Synagogue shooting: No weapon formed against you will prosper
The Sabbath murder of eleven Jewish men and women in Pittsburgh caught many by surprise. Robert Bowers, a 46 year old neo-Nazi racist who posted anti-Jewish and anti-Trump conspiracy theories on the web, walked in to the Tree of Life-Or L’simchasynagogue in the Squirrel Hill district and unloaded clips from a semi-automatic rifle and a handgun at Jewish worshippers, while yelling out “All Jews must die!” and other anti-Jewish curses. He murdered 4 people in the main sanctuary and then moved up toward the Rabbi’s study on the next floor, where he shot 4 others.Three different Jewish congregations were each conducting their own services in the facility at the time, with nearly 100 gathered in the building. A family was having a bris(circumcision ceremony), bringing their eight-day old baby boy into the Covenant of Abraham according to Genesis 21:3-5 and publicly announcing his name for the first time.
Police and SWAT teams attempted to rescue the congregants. Four policemen were injured by Bowers’ gunfire, one critically. The gunman was moderately injured by return fire and eventually was apprehended by law enforcement units.
How can we make any sense out of the travesty of these eleven murders?
Main Street USA
Squirrel Hill is a quiet largely Jewish community in Pittsburgh. Its graceful trees and brick homes give way to small storefronts, including Judaica bookstores, synagogues and temples. My wife and I were married many years ago only a few blocks away from where these murders took place. The host of children’s television program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Fred Rogers lived in Squirrel Hill, three blocks away from Tree of Life. He would attend Sixth Presbyterian Church, a ten-minute walk from there.
This attack is the largest mass casualty event involving Jewish people in the U.S. (https://edition.cnn.com/2018/
- The rise of hate crimes against America’s Jewish population is a real and present danger.
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Anti-Jewish hate crimes increased by 60% in 2017. There were 1,986 anti-Semitic incidents reported across the United States in 2017, a 57% increase over 2016’s 1,267 incidents. Incidents were reported in all 50 states for the first time in at least a decade (www.adl.org/news/press-
- Instigators of these hate crimes can be found in jihadi-influenced communities, in neo-Nazi, White Power and Christian Identity streams, in Black supremacist and Black Power movements, and in anti-Israel and anti-Zionist movements. They can be found on the edges of most political parties in the USA.
Anti-Semitism is not theologically neutral
Zechariah the prophet reveals an astounding spiritual experience that he had on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. “He showed me Joshua the High Priest standing before the Angel of YHVH, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. YHVH said to Satan, ‘YHVH rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, YHVH who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?’” (Zechariah 3:1-2).
On the most solemn day of the Jewish calendar, Satan appears before the God of Israel, accusing Joshua the Kohen Gadol as he pleads with YHVH for Israel’s forgiveness and atonement. The God of Jacob describes Himself here as ‘YHVH who has chosen Jerusalem.’ The satanic accusations and physical attacks against the Jewish people (whom God has chosen irrevocably – see Romans 11:28-29) actually underscore the validity of Israel’s divine chosen status.
- An attack on the Jewish people is satanically based, and is simultaneously an attack on the name and reputation of YHVH the God of the Exodus
Shooting into the eye of God
From the Biblical perspective, the most important issue about someone who attacks the Jewish people is not necessarily his or her religious or political beliefs. Zechariah directly quotes the God of Israel on this matter: “For thus says YHVH or armies, ‘After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye’” (Zechariah 3:1-2).
This is the common spiritual thread between:
- a Hamas terrorist who explodes a bomb on an Israeli bus
- a neo-Nazi who sprays automatic fire in a synagogue
- a leader of an African-American movement described Jews as “the so-called Jews are not Jews, but are Satanic people” (http://thejewishvoice.com/
2018/05/30/nation-islam- leader-louis-farrakhan- ratchets-anti-semitism-latest- rant/) or “Satanic Jews who have infected the whole world with poison and deceit” (www.jpost.com/Diaspora/ Farrakhan-compares-Jews-to- termites-says-Jews-are-stupid- 569627)
Spiritual warfare is being waged by Satan (Hebrew for ‘the accuser’) against the people whom God has chosen to declare His praises (Isaiah 43:21). These attacks show that this anti-Jewish warfare is increasing, and even Main Street USA is not exempt from this monster.The spiritual and moral foundations of America have been slowly eaten away over the decades by a departure from godly behavior and a descent into corrupt ethics. The original hope that God would shed His grace on America has been overshadowed by a materialistic and narcissistic culture which has relegated the God of Jacob to the back seat of the car. This out of control vehicle is careening around dangerous corners. The people of the God of Jacob are feeling the encroaching threat.
The theology of contempt leads to the practice of murder
The Squirrel Hill murderer filled his web postings with vicious screed against Jews, Trump and many other targets. He even quoted from the Gospel of John (8:44), “You are of your father the devil,” blusteringly concealing his deadly racism behind the twisting of Scripture. In that passage Yeshua speaks warmly of the Jewish people who followed Him and believed in Him (verses 30-31), and of the many Jewish people who eagerly heard and accepted His teachings (8:2).
But Robert Bowers had evidently picked up anti-Jewish perspectives which float around some Christian circles, whether it was Replacement Theology or the medieval ‘deicide charge’ – what Dr. Jules Isaac has called ‘The Teaching of contempt: the Christian roots of anti-Semitism” (www.amazon.com/teaching-
In his own day Hitler referenced Martin Luther in justifying the Nazi genocidal campaign against the Jews:
resource-library/image/nazi- propaganda-depicting-martin- luther
nazis-exploited-martin-luther- s-legacy-berlin-exhibit- highlights-how
In a similar way, Bowers probably made place in his heart and mind for satanic lies which came embedded in whatever Christian teaching he had been exposed to, whether in a church setting or in neo-Nazi meetings.The birthpangs of the Messiah
Some rabbis describe a future time before the coming of Messiah as ‘the birth pangs of Messiah’ (hevlei Mashiach; see TB Sanhedrin 98b, TB Shabbat 118a). They are probably reflecting what Messiah Yeshua had spoken of centuries earlier in Matthew 24 (see verses 3-14):
“Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold… But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs” (Matthew 24:12, 8)
The increase of lawlessness combined with the growing coldness of men’s and women’s hearts indicate that these prophesied days are coming upon us. The spread of anti-Jewish hatred and hatred of the Jewish state are two solid benchmark indicators of these times.
- Yeshua encouraged us about these days: “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).
Sifted but not consumed
Moses and Amos spoke prophetically about Jewish history, declaring that Jacob’s children would go into Exile and undergo harsh judgment among the nations (seeDeuteronomy 28:15-68; Amos 9:8-10). Yet even after these terrible events, YHVH would regather His people and return them to their Promised Land (Amos 9:14-15). The Jewish people have been scattered across the face of the globe (James 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1), from the Amazon to America, and from Canada to China. This is not just a Diaspora, a Dispersion; it is truly an Exile (Deuteronomy 30:1-6). Even the wonders and comforts of America are coming to an end. It is time for Jacob’s children to start lifting their eyes to Zion.
A weaponized promise
“YHVH is a man of war; YHVH is His name” (Exodus 15:3). The God of Jacob is a defender of His people (see Isaiah 59:15-20). His warlike return to Jerusalem is described with strong prose in Zechariah 14:3-9. The Day of the Lord will be a day that causes the enemies of Israel to tremble, and there won’t be anywhere to hide.
In that day, the promise God gave to the Jewish people will be fully realized: “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper, and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of YHVH, and their vindication is from Me, declares YHVH” (Isaiah 54:17).
- We are not yet in the fullness of that day. There are still many birth pangs to endure. Let us run the marathon, in prayer, in intercession, in standing with the Jewish people and standing up for the Jewish state as the darkening clouds gather.
Avner and his wife, Rachel, live in the Beersheva region of Israel and are dedicated to stirring up the creative arts, worship, intercession, evangelism and the prophetic gifts within a Jewish and Israeli matrix. They oversee Final Frontier Ministries.
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A Biblical method to overcome evil
Yeshua knew where he had come from and where he was going. This freed him to be willing to stoop, to serve, and to even lay down his life. He knew perfectly well that he would be sitting beside his Father in heaven in a short while. John explains this in chapter 13, which describes the Last Supper, to assure us that although Yeshua suffered greatly, he knew great glory awaited him.
But can’t we also say the same thing?
We cannot lose!
The incredible truth of our secure destiny with God should liberate us to be utterly fearless in our willingness to love even our enemies – and even at our own cost.
There are some twisted people who are so committed to their religion that they will kill for it. But we are led by a matchless Messiah who never harmed a soul and was even willing to die for his enemies – the very opposite. As we follow Yeshua, are we willing to follow in his footsteps of self-sacrificial love? Martyrs for Yeshua don’t kill, but offer life, even to their murderers.
As Jim Elliot bravely and correctly said,
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
We are destined for a glorious eternity with our loving Father God. Our enemies, on the other hand, are perishing, and we are commanded to love them and to pray for them.
We should not underestimate the power of prayer.
It is no small, weak or feeble thing to come before God’s throne and intercede for our enemies. It is right in line with God’s will and God is more powerful to act and to save than we could ever imagine. We simply have no idea how many God will save in direct response to our prayers.
Here is what Romans 12:9-21 lays out as the way we are to conduct ourselves. Remember, these instructions were given to the first generation of disciples who were regularly beaten, imprisoned and murdered for their faith.
Why don’t you mentally run through this list, and check up on your status to see how you are doing
How to overcome evil, according to Romans 12:
- Let love be genuine.
- Abhor what is evil
- hold fast to what is good.
- Love one another with brotherly affection.
- Outdo one another in showing honor.
- Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
- Rejoice in hope
- be patient in tribulation
- be constant in prayer.
- Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
- Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
- Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
- Live in harmony with one another.
- Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.
- Never be wise in your own sight.
- Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
- If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
- Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
- To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
- Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
This article originally appeared on One For Israel and is reposted with permission.
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.
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Ashdod threatens Messianic congregation for operating a ‘house of prayer’
As if it wasn’t enough that Orthodox Jews had vandalized their new building, now the Municipality of Ashdod is bearing down on the Beit Hallel congregation in the legal arena declaring that the non-profit organization itself is operating illegally.
“We got our permits 11 years ago,” Pastor Israel Pochtar told Kehila News Israel. “Then suddenly one day you wake up and say its illegal?”
This latest threat, which is a different tactic from the physical vandalization of the congregations’ property, began when Pochtar and other leaders went to City Hall to discuss getting permits for a new building they are planning.
“Not only did we not receive them, we received a letter saying our current building is illegal,” Pochtar said. The municipality accused the congregation of “illegal gathering and operating a house of prayer in the city.”
The municipality’s declaration, made in a letter sent last month, is quite a switch since the municipality itself had granted Beit Hallel’s tax exemption based on its non-profit status a decade ago.
The matter had been brewing for about two years, however, when one of the city council members, Avi Amsalem, publicly promised to do everything in his power to stop Messianic Jews in his community. Amsalem, who is running now for re-election, is Orthodox and is a member of the Shas party. Two years ago he asked the city to verify that renovations of the congregation’s building were being one according to the law.
In a letter this week to leaders in the believing community, Pochtar says that the municipality “has really taken on itself the mission to put an end to our presence and work in the city.”
Pochtar wrote, “they suspiciously enough decided it wasn’t enough for a prayer house to operate under all the required permits, according to their current stance” and that “a different, exceptional permit is also required for an organization like ours (something that as far as I’m aware of, has never been mentioned, nor appears in city bylaws, that I know of).”
Despite the ongoing pressure from these attacks, Pochtar said he has received supernatural encouragement from the Holy Spirit.
“We’ve come through many battles and each one has turned out for good for us,” Pochtar said. “So now we are looking to see how this is going to turn out.”
The congregation’s administrator, an Israeli lawyer who has won in the courts several cases of discrimination for other congregations and houses of prayer, is on the case.
Pochtar believes that at the root of the continuing discrimination in Ashdod is the influence that his congregation of 300 people has in the city. Each month, the ministry helps 1,200 families from Holocaust survivors and people with disabilities to single mothers and new immigrants. The congregation provides food, clothing and counseling to those who are in need. Some 100 volunteers man the center.
The impact of the believers in Ashdod from two congregations that meet in buildings and a few home groups rivals that of the Orthodox community in 350 synagogues in the city.
“That is part of the reason the religious people have become jealous,” Pochtar said. “They see the work we do and our influence. And everyone knows, the Orthodox only help the Orthodox.”
Pochtar said his team will fight this latest battle so as to prevent a precedent in Israel that could be used “to impose strict limitations on the work of other congregations in the country.”
The Kehila News Staff is a team of Israeli believers in Yeshua.
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Messianic organization urges believers: Adopt, foster vulnerable children in Israel
An initiative that is going nationwide this year intends to bring awareness to the plight of orphans and foster children in Israel and to encourage believing families especially to provide them with loving and nurturing homes.
Orphan Shabbat, an initiative of the HaTikva Families department of HaTikva Project, is the local adaptation of Orphan Sunday, part of an international organization based in the United States. While the event last year was hosted by one local congregation, this year leaders are hoping several congregations will dedicate a full weekend to shedding light on the dire situation of at-risk children in Israel.
“The orphan is kept out of view from the public. We want to say through this initiative, ‘We see you and we will care for you,’” a HaTikva Families representative told KNI.
According to HaTikva Families, some 367,000 children in Israel are classified as at-risk. Approximately 10,000 children have been removed from their homes by the Ministry of Welfare and only 25 percent of those have been placed in foster families.
“People don’t realize how great of a need there is,” HaTikva Families said. “We are using Orphan Shabbat as a platform to really campaign, primarily to the local Body of Messiah, but we are targeting society in general and the Jewish diaspora.”
While the main push of HaTikva Families is recruiting families for adoption and foster care, the organization is an advocate for child welfare and is partnering with other nonprofits that have similar missions.
Orphan Shabbat is scheduled for Nov. 10 and 11. It purposely rolls over into Sunday so that religious Jews who observe Shabbat will be able to connect the following day. HaTikva Families provides resources to congregations and organizations that want to get involved and ideas for teachings and Bible studies that relate to the issues of adoption and caring for at-risk children.
“The narrative of the scriptures is, you were adopted into a family that is not your own,” HaTikva Families said. “If we’re talking to believers, there’s no better way to live out the Gospel than reaching out to children in need. That’s pure religion: visiting the orphan and widow in their distress. (James 1:27)”
Since not everyone is able to adopt or foster, HaTikva Families suggests other ways people can help including volunteering at a local welfare office, touring a children’s home or supporting an adoptive family with babysitting, meals or financially.
“Even the smallest action can make a difference,” HaTikva Families maintains.
Fostering and adoption in Israel goes according to religion, meaning Jewish families can adopt only Jewish children, Muslims only Muslims and Christians only Christians. Culture and language also play a role in placing children in family situations.
The country averages 120 adoptions a year and tends to prefer keeping an at-risk child in the welfare system, whether in an institution or in foster care. While the government works to rehabilitate the biological family, the issue is that there is no law that stipulates the amount of time given for rehabilitation. Therefore, a child can get stuck in the system rather than being moved over to adoption. Hence fostering is a more viable option, especially for believers who want to get involved. Adoption can take five years while foster care can take between three to 18 months to be approved, HaTikva Families said. Children with disabilities or special needs that have been abandoned tend to be more quickly assigned to a family willing to take them in.
“A child wouldn’t be in (an at-risk) situation unless he has gone through abandonment, trauma or extreme distress, or addiction. This has a great impact on a child and even on his or her brain development,” HaTikva Families explained. “The only way we see a child come through to wholeness is through the nurture of a mother and a father.”
After they recruit families that want to adopt or foster, HaTikva Families helps them navigate the process. Currently the organization is assisting about 10 interested families.
For the upcoming Orphan Shabbat, HaTikva Families is partnering with Orr Shalom, an Israeli organization that enables at-risk children to find safe homes — the quintessential goal of HaTikva Families and Orphan Shabbat.
“We hope to see wounds healed and each child fully develop to his potential.”
The first Orphan Sunday is credited as occurring in Zambia where a pastor called on church members to care for orphans in their community. A visiting American pastor was inspired and the idea — adopted by American churches through Every Orphan’s Hope — eventually spread around the world through the Christian Alliance for Orphans.
The Kehila News Staff is a team of Israeli believers in Yeshua.
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Saying goodbye to a Messianic Music Pioneer
At my wedding, 30 years ago, Elana and I were honored that one of the most famous Messianic worship groups performed. Of course, they were our dear friends Israel’s Hope. Marc Chopinsky wrote most of the music. Yesterday, we buried him in Haifa.
Marc died suddenly on Sunday morning. Next to his body was a hymnal that he must have been reading when he collapsed, opened to the song, “I believe in Jesus.”
As I was driving home, Israel received her first rain since Spring…something that is always seen as a sign of blessing. I have to believe that God was telling us that Marc was now with him. I shared some thoughts from my car.
This article originally appeared on Messiah’s Mandate, October 23, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Ron and wife Elana make their home in Tel Aviv. He serves on the pastoral team of Tiferet Yeshua—the Glory of Yeshua—a Tel Aviv-based, Hebrew-speaking Messianic congregation. Ron is a published author with Destiny Image Publishers, having written books like “Identity Theft”, “Leave Me Alone, I’m Jewish” and “The Jerusalem Secret”. Ron is a sought-out conference speaker and shares passionately about the Jewish Roots of the New Testament and God’s broken heart for His ancient people Israel.