Whom shall I fear?
I made aliyah with my family when I was fifteen and have lived in Israel for seventeen years now. My brother Dan and I serve with an elite unit of combat engineers in the Israel Defense Forces. Given some of the battles we have been involved in, I consider it a miracle we are still alive.
My five siblings and I were born in the United States. I’m the second born and Dan the third. My dad, Eli, was born in San Francisco. He studied the Talmud in yeshiva, but didn’t find personal peace through his studies. He checked out the hippie scene, did drugs, and then one day heard a young woman singing on the street. The songs intrigued him, so he asked her, “What is this?” The woman, Joan, replied, “It’s called worship to God.” My dad said, “It connects with my heart. It feels like what I’ve been looking for.”
The “Jesus People” and the Jew
Joan, an actress who had become disillusioned with the Hollywood scene, had become a “Jesus person” in the 1970s and journeyed to San Francisco. As she and her brother told my dad more about Jesus, he too became a believer—a Jewish one.
Eli and Joan decided to travel together. My dad took a cap off a Coke can, fashioned a ring out of it, and said to Joan (my mom), “Let’s be married.” They didn’t get a marriage certificate until years later. They spray painted “holy graffiti” wherever they went, which got a lot of attention at the time.
Over the years, they became a part of a few Christian communities rather than traditional churches, and all of us kids were raised in that environment. The one I enjoyed the most was in Cookeville, Tennessee, a community of “plain people,” similar to the Amish. We used horses and buggies, kerosene lanterns (no electricity), and pumped water from the well. We had so much fun, horse riding through the rivers, swimming in the summer, rope swinging.
In terms of a relationship with God, I knew I was Jewish, so I was bit uncomfortable with gentile Christianity. My parents believed in Jesus, but I knew about the horrible things that have been done in his name. I also found pew-sitting, hymn-singing worship boring. But then I read in the New Testament that Jewish people were the first believers in Jesus and that gentiles had been “grafted in” to what the Bible referred to as an olive tree:
But if some of the branches [the Jewish people] were broken off, and you [the gentiles], although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. (Romans 11:17-18)
Can a Jew follow Jesus?
That really resonated with me. I could follow Jesus as a Jew. I didn’t need to take on all the customs of traditional Christianity. So I gave my heart to Yeshua (Jesus). I was fifteen.
Around that same time, my dad saw a video by another Jewish believer in Jesus, talking about how God would bring the Jewish people from all over the world back to Israel. (We had snuck a TV and VCR into our home!) We started rereading the prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures on this subject and had a strong desire to make aliyah. But we felt we needed a sign from God.
Soon afterwards, we went to church and a man with a long white beard and long white hair came in. We had never seen him before. He approached us and said, “I’ve heard that you’re interested in going to Israel. My inheritance is now yours, which is the Promised Land.” Then he opened a little leather satchel and poured out all these gold coins and said, “These are yours!”
We sold everything and my dad bought eight one-way tickets to Israel. Eventually, our entire family was granted Israeli citizenship.
Life and Death in the IDF
I joined the army in 2005 and was recruited into an elite unit which undertakes very dangerous missions—similar to the U.S. Navy Seals. My brother is also in that unit, although we have never gone on a mission together. I had just finished my training, when the 2006 Lebanon (Israeli-Hezbollah) War broke out. We were cutting through fences, going through landmine fields, facing missiles and machine gun fire. Suddenly everything became very real!
I am a machine gunner. I lay down cover fire, get up and move ahead and lay down more cover fire while our guys advance to take a hilltop or a bunker. Our missions are usually at night, so it is all very intense. But I thought, “God is watching over me. Whom shall I fear? He who watches over Israel never slumbers nor sleeps” (Psalm 121:4). One time the enemy blew up an entire mountain—moments after our company had left that location. In Gaza, seven people died in the building right next to us.
During Operation Protective Edge in Gaza (2014), our unit had to deal with a tunnel threat, something we are specially trained for. As five of us approached the tunnel, Hamas fired on us from behind a wall. There was nowhere to hide. And the guns of my commander and our three other soldiers all jammed! Mine was the only gun. Somehow I was able to fire enough to keep the enemy from getting locked onto us, and we escaped. I feel that if God weren’t protecting us, we would all be dead.
During Operation Cast Lead in Gaza (2008-2009), my brother Dan was on a mission with the Diamond Unit when a missile hit the center of his company, right on top of his unit, sending shrapnel everywhere and killing people. But Dan and his team were not even touched.
But this whole subject of God’s protection is a very difficult one. I had a close friend in the IDF who was also a Messianic Jew, a believer in Yeshua. We used to meet in a small group and study the Bible and worship together. He was one of the first killed when we went into Gaza. So I don’t take it lightly when I speak of God protecting me. I just know that God is in control. He decided to take my friend home, and He decided to leave me here.
How to Fulfill Prophecy
When I was on leave one time, we held an outdoor worship night with a bonfire, and I met a young woman who was volunteering at a Messianic congregation in Tel Aviv. I asked her about her interests.
She said, “I like to fulfill prophecy and live a life that is helping to restore Israel.”
“You must be Jewish,” I replied.
“No, actually I’m not.”
“Who even talks like that? None of my Israeli friends even talk like that!”
It turns out that Kate is from Australia and her father has spent much of his life helping my people make aliyah. She has the same burden.
Kate and I were married in 2011, a stone’s throw from Ramallah, in Judea-Samaria (the West Bank), on a hilltop with an army on patrol. You could hear gunshots in the distance! My Orthodox Jewish friends from the army were scratching their heads as they took in our Messianic Jewish ceremony. We now have two children, Efraim, who is three, and Rivkah, a year old.
I am still in the army reserves, called up a month each year to serve. But my full-time work now is helping my people make aliyah and integrate into Israeli society. Getting here is only half the journey; it’s so much harder to stay and find a job. Acculturation can be a difficult journey, but as one who has made it, I want to help others succeed as well.
I believe that God will bring all the Jewish people back home one day, as it says in the Hebrew Scriptures: “Then they shall know that I am the Lord their God, because I sent them into exile among the nations and then assembled them into their own land. I will leave none of them remaining among the nations anymore” (Ezekiel 39:28).
So we’ve got a lot of work to do!
This article originally appeared in the Jews for Jesus publication Issues 22:01 and reposted with permission.
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Orthodox Jews protest, believers respond with worship
Tuesday night the FIRM conference began in Jerusalem. Even though it was not an outreach event, but a gathering of believers, there was about a dozen Orthodox Jewish protestors. While they were not violent, they were very vocal. To be clear, the majority of Orthodox Jews in Israel do not act this way. I have had many wonderful connections with Orthodox Israelis over the years. But they were young and indoctrinated and probably sent by someone.
They became extremely aggressive and the police were called. However, because the area just outside the meeting hall is public, there was not much they could do. I was shocked at how they yelled at the police. It breaks my heart that someone has trained them act with such disrespect.
Finally, as they were becoming louder and louder, one of the leaders of the conference brought out a speaker and plugged in his iPhone. Suddenly praise music in Hebrew began to drown them out. The believers began to dance and worship, as the presence of God was obvious…and the young protestors left one by one.
Personally, I am not interested in a contest to see who wins a debate or a shouting match. My heart longs to see their zeal for the Law turn into a zeal for God and His Messiah. As I left they spotted me outside—just a few of them—and shouted at me, “Missionary! Missionary!” I responded in Hebrew, “I love and you bless you,” and continued on my way.
Take some time now and pray for these young men to have dreams and visions about Yeshua, their Messiah! Thanks!
This article originally appeared on Messiah’s Mandate, June 14, 2017, 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.
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LISTEN: Interview about shelter in Israel for abused women
My guest today is called Rita. A few years ago she would never have dreamt that one day she would be running a shelter in Israel for abused women … but that’s exactly what happened.
Julia Fisher is the director of The Olive Tree Reconciliation Fund, which aims to build bridges of understanding and support, in a spirit of reconciliation, between believers (both Jewish and Arab) in the Holy Land (Israel and the Palestinian Areas) and Christians worldwide.
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God’s provision to the widow crosses cultural boundaries
“You will never need to ask for money, for I will take care of you.” This was the Lord’s promise to *Amira, a believing, Arab, widow from east Jerusalem. Her husband, who was an Israeli citizen, passed away before Amira could obtain her citizenship through their marriage. Their only child, however, was able to obtain citizenship at birth through the father.
Because Amira was left without status, no source of income, and no permit to work, she turned to the Lord and cried for help. He directed her to go to Israel’s National Insurance Institute, though she was without rights, and plead to enter and settle her husband’s debts he left behind. After persisting for many days, she was granted entry and explained her situation. She was heard, the debts were greatly reduced, and soon, she was receiving a monthly paycheck from the Israeli government to care for her needs as a widow.
Receiving monthly care from the Israeli government as an Arab without Israeli status was already the hand of God. But the Lord had much more in store for Amira. The residence she was living in was in her husband’s name and was only to be permitted to those who shared her husband’s beliefs which were different from her own. Never-the-less, the Lord made a way for Amira to remain in her home free of charge and even to have her name on the contract.
Amira continued to see God’s provision time and time again, having all areas of her needs being met by Him without needing to request help from anyone. Recently, a law was passed that every non Israeli citizen living within the west bank must have medical coverage. This is a good situation for all the non-citizens, however, a large, one-time payment needed to be made up front followed by a very minimal payment each month. Amira did not have the means to pay the large sum, nor did she have medical coverage. Through casual conversation in our regular meetings, the staff of CBN Israel learned of Amira’s need and sought out donations on her behalf to cover the payment.
More than what was needed to pay the bill in full was donated. When our staff phoned Amira to tell of what had been given for her, Amira began shaking and gasped, “I have no words to say!” She could hardly believe what she was hearing.
We met privately with Amira and gave her the check of the full donation that came in. Amira will now be able to receive medical coverage along with her daughter and be able to work towards caring for her physical health after waiting patiently for many years.
This article originally appeared on CBN Israel, May 23, 2017, and reposted with permission.
Since its establishment in March 2012 CBN Israel has helped thousands of people through its various operations. As the foundation of Project Light Shine, CBN Israel gives help to the community through three avenues; Humanitarian aid, education and economic development. CBN Israel serves with a spirit of humility and love. Their mission is to prepare the Land and the people of Israel for the coming of Messiah Yeshua and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. The vision of their work is to see the hungry fed, the needs of the needy met, businesses established and to improve the spiritual, physical and financial situation of the local body.
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Meeting the spiritual needs of returning exiles
Israel was exiled and scattered in judgement according to God’s words (Leviticus 26:14-33), but now in our day the exiles of Israel are being regathered, also in accordance with God’s words.
“For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean…” (Ezekiel 36:24-25)
Our ministry to new Israeli immigrants (the returning exiles) was established at the end of 2013. Since then, God has given us many opportunities to minister to them, and today we serve more than 1,300 families by supplying food, blankets, heaters, housewares, educational tours and more – with no strings attached.
In 2017, we began to pray for a breakthrough in the spiritual area. In addition to providing for their practical physical needs, it was our desire to help these fledgling Israelis find God as the answer to their spiritual needs. In addition, we put together an outreach team, a group of people who serve new immigrants by visiting them at home, listening to their problems, praying with them and arranging evangelistic events for those who want to hear the Gospel.
Passover Lamb Celebration We are seeing tangible results come from this endeavor. After just two weeks of outreach, new families began visiting the congregation. They were thirsty to hear the Word of God. A week later, a couple came to the Lord with a prayer of repentance.
In April, during Passover, our team arranged the first trial event for new immigrants. Fifty people came to hear the Passover story and the message of Messiah, and their common denominator of the sacrifice lamb. During this event, fifteen people came forward to pray a repentance prayer.
These early fruits fill us with new energy and a desire to see more. We ask for your support in prayer that God would multiply this first fruit and that hundreds more would come to receive Him. We hope to develop this project further in order to bless many who have both practical and spiritual needs.
This article originally appeared on Return to Zion newsletter, June 2017, and reposted with permission.