Shalom from Tel Aviv!
We watch the news about the war on Israel's northern border. Two hundred fifty Katyusha rockets have slammed down on our towns and settlements this week. Citizens are unable to leave their bomb shelters even to buy food. As a result supplies are being distributed and Israeli children have been evacuated from the war zone by the army and put in homes throughout the center of the country. Tourism in Galilee, we are told, has come to a dead stop.
However, except for the continuous roar of jets flying back and forth towards Lebanon on their bombing missions, we who are living in the center and southern parts of the country are not personally experiencing the war. That is, unless we have a son, father, brother or friend serving in the army. Three days ago, one of our own neighborhood boys was killed by Hizbullah. Israel is so tiny, and our numbers so few, that every war jars the national soul down to its very core.
Ironically, the one place that is safe in northern Israel is the area of Jewish settlements on the Golan Heights. Because the Golan Heights are mountains that stand between Damascus and Galilee, Katyushas cannot reach Israel via Syria--only from Lebanon, where the terrain is more even. (Besides, Israel can still look down on Damascus from the Heights, a fact that keeps the Syrian president very strict on any terrorists who would strike Israel from Syria.)
If the Syrian dictator had managed to take the Golan Heights from Israel through peace negotiations, and then allowed Hizbullah to shoot Katyushas from there, the city of Tiberius and the whole area around the Sea of Galilee would be under siege.
OUTREACH CENTERS OF ORTHODOX JEWS
As we pondered these developments, the news finished and on came a program about the Ultra-Orthodox sect of Habad. This is the Orthodox community who considered their rabbi to be the Messiah. And even though he has since died, there are members of this sect who still claim that he is the Messiah and expect him to rise from the dead.
The TV program proceeded to show members of the Habad movement reaching out to the youth of Tel Aviv from a bar they had set up. They had music, drinks, and strobe lights, as the Orthodox men rapped with the young people. The place was full of teenagers and soldiers. Then the TV program showed mission stations overseas where the Habad people are operating--in places like Thailand and Japan. 40,000 Israelis, mostly youth who have just finished the army, stop in Thailand alone every year. Habad invites these young people, hungry for spiritual reality, to a series of lectures and happenings, and leads them into ultra-Orthodox Judaism, black hats and all. They come back to Israel, ready for life in an Orthodox community.
One can go to the Western Wall in Jerusalem at almost any time, and watch the Habad activists striking up conversations with kids who come by (why would a youth come to the Western Wall unless he was thinking about God?), giving them hugs and lots of warmth, inviting them to their centers for meals, and offering them a community where they can live and learn Orthodox Judaism according to the Habad sect.
A cry rose up in our hearts. . . while we are praying, thinking and talking about, and looking for a location for an outreach center in downtown Tel Aviv, this Orthodox sect is DOING! And while there are millions of born-again believers who know the Bible and believe what it says, including the prophecies about Israel, there are only at most a couple of hundred thousand Habadniks in the entire world (mostly New York and Israel).
The possibilities in Israel are now so incredible. The youth are lost and searching. We are searching for a facility in Tel Aviv. Yet in order to buy a building in downtown Tel Aviv--where the people are, you're talking about a couple of million dollars for a modest center. Renting a coffeehouse-size room is around $12,000 per month. Sounds ridiculous? The May 2 Jerusalem Report says that in a survey of 50 cities around the world, Tel Aviv ranks ninth for buying property and eighth for rental.
Because the next move that we, together with our co-workers Ami and Yonit Klein, are about to make is by far the greatest of this ministry, we ask now for your prayers. We ask that you pray with us that God will direct us to the right place for our outreach center in downtown Tel Aviv--the largest population area in Israel. Secondly, that God will raise up investors and contributors who have the ability to invest the sums needed to establish such a center in Tel Aviv.
ISRAELI TEENAGERS TURNED ON!
The National Israeli Messianic Teen Conference sponsored by Maoz brought great joy to our hearts. 130 teenagers (a few in their early 20's) met in a kibbutz in northern Israel for three days and two nights under the Intense, dynamic, and anointed ministry of Youth Pastor Scott Wilson. Another 20 adults attended, including a committee of congregational leaders overseeing the conference, and a group of Israeli youth leaders.
We received a glimpse in this conference of what God is ready to do with our youth. Simply, kids were set on fire. We received phone calls from around the country from pastors and parents who say that their children have been radically changed. Souled Out, a teen ministry from Chicago who worked closely with us in the conference, is coming back in July to witness in the streets with Israeli believers. (If you are a teenager who would like to come with Souled Out this summer, you may call them at 800-533-8463, or write them at 600 Banbury, Arlington Heights, IL 60005.)
What is so vital for us to express, is that along with the leadership committee and the youth leaders and our youth pastor Scott Wilson, it was you, our Maoz readers and partners, who made this conference a reality!
Children of believing families in Israel often find it a continuous struggle to serve God. Their feelings of isolation as a tiny minority tend to make them fearful and even ashamed to speak of their faith. This conference helped many to understand that God has not forgotten them! As you look at the pictures, you who bless this ministry with your gifts and prayers can rejoice with us in what great things God has done! And this is only the beginning!
JACK HAYFORD RETURNS FOR ANOTHER ISRAELI MESSIANIC LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE
Two hundred Israeli Messianic leaders and their spouses are meeting together in a picturesque town near Haifa, May 14-16 for fellowship, rest, encouragement, and, most of all, to hear from God. Among those who will be attending will be native born Israelis, Jews from Russia and Ethiopia, Arabs and leaders of major Israeli Christian organizations who bless Israel. We ask you to pray fervently that God will pour out His Spirit at this conference on the spiritual leaders of Israel.
SHIMON PERES BELIEVES HE WILL BE PRIME MINISTER AGAIN
Even though on May 29 Israel is having perhaps the most important elections since the founding of the State of Israel, because of the current war everyone has quite forgotten, at least momentarily, that there are going to be any elections at all. Nevertheless, the day Israelis go to the ballot box is only a few weeks away. And this is the first election in Israel's history where the prime minister will be directly elected. Until this election, the leader of the main party which succeeded in forming a government automatically became prime minister. Now, Israelis will be voting directly for one of two men to become prime minister-- Shimon Peres or Benjamin ("Bibi") Netanyahu. In addition, voters will cast their ballots for one of a score of parties.
Israel's democracy is based on a government that rules by virtue of having a majority in the Knesset (parliament). The Knesset has 120 seats, of which the ruling party must secure a minimum of 61. To maintain a stable coalition, acquiring another six to nine seats is highly desirable.
TO THE LEFT AND TO THE RIGHT
The two main political parties in Israel are the Labor party (to the left) and the Likud party (to the right). Each receive as a rule about 30% to 40% of the national vote, not enough to give them the 51 % they would need to form a government by themselves. The Labor party tends to attract the secular Israeli, who on the whole is agnostic or atheistic. Tel Aviv is strongly Labor. This party, whose leader is Shimon Peres, is the "party of peace", a platform that greatly appeals to the majority of Israelis, who have seen war all of their lives.
The Likud tends to attract religious and traditional Israelis, and those who feel strongly about the Biblical promises of the land of Israel. It also attracts those who feel that a strong military is Israel's only hope of staying alive against entire nations who publicly promise to destroy the Jewish State. Likud is the "party of security first, then peace". It's leader is Bibi Netanyahu. However, no matter whose party gains control, all mainstream politicians from every party publicly state that no one can turn the clock back on what has already been given to Arafat. That would cause instant "holy war" with Palestinians and Arab nations.
LEFT OF LEFT
To the left of Labor is the Meretz party, who in the last election started out strongly proclaiming its desire to blaze the trail for freedom of religion and constitutional rights for Israeli citizens, which by definition means a lessening in influence of Orthodox parties on the Israeli society. However Meretz quickly bogged down by focusing almost all of its energies into pushing the peace process and proclaiming the Palestinians' right to their own state. They virtually abandoned their completely human rights platform.
Also to the left, and about parallel with Meretz on their peace platforms are a few small Arab parties. Both Meretz and the Arab parties are natural coalition parties with Labor.
RIGHT OF RIGHT
To the right of Likud are a few small "pro-Land of Israel" parties. They are the natural allies of Likud. Then there are the Orthodox parties. They too are the natural allies of the right, because most religious Jews strongly believe in keeping the land of Israel because of Biblical promises. But because the leaders of the Orthodox parties are brilliant politicians who are extremely money and power hungry, their overriding criteria is (what else?) money and power. Therefore for years they have been the king makers of Israeli politics. They will sell their votes to either the right or the left, depending on who will give them the most benefits for the religious sector (huge sums for their religious institutions, housing for religious Jews, allotments for their men who study Talmud and don't work, and curtailment of freedom of religion, etc). They especially love to head the Ministry of Interior, which gives them control over who is allowed into the country, and also allots the cities their governmental budgets. As usual both Likud and Labor are furiously courting the rabbis.
A NEW POLITICAL PARTY FOR IMMIGRANTS
The one possible dark horse is a new immigrant party called Yisrael ba-Aliya ("Israel through Immigration" or "Israel on the way up".) The party is headed by former prisoner-of-Zion Natan Sharansky who spent years in the Soviet gulag after applying to immigrate to Israel, and captured world attention when Russia released him under tremendous pressure from the U.S. Sharansky is considered one of the most ethical, courageous and brilliant public figures in Israel today. He founded this party after watching the government's attention turn away from successfully integrating the hundreds of thousands of Russian immigrants, as the nation's leaders became consumed with the peace process.
"Our bottom line, he says is that 'bringing another million Jews and using their potential is the best contribution to Israeli security, education and the economy.'" (JR, April 18, 1996) Sharansky's party strongly advocates freedom of religion and individual citizen's rights. Their slogan is "Security for Israel and respect for aliya (immigration)". Overall, this party's platform probably most parallels the views of Messianic Jews in Israel. However it is not at all clear how many Messianic Jews will vote for this party.
Today there are about 400,000 former Soviet immigrants eligible to vote. Theoretically, this party could replace the Orthodox as king maker. If Sharansky receives enough votes, he could be the deciding factor of who will form the next government--Peres or Netanyahu. He would then decide which potential government will do the most for immigration and human rights. This whole scenario would depend on Sharansky receiving a large portion of the Russian vote, a conclusion which is by no means certain.
At this point, it appears that Peres is ahead in the polls. People are saying, "Give peace a chance." Hirsh Goodman, the Jerusalem Report's editor-in chief is pessimistic about the elections. He says: "[The undecided] votes will be determined by how they feel on the morning of the election; in particular whether there has, God forbid, been another terrorist attack by Hamas. . . ."The future lies in the hands of those who do not care [i.e.,the undecided], those who wish to destroy us [i.e., the Arab vote] and those who believe that the Israeli democratic process is no more than a vehicle for their parochial goals [i.e. the ultra-Orthodox]. (Parenthesis my interpretation)
We present our readers this information for your prayers--that God will orchestrate these elections to promote freedom in the land to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom. And that the God of mercy Who knows the future would save us from as much war and bloodshed as possible.
FIGHTING HIZBULLAH, SPIRITUALLY SPEAKING
We often feel intense spiritual pressure and oppression against ourselves and against those with whom we are laboring to bring into the Kingdom or disciple. We pray, and we stand against the enemy. Then we see the miracles overtake us in such a way that we feel like all we can do is just look in awe and rejoice.
Then we move on into the next pressure point! The Scripture speaks of moving from victory to victory. That of course implies going from battle to battle! We are so thankful that in those battles, we know that the supply troops are with us, an irreplaceable part of the army in which we are fighting. Without you, there is no army.
As we write, the Israeli fighter planes fly back and forth overhead towards Hizbullah territory. If our pilots did not have bases that they could return to frequently and constantly for supplies, their mission would end instantly. That's how important you are to us.
May the God of All Sufficiency make His Face to shine upon you.
In the Master's Service,
Ari & Shira Sorko- Ram