb. Young people are selling watermelon, cookies, drinks on a hot sunny day. There is a also a marketplace area where local ministries and vendors can sell books, music, jewelry, artwork, and other products. One Messianic woman named Grace told Kehila News Israel (KNI) that she was so excited she only had two of pieces of her artwork that remained by mid-afternoon. The annual Shavuot picnic also provides a platform for Messianic worship teams from various congregations around Israel to lead times of praise and worship throughout the day. Near the end of the day, there was a special time of public prayer led by the director of the MJAI, Chanan Lukatz, declaring and praising our Lord Yeshua from the hills of Jerusalem and openly giving thanks for God’s many blessings.
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In Search of Pentecost: A Night of Worship and Prayer
On Saturday night, June 11, 2016, at the facilities of Revive Israel in Yad HaShmona, dozens gathered through the night in worship and prayer for revival in Israel and the Nations. Kehila News Israel (KNI) followed up with the Director of Revive Israel, Youval Yanay, to ask what the ministry is up to anyway.
“This Shavuot was the fifth year that we do prayer and fasting all night. We believe this is what went on at the Temple in Acts 2 – the disciples and apostles prayed through the night, and in the morning the Holy Spirit descended upon them. We are praying for the Spirit to fall upon all flesh, just as it is prophesied in Joel 2.”
The worship night was divided into two hour watches, each led by different worship leaders and teams, including an Arabic watch. The event was broadcast on the web to hundreds of viewers around the world from Tahiti to Russia. Viewers included individuals or and groups of people gathered together to participate. This event is similar to the Esther Fast prayer event Revive Israel hosts during the day at the time of Purim. How does this fit the vision and mission of Revive Israel as an organization?
“Revive Israel is an apostolic ministry team. Our calling and vision is to advance the Kingdom of Yeshua with our Israeli team. We operate in three fields: evangelism, particularly to Israelis in Hebrew; strengthening the Kehila, the body of Messiah in Israel; and teaching the Nations.”
Their efforts of evangelism include supporting several individual evangelists with finances and manpower for activities, and investing in YeshuaChai.tv, a website streaming content 24/7. It is geared for Hebrew-speaking Israeli in their 20’s and 30’s, who are seeking for spirituality and meaning and have not brushed off the idea of Jesus. The channel is a platform for anyone to get their material out, as long as it is high quality evangelistic material in Hebrew. The project is actually independent with a board of its own, and is geared to bring unity and cooperation, which leads us to the second category.
Strengthening the body means directly overseeing three particular congregations, while contributing financially to others. They also organize inter congregational functions, such as conferences and holiday retreats, namely Yom Kippur at Yad HaShmona. The staff itself is made up of 22 people from seven different congregations
Teaching the Nations is done primarily through different forms of media. On top of that, hundreds of visitors from around the world reach the Revive Israel ministry center to pray and worship. However, the most important outlet is a weekly email update, which is translated into 16 languages.
“One of things we teach about is loyalty and covenantal values. You see around the world in the Church a lack of loyalty. This connects to an understanding of the Bible, because if you perceive that God’s covenant with Israel is done with then there is no need for covenant loyalty.”
When asked about the relationship between Revive Israel and Yad HaShmona, Youval clarified that there is no legal connection involved except renting; yet many of the staff are members and there is a growing relationship with the moshav.
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Testimony: Salvation in My Family
My niece, beloved by many, owns a very successful dress boutique in Rishon LeZion. Recently I told her how wonderful it is to see her succeeding.
Her face fell and she said, “Rachel, I have everything that I ever wanted and I feel nothing – only emptiness and a void in my heart.“
I looked her in the eyes and replied, “You are just like I was. I was successful in TV and in designing clothes. I was as successful as I could want, but it did not fill me. Everyone loved me, but it brought me no joy.“
I told her how I discovered Yeshua and how my life changed completely. Having eternal salvation is the only thing that can bring us joy. Everything else in life is temporary, but Yeshua is forever. He filled the empty place in my heart.
She grabbed my arm and said, “It’s time! I want to hear more! Can you come on Monday?” I told her that of course I would come, but in the meantime she must take a notebook and write down all of her questions. Then I would come and teach her all that I know.
She called me every day to remind me to come on Monday. She said that she must change her life. After her call, I put down the ‘phone and shouted for joy! I have shared with her for fifteen years, and she was never interested. Now all of a sudden she really wants to hear!
Monday came and she had a million questions. I stayed until 2 in the morning teaching and answering as much as I could. She phoned the next morning to say that she was completely filled with excitement, energy and unspeakable joy! She didn’t know what was happening to her.
During our next meeting while we sat and studied the prophecies about Yeshua, she told me about a dream she had where Yeshua said to her, “Come after me”. When I asked her if she was ready to receive Yeshua, she said, “Yes!” She prayed and asked for forgiveness for all of her sins, and to receive Yeshua. She shouted with joy and then told me she was going to raise her family to be believers.
This article originally appeared in Israel’s Restoration Newsletter, June 2016 and reposted with permission.
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Panic in Petach Tikva: Ultra-Orthodox Oppose Messianic Presence in Major Israeli City
A few weeks ago MyNet, Petach Tikva’s Hebrew online news site, published an article, in which haredi (ultra-orthodox) leaders sounded an alarm over what they called “missionary activity” in the city. Petach Tikva’s acting Mayor Uriel Boso, a member of the ultra-orthodox Shas party, joined them in calling on city residents to “beware of the propaganda” being distributed by Messianic groups.
As most Messianic believers know, this same warning is sounded year after year, in different cities throughout Israel. The accusations against the Israeli Messianic community by anti-missionary groups such as Yad L’Achim and Jews for Judaism are as repetitive as they are baseless: we are practicing deceit by embracing Jewish customs, our leaders are motivated by lucrative salaries, we recruit new believers through entrapment, we indoctrinate minors to leave the Jewish faith in violation of Israeli law, etc., etc…. all with the goal of destroying the Jewish people.
These charges were vaguely repeated by MyNet’s sources as justification for raising the alarm yet again. But in order to convince the news site that the recycled accusations are newsworthy, MyNet was informed that anti-missionaries had obtained “an inside peek” at the sinister tactics of the soul-stealers in their city. Mr. Boso added weight to the claim by declaring that as a city official he has been dealing with the “dire phenomenon” of Messianic literature being distributed over recent months, and he identified activity by Jews for Jesus as particularly threatening. Mr. Boso encouraged MyNet readers to report and hand over any Messianic material they receive, so that “no more people will be hurt” by it.
How much credence was given to these allegations can be seen in the response of MyNet journalists Korine Elbaz-Alush and Yonatan Ochion, who informed their readers in the first paragraph that their “conversations with members of the organizations” identified as a threat revealed a “complex” story. It was one that not only contradicted the haredi charges but also appeared more newsworthy: the claims by Messianic Jews of being harassed and persecuted by the haredim.
For Messianic Israelis this too is old news. So was the defense of Messianic individuals interviewed by MyNet, that our faith is a natural extension of the Jewish stream introduced by the New Testament, a Jewish book based on Tanach (the Jewish Bible).
However, a truly new revelation – in fact, quite a startling one – appeared in the second paragraph of the article. Judging from the scant attention it received, its significance was lost on the journalists, who spent most of their effort trying to determine how Jewish or Christian our community is in its thinking and practice, whether Messianics qualify for the “cult” label, and how many approve of distributing literature as part of sharing their faith. The general conclusion of the article was that it appears Messianic Jews are good for the country, and that the believers in Yeshua may have more to fear from the haredim than vice versa.
So what was the bombshell that went unnoticed? According to MyNet’s haredi sources, the reason their community in Petach Tikva is so up in arms over the distribution of material about Yeshua is that “they are afraid it is drawing hundreds of new adherents – mainly the members of the haredi community in the city.”
If there is one claim continually published by the anti-missionaries, it’s that only Jews who are alienated from their Jewish heritage, or those ignorant of the Jewish Bible, would “fall for” the Messianic interpretations of the Jewish Scriptures as pointing to Yeshua. These “distortions” can be easily refuted, they say, by anyone who is properly educated in Tanach (or even fluent in Hebrew); and for this reason they urge donors to fund their educational efforts.
In Israel, Yad L’Achim has banked on this strategy in producing “Mehapsim”, a magazine targeting Hebrew-speaking Messianic Jews. The publication is crammed with testimonials, arguments and invitations about the power of Torah study, under rabbinic guidance, to “cure” Jews of their faith in Yeshua. Following that organization’s characterization of the Jews “most vulnerable to the influence of missionaries”, MyNet’s anti-missionaries refer to Israelis who are “easily exploited” by Messianic outreach precisely because they are (presumably) Torah-illiterate.
Yet at the same time we have a complaint, voiced by leaders of the Torah community, that the Petach Tikva residents most heavily involved in Torah study are “mainly” the ones being drawn to the Messianic claims of Yeshua; and that they are not a handful, but rather must be counted by “hundreds“.
A few Israeli believers were asked by MyNet if they understood why the ultra-orthodox are so hostile toward us. Their answers focused on what the haredim think of us, ranging from the perception that they “sometimes come to accept us after they get to know us”… to the conviction that “they are against us no matter what we do.” A spokesperson for Jews for Jesus reaffirmed our rights under Israeli law to hand out printed information and to “approach any adult (over 18) who would like to hear about our faith.” None of the believers who were interviewed mentioned the possibility that the hostility might be a panic reaction.
It would appear that the haredi community is quietly experiencing a spiritual meltdown of historic proportions. These people, who literally spend all their waking hours in Torah learning, are so starved for the real Word of the LORD that hundreds are willing to read ‘forbidden’ material in order to find Him.
In the third paragraph, before launching into their encounters with the Messianic community in Israel, the MyNet journalists again touched on the real scoop without recognizing it. They wondered whether the outspoken Messianic witness in Israel really has a “far-reaching” influence, or whether it just served as a “permanent scarecrow”, one of many that “the haredi community likes to use to unify its people against” a perceived outside threat. Either way, these reporters got the impression that current tensions would not be channeled into one more round of debates: “Word on the street is that this time we’re talking about a real confrontation, which might even lead to violence.”
If it should come to that, we as followers of Yeshua need to remember the real reason behind the panic in Petach Tikva… and rejoice that Messiah is so powerfully reaching those of our people who have lived all their lives “behind the Torah Curtain”.