Shalom from Tel Aviv!
March 1996. 1395 days until the end of this century. 199 weeks. 45 months. The "Twentieth Century" will begin to sound like the "Nineteenth Century". Old fashioned. Primitive. History. The martyrs of the faith, the pioneers, the followers of God wherever He led and at whatever cost He asked, will be pointed out to the new generation as those to emulate, as those to esteem. In short, every believer living now has a maximum of 1395 days to complete the task to which God has called him for the Twentieth Century.
God has called many Messianic Jews to immigrate to Israel. Some are already here. Many more are planning to come, and others are undecided. In fact, since the late 80's a stream of Messianic Jews have made aliya.1 Because of extreme Orthodox activists who may receive this monthly letter, we will not estimate how many have come. But there is a good number.
A SOUND OF MARCHING IN THE MULBERRY TREES
During the last year or two, however, the flow has dwindled. Yet there will probably never be a better time to come to Israel than now. First of all, there is hardly a Messianic Jewish leader here who does not sense that the time of revival in the land is very near. Israelis are so open to hear about the things of God. All signs point to a moving of the host of heaven into position.
Our teenage daughter who spent the last year and a half in the U.S. noted how much more open Israelis are than Americans to the Good News. We just returned from a few days' retreat for our 19th wedding anniversary. A young man, a new immigrant, who came to clean our hotel room, asked us what we did. When we told him, he nearly begged us for an explanation of the way of salvation. We spoke to him for half an hour, and when we prayed with him, he wept. We sent him to the local congregation in that city. The story was the same with another worker in the hotel. It seemed that all he wanted to talk about was God.
The Messianic Jewish immigrants that have come to Israel have made a strong contribution to the Body of Messiah in the land. The hitch is that there is so much more work than there are people.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE "THREE FAMILIES"?
Many of our readers have asked us what has happened to the legal status of Gary and Shirley Beresford, the Messianic Jewish couple to which the Israeli Supreme Court refused to give Israeli citizenship in 1992 because of their belief in Yeshua the Messiah. The answer is: there has been no change! The Interior Ministry which was determined to expel the Beresford’s and two other families-- the Speakmans and the Kendalls--did not do so because of pressure from many different sources.
When the Beresford’s announced to the press that they would go to jail rather than be deprived of their God-given right to live in the land of Israel, the Interior Minister backed off. Also three Knesset (Israeli parliament) members here defended the right of these three Jewish families to live in the land. That, along with behind-the-scene communications from political figures in the U.S., was enough to stop the expulsions. Although the Interior Ministry has not given any of the three families citizenship, they, nonetheless, are free to enter and leave Israel as they wish.
MESSIANIC JEWS CONTINUE TO COME
The Kendall’s have moved for the time being back to the U.S. because they felt their children needed a rest from the pressure of fighting the battle for citizenship. The Beresford’s and Speakman’s still reside in Israel. In fact, as far as we know, no Messianic Jewish immigrant who was ready to live in Israel and stand his ground against attempts of expulsion by the ultra-Orthodox, has been forcibly expelled. It is true that the Orthodox have made it difficult for some believing immigrants, yet it is equally true that Messianic Jews continue to immigrate to Israel.
However, there have been many changes among those who stood against Messianic Jews. Aryeh Deri, the ultra-Orthodox rabbi who was the Interior Minister that was determined to expel the three Messianic Families, had to resign under scandal and is now on trial for endless accounts of fraud and embezzlement of government funds. He has been on trial for many months and will probably continue to be for many more.
Great misfortune has also struck the family of former Deputy Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Rabbi Menahem Elon. Elon was one of three judges who decided against compelling the Interior Minister to grant the three Messianic Jewish families citizenship, (even though the law says that all Jews must be given automatic Israeli citizenship unless they have converted to another religion.) In fact Elon took the dominate role in the Supreme Court decision to rule against believing Jews.
On December 3, 1995, the Jerusalem District Attorney's Office filed indictments against Elon's son, Rabbi Benny Elon, for sedition. He was charged with making rebellious statements against the government in comments to the media and with issuing a booklet calling for demonstrations, disturbances, disrupting life in the country, and attacks on policemen. (Jerusalem Post, Dec. 6, 1995) The government claims his activities contributed to the atmosphere which culminated in the murder of Israel's Prime Minister. Rabbi Benny Elon is himself the uncle of Margalit Har-Shefi, a woman who is suspected of involvement in the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. (Ibid.)
CONTROL OF IMMIGRATION PASSES TO NON-ORTHODOX
Many other things have changed in Israel during the last few years. When Interior Minister Aryeh Deri was obligated to resign when indicted for fraud, something happened that had never happened before since the founding of the modern state of Israel: the Interior Ministry was placed in the hands of a non-Orthodox politician. For over 45 years, the Interior Ministry, which-- among many other things--controls approval or refusal of visas and citizenship, was the fiefdom of the ultra-Orthodox. They demanded the very powerful office of Interior Ministry as the price of their coalition support to whatever party was in government, whether it be to the left or to the right.
Now it is in the hands of Prime Minister Shimon Peres' Labor party. In fact, since Deri left, the ministry has gone through three different Labor ministers. The present minister, Haim Ramon, is certainly not an ideal Minister of Interior. And there are still many Orthodox clerks entrenched in the ministry, who wield much power, simply because they have been there so long. Nevertheless, a person such as Ramon will not be taking the initiative to search out Messianic Jews, in order to hassle them or refuse to recognize their rights to Israeli citizenship as Jews.
BARRING A RABBI FROM ISRAEL
Furthermore, since the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin, the Orthodox themselves are very much on the defensive. Their perceived hatred and lack of tolerance to others different than themselves has been greatly magnified as the result of the assassination of the Prime Minister by an Orthodox Jew. Religious Jews have reported being spit upon and harassed by secular Jews. The ultimate irony is that Interior Minister Haim Ramon issued an order barring seven American Jews, including a 70-year-old Rabbi, from entering Israel. (Ibid., Dec. 21, 1995) The reason given is that they had been involved in subversive speech making, i.e. incitement against the Israeli government.
The Jerusalem Post thought it was a dangerous precedent to bar a Jew for his beliefs:
. . .he is being barred for his sick opinions, not for any acts he committed or may reasonably be expected to commit. To order his exclusion is to create a perilous precedent, which may be used to keep out visitors and potential immigrants whose politics annoy the party in power. (Ibid., Dec. 21, 1995)
The irony of barring an Orthodox rabbi from entering or immigrating to Israel is obviously lost on the good editors, who said nothing when Messianic Jews were denied their citizenship by the same ministry, then headed by an Orthodox rabbi.
ORTHODOX WORRIED ABOUT LIBERALIZATION
In fact the ultra-Orthodox parties are so worried about laws being changed to their disadvantage that they have currently submitted a bill in the Knesset stating that any changes in religious laws would have to be approved by a special majority. It is aimed at preventing the Supreme Court from making changes which would liberalize the laws towards non-Orthodox Jews. (Ibid., Jan. 25, 1996) We must pray that they will not succeed in passing any law that would maintain the continuing curtailment of the public proclamation of the Gospel.
There is liberalization in the nation. A few nights ago, a Messianic Jew was invited to a TV talk show. Even though the Orthodox rabbis who were also invited literally ranted and raved, the quiet look of dignity and the testimony of this native-born Israeli represented the Messiah eloquently.
The TV program also filmed Messianic centers such as Ro'eh Israel Congregation in Jerusalem and Dugit Bookstore in Tel Aviv. The last time a Messianic Jew was invited on such a talk show, the rabbis would not even sit in the same room with him. This time was different. And there were even a few comments by a participating newspaper editor to our favor. There is change in the air.
NEW POLITICAL PARTY TO FIGHT FOR IMMIGRANT RIGHTS
Elections for a new Prime Minister have been planned for May in place of next November. The reason Prime Minister Shimon Peres gives is that he wants a mandate for his path to peace--giving up the Golan Heights to Syria, and Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians. It would appear that with the climate of the nation as it is, he has a good chance of receiving that mandate.
However, aside from who wins the upcoming election--the left or the right--a couple of new political parties are being created. One of them is a new party for immigrants headed up by none other than Natan Sharansky, the famous prisoner of Zion who was freed exactly ten years ago, after spending twelve years in the gulag in Siberia because he had asked to immigrate to Israel.
Natan Sharansky is without doubt one of the most respected, wise and talented minds in Israel. After ten years of resisting a political career in Israel, he has founded the Yisrael B' Aliya party, meaning "Israel on the Ascent", but also a play on the word aliya meaning "Israel through Immigration".
"With changed priorities, he says, Israel can draw another million immigrants from the former Soviet Union--'of course, 30 per cent of them non-Jews,' a reference to spouses and other relatives of immigrating Jews--in the next five to seven years."
(Ibid., Feb 9, 1996)
Even though changing the status quo in Israel is a formidable task, there is probably no one more morally and mentally equipped to take it on! Sharansky took on the whole KGB, and won.
LET MY PEOPLE COME!
In closing may we say, if there are any Messianic Jews who have a dream of giving their lives to the cause of bringing redemption and salvation to the House of Israel, this is the time to come. Also if there are Israelis who have left Israel, and who have met their Lord and Savior outside of the land, and who want to return to join in the army of the Lord here in Israel, let them come!
Those new immigrants that are coming to work in the harvest field must remember that there is an approximate two year period in which they will have to concentrate mainly on getting settled and learning the language. They will have to find work suitable to their profession. The first two years will be mainly preparatory years before serious service to our people can begin. Two years from now, we will be deep into 1998. We believe there will be an enormous work load on every believer in this country. There will be a harvest, great and white, with too few laborers.
Is this an easy time to come? Absolutely not. There will never be an easy time. But the God of Israel is bringing His plan for Israel now to the fore. He is unalterably and unwaveringly moving Israel towards center stage. If you have been called and chosen to this land, then God will open the Red Sea for you. He will send His angel before you. He will be your Cloud by day and your Pillar of Fire by night. . .through the desert. He will bring you safely to your Promised Land. All Israel shall be saved. Are you part of this plan?
Together in the Harvest,
Ari & Shira Sorko-Ram
1 This Hebrew word meaning “going up” is the modern word for Jewish immigration to Israel.