Shalom from Tel Aviv,
Nobody knows how many "secret" believers--or should we more accurately say, unknown believers in Yeshua--there are in Israel.
It is a fact that there are many Israelis who do believe that Yeshua is Messiah and Lord, but who have no contact with any congregation in the country. The reason that we know is that they keep surfacing.
Recently a businessman and his wife, unknown believers who lived in Ramat HaSharon, the suburb where our congregation is located, appeared at our services on Yom Kippur. They had lived here eight years without knowing there was a congregation here until one of our young people spoke with them.
Our basic problem is that the Messianic Jews do not yet have the possibility of using Israeli newspapers, T.V. or radio to advertise their existence. So it is basically by word of mouth that we are known.
However even that is changing. As the enemies of the Truth fight against us, they bring us to the attention of the media, thereby advertising our existence. Even though most articles are basically negative, they are causing people to seek us out who never before knew of our congregation.
Shimon Nahum is one of the young people who has received a call on their lives in our Kehilah (congregation) and who we are training for leadership. We asked him to tell his remarkable story in his own words so that you could marvel and rejoice in God's great power to save and reconstruct a life:
I was born in Israel in a place the New Testament calls Lydia, now called Lod. My parents who are from the Jewish community in Tunisia came with the wave of aliya (immigration) from North Africa in 1948, the year the new state of Israel was born. Since we lived close to Israel's International Airport, my father worked in freight there for 20 years.
In 1969 before finishing high school, I dropped out and went to Israel's desert city of Eilat on the Red Sea. Due to its mild climate, in the early 70's it became--and still is--Israel's hippy center. Hippies came from all over the world and lived in the desert mountains outside of Eilat.
I became a beach bum, smoking hash and continually living on drugs. I moved to a place called Wadi in the mountains, and there in a community of about thirty houses, I cut down trees and made my own house. We would all go to the Red Sea Fish restaurant where hippies met and listened to hard rock music. We would find some kind of job for three to four hours in the
morning, like maintenance in a hotel, and then the rest of the day from noon till late at night we were stoned.
One day a group came from America bringing LSD. I took some, and very shortly after I was hooked on it and began to sell it so that I would have enough for my habit. Different people from various parts of the world would bring their drugs with them, and I would sell them.
I then moved to Coral Beach, far away from any people. I lived a life of sin and debauchery where European girls would work for a few hours, and then bring in the money so we could smoke hash all day. Thus I lived for two years.
ARRESTED FOR DRUGS
Then the police came, told the girls to leave, and told me that I could not come back to Ei1at for the next 18 months. I returned to Lod for two weeks but was unable to live with my parents. So I decided to move deep into the Sinai desert at a place called Nueba. But somehow the police heard I was there and again chased the girls out and put me in jail for a couple of days.
I decided that Israel was not for me, so I left for England, then Holland. Holland was for me one big scene of drugs and music and girls. I began dealing in drugs again because I could not make a living any other way. Again people from all over the world would bring their drugs. I met some Afghanistanis who brought a great amount of pure drugs. But then the police
caught me for having no identity card--my passport had been stolen. I was in jail for almost three months until information came from Israel identifying me.
MARRIAGE AND DRUGS
After that stint in jail, I decided to come back to Israel. I stayed for a year and during that time I met a Dutch girl. I went back to Holland with her. Again it was a "merry" time with drugs, music and hippies. I married the Dutch girl, but immediately there were hard times. I began shooting heroine. I tried to stop dealing but I needed the drugs at least three times a day. My wife and I fought continually because of lack of funds.
Then astoundingly, one day in front of the post office, I found a very large sack of drugs. I sold them, and again began to be a heavy dealer in drugs. I had so much money I didn't know what to do with it. However when I at times I didn't have money, and therefore no drugs, I became uncontrollably angry and cruel to those around me. My life was a series of ups and downs. For example some Persians brought some very pure Persian coke, which I sold and made a fortune. But then the Persians disappeared, and I couldn't find quality drugs for several months. I became physically sick with no money and no drugs.
One day I was sitting in a cafe in Leeuvarden, Holland and a couple of young men began to talk to me. They asked me where I was from, and when I said "Israel", they both responded, "The country where our Lord is from!" And they invited me to their place. I saw it was religion and I was not interested. I told them I would come, but I really didn't mean it.
Then a week later I saw them in the same cafe. Again they invited me, and again I did not come. Physically and emotionally I was at a new low, if that could be possible. I was spending every cent I had on drugs. My wife became involved deep in the occult and left me. So I would go to that cafe and drink coffee. Again I saw the two guys and I began to talk with them. They seemed so nice, and they invited me again. I thought to myself, it's not polite to keep telling them I'm coming and then never do it.
When I visited them, I found out these two young men were from the Jesus movement and were living in a community house for singles. Actually many of the people were highly professional, and they were all living very straight lives. They had meetings in the house, and many people came there for help.
I found I liked it. The people were lovely and they wanted to help me, asking nothing in return. I couldn't understand why anyone would want to help me, because I was in such bad shape. I made a decision to stop with all drugs. And somehow I actually succeeded. Really I didn't have much choice because I had almost no money. I received a little unemployment check each month, being married to a Dutch citizen, but that was barely enough to pay rent and have a little food--not enough for drugs. But physically I began to go downhill.
However at the community center I met one fellow named Klaus. I could clearly see the love of God in him, and I would come over and talk to him frequently. As I went into withdrawal, which took me weeks, I began to believe that I was dying. I would throw up in the street, my heart would begin to palpitate abnormally, and fear would grip me. Once I was taken to the hospital but they pronounced me healthy. I thought, how can they possibly say that when I am dying?
NOT BECAUSE I WANTED GOD, BUT BECAUSE OF MY NEED
That night I went to the community house and asked for prayer. They had been praying every day for me. Yet I continued to feel horrible. I decided to move into that house. Not because I had had a revelation of the Lord, but because I needed these people. This was the only place I knew I could get help.
Now all of the sudden I had cooked meals. I met new people--such nice people. I met another couple who had been on drugs and they encouraged me that I would not die. I told them, "Jesus does not interest me at all, but you people do." I said, "Let's talk about you, and life today. That's what interests me." They tried to tell me that it is because of Jesus that their life is as it is. They tried to pull me to the Source. But for me, a Jew from an Orthodox Sephardic background, this was foreign.
However, because I was living in the house, I had to go to all the meetings. As I lived there, the love for those people grew very strong. But the state of my health left me in despair. It kept me from happiness. I felt I couldn't breath. I lost 30 pounds in two months. That was a period when there was a great battle for my soul. My flesh, my mind and soul craved drugs. My mind told me, "You're dying. Why not go back to drugs until the end?"
On the other hand, God's people were praying for me, encouraging me. They were the source of life for me. Yet I was not born again, and fear dominated my life. I could not go into the city by myself, for fear that I might fall along the way somewhere and no one would help me. So I just stayed in the house. Finally the community felt that in my condition it would be better for me to move back to my own house that I was renting, and Klaus decided to move in with me to help me and pray for me.
A SPIRIT STOOD CALLING ME
Then something happened to me that I cannot theologically explain. I can only describe it. One day while I was standing on my balcony, two birds came near me. They were jumping and playing and they attracted my attention. Then I felt myself leave my body and I "saw" a Spirit standing between the birds. The Spirit said, "Come to me. “ He repeated Himself several times as He stood between the birds. I said, "Why should I come to you?" He said, "Because I love you so much. You are not going to die like you think." I didn't know who was speaking to me, and I answered, "I don't care, I want to die." The Spirit said, "If you come to Me, I will help you. I will give you strength, health and help. A great quantity of it."
I started crying. I realized it was God speaking to me. I thought, "Did you have to bring me almost to death in order to bring me blessing?" I wasn't angry. I just wondered why I had to go through all this hurt. After crying for about an hour, I felt a release. During that whole time, the Spirit was there waiting for me. In God's presence, I realized how insignificant I was, like a tiny piece of sand.
As I was lying on the wall of the balcony, I became one with this Spirit. I gave Him a big hug, and was crying stronger than ever. I said in my heart, "I will never fall again into this trap of evil life." And from that time I instantly stopped smoking, drinking and all that my wicked life had entailed. I said, "God, I will follow you all my life. I will never leave you." That revelation was worth all the suffering that I had been through. Now I understood that I would always be with God.
BUT I DIDN'T THINK IT COULD BE JESUS
I dressed, and went to the community house and shared with them what had happened to me. They told me that was Jesus. Deep in my heart I disagreed with them. It could not be Jesus--that so totally disagreed with my background. But I said nothing.
The leader of the group asked me to go to a two-day retreat of prayer and fellowship with new believers at another large community. I heard that the new believers were going to be immersed in water. They asked me if I wanted to be immersed. But I was very frightened. I was a Jew and I did not want to become a Gentile. And it all looked so goyish!
Then I met there an American Jewish girl whom I had known in Eilat. She had become a believer and was already strong in the Lord. She shared with me that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah whom we call Yeshua, a Hebrew word meaning Salvation. I could understand who Yeshua, King of the Jews was, much better than Jesus whom I thought had significance only among the gentiles.
I FOUND OUT JESUS IS YESHUA
She gave me a New Testament in Hebrew, the first time I had ever seen one. As I began to read, I began to relate. It all seemed so familiar. It wasn't the Jesus of America or Holland, of Europe or the Gentile world, it was Yeshua of Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. He was one of my people and from my land. When I saw His name is originally Yeshua, for the first time I said to myself, "God is planning something here." I didn't understand a whole lot, but slowly I came to know that Yeshua is the Messiah of the Jews.
My wife had asked me for a divorce. I told her of my interest in God, but she responded that I was only with those people because of what I could get from them. She told me I would be back on drugs in no time. Meanwhile she had no desire to leave drugs and her old life. I signed the divorce papers and gave her everything in the house, and returned to Israel in 1981.
I DIDN'T KNOW A SINGLE BELIEVER IN ISRAEL
But I knew of no believers in the whole country, and I had no one I could tell about my faith. Slowly but surely my faith dwindled. I used to go to my room, maybe once a week, close the door, and pray. That's what Yeshua said to do in the New Testament, so I did it. I worked with my parents in their restaurant for about six months, but then I was fed up with it. I was back into the world--but without the drugs and the loose life. I spent a half year doing nothing. Then I left for France and stayed with some relatives, but nothing interested me. I found no believers and no Life.
I came back to Israel in the winter of 1983 and met a girl Sivana. She was a computer analyst. I liked her and thought she was from God. But I did not tell her about my faith. After a month we married, and I went to work in a book store for two years. Our daughter Mirell was born, and we had a reasonably good life.
While we were together, I told her I was a believer. She threw away my Bible, and said she was not interested. I did not react kindly. And my wife began to drift towards a more worldly lifestyle. She wanted more freedom, and finally a divorce. I did not know the Scriptures, and had no fellowship, no one to counsel me. If I had known the Bible, I would not have agreed to let her go. But I didn't know. I gave her the divorce and everything we owned.
I HAD FAILED AGAIN
It was a very heavy scene for me to suffer another failure in my life. I felt God required more from me than what I was producing. But I did not know a single believer in Israel, let alone any congregations. I finally cried out to God to show me some believers if there were any here.
I took a vacation to Ein-Gedi for a weekend. I went up into the wilds of Nahal David, by the Dead Sea, where David had hidden from King Saul. I was reading a book of Chinese fairy tales and watching a beautiful waterfall splashing down the desert mountainside. Suddenly I saw two girls walking by that radiated an inner beauty that was striking. I wanted to speak to them. But then I felt that I must not talk to them, lest they feel I'm acting improperly. I went back to where I had been sitting, and the girl that I had especially wanted to speak to, turned toward me and said, "God told me to speak to you."
Can you imagine what I felt? She continued "God is raising up an army in this land, and He wants you to be one of His people." All my skin turned to goose bumps. It was an answer to my prayers, and what a clear answer!
She invited me to a Sabbath dinner and introduced me to another couple who were also believers. She gave me the address of her Kehilah (congregation) in Ramat HaSharon which was near my house.
A MESSIANIC JEWISH CONGREGATION IN ISRAEL
So it was in early 1985 that I came to the congregation. Immediately I felt comfortable. I saw it was Jewish, and I saw that these people had a close relation with God through the Messiah Yeshua.
The first thing I wanted to do was to be immersed in water as a testimony to my faith in Yeshua.
Ari and a group of us took me two miles away from our Kehilah building to the Mediterranean Sea. There I was buried with the Lord and rose again in that great Mikve (Body of water for Jewish immersion) I was taught how that even though the blood on the doorpost of my heart had covered my sins, it was the waters of immersion that separated me from Egypt and sent me on my way to the Promised Land.
I came for a year to all the fellowship meetings, and felt myself growing stronger in the Lord. Then Ari and Shira asked me to come to work for them. I worked as a gardener, cleaned the Kehilah building and was driver and postman. Ari also put me on a program to study two hours each morning with books and tapes. I also studied in the Yeshiva (Jewish Bible School) for four hours a week.
After nearly a year of this work-study program, I felt it was time to go into my own business. I didn't have a penny. I began to seek God with all my heart. I talked to Ari and told him I wanted to start a gardening business. Ari told me, if you believe for the funds and trust God, He will give it to you. I felt the Lord spoke to me and said I would receive a loan.
GOD ANSWERS MY FINANCIAL NEEDS
Then Ari came and told me that a business friend of Maoz would give me a business loan of $5,000. I was thrilled. I bought a used car and gardening equipment and started my business.
Two weeks later I preached my first message to the congregation. I was greatly encouraged by the response of our people.
A MAN WHO LOOKED LIKE A RABBI
A few days ago, I had my 32nd birthday. I was driving home from a birthday party in the evening and a new Volvo drove up beside me at a red light. A man who had a very pure face and a long beard, and looked like a rabbi, signaled for me to roll down my window. When I did he greeted me, "Hello, righteous man!" I looked at him in amazement and said, "Why do you call me a righteous man?" He answered, "Because I saw your face shining through the window of your car. God has a great gift for you." I shouted at him, "What gift?" but the light turned green, and he was gone.
I told my brother who was driving the car to pullover to the side. I prayed, "Lord, I don't know who that was, but I receive this gift in faith. But I ask you one thing. Please keep me humble before you."
My brother, who is not yet a believer, was watching all this in amazement and said, "Hey, this is like something out of the Bible!" Since then he has begun to read the Scriptures. In a couple of days Ari told me that the Maoz friend had called from overseas to make my loan a gift.
I know that this material gift is a symbol of how God wants to bless me with spiritual gifts. I believe God is going to use me in this land for my people.
I am still studying the Word two hours a day and working at my gardening. Most of all I have found a strong congregation of Israelis where I can grow and mature into the ministry God has for me. And I have a place to bring my friends who I am reaching out to. What a difference it makes!
YES GOD DOES REMAKE LIVES!
May we add to Shimon's story our own confirmation that he is growing into a strong and bold disciple. He is working in a business, as we encourage all of the members of our congregation to do - even as Rabbi Shaul (Paul) did. At the same time he is being trained to use all the talents and gifts that God has chosen to anoint him with. His heart is totally submitted to God, and he has committed himself to this congregation. We believe that it brings glory to God when he brings someone from the darkest pit into a position of usefulness in God's Kingdom.
We believe that God will mightily use Shimon. There are others in our congregation who are also making giant strides towards leadership. And we are convinced that there are many more in Israel who have had somewhere, somehow, an experience with the Living God, but who do not know what to do next or where to go with it. Many have later told us that they thought they were the only Jewish believers in Yeshua in the world!
As God permits us to be known more in this country, through persecution or otherwise, He will draw these lone sheep toward His fold along with those who are hearing the Good News for the first time.
This is what God is doing in 1987 in Israel. You who have chosen to work with us we bless you in the Name of the Lord. As you help us financially and in concentrated prayer, so will we be able, in the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit, to do the work that He has sent us to do in Israel.
For the lost Sheep of Israel,
Ari and Shira Sorko-Ram