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Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods

 
  Monthly Report: June 2005 Click for PDF
A Messianic Jewish bar mitzvah

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From Yediot Aharonot: Israel’s #1 Newspaper:
“Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods”
asserted the clerk at the Ministry of Interior


The Messianic Jews, 15,000 people, most of whom are citizens of Israel, are Jews by origin. They send their sons to combat units - and live here in fear. They are used to the Orthodox Jewish organizations harassing them, hanging posters with their pictures and warning the children of Israel about the horrible missionaries. They are used to getting fired on account of their faith. But they find it hard to understand how the Ministry of Interior, during the term of Minister Avraham Poraz [of the liberal Shinui political party], joins the persecution and tries to revoke their citizenship. Poraz, too, says he finds it hard to understand.
 
The State of Israel doesn't rush to revoke the citizenship from its citizens. It doesn't revoke the citizenship of delinquents, criminals, rapists or even murderers. The State of Israel didn't think of revoking the citizenship of the man who murdered the Prime Minister, nor the citizenship of Arab and Jewish terrorists, nor the rights of persons who hurt the State of Israel. Revoking someone's citizenship is one of the most grievous offenses to the rights of a person and a citizen - regardless of his actions.

But that rule, that very basic rule, doesn't apply when it comes to the Messianic Jewish community in Israel. Christina Ben-Haim (28) was, up until nine years ago, a Norwegian citizen. In September 1995 she came to Israel to "identify herself with the State of Israel and the Jewish nation,” according to her words. She volunteered for a year in Kibbutz Beit-Alpha. And after taking a break for a year back in Norway, she returned to Israel as a student of Hebrew studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She has been living here ever since.
During her studies she met Seth Ben-Haim (30), an Israeli citizen, and in July '99 they married. Since the beginning of the Intifada, she writes a pro-Israeli column in a Norwegian newspaper, describing life in the shadow of terror far away from the cold Scandinavian countries. She defines herself as a Zionist. But as far as the State of Israel is concerned - despite her being married to an Israeli citizen - Christina Ben-Haim has no rights and no citizenship. In the last three years she was unable to get citizenship or a residence permit, and her stay here is considered illegal.
 
Three months ago, she was unable to attend her brother's wedding in Norway, claiming that if she leaves the country she won't be able to come back to Israel and to her family. Christina's only crime is belonging to the Messianic Jewish community.
 
"It all started three years ago, when I came to renew my residence permit," said Christina Ben-Haim, married and a mother of children who are citizens of Israel. "I was told by the Ministry of Interior that there was a problem. Each time they asked for more documents and more details. I presented them with all the documents they requested. They then held a hearing after which they told me they would notify me of their decision. Every two months I went back to the Ministry of Interior to ask if there was any news, and every time they told me: 'If we didn't call you, it appears there is no news.'
 
"Last summer I went to visit my family in Norway and applied for a visa at the Ministry of Interior. They told me, 'Tell them at the airport it is being processed, and you will have no trouble. They will let you in.’ When I got to the airport I was almost deported, and they questioned me for two hours. They claimed their computer showed nothing about me. They agreed to let me enter the country for the last time, and they stamped my passport that this was my last entry. They said it didn't matter if I had a husband or children. It doesn't matter what I have in Israel. This would my last entry to Israel."
 
After her ordeal at the airport, Christina returned to the Ministry of Interior, but was amazed to find that the problem didn't lie with her. "I was told by the Ministry of Interior that, following my request for citizenship, they checked the file of my husband who is an Israeli citizen, and now they want to revoke his citizenship. They decided that suddenly, after living in Israel for so many years as an Israeli, it appears he is not an Israeli."
Christina Ben-Haim noticed that her personal file at the Ministry of the Interior contained several documents of 'Yad Le’achim,' an Orthodox Jewish organization that wages war against non-Jewish communities in Israel. What are documents from a private Orthodox association doing in Ben-Haim's personal file? The Ministry of Interior believes she hasn't the right to know. "I asked to read those documents, but the Ministry of Interior refused to let me see them."
 
Only following her petition to the High Court of Justice, the State agreed to recognize Ben-Haim's status in Israel. Attorney Galit Lavi, from the Ministry of Interior's legal department, claims that her rights were revoked on account of her being an active missionary. It is important to note, that even if Ben-Haim did indeed participate in missionary activity, it isn't an illegal act, and certainly not a cause to revoke someone's rights.
Avraham Poraz, of all people, after hearing the story, presented a completely opposing position [to that of Galit Lavi]. "The Minister of Interior believes that even if we are talking about missionary work, it is not a cause for denying her status in Israel. The Minister believes that we mustn't view an act which is related to religious beliefs, as contrary to the fundamental principles of the State of Israel."
 
Christina and Seth Ben-Haim's case isn't an isolated one. Members of the Messianic Jewish community tell of systematic harassment by the State's authorities, harassment that borders on persecution. Their situation is especially complex, for they see themselves as Jews, even Zionist Jews, whereas the Religious Jewish Establishment sees them as "converts, and the Christian Establishment sees them as exceptions. Fifteen years ago, there were only 2,500 people in the Messianic Jewish community. Today they are scattered throughout the land in dozens of little congregations, and their number reaches 15,000. None of the members of the community has been charged with or convicted of illegal missionary activity. But the persecutors aren't interested in the facts.
 
Avraham (alias) immigrated to Israel from the U.S. 13 years ago, together with his wife and children. In the U.S. he was a bank manager. He came to Israel out of Zionist motives, according to him. Immediately after immigrating, he received citizenship and his family soon acclimated. His children served in the army, went to university, and today they work in the free market. In August 2003, 12 years after immigrating to Israel by virtue of the Law of Return, Avraham was surprised to receive a fax to his home, on an official Ministry of Interior's letterhead, handwritten and without a clerk's signature, instructing him to report immediately and urgently to the Ministry of the Interior in Jerusalem.
 
"You are invited to the Ministry of Interior on Shlomzion Ha’malka St., at 10 o'clock in the morning, room 205", said the odd letter. "The Ministry of Interior doesn't send citizens faxes. They don't even know my private fax number, but that morning I received an official letter by fax, instructing me to report to the Ministry of Interior the next day, and all this without knowing what happened or what it was all about," Avraham told us. "The letter was handwritten without the name of the clerk. I didn't know what they wanted with me."
Avraham's attorney addressed the Ministry of Interior to establish the nature of the unusual letter, and received the reply: "I hereby inform you, that you are invited to our office in order to investigate and establish your status and qualification in Israel." The family attorney addressed the Ministry of Interior again and wrote to them: "As to my clients' status and qualification in Israel, I would like to clarify that they immigrated 12 years ago, received their citizenship lawfully, and all their children served in the army and fulfilled their duties to the State in the most proper manner. Therefore, my clients' status and qualification isn't a debatable subject. If you have any questions that require clarification, I will appreciate if you can specify your questions in writing, and my clients will be happy to answer all of your relevant questions in a swift and matter-of-fact manner." After this response, the family never heard from the clerks at the Ministry of Interior.
 
Ze'ev Bern, a resident of Petach Tikva, was a valued computer technician at local educational institutes in his hometown. For four years he worked at schools and in Eshkol-Pais in Petach Tikva. He received letters of recommendation and appreciation from his workplaces. His whole life was turned upside-down after the [private] Orthodox organization, Yad Le’achim from Bnei-Brak, began to spread posters and letters accusing him of belonging to the Messianic Jewish community. In 2002, the organization sent a letter to Sarah Shemen, the administrator of the department of highschool education in the Petach Tikva municipality, which read:
 
"Ze'ev Bern is a member of the extremist missionary sect, 'The Reform Baptists.' Employing a missionary in any position in the educational system, where he can easily use his position to influence children and youth, must be treated as a very serious matter. We request that you treat it as a very serious matter and terminate the employment of the missionary, Ze'ev Bern, at once." And they did. A short time after receiving the letter, Ze'ev Bern was invited to what he calls the field court of his superiors. According to him, the fact that the administrator of the Educational administration of the Petach Tikva municipality, Rami Hofenburg, is a religious man and a member of the Mafdal party, only speeded up his dismissal.
 
"For four years I worked at educational institutes in Petach Tikva and everybody was pleased with me. I never brought my personal life or my faith to the schools," says Bern. "It started with strange phone calls I received at home. Once I dialed star 42, [to find out who called] and got the answering machine recording, 'Yad Le’achim, Shalom.' Then the maintenance supervisor at Eshkol-Pais told me that there were all kind of stories about me being dangerous. The climax came when they started hanging pictures of me all over town under the headline: 'Jews beware!!!' I contacted the police on account of the harassing phone calls and my pictures that were spread all over town. Children were looking at the pictures and thought that they were of a dangerous criminal. This was the most difficult time of my life."
 
Ze'ev's immediate supervisors came to his aid; they knew his work well. Margalit Kedem, the principle of Ironi Gold High-school in Petach-Tikva, wrote, “To whom it may concern: Mr. Bern is a excellent worker, with exceptional professional skills, and his contribution to promoting the subject of computers in the school is unusual. His relationships with the staff are excellent and he is well liked by everybody. I know of no case in which he involved his personal life with his work." It didn't help. Shortly after that, Bern was invited to see the muscle man in the Petach Tikva municipality; the Mafdal man, Rami Hofenburg. "Hofenburg repeated the same story, and finally he told me that working with children wasn't my place. He informed me: 'You should look for another job.’ Shortly after, I received a letter of dismissal."
 
Bern isn't the only victim of a preliminary smear campaign by the Yad Le’achim organization. The organization sends threatening and frightening letters to employers of Israelis whom they suspect are involved in missionary activities. In a letter to Itay Industries, a man from the "Struggle against Missions Department" of the Yad Le’achim organization writes: "It was brought to our attention that your plant is employing the missionary A., who is a member of the Messianic Jewish sect in Rishon-Lezion. Maintaining his employment in your plant may be dangerous to the Jewish future of employees in your plant, and by doing so you are allowing the possibility that employees in your plant may, God forbid, convert."
 
In another letter, the Orthodox organization demanded from the administration of the Asaf Harofe hospital the dismissal of the outstanding employee, Vitaly Raznitsky (34). "Vitaly, a dangerous missionary, may use his position as an orderly of the operating room, in order to convert Jews," they warned in their letter. Dr. Igal Halperin, deputy administrator of the medical center, sent Alex Artovsky, of the Yad Le’achim organization, a response: "Asaf Harofe Medical Center employs 3000 workers or so. As far as their faith is concerned, our employees include Muslims and Christians as well as Jews. Most of the Jewish employees are totally secular, meaning, unmistakably clearly dishonoring the Sabbath. And as to your claim: Mr. Raznitsky is an excellent, professional, diligent employee. We don't know of any patient who complained about missionary messages delivered to him by Mr. Raznitsky. None of the hospital staff members complained or commented that Mr. Raznitsky is involved in any missionary activity within the hospital."
 
Dr. Halperin concluded his letter with a sarcastic note: "The idea of ordering the termination of his employment with the stroke of a pen, is depicted at best as naive, and in the other case as an attempt to increase the missionary activity of Mr. Raznitsky - for if his employment is terminated, he will have plenty of time on his hands, in order to carry out such activities. With the coming of spring, allow me to wish you Happy Holidays."
 
"I didn't hear from them since," says Vitaly Raznitsky. "When I was called to a meeting with the chief nurse, and then with the deputy administrator of the hospital, I thought they were going to dismiss me, but I am lucky that he is a secular man. If the case was handled by a religious man, I have no doubt he would have done everything within his power to dismiss me."

Yad Le’Achim Spokesman Interviewed:

Q: Alex Artovsky, why did you approach the Asaf
Harofe hospital administrator demanding the dis-
missal of an excellent dedicated employee?
"We have information about doctors and employees of the hospital who talk to the patients about the New Testament. These people cynically take advantage of the patients and try to convert them. A patient comes to the doctor seeking salvation and at the end he gets Jesus. What is that all about? They are taking advantage of patients that have no ability to respond."
Q: We are talking about a community that's not so
large, what do you have against them?
"Judaism denounced them. They believe in Jesus. That is a brutal breaking of the law. Something shocking is happening here: they open discotheques for youth and they baptize them, converting them to Christianity, and after all we do, the police doesn't even investigate our stories."
Q: Why did you distribute fliers in the streets of
Petach-Tikva against the computer technician,
Ze'ev Bern?
"We didn't distribute those things, this is not our work. We have full right to tell all the Jews to watch out for those missionaries, it's a fully legitimate activity. They exercise preaching. Who was the country built for? For the Jews."
Q: These are Zionists, why do they bother you?
"But they aren't Jews. Where does it say in the Law of Return that a [non-Jewish] Zionist can immigrate to Israel? Ok, so they are Zionists. There are Zionists in Zimbabwe. Can they get citizenship? These people are endangering the existence of the State of Israel."
Q: Aren't you exaggerating a bit?
"No, not only are they a spiritual danger, but a physical danger as well. I even heard about one of them who helps Palestinian children in Gaza. They are a danger to the character of the State. They will turn Jews into Christians. It's a demographic danger to the Jewish people. Rabbi Drukman already said about them that they want to destroy the nation of Israel, to destroy spiritually. What Hitler didn't complete, they want to do, to destroy the Jewish nation. What kind of thing is this, a Jew who believes in Jesus? It's like a vegetarian who eats meat."
Q: We met some officers in the army, educated peo-
ple who contribute to society in Israel.
"I don't have a problem with anyone serving in the army and I don't care what his religion is. But can this be a kosher certificate? There were criminals who served in the army, so, do they have a kosher certificate to be Jews? By the way, they preach Christianity in the army too. Our only command is to make those things public. They have a group for drug addicts, and they are bringing the youth closer to Jesus. We are a country of fools for allowing those missionaries to terminate our Jewish state."
Q: None of them was ever convicted of missionary
activity or of breaking the law.
"This is a great injustice, because the police dismiss their cases. The State doesn't care about these kinds of crimes. We have proof that they are breaking the law, but the police dismiss their cases. It's terrible what goes on here."
Minister of Interior Interviewed:
  
The Minister of the Interior, Avraham Poraz, [editor's note: Poraz is no longer Interior Minister] says that the Messianic Jewish community isn't entitled to receive citizenship by virtue of the Law of Return. "The Law of Return gives the right of return to a Jew only," said Poraz. "A Jew who converted isn't a Jew anymore with regard to the Law of Return.
Poraz says that he decided to make it easier for citizens, whom the authorities decided to deport after many years, claiming they received their citizenship unlawfully. "I initiated a procedure, that is now in force - that revoking citizenship can be done only in the first three years after immigrating to Israel. If three years have passed, we don't reopen the files anymore. If they received their citizenship by fraud [editor’s note: "fraud" could mean anything], it can be revoked, but [even then] they will receive on a humanitarian basis, the status of a permanent resident in Israel, if three years have passed from the day they immigrated."
Q: As Minister of [Interior and] Religions, do you
recognize the Messianic Jews?

"No, no. Anyone who believes in Jesus is not a Jew. What can I do? Judaism doesn't believe in Jesus. It's even considered idolatry. He who believes in Jesus, in my eyes is a Christian, period. But if I were to decide tomorrow morning that I believed in Jesus and that I was a Messianic Jew, no one could revoke my citizenship. A person in Israel is allowed to convert. A person is allowed to become a Christian. By the way, they are excellent people; I have no complaints towards them.
It is clear that Yad Le’achim persecutes them, because they are somewhat missionaries, and by the way, it is their right to be missionaries as long as it isn't for a personal benefit. It's their right to tell you all kind of stories from the New Testament, and if you are convinced, it is your right."
 
Q: How come their files at the Ministry of the
Interior include official letters from the
Orthodox organization Yad Le’achim?

"You must understand. The last secular minister that was here for a full term was in '59. All the other secular ministers were here for a year. Ramon - a year, Barak - a year, me - a year and a quarter… soon I won't be here either. This is an office that was in the hands of religious parties for decades. It affects the office, the way of thinking, and the employees. So they also accept informers of Messianic Jews.
 
Q: And what about the employee who was dismissed
by the Petach Tikva municipality on the basis of his
faith?
"I find it to be improper. On the other hand, I don't have control over local authorities. It's the same as if an Orthodox Jew was dismissed because of the fear he might influence children to become Orthodox. In my opinion, making people Orthodox and missionary activity are one and the same."
And why is it that a Norwegian citizen who married an Israeli citizen has remained in Israel for three years without status? Why can't she go to her own brother's wedding abroad, for fear she may not be able to return?
Minister Poraz reviews the High Court of Justice case we presented him with, and then says: "Well, this is wrong. If I knew which of our clerks did this, I would poke his eyes out. In this case there was no reason to torment them. She did [originally] receive status, but they started asking her too many questions and that was redundant. I guess those clerks already learned their “trade” from the 'Shas' [ultra-Orthodox] party. There are employees here who have been used to 40 years or so of religious regime in the Ministry of Interior. And that means when some of them hear the term 'Messianic Jew' their hair stands on end. I am familiar with this phenomena."
After extensive exposure in the press, including the above article, Chrisina Ben-Haim was granted full citizenship. Avraham Poraz has been replaced by Ophir Pines-Paz (also secular) as Minister of Interior. Though several months old, we felt this article would give you an inside look at the Messianic Jewish Community from the perspective of Israel’s liberal press. Reprinted with permission.

Interview with Caleb Myers
Messianic Jewish Attorney in Jerusalem
  
Caleb, what is the core problem that hinders Messianic Jewish immigrants and their families from receiving basic rights in Israel?
The most serious problem concerning civil rights for Messianic Jews is the Ministry of Interior's system of keeping believers’ names on a blacklist intended for people considered a security risk to the State of Israel.

The blacklist system was actually initiated because of real security threats. For example, a foreigner from a surrounding state might infiltrate the country by marrying an Israeli Arab and then applying for Israeli citizenship. Because of such security dangers, the government gave the Ministry of Interior an official tool, called the Rule of Denial of Service, whereby they could refuse a suspected person services granted by the Ministry of Interior, such as the right to immigrate to Israel.

Because the problematic person was considered a security risk, the Rule of Denial of Service stipulated that the person in question would not receive any information from the Ministry of Interior as to why he or she was denied entry into Israel, visas or citizenship.

Unfortunately, the ultra-Orthodox parties that held control of the Ministry of Interior for most of the last 50 years have applied these rules to Messianic Jews and anyone else of whom they suspected might believe in Yeshua as Messiah, and have wrongfully tagged many of their files.

This is the core issue. I have documented over 25 cases of such discrimination. At this time, the Civil Rights Union has gone to the High Court to try to challenge the legality of the Rule of Denial of Service so that at least people can be notified that they are on the blacklist and why they are on it.
 
Q: Who provides the Ministry of Interior with infor-
mation that causes them to blacklist believers in
Yeshua?
I have very strong suspicions that mainly the so-called anti-missionary organizations, such as Yad Le’achim or Lev Le’achim are to blame. Such organizations spend their time gathering any personal information they can lay hold of concerning believers inside Israel and even outside. For instance, they like to gather information on high-profile Messianic leaders in the U.S. and Europe, which has resulted in their being added to the blacklist, at least during the period of time that the ultra-Orthodox parties were in control of the Ministry of Interior.
 
Q: Is it really legal to use this Rule of Denial of
Service against Messianic Jews?


Actually, using this blacklist against Jews who follow Yeshua is a blatant breach of international treaties that Israel has signed for example, the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 that was ratified by Israel in 1991. Such treaties specify that no person will be treated unjustly, discriminated against or denied equal protection from law, on the basis of religion.
It is also a breach of fundamental lawful rights in Israel. Although Israel does not have a constitution for historic reasons, it does have what is called the "Basic Laws" which declare that the state will uphold human dignity and freedom, and will not discriminate on the basis of religion. This was also expressed in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which is a very fundamental document in Israel’s legal-political system.
 
Q: How are Israeli news reporters viewing us?
Today things are changing. The Israeli news media, which is liberal as it is in most of the world, is becoming more aware of us and sees us as an underdog, a subculture. They instinctively feel that they should show balance against the Orthodox religious culture which they view as coercive, and they have a natural sympathy towards us. This year, there have been at least ten newspaper articles, (including the one in this MaozIsrael Report) basically favorable, and two items on national TV networks about illegal discrimination against Israeli believers in Yeshua.
They have begun to portray us correctly as good, law-abiding citizens who respect other peoples' rights, who serve in the army and who work productively and pay taxes. They are also aware that since the founding of the State of Israel, no Messianic believer has ever been tried in court for illegally trying to force conversion on someone.
Of course the religious press continues to churn out their propaganda and tales of horror concerning the activities of the Messianic believers in the land. But I would conjecture that no more than 5-10% of the population reads orthodox newspapers.
 
Q: Are there any real changes taking place in the
Ministry of Interior?
Well, just the fact that we have now had a secular minister for two whole years means that changes are taking place. Of course, there are several hundred clerks who were hired by the religious parties over the years and it may take a long time to really see changes among these lower-tier clerks who do wield a lot of power. Still, at least two or three of the key management office-holders in the ministry, that have caused problems to believers in the past, have been replaced.
We are even seeing new administration officials willing to meet with us for the first time, and declaring that it is their intention to deal fairly with those of minority faiths - meaning us. So progress is being made.
Q: You are filling an important task by providing
legal advice for Messianic believers and their
families who have come up against the blacklist.
What is happening with these cases?
Over the last year, mostly out of court, we have succeeded in winning cases concerning civil status for at least six families, and I am working on about 10 cases at the moment. So far, the Ministry of Interior prefers to settle these cases out of court, which is fine with me.
As the Messianic Jewish movement in Israel grows and matures, we are becoming increasingly aware of our rights as Israeli citizens. Today many Messianic Jews are serving as officers in the army and others are being promoted to important positions in various sectors of the market place. An impressive number are studying in our universities several of them are in law school. I am convinced that the future of our community in Israel is bright in every way.
 
 
Who told you I wasn't Jewish?
by Shani Ferguson
 

Several hundred years ago the intellectual elite of our world were convinced the world was flat. It mattered little what argument was presented - whether hypothetical or scientific. In fact this belief was so prevalent throughout the ancient world that people were persecuted without pity for believing otherwise.

Inquiring minds might wonder who had determined the earth's shape or why everyone so mindlessly and dogmatically agreed.

Since the patterns of society persist, one might also wonder who decided that following the teachings of the Jewish Rabbi Yeshua threatens the quality of Abraham's blood that runs through my veins.
 
I once knew a man who explained that as a Catholic boy he defined people in two categories:
Catholics - those who believed in Jesus, and Jews - those who did not believe in Jesus.
While it is true that if you were to circle the now-round-world, the average person would likely agree that a Jew cannot be a Jew if he believes Jesus holds any relevant role in his life.
The question is: Who told them that?
In Israel, everyone knows that if a Jew ventures into the world of New Age or mysticism, he is just a progressive Jew. Or if he believes in nothing at all and keeps none of the Jewish traditions, he is a secular Jew, but a Jew nonetheless. And in the Bible, even the most treacherous of men who sacrificed their children to pagan gods and brought severe judgment on Israel, were never candidates for removal from their Jewish lineage.
Many scholars have written about Jews in relation to Jesus. Most, whether abhorring the very mention of the Name, or, on the other hand, claiming that all Jews must convert to Jesus' religion of Christianity or else face rejection by the God of Israel, are based on the same premise - that Jesus has nothing to do with the Jewish faith.
So fantasize with me: If some sect of Islam decided to begin believing that the head rabbi of Israel was their prophet, would that then make all Jewish sects that previously followed that rabbi Muslim? If not, then why in the world would any Christian feel that because they too believe in Yeshua - a well respected Jewish Rabbi in His day - all Jews who follow Him must convert out of Judaism to another religion that has since emerged?
So back to beliefs about Jews and Yeshua. It boils down to, "That's what I was taught." The same "they" that taught us the world was flat and the same "they" that warned us of the disastrous Y2K bug. Wow! Can you believe we actually believed "them"?
June 2005
Dear Partner,

Many years ago - in the late 60's, an American Jew who had come to believe in Yeshua, visited Israel. After traveling around the country, and talking to a number of Israelis, he sadly remarked to me, "I don't believe that Israelis will ever believe in Yeshua. The gap is too great."

I answered him immediately, "Of course they will! The Old and New Testaments are full of promises that 'all Israel shall be saved!'"

"The Old Testament", I continued, "states hundreds of times that Israel will return to her land and return to her God. And the New Testament confirms this truth over and again…." (See Rom 11:12-26, Matthew 23:39, Acts 3:18-26)

Simply put, God has promised Israel two things: 1) He would bring His Jewish people back to their own homeland, and 2) He would give them a new heart and put His Spirit in them. (Ezk. 36:24-27) What more could we ask for??

Back in those days (the 60's) there was only a tiny handful of born-again Israelis - and as far as I knew - only one or possibly two native-born, believing adults in the whole country. Quite a long way from the salvation promised by the prophets!

Today, there is no question we are gaining ground. In a recent survey, over 50 congregations in Israel have been listed, along with another 50 plus budding home groups. It is true that the majority of believers are immigrants - from Russia, Ethiopia, North and South America and a few from Europe.

Still, it is estimated that there are at least 2,000 sabras (native-born Israelis) who now identify themselves as followers of Yeshua. As you see in the Yediot Aharonot article, the press estimates there are some 15,000 Jewish believers now in the land. There are always growing pains with any living organism - and that is certainly true of the Messianic congregations in Israel.

How does a home group in Israel become a congregaton and aquire a small auditorium? It is possible, but the leap is costly. Our present facility (which is now almost maxed out at close to 200 adults and 90 kids) costs $9,000 per month rent and utilities.

But what does an Israeli congregation do when it outgrows the small auditorium? In our case, to move to the next level - an auditorium of approximately 500 people, and a larger space for children and youth - our costs may triple. Nevertheless, there is full agreement in our congregation that it is time to take the next leap forward.

We are pressing in through prayer and by taking the practical steps of intensely searching for the right place. We need your help for this mammoth step - help to secure a larger place so we can continue to grow.

We know we can't do it by ourselves or in ourselves, but we will succeed through the power of the Holy Spirit and the help of like-minded members of His Body!

The key is and will be faithful, monthly supporters who will help us bear the cost of rent in downtown Tel Aviv - by investing an added $25, $50, or $100 or more per month.

If the Body in Israel has grown from a handful to 15,000 in this last generation, think what is going to happen in the next few years as we grow closer to the coming of the Messiah!

All Israel shall be saved!

Ari & Shira Sorko-Ram

P.S. As we mentioned last month, we would so appreciate your beginning your pledge now before we sign a new lease, as we will have to pay several months’ rent in advance! If you live in the U.S. or Canada, your “rent money” for Tel Aviv can be credited from your account automatically through EZ Pay. Just call our office in Dallas: 800-856-7060. Thank you again! WE RECEIVED ALL THE MONEY NEEDED FOR THE FIRST WATER PUMP FOR BURKINA FASO!

 
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