Shalom from Tel Aviv!
In the last six years some 515,000 Israelis have become more Orthodox according to a recent poll taken by Israel's leading newspaper Yediot Aharonot. That is 17% of the Jewish population. And according to its canvassers, the poll probably underestimates the scope of the return to religious observance, since many Orthodox Jews do not respond to polls. (Jerusalem Post, June 1, 1997)
The reason for this phenomenon is two fold: First, the growing spiritual hunger among Israelis is clearly evident. They are looking for truth, for significance, for the meaning of existence. They are also looking for hope in a patently hopeless political situation. Yet the only place most Israelis know to look for Biblical answers is to Orthodoxy because Rabbinical Judaism works relentlessly to crush all other public forms of religious expression, including Conservative, Reform, and of course, Messianic Judaism.
RABBIS AND EX-FIGHTER PILOTS PREACH "REVIVAL"
Secondly, the extreme Orthodox (called haredi, or haredim for plural) have become extremely active and aggressive in their campaign to make all Jews of Israel Orthodox. In a front page series of five harshly negative articles, the Jerusalem Post describes their methods of missionizing. (May 16-21) For example, days before one of their numerous scheduled "revival seminars" in lower class neighborhoods across the nation, the organizers plaster posters allover the neighborhood and distribute leaflets in mailboxes. They may also send tapes containing spellbinding sermons by well-known rabbis.
They then hold a five day revival seminar, typically co-sponsored by the municipality's religious cultural department. They feature charismatic rabbis, but also entertainers--preferably one-time popular performers or, say, ex-fighter pilots who have abandoned the secular world for a haredi one. These former secular Israelis are called hozer betshuvah--in short "repenters".
The revival organizers create an atmosphere which the Jerusalem Post describes at one such event as much like a county fair or a secular happening. "In the courtyard in front of the building, vendors set up stalls to peddle clothing or religious artifacts, including framed posters of Jewish holy men (i.e. revered rabbis). Inside, two tables were stacked with religious books for sale. Loudspeakers blared Oriental-Israeli music with religious themes at full volume, adding to the holiday atmosphere. It was a far cry from the cold and anonymous feeling on [the city of] Bat Yam's main shopping street, a few hundred meters away." (Ibid., May 20, 1997)
The haredim preach the uncertainty of life, the fearfulness of reincarnation, the existence of a wonderful heaven where everyone is studying Torah and a fierce some hell where people are roasted or forever drowning in excrement. They preach that because a man does not know when he will die, he must always take proper steps--that is, observing traditional rabbinical teachings--to save his soul and ensure a heavenly reward. They preach in the language of the street.
They preach that the Jews are a chosen people, the only nation sanctified by God. They teach that "though all Jews belong to the only holy nation on earth, secular Jews are a more dangerous enemy to the observant Jew than the greatest of anti-Semites, including Hitler, because they are hostile to religion." (Ibid., May 20,1997)
Their three tenants of faith are " There is a Creator of the Universe,  He handed down the commandments to the Jewish nation at Mt. Sinai and  Those commandments are binding on Jews for all times." They assert that "the truth handed down by God is the one and only truth, that there is no other truth, and that anything outside this package is a lie and an abomination." (Ibid., May 21, 1997) Needless to say, these rabbis claim to be the sole interpreters of God's Law.
ALL-OUT EFFORTS TO BRING JEWS INTO THEIR FOLD
However, it is not only the rabbis and well-known "repenters" who are spreading their message. The rank and file haredim are intensely involved in making all Israel Orthodox. An Orthodox manual records the different ways that religious Jews are making inroads into secular Israel.
"These include gentle persuasion by gradually introducing candidates to mitzvah (commandments) observance; combining moral teaching with pleasurable experiences; holding introductory lectures on Judaism; arranging meetings with. . .those who weren't born into religious homes, but became observant later; and hosting potential hozrim betshuva (repenters) in yeshivot (Talmudic schools) and haredi homes." (Ibid., May 20, 1997)
"Such activities have become an integral part of the religious landscape; much of what is known as kiruv--activities aimed at bringing the non-observant closer to observance--is informal and done by 'non-professionals', who forge personal relationships with secular individuals or families." (Ibid.) Young and old, poor and rich are being drawn into the haredi net.
MASSIVE GOVERNMENT FUNDING TO HAREDIM
Dr. Dan Mahler, a leader of the Association to Fight Haredi Domination says that "over the past year, following the national elections and the resurgence of haredi leverage in the Netanyahu government, the (Haredi) movement is enjoying a revival." (Ibid., May 16, 1997) Many of their activities are actually funded by the government or other public bodies. These activities have one goal: to turn secular Jews into haredim.
Indeed, the influx of massive amounts of state funding into the haredi movement is allowing them to blanket the country with their message. They have an absolute monopoly on religious use of the media in Israel. No one except the Orthodox can utilize TV or radio broadcasting. In fact the Orthodox are now producing expensive, slick variety and talk shows that compete with the best that the secular world has to offer. The large newspapers will take only Orthodox advertising--with almost no exceptions-- for fear of Orthodox retaliation.
One of the many teshuva organizations propagating the return to rabbinical Orthodoxy is Arachim. According to the Jerusalem Post, in 1995 they received over $500,000 from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, while the Ministry of Education gave it another $130,000 during a three month period. (May 21, 1997 Figures given are approximate dollar equivalents to the shekel amount.)
IMPOSSIBLE TO CALCULATE REAL AMOUNTS
According to figures compiled by the Ha 'aretz religious affairs reporter Shahar Ilan, in 1995, the last full year of the Labor government, the Religious Affairs and Education Ministries allocated $5,000,000 to 11 of the largest teshuva institutions alone. But former religious affairs minister Shimon Shetreet said the real sum is much higher. “’It’s impossible to assess the actual figure, because the sources of funding are so varied. They include the religious councils (of each community), the municipalities, the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry and the Interior Ministry,’ he said.” (Ibid., May 21,1997)
"Shetreet stressed the socioeconomics aspects of (the repenters movement) saying it is much more than just a religious phenomenon. 'It is a total system,' he said. Haredi welfare organizations provide the hozer betshuva (repenter) with subsidized food and clothing. He pays $50 per month for day care for his child, instead of $300 in the secular world. Transportation is thrown in for free. He enrolls in a yeshiva for which he receives an extra $170 per month, without giving up his job or welfare payments." (Ibid.)
GOAL: A RABBINICAL GOVERNMENT
Haredim who study in Talmudic institutions are also automatically exempted from serving in the army, and they and their families can expect to be supported by State and haredi organizations for the rest of their lives. It goes without saying that since Benyamin Netanyahu was elected Prime Minister, the public funding allotted to the haredim has significantly increased.
The specified aim of the haredim is  to make every Israeli Jew an Orthodox Jew who observes Torah according to Rabbinical interpretations, and  to create out of the State of Israel a theocracy, ruled by Rabbis, much as the Mullahs rule Iran. The hareilim feel they are well on the road to success.
With all the support they receive (and we did not touch on the private donations the Orthodox receive from wealthy Jews throughout the world), and means to propagate their religion, they still cannot tolerate the existence of Jews who believe differently than they do, who interpret the Bible differently than they do, and who obey God according to the written Word of God, instead of according to the interpretations and philosophies of Rabbinical authorities.
TO BE CONTINUED NEXT MONTH...
THE WORD OF THE LORD STANDS FOREVER
It is amazing to think of God's promises to save the nation of Israel. In fact, to save all of Israel! To take away her blindness, her zeal for godliness without knowledge. The Rabbinical authorities have a certain knowledge of God, but sin has separated them from knowing Him personally. Their self righteousness, their lack of esteem for the rest of mankind, their lack of love for their neighbor who is different from themselves, their pride in being chosen, but not doing the work of the chosen-- to be a blessing to all the nations of the world--has cut them off from God.
Yet they are the only ones officially "allowed" by the government to publicly proclaim the way of salvation! No, it is not at this time against the law to preach the true Gospel, though the Orthodox act like it is and are attempting to pass such a law. However, we know that no matter how hard they try, they will not succeed in keeping the REDEEMED of the Lord from proclaiming reconciliation with the Father through the precious King of Israel, our Messiah Yeshua.
THEY HEAR A VOICE SAYING, "FOLLOW US"
Nevertheless, the small number of redeemed Israelis, the true remnant of Israel that the prophets and Paul spoke about, must have the worldwide Body of Messiah behind them. How else will Israelis even know we exist? They are looking for God, and they hear a voice--on TV, radio, newspapers, books, flyers, lectures, conferences, "revival" seminars and synagogues throughout the country--which says "Follow us!" But this voice is not telling them to come back to God. This voice does not even use such language. This voice says, "Come back to Judaism. Come back and commit yourself totally to the control of the Rabbis. Come back and observe the rules that the Rabbis have laid down" (which they erroneously call Torah or God's Law).
Somehow, someway, the Israeli people must have the opportunity to hear, "Come back to the Father! Come back to the God of Israel. Come back to His Love. Come back to His provision of salvation through the sacrificial gift of His Only Begotten Son. Come back to the Voice of God, as written in the Bible. Obey His Commandments, His Voice and His Spirit. Then you shall find rest for your souls.
NO TAX MONEY FOR MESSIANICS!
Who will help us? Who will help the Israeli Body go into all Israel and preach the Gospel? You can be sure that no municipality or Ministry of Religion will be giving us tax money to share the Good News! Instead, they will do their best to stop us.
But as the worldwide Body of Messiah truly gets behind the believers of Israel in financial and prayer support, then we will take this message to our nation. The spiritual landscape will change. Congregations and home groups will mushroom in neighborhoods, in farm towns, in kibbutzim, in cities and villages. No one will be able to stop us because IMMANUEL--GOD WITH US! Will you be a part of God's plan for Israel? Join us this month. The harvest is great!
Your co-laborers in the harvest of Israel,
Ari and Shira Sorko-Ram