Shalom and a Blessed New Year from Tel Aviv!
"It is a different Israel--a country of shattered illusions, no longer professing itself a light unto the nations, destined to bleed long years from the wounds of [confessed assassin] Yigal Amir's gunfire." (Jerusalem Report, Dec 14, 1995)
I have not known Israel to be a nation of soul-searchers. Surrounded by nations of adherents to the cruel and fanatical Moslem religion, and marked as a persecuted people by the Christian religion for 1800 years, the Jewish people have always seen themselves as a more enlightened and humane nation than other nations of the world. All Israelis know the Biblical admonition: "You shall not be like all the other nations..."
As the world media has insisted on judging Israel with different and hypocritical standards, and has consistently slanted news and--may we say it--consciously misrepresented Israel's difficulties by perverting, falsifying and distorting facts, Israel has had one consolation. She knew that she had inherited standards of rightness, based on the Ten Commandments and the Prophets. By relative standards, Israel was morally "alright". Or so she thought.
NOW WE'RE LIKE ALL THE OTHER NATIONS
Today Israel, and especially the youth, are endlessly repeating what one high school student said on the radio during the memorial programming of the 30th day after Yitzhak Rabin's assassination. "Now we are no better than any other nation," the teenager said sorrowfully. He continued, "And maybe we're worse."
Even hard-nosed journalists are vocalizing their sense of being spiritually without moors. "I walked home from the broadcast [where Israelis from the left and right blamed each other for the current disaster] in a state of depression... wondering if I'm a fool after all for thinking there's any way out of the darkness." (Stuart Schoffman, Ibid.)
We can only say that as Israel begins to acknowledge her evil ways (whether or not they are less evil than any other nation), God will begin to send His Holy Spirit to convict, and then to save and to heal.
"... Return, faithless Israel," declares the Lord; "I will not look upon you in anger, For I am gracious," says the Lord: "I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your iniquity, That you have transgressed against the Lord your God...." (Jer.3:12-13)
What is now happening in the nation is such an astounding spiritual development that the secular press (and even world press) is not only taking note of it, but pondering and reflecting on it for weeks. Says one of Israel's top artists, Ehud Manor--composer, songwriter and radio personality: "The country and the world took note of the spiritual way that the youth of the country's non-Orthodox majority mourned Rabin. . . .It was the most moving, exciting public prayer ever." (Jerusalem Post, Dec. 1, 1995)
But the "prayer" that Manor spoke of was not from the Jewish prayer book. It was not a prayer to God. Rather it was a "folk religion spontaneously invented by Israel's mourning children, who lit countless thousands of Yahrzeit [memorial] candles in the streets and sang Hebrew songs softly, with deep spirit, the way people do in the synagogues." (J.R., Dec. 14, 1995)
Journalist Schoffman continues: "Secular Israeli society may discourage the religious awakening of its youth, but Rabin's death triggered a massive return of the repressed [i.e. desire for spirituality]..." (Ibid.) The secular media has concluded that the youth want religion, but NOT Orthodox religion. And this generation is doing the only thing it knows to do--taking the sad mournful folk songs that have been written during the tragic wars and terrorist attacks over the last 40 years, and singing them as prayers. Manor observes:
A GENERATION RAISED AS THEISTS “NEED TO WORSHIP”
"These are people who have a need to worship. Because they don't want to accept organized religion as it stands, this is something that replaces religion, that gives them a feeling of community... They sound and look as devout as any group of hassidim... They project such passion and vulnerability and faith when they sing..." (J.P.,Dec.1, 1995)
Even the New York Times wrote a lengthy article on this phenomenon. The public mourning, it said, was "a surge of secular spirituality with rituals of its own, drawn mostly from Israeli popular culture, but also from Jewish tradition. . . Israelis, many of them teenagers who feel deep alienation from any synagogues or rabbis, created their own rites and developed what looked like spontaneous forms of prayer." (Nov. 20, 1995) The Times concludes:
"Here, only Orthodox Judaism functions as an established religion, and this leaves most Israelis, who do not follow its rituals to call themselves 'secular'. They accept rabbinical authority in matters like circumcision, marriage, divorce and death--they have to, because Israeli law gives them no alternative - -but in little else. What is showing through now, particularly among the young is just how much of Jewish spiritual tradition flourishes beneath the materialistic Israeli facade."
But if the secular Israelis, and especially the X Generation, were alienated from Orthodox Judaism before the assassination, they are even more so now. Although it is not rational or just to blame all Orthodox Jewish people for the murder of Rabin, the fact that the assassin and the alleged accomplices are Orthodox, only confirms what many secular Israelis already thought about Orthodox Jews--that they are fanatical and extremist zealots for their beliefs who will not tolerate democracy or plurality of persuasions. "There was a surge of hostility against the Orthodox because the killer, Yigal Amir, said he had religious motives. But at the same time, there was a burst of spirituality in the streets." (Ibid.)
"The young people of Tel Aviv, considered the most individualist, were suddenly looking for community. There was a tremendous contradiction between organized religion and their display of religious feelings, which run very deep." (Ibid.)
Even the issue of the land of Israel has only alienated the non-Orthodox Jews from Orthodox religion. As the secular population sees it, Orthodox Jews believe that keeping the land is more important than respecting human life. One professor, himself Orthodox, put it,
"'The goal of redeeming the whole of the Biblical Land of Israel has become the overwhelming obsession of a large proportion of this generation's religious Zionist leaders, slowly overshadowing all other values'--including the sanctity of life." (J.R. Dec. 14, 1995)
The challenge to Messianic Jews is in neon colors. We who believe that the Bible is the very Word of God, know that this land was given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to their seed forever. (Psa. 105:8-12). Yet Israel cannot keep this land by fanaticism, hatred or any effort of human power. This land in full will be returned to the Jewish people as they turn back to HIM. Yes, we must pray for mercy and compassion, that Israel will not be stripped naked. For with every mile of her land that Israel loses, she will be that much more vulnerable to devastation in the next war(s) that will surely come: The cost will be blood.
MESSIANIC JUDAISM MUST BRING THE GOOD NEWS
What we can and must do is to show Israel what a true believer in the Lord God of Israel is. Rivers of living love must pour forth from our beings for one another, and for Israel's lost sheep. If ever this people were looking for the things of the spirit, and if ever they knew they DON'T have it, it is now. It is this Generation X that is being prepared for revival. If we represent our Head in His love and His power, this generation of Israelis can be radically touched by God.
If this generation is dismayed now, the future events will only deepen that disillusionment. Listen to the words of secular journalist Stuart Schoffman—himself wondering if there is a way out. It's not so much the words the words that he is saying, as it is the plea behind his almost desperate vision for something else....
If Israeli youth dare leave themselves open to religious experimentation, they can spearhead the flowering of a proud, eclectic, inclusive non-Orthodox Judaism in Israel. The Supreme Court has just paved the way for the legal recognition of Israeli Reform and Conservative converts as Jews. True religious pluralism in Israel--an end to the fiction that all Judaism is Orthodox--can even spell the end of the terrible misconception, now at its zenith, that "religion is the enemy..."
May we paraphrase Schoffman's words and say, If the Israeli believers dare to leave themselves open to the Holy Spirit's creative power, they can spearhead the flowering of God's Judaism--the faith that He gave to the Jewish people through Moses and the Prophets and His Son Yeshua the Messiah. It will spell the end of the enemy.
STRENGTHENING THE BELIEVERS IN ISRAEL
Many years ago, one of our Maoz partners wrote us saying God had directed them to send regular donations to the needy Israeli believers. Out of that initial act of obedience, Maoz established a “Poor in Jerusalem Fund”, which has over the years helped scores of Israeli believers.
During 1995, Maoz contributors have given a total of $37,000 to needy Israeli families, plus eight other ministries and congregations. We are giving regular support in small scholarships to three Israelis who are full time Bible School students here in the land. We are supporting the development of Messianic arts and music. Last month, Charisma magazine made a sizeable donation which we channeled 100% to various ministries. We also administrative a private fund which dispersed over $12,000 to ministries and projects last year. This is all in addition to Maoz’s regular outreaches and ministry.
This month we wish to mention a very particular need. Those of you who have received this newsletter since 1988, may recall the sheep and goat farm in Galilee belonging to Tal and Adi Ellis. Our contributors bought 70 goats to help this Messianic Jewish family get established in the land. Then during our Shavuot ’88 conference in Jerusalem, the Messianic Jews and Christians who attended, personally planted 500 olive trees on this farm. (This month we received a liter of the first olive oil from the farm—delicious!)
Now Tal and Adi have reached a plateau where they need the help of the Body of Messiah. God is prospering them. They currently have 600 sheep and goats. In the next few weeks, a total of 500 lambs will be born on this farm—a high fertility rate.
However, the shed that houses the new lambs can take care of only 100 lambs. Last year, the same high birth rate occurred, but many of the lambs died or had stunted growth because there was no room to house them. The farm’s profits at this time do not include the ability to build a shelter for 500 lambs, which will cost a total of $30,000. They have already received $7,000 plus another $1,000 from Maoz. However, we felt to ask for special help this month. Calculating what it will cost to house each of the additional 400 lambs, the amount comes to $75 a lamb. With the $8,000 already received, they have money for housing 106 of those lambs. That leaves 294 lambs who yet need housing at $75 each.
If the lambs can be housed, and can grow up healthy, they can bring this farm to a new level of income. And why should we help them? 1. They are a stable Messianic family in an area of the country (near Nazareth) where there are few believers. 2. They have a congregation that meets in their house regularly, made up of Messianic Jewish workers from that area of Galilee. 3. Their vision is and always has been to build up the business in order to use the dairy profits to bless the body of believers in Israel. They want this farm to be a place where local believers can come for rest and recreation. They could also provide a temporary home and a secure environment for young believers. The income the farm generates could aid local Messianic Jews in supporting themselves.
If you wish to make a special offering to house one or more newborn lambs on the Ellis farm in Galilee for $75, you may do so this moth by designating the enclosed card.
As you know, you are the life-blood of this organization. It is you who bestow on us the opportunity to have a part in building the Kingdom of God in Israel. It is by your entrusting us with your gifts, and through your prayers of petition and intercession, that we together are seeing the powers of darkness pushed back. We welcome you, our fellow believers, our faithful partners, to continue working together in 1996.
Your fellow servants,
Ari & Shira Sorko-Ram