First Fruits of New Life for Israeli at Brooklyn Congregation
Praise the Lord for giving Beth Sar Shalom Brooklyn (our Messianic congregational plant) the first fruits of what we believe to be a great harvest to come. Shmuel,* a young Israeli soldier who was visiting his cousin in Brooklyn (who is a member of our congregation), has received the Lord! After attending our Bible study and weekly service where he heard the Gospel explained in a Jewish way, he then went home and read the Scripture all night long. In the early hours of the morning, he surrendered his life to Yeshua (Jesus), his Messiah. Since then he has displayed a deep hunger for the Word of God: attending our services, participating in our small group gatherings, and meeting regularly with our congregational leaders. Rejoice with us!
Holocaust Survivor Receives Messiah
A member of our West Coast staff was introduced to a secular Jewish man, Yaakov,* an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor who had spent over five years in a concentration camp. They discussed at length who the Messiah is and explored a number of verses from the Hebrew Bible including Isaiah 53. They also spoke about how our sins must be forgiven on the Messiah’s terms. Then, Yaakov prayed to turn from his ways and to receive Jesus as his Messiah. Not long after his life-changing decision, Yaakov passed away. Please pray that our staff may continue to minister to Yaakov’s family.
Despite Hazards, Ministry in Israel Goes On
Unrest in Israel takes its toll and makes ministry there more difficult. Eugene L., who ministers in Maale Adumim, a community not far from Jerusalem, reports regular stone-throwing attacks upon the city’s light rail, as well as private cars and commercial buses that service the city. Despite these hazards, life goes on—and so does ministry. Eugene reports, “Spiritually hungry Jewish seekers continue to gather at least once a week for our Bible studies, often changing buses three times to get there. Two people have decided to be baptized and more have been calling us to request prayer or other forms of help.”
Messianic Flyer Draws Jewish Man to Faith in Berlin
The Lord uses many ways to draw people to faith in Messiah. Igor Swiderski sends along this praise report about Mikhail,* a Jewish man who has just now received the Lord. Mikhail explained, “Someone on the street gave me this flyer. I wanted to throw it away since it was about Jesus, but then I noticed the Star of David.” This was his explanation of how he first got to the Messianic Jewish congregation in Berlin where Igor presented a message from the book of Jonah. At this point, Mikhail has been attending for three months, and God has been knocking on his heart for decades. Igor relates, “Now was the time to open the door. It was pure joy to lead him in prayer to receive his Messiah and Savior!”
Chosen People Ministries Volunteers Reap Harvest for Kingdom
Larry and Eileen Marcus are longtime Chosen People Ministries volunteers in Arizona who have been a tremendous support to our staff there. While they were visiting a retirement community, Larry met David,* a Jewish man who not only was from Larry’s home city of Detroit, but had attended the same high school. With this much in common, they struck up a good relationship and over time their talk turned to spiritual matters. After some months, Larry led David to receive the Lord and continues to disciple him. Meanwhile, during the course of Larry’s visits, Eileen got to know Esther,* a Jewish woman in a nearby room. They too formed a friendship, and after reading Isaiah 53 together and additional spiritual nurturing, Esther also came to faith! *names changed
Who is the Servant in the Servant Songs of the Prophet Isaiah? Is it the nation of Israel, as the traditional Jewish reading maintains? Or, is the Servant a reference to the anticipated deliverer of Israel, the Messiah? While this is not easy to ascertain, a brief overview may give some insight into whether the Servant is Israel or the Messiah.
I. GOD’S SALVATION THROUGH THE SERVANT MESSIAH (Isaiah 49)
The first mention of the term “Servant” in this section suggests the Servant refers to Israel, since Isaiah speaks of “Israel” by name (Isa. 49:3). If this is the case, God promises to reveal His splendor or beauty through Israel. However, the context shows the interpretive difficulty, because it indicates the Servant is separate from Israel; God calls the Servant to bring Israel and Jacob back to God (Isa. 49:5-7). Thus, it appears the Servant is not the nation, but rather her Messiah.
Therefore, Isaiah looks forward to One from Israel who will have the mission to bring the nation back to the Lord. Through this person, the Messiah, God will not only realize His purposes with Israel and restore the nation (Isa. 49:8-13), but He will accomplish all His intentions for the nations as well (Isa. 49:22-26).
II. GOD’S SERVANT SON (Isaiah 50-51)
Who is He who comes to Israel and calls the nation to repentance? It is none other than the Servant, the Messiah of Israel.
One day, all the redeemed of the Lord shall return and enter Jerusalem even “to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their head. They shall obtain joy and gladness; sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isa. 51:11).
III. THREE EXHORTATIONS OF THE LORD (Isaiah 51:9–52:12)
Isaiah concludes the passages we are examining with three exhortations for Israel to rise from her slumber.
The first is “Awake, Awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord…” (Isa. 51:9). The Hebrew Bible frequently uses “arm of the Lord” as a metaphor to show God’s power, typically in His active role as the deliverer of Israel (Ex. 6:6; Deut. 5:15). Isaiah speaks of a future time when God actively reveals His power to commission the rejected Servant, Israel’s Messiah (see Isa. 53:1-3). It is He who tells Israel, “I, even I, am He that comforts you….” (Isa. 51:12).
We find the second exhortation in Isaiah 51:17-23. Isaiah depicts Jerusalem drunken when they drink from the cup of God’s wrath, fallen and lying in the dust (Isa. 51:18-20). Yet this humiliation has one objective, namely that Israel at last may be the channel of God’s blessings, flowing out to all nations (Isa. 51:16).
The third exhortation is the wonderful passage beginning with Isaiah 52:1: “Awake, awake…Put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem…for the unclean shall no longer come to you.”
In Isaiah 51:17-23, Jerusalem is pictured as a drunken woman lying helpless in the dust. God will remove the shame from His people and place the cup in the hands of her enemies. Here we find Isaiah’s prophetic assurance that the Lord will care for His people (Isa. 51:21–52:3).
Messiah’s salvation is full and free. The prophet Isaiah anticipates a time when there will be messengers who travel to Israel to proclaim God’s victory and how He has redeemed both Israel and the nations (Isa. 52:7-10). Will you be one who carries this great news to Israel (Isa. 52:7)?
Discovering the Purpose of Our Identity as One New Man
Dr. Mitch Glaser, President,
Chosen People Ministries
During my time as a student at Fuller Theological Seminary, I became acquainted with a retired and now deceased Fuller professor, Dr. Arthur Glasser. Dr. Glasser is a Gentile believer who especially loved two groups of people: the Jewish people and the Chinese. Dr. Glasser gave the first half of his life to reaching the Chinese (he was exiled from China at the rise of Mao) and the second half to missions education at Fuller Seminary, while at the same time doing all he could to promote the preaching of the Gospel among Jewish people.
He was a rare Gentile who, more than anybody I know, embodied the magnificent unity described in the text of Ephesians 2. Dr. Glasser tirelessly promoted Jewish evangelism and advocated for the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles in the Body of Messiah.
It is in his honor that I submit the following reflections.
Brit, Bar Mitzvah, and Jesus
I was born in Brooklyn, New York, circumcised on the eighth day and raised in a typical New York City Jewish home. Both of my parents were Jewish, and like so many from the post-Holocaust generation, I grew up under the dark cloud of this cataclysmically tragic event. The result, at least for my family, was that we were profoundly anti-Christian and had little interaction with Gentiles/ Christians (in my understanding at the time) because we believed they had tried to destroy my people.
Like most Jewish young men, I was Bar Mitzvah1 at the age of 13. I was sent to a modern Orthodox synagogue for Hebrew school and Bar Mitzvah training. The synagogue was more religious than my home, so I grew up with a degree of religious disparity from the very beginning. I could never quite connect with the Orthodox community because we were not religious at home and yet, my entire world was Jewish. I knew some non-Jews in school, but I grew up sensing a deep divide between myself, the community, and the "Gentile/Christian world."
The only interaction I really had with non-Jews was with the Italian and Irish Catholic kids as we battled over who had the right to use the local stickball courts. I was called "Christ-killer" many times growing up.
I cannot say that I actively hated or even disliked Gentiles/ Christians, but I knew we were something significantly "other" than they were. My attitude changed a bit when my family moved to New Jersey during my junior year of high school. I spent more time with Gentiles, but still found myself gravitating toward the Jewish kids. My family became more involved with a Conservative synagogue at that time, and I even played basketball in the Jewish basketball leagues.
I went off to college and became a "middle-class Jewish hippie," dropping out of college within my first semester and moving to San Francisco around the time of my eighteenth birthday. My best friends were fellow Jewish hippies like myself, but I was beginning to have closer non-Jewish friends as well. At this point in my life, the distinctions between Jews and Gentiles had become less relevant to me, as one of the values "hippies" held dear was the equality of all humanity.
Please do not mistake what I am saying. It is not that I stopped identifying as a Jew. Even as a hippie, I celebrated Passover, and I would never consider celebrating Christmas or Easter or setting foot in a church. The Gentile kids that were part of my small hippie community celebrated Christmas and Easter, but in a very irreligious way! In my understanding, "non-religious" Christians were similar to "non-observant" Jews and the distinctions between Jews and Gentiles were primarily cultural and ethnic, rather than religious. We never talked about these matters and essentially attributed our differences to our parents. We viewed religion as one of the problems that divided the humanity that we ideally wanted to unify.
My life began to change rapidly when one of my friends-a nice Jewish girl from the Bronx-became a believer in Jesus in the summer of 1970. My best friend, also a Jewish young man from the Bronx, became a believer in Jesus as well. Without prolonging the story, it did not take long before I, too, became a follower of Jesus in November of 1970.
When I became a follower of Yeshua, I knew there were non-Jews who believed in Him as well-but I had not met many at that time. I probably knew as many Jews who believed in Jesus as Gentiles who did. The Gentiles I knew who believed in Jesus did not have much to do with the more institutional church. They were mostly ex-hippies, and the unity we had in the past seemed to easily transfer as we became united in faith!
As I began meeting Gentiles who were part of the institutional evangelical church, I felt the old "gap" I had grown up with begin to widen. My Jewish identity and traditions began to matter more to me, now that I understood that being Jewish was connected to my faith in God and the Jewish Messiah. It seemed that Gentile believers (innocently) expected me to take part in Christian traditions and celebrations, but culturally these events felt very foreign.
I still remember a conversation I had with one young Gentile believer soon after I become a follower of Yeshua. We both attended a Thanksgiving meal and service in the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco. As I walked out he put his arm around me and said, "Mitch, if you think you enjoyed Thanksgiving-just wait until Christmas!"
I had so much hair on my head and on my face that he probably could not see that I turned completely red. I had no idea that by accepting Jesus I had seemingly exchanged my Jewish holidays for the "Christian holidays." I told him that I had not read that in the Bible!
I will admit that his statement-though well intentioned-caused me incredible trauma. It was my first brush with the identity issues I would face for the next 38 years as a believer, and still face to this very day.
In some ways, this is similar to marriage: I fell in love with my wife, also a Jewish believer, and wanted to marry her. It eventually dawned on me that I was not only marrying my wife, but also gaining a whole new family.
I quickly realized that I had not simply become a follower of Jesus the Messiah, but had also been invited to join His family, which included both Jews and a global variety of Gentiles. It was clear that I needed to better understand this new unity with my Gentile spiritual family members.
I am grateful for the text at hand in Ephesians 2, as this passage helps me understand God's will for me in my relationship to my Gentile brothers and sisters in the Messiah.
A Summary of the Text
Paul writes in Ephesians 2:14-16:
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.
I surmise that one of the reasons Paul penned the letter to the Ephesians was to express his concerns for the challenges faced by believers in both understanding and practicing their unity in the Messiah. Earlier in the chapter, Paul describes the position in Messiah that unites us and later illustrates in Ephesians 5, how husbands and wives, masters and servants, children and parents and, of course, Jews and Gentiles should live out this unity in everyday life. This unity is an answer to Yeshua's prayer in John 17 and evidently a deep concern of the Savior's heart.
Our passage teaches that peace-this new peace Jews and Gentiles share with one another-is found in the person of Jesus. He created peace by breaking down the "wall of enmity," through His death at Calvary. He did this, in my understanding, by making the exclusivity of the Torah2 inoperative3 (a better translation of the Greek than "abolished"), specified by the apostle as commandments, contained in ordinances4 leading to the creation of One New Man.5
Certainly Paul, who in Romans 11:1 declared that he was still a Jew though he believed in Yeshua, is not suggesting that this New Man is the termination point for all ethnic identity. Rather, he is suggesting that when it comes to personal salvation, the Jewish people have no advantage over the Gentiles. He also affirms this in passages such as Galatians 3:28.6 It is simply Paul's way of stating that the ground is level at the foot of the cross.
This is why he concludes this passage by reminding the believers in Ephesus that the end result of Jesus' work on the cross is peace between Jews and Gentiles-a microcosm of the Kingdom reconciliation, between nations, creation, and all facets of God's universe fragmented by sin (see 1 Cor. 15:28; Rom. 8:21-22), a reconciliation that will be fully manifested at His return.
We have peace and unity between Jews and Gentiles through Jesus, and the Torah that previously divided us now brings us together. The revelation of God's person and will for mankind, found in the Torah-through Jesus-belongs to both Jews and Gentiles. The exclusive right of the Jewish people to the Torah has been made inoperative without binding Gentiles to the Mosaic Covenant. In effect, because of Yeshua's death, Jews and Gentiles now share in God's promises to one another-non-Jews are brought near and Jewish believers in Messiah fulfill their calling as those who bless, intercede for, and reveal the One true God among the nations (see Gen. 12:3; Exod. 19:4-5; Isa. 43:10-11).
In the "One New Man," both Jews and Gentiles find their biblical destinies fulfilled. Yet I still believe the Scriptures teach that Jews and Gentiles retain their uniqueness within God's plan, and therefore we must not view the creation of this new entity as calling for the obliteration of differences created by God Himself. Rather, through the death of the Messiah, God has created a deeper and more profound unity between Jews and Gentiles in Jesus (see Eph. 3:6-7).
The One New Man and Jewish Identity
This "one new man" is the ekklhsia, the Church-those called out of this present world for God's holy and redemptive purposes. This new entity, built on the Jewish prophets and apostles (see Eph. 2:20), is also portrayed in the image of the olive tree in Romans chapter 11. Redeemed Jews and Gentiles are nourished by the same root (see Rom. 11:17) and "made to drink" of the same Spirit (see 1 Cor. 12:13).
Yet, I still wonder what the New Man sees when he looks in the mirror? I would suggest that the miracle of the One New Man is not that believers have lost their divinely appointed distinctions once they have become amalgamated into the Body of Messiah. Instead, the beauty of the New Man is that he has a composite identity expressed in perfect unity. I do not view these ongoing theological distinctions to be merely cultural, but actually to be biblically based. God's covenants with both Jews and Gentiles are ongoing and have been fulfilled, but not subsumed in the New Covenant. This only adds to the beauty of the One New Man-as unity is only supernatural when genuine distinctions exist.
I have often wondered why the One New Man is never portrayed as wearing a yarmulke (a skullcap often worn in prayer)? Why is he usually portrayed as a Gentile?
I have also found it odd that I was expected to embrace and celebrate "Christian holidays" when, from my vantage point, the Jewish holidays are more clearly specified in the Old Testament. In fact, in the New Testament we never find any passage commanding us to celebrate Christmas or Easter, but we find many passages in the Old Testament commanding the Jewish people to celebrate Passover, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles, etc. Jesus Himself observed these biblical festivals and there is still much to learn about our relationship with God in celebrating them-especially the festivals as fulfilled in Yeshua (see 2 Tim. 3:16).
Gentiles, who are part of the One New Man, draw closer to the biblical Jewish faith without becoming Jews or obligated to the Mosaic covenant. I believe the Apostle when he writes, "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ" (Eph. 2:13).7
Perhaps from a biblical perspective, the One New Man should wear a metaphorical yarmulke and Messianic Jews should not be expected to remove theirs by embracing our more normative evangelical cultural expressions of the faith, especially in North America.
You Can Be Jewish and Believe in Jesus
When a Christian exhorts his Jewish friend to receive Jesus as Messiah, the Jewish person interprets what he hears as, "Would you like to give up your identity as a Jew and embrace the faith of those who persecuted your forefathers?"
Jewish people cannot easily understand that they can receive Jesus and remain Jewish. The two simply do not seem to fit together. As one Jewish man told me, "It is like eating a ham and cheese sandwich at a Bar Mitzvah!"
I recall the first time I took my mother to a Messianic Jewish worship service. My mom was not happy about my becoming a believer in Jesus! Finally, after almost ten years of trying, I coaxed her into going with me to a Messianic service. Mom stayed through the entire service, and I even gave the sermon that evening.
When I asked her afterward how she liked the service, she said what every good Jewish mother would say: "It was very nice." I probed a little further, asking what she thought of my message. She responded, "You speak well, you should have been a lawyer." I asked what she though of the music, which was Messianic, and mostly in a minor key. She responded, "The music was wonderful and sounded very much like Jewish music." That should have been my tip-off as to where the conversation was headed. I said, "Mom, it sounded very Jewish because it is Jewish."
She looked at me and said, "Really?"
I said, "Yes."
She then asked the question, "So tell me, were any of these Jews baptized?"
I asked her, "What does that have to do with anything? After all, baptism is a very Jewish thing based on our mikveh and the cleansing rituals of Judaism."
She said, "If they were baptized, then they are no longer Jews, they are Christians." She repeated, "Aren't they Christians now?"
I said, "Yes, but they are still Jewish."
She responded, "That's impossible; once they are baptized they are no longer Jews."
I then said, "But, Mom-Jesus was Jewish, and even He was baptized, according to the New Testament."
She said, "Of course He was, everyone knows that Jesus converted to Catholicism!"
I did make some progress with my mom through the years, but it is still so very difficult for Jewish people to understand that a person can be Jewish and believe in Jesus. It is presumed within the Jewish community that a Jew who becomes a believer in Jesus has renounced his Jewish identity.
Our corporate testimony to the Jewish people is enhanced and empowered when Messianic Jews maintain some level of clear Jewish identification. In addition, when Gentile Christians show a deeper understanding and love for the Jewish people-the witness of the One New Man is made all the more powerful (see Rom. 11:11).
Some Familial Advice to My Gentile Brothers and Sisters
I know that most Gentile Christians would no longer encourage Messianic Jewish brothers and sisters to give up or downplay their Jewish heritage in order to accept Jesus. We do live in a glorious new day that is quite different from the time when I became a believer almost 40 years ago.
Yet we still have a distance to go! We must ask ourselves the question, "What can be done to strengthen our unity by affirming the mutual identities of our One New Man?" I am especially concerned with helping my Gentile brothers and sisters to encourage Messianic Jews who are part of local evangelical churches.
There are many ways to do this. First of all, encourage Jewish believers to remain Jewish and identify as Jews. It is psychologically unhealthy to deny a part of oneself, and we do little to enhance the witness of Jewish believers if they no longer identify as Jews.
Encourage your pastor to make mention of the Jewish festivals in your services. Celebrate Passover-why not? Jesus did! There is nothing more encouraging to the Jewish believer in your church than taking an interest in his or her Jewishness.
Encourage Jewish evangelism in your church. This will also show Jewish believers that you are interested in their families. Support Jewish missions. Take trips to Israel. Study the Old Testament Scriptures. Invite Jewish believers and missionaries to the Jews on a regular basis to be a part of your church services. The affirmation and encouragement Gentile believers offer to their Messianic friends can make an enormous difference to Jewish believers struggling with rejection by the greater Jewish community because of their faith.
In other words, it is a good idea to "put on a yarmulke" once in a while! As a Gentile believer, you will be a great blessing to the Jewish believers in your midst.
It is also important for Gentile believers to encourage the growth of our current Messianic movement. It is exciting to see so many Jewish people accepting Yeshua and continuing to identify as Jews.
There are now upwards of 350 Messianic congregations in North America and another 80 to 100 in Israel. There are also more than 100 in the former Soviet Union and dozens in Argentina, Germany, Brazil, and Australia.
I believe it would be a wonderful testimony for the Jewish community to see that true believers in Jesus cherish their Old Covenant heritage, recognize that the Savior of the world was born in a Jewish home and will one day return to reign in Jerusalem in His holy homeland.
Our unity, however, will be our greatest testimony to the world and to the Jewish community! I pray that this volume will encourage the One New Man across the globe to fulfill the vision of our Messiah who commanded His disciples love one another (see John 13:35).
1. Literally, a son of the commandment. This is the traditional rite of passage for a Jewish young man at 13 years of age.
2. The general term in Hebrew for Law is Torah. This refers both to the Five Books of Moses and also to the legislation given at Mount Sinai. This Law was given to the Jewish people, but even in Exodus 19, the Jewish people were called by God to mediate God's truth as priests to the Gentiles. This is why Israel was called to be a light to the nations. The purpose for God choosing the Jewish people was to bring the nations closer to the God of Israel-His Word, covenants, and promises.
3. The Torah, as a basis for division between Jews and Gentiles, is made inoperative. Through Jesus, Gentiles now have access to the Torah and the entirety of God's revelation without becoming Jews or submitting to the Mosaic covenant.
4. Paul reflects the various categories of Old Testament Law by his use of the terms. τυ υμου (Law/ Torah ("your" Commandments (Ordinances). In Psalm 119, these words are oftentimes thought to be synonyms for the Law as a generality, but actually relate to various categories of laws found in the Torah. Paul, by using these terms, indicates Jews and Gentiles have access to God's full revelation contained in the Five Books.
5. Some interpreters understand this passage to mean that the unity comes about because Jews are no longer obligated to keep the Torah and this is what Paul has in mind as the removal of the enmity. These same commentators would usually understand the term to "make inoperative" to mean abolish, in that Paul is stating that God abolished any further Jewish obligation to the Torah. This would not fit in with Paul's general teaching, as he calls the Law "good" in Romans 7 and suggests to Timothy a list of uses for the Old Testament Scriptures (see 2 Tim. 3:16). The apostle uses the term katargh/saß, but I do not believe he is suggesting that the Torah or the Law is abolished. Rather, the division, described as the "wall of partition" (dividing wall), which should not be viewed as a literal wall (such as in the Temple), was made inoperative by the cross. The exclusive right of Jewish people to the Torah has been lifted and God's revelation in the Torah is now fully available to the Gentiles. Jews who accept Yeshua are free to keep Torah or not to keep it, but this is not what is under consideration here. It is the Gentiles who are the subject of discussion as the ones who were "far off"-but now brought near. Those who were strangers to the covenants and promises of God to the Jewish people are now able to receive these blessings through their relationship to Jesus, and now share a new common bond with the Jewish people and Messianic Jews in particular.
6. Similar passages are found in First Corinthians 12:13 and Colossians 3:11.
7. Also Ephesians 2:12: "...that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world."
Something is Happening for God in Israel!
Chosen People Ministries is expanding ministries in Tel Aviv!
Sensing a need to focus on reaching younger and more secular Israelis, we now have three trained staff members dedicated to serving this ever-growing community. We have also rented a facility for Bible studies and outreach, and we are praying the Lord will provide a few more workers who have a passion to reach Israeli young adults…and their young families!
Our staff is following up on those who have responded (more than 200 Israelis) to our Hebrew language Isaiah 53 web-based campaign—most of whom live in the greater Tel Aviv area. This campaign, which is scheduled to intensify in the spring, is one of our primary means of discovering Israelis who are open to the Gospel
The rented space in the northern downtown area of Tel Aviv also provides a home for the growing Russian/Hebrew-language congregation planted by Chosen People Ministries. The Joy of Jesus Congregation (Simchat Yeshua) has ministries among Russian Jewish immigrants and their children and a special ministry to the “down and out,” as well as those afflicted with drug addiction.
We continue our efforts to reach elderly Russian Jews and Holocaust survivors with the Gospel, offering practical aid and benevolence to this needy community. And I assure you that our new ministries will not replace what we have been doing and what God has already been blessing. As I said, “We are expanding!”
Let me share a quick story with you of what the Lord has been doing through Your Mission to the Jewish People among elderly Holocaust survivors, a community of 200,000+ dying at a rate of 30,000 precious people per year.
One of our staff members reported,
Larisa* is a 76-year-old Holocaust survivor we have been ministering to for several years. Larisa was born in Central Europe and was sent to a concentration camp as a young child.
Larisa is full of energy and joy. She attends all our events for Holocaust survivors, volunteers at one of our food distribution centers, and attends a weekly Bible study run by a member of our staff. This week, there were two happy events in Larisa’s life. At the beginning of the week, her son and daughter-in-law had a baby boy. Yesterday, Larisa was baptized! Praise the Lord! Several of our staff members had the privilege of being present at the baptism. Afterwards, Larisa said to me, “I feel different. I feel like a weight has been lifted off me.”
I can’t help but think about how the birth of the grandson of a Holocaust survivor is a victory over human evil, while her baptism is a victory over spiritual evil. Please pray for Larisa and for her walk with the Lord.
Why Tel Aviv?
Our hearts break for these elderly Holocaust survivors and we will do all we can to reach them before they pass from this world. Yet, we must turn our eyes towards the future as well! This is why I am writing to you and hoping that you will pray about helping us make a difference in the future of Jewish ministry in Israel. Tel Aviv is the perfect place for us to focus as we seek to reach a new generation of younger and more secular Israelis for the Lord.
The Tel Aviv municipality has about 500,000 people and was founded in 1909 by secular Jews. But, if you include the suburbs and outer ring of smaller towns, knows as Gush Dan—the greater Tel Aviv area has a population of 3.4 million people—which is 42% of Israel’s total population.
The area includes cities like Petach Tikvah, Herzliya, and Rishon Lezion. Many of the people who live in Gush Dan are involved in business, commerce, technology, education and medical professions. They are younger and more secular in general than those who live in Jerusalem or Haifa. Tel Aviv is also Israel’s economic hub and the nexus of culture, nightlife and growing younger families.
Tel Aviv has beautiful beaches, is very modern and forward thinking and a large majority of the people who live in Tel Aviv are in their 20s and 30s. In fact, the opportunities for creative ministries among younger adults—singles and families—are wide open!
However, in my experience speaking to this younger crowd in the Tel Aviv area, I have found that many are searching for the deeper meaning to life and a more authentic, “non-Orthodox” spirituality. So many of these young people, having traveled the world after their service in the army, dabbling in Eastern religions and drugs, also recognize that these things do not satisfy their souls. When given the opportunity to talk about spiritual matters, and even about Jesus, many open up willingly and ask questions about God and listen to the answers we provide. Many are searching for authentic answers, but simply do not identify with “organized religion.”
This is one reason there is a growing attraction among these young adults to the reality of the Gospel in the lives of our staff and the believers they meet in Tel Aviv. It is why the testimonies on the Hebrew Isaiah 53 website are so powerful. Stories are so convincing!
Connecting with Young Israelis
Our Tel Aviv team leader, who is one of our most experienced staff members, has been in charge of the teams we send out to reach young Israelis traveling to very exotic places after the army! Some travel to Latin America and hike along the Amazon River. Others travel to India and live on the beaches or backpack through the mountains of New Zealand. The Israeli army provides some funding for these trips for those who have served in the Israeli military after completing high school (three years for men and two years for women). During these travels, young Israelis tend to be very open to the Gospel. It is also easier for them to have initial conversations about Jesus outside of, rather than within, the Holy Land.
We believe the time has come to focus on these young people and follow up more intensively with those whose lives were touched outside of Israel. We’ve already seen this strategy at work!
Let me share a brief report from our Tel Aviv team leader:
I’ve already “accidentally” bumped into a couple of Israelis I met in Argentina and New Zealand. One immediately shared that she is still reading the New Testament and it still makes her happy. We will meet for coffee later this week when I’m back in Jerusalem (she is at Hebrew University). I’ve gotten together with some Israelis that lived in New York, and through them met a number of young Parisian Jews who moved here fleeing French antisemitism.
Let’s Reach Israelis for Jesus Together!
Through our Isaiah 53 Online Evangelistic Campaign, we have not only distributed a couple hundred books to Israelis who requested them, but more than 225,000 Israelis have watched the testimony of a young Israeli believer on our Isaiah 53 Hebrew website. The average time this testimony was viewed was 5½ minutes—an extraordinarily long amount of time for online activity. What’s even more important to me is that over 90% of those watching the video are from the Tel Aviv area. So I know that these young Israelis are open to the Lord.
We have very ambitious plans for the work in Tel Aviv. Every time I travel to Israel—and I just returned—the vision grows stronger and larger! So would you help us begin this ministry by helping to provide $100,000 during this next year for staff housing in Tel Aviv, which is very expensive, as well as some additional funds to help continue the Isaiah 53 Campaign? We have staff in place—so your gift will be used immediately to help those who are already doing great work.
The Gift of Life
Speaking to a group of Jewish people, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
Did you know that the number 18 means a lot to Jewish people? Before the revival of Hebrew as a modern language, there were no numbers as we know them. Combinations of the Hebrew letters of the alphabet served as numbers! But this ancient way of forming numbers lingers on to this day. The Hebrew word chai, which is two letters, equals 18. And this word means LIFE. So would you help us give the gift of life to secular, young Israelis and their families in Tel Aviv by sending a gift that might be a multiple of 18?
Perhaps you can only give $18, but then again you might be able to provide $180 or $1,800! Whatever you give right now will help build the foundation for our future ministries among secular, younger Israelis and their families. This is the future! And we cannot do it without you.
Thanks so much for giving sacrificially to make the Good News of Jesus the Messiah known in the land of His birth.
Happy New Year and blessings in our risen Messiah,