By Shmulik Eitan
This report is from Shmulik, the brother of the pastor’s wife of Congregation Yeruel in Arad, Israel, written as an open letter to his friends and acquaintances. Shmulik is an Israeli tourist guide. Arad is a desert town of 33,000 souls, 2,000 of whom are ultra-Orthodox.
The contents of this letter may be a bit shocking to many of you. I will include a link in it, to cable-network television news broadcast [in Hebrew, see page eight], about the very intense persecution of Messianic Jews in the southern Israeli city of Arad, by a large group of Haredi [Ultra-Orthodox] Jews called the Gur Hassidim.
As you all know, I am not a believer and do not hold any religious beliefs whatsoever. However, what is happening to the believers in Arad is absolutely incredible, unacceptable and entirely non-democratic.
In March of 2004, these Hassidic people started demonstrating against Messianic Jews in Arad. It started as sporadic demonstrations, sometimes outside my sister’s home, whose husband is the local pastor, sometimes outside where the little Messianic congregation of Arad meets, etc.
In time, these demonstrations - which were not curbed by the police force - escalated and got much worse. They now randomly attack believers in the streets whenever they recognize them, in some cases shouting at a single mother with her little girl who is under five years old, “dirty Christian, you filthy Christian” and to the girl they shout “your mother is a whore! Your mother is a prostitute!” It’s one thing for you guys to read this in your comfortable homes. It’s quite another to go through it - on a daily basis by now - as these people in Arad have.
My sister and brother-in-law, Debbie and Yakim Figueras, along with their four children, have endured this too. Almost every day there are a few of them that come up to the house, sometimes banging on the windows and shouting obscenities, like “Jesus the b…,” “Nazis,” “filthy Christians,” etc. And every week, on the same day, there is a major demonstration outside their home, with the Gur Hassidim carrying big signs against believers, and shouting obscenities again - with police looking on and many times giggling with the demonstrators. To say the least, this is absolutely weird.
However, with every attack that has gone unchecked by the authorities, these people get more bold and daring, and things are escalating at an alarming rate by now.
Not long ago my sister was driving with three of her children, to pick up her eldest son from a music lesson at the local conservatory. As she stopped, two of these Gur Hassidim walked by and recognized her. One stayed by her car, the other left. My sister, innocently thinking there was some opportunity for communication to this, waited and hesitantly began to talk to the one who stayed - thinking there was some point in quoting scriptures to him. She didn’t realize that the only God these people really serve is the god of hatred and ignorance.
Within a few minutes the other man came back - with reinforcements. Her car was now surrounded by 15 of them, screaming, cursing, hurling insults at them and Jesus, shouting at her that she’s a filthy Christian, shouting at the kids (aged almost two and almost four) that their mother is a filthy Christian and they need to leave Arad and “stop kidnapping and baptizing children! BUSLOADS of children!” My sweet little nephew Yair, leaned his head out the car window and growled back at them. I was mortified when I heard this.
Needless to say this is yet another traumatic event for all of them to go through. It took a while before the conservatory staff opened the doors and let her and the children in, for fear for themselves. At another instance, the police authorized the Gur Hassidim to demonstrate outside a place where the believers were having the Sabbath meal and worship. Things got out of hand pretty quickly, and when the believers wanted to leave the building, the police - who were there all along but who had lost control at some point - did not let them leave the building because they could not guarantee their safety. So now the believers were trapped inside.
Over a month ago, my brother-in-law wrote a letter to the Israeli chief of police, in which he gave the history of the past 18 months, and asked for his immediate intervention as things were getting worse and he feared physical assaults would be next. He asked him, among other things, why the police sanction demonstrations where they are not in control and cannot guarantee the well-being of the people being demonstrated against. There was never any response to this letter. Unbelievable.
A couple of weeks ago, things reached a new low, when a chess-playing club owned by local believers, where they hand out Bibles and Messianic literature, was burned down and mysteriously, next door a new chess club opened, owned and operated by the Gur Hassidim. Some reporter from one of Israel’s two leading newspapers called my sister up and asked her some questions about this incident. The reporter wrote in a very bold manner about it and the article came out as a two full-page article, with bombshell quotations from her, and the reporter pointing to the fact that the police are not really doing anything and that at the rate things are going, lives will be lost before this is over.
They had a large picture of the burned-down club, and huge letters quoting a philosopher who said “In a place where they burn books, there they will also burn people.” I thought that was amazing, that they had it in there.
My brother-in-law, Yakim, had a meeting with the mayor of Arad, where he presented their case, expressed his concern and tried to elicit his help. The mayor said quite simply that he knows things are very bad and that he does think things will end with bloodshed, but he has no intention whatsoever of getting involved. Can you believe that?! This is the mayor of the city. Apparently his coalition is not doing well, and therefore his strongest allies in the city hall coalition are, unfortunately, the Gur Hassidim.
By now it has become amply clear that the authorities are not at all interested in implementing the democratic right of Freedom of Worship in Israel, when it comes to the Messianic Jews in Arad. They will most likely only take action if and when there is bloodshed. That is what concerns me. And that is why I am writing this letter to you - friends that I guided through Israel from Bible school, friends from my former musical period, etc.
The believers in Arad need your help. It is my belief that the only time the authorities in Israel will start putting an end to the escalating persecution of believers in Arad, is when the government and police force realizes that this little minority, which is so easily ignored, has many friends around the world who are watching with growing concern, and who hold the government accountable for what is going on. When the government sees that they are beginning to look bad around the world, when foreign diplomats and senators and ambassadors tell the government they are concerned about what is going on in Arad, the authorities - if only for selfish reasons of looking good - will quickly give orders for the persecutions there to be stopped.
These believers are not just my sister and nephews. They are your brothers and sisters of your own faith. And believe me, they are suffering, and have been going through this for a long time - with absolutely no protection. It’s a miracle that no one has been hurt so far. So I ask that you all take some sort of action: Write the Israeli government offices - the Prime Minister’s office, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Justice, The Israeli Police Force. These offices, if flooded with emails from Christians and Messianic Jews around the world enquiring about and demanding the safety of Messianic believers in Arad, will no longer be able to claim they didn’t know about it.
Write your senators; ask them to contact the Israeli ambassador and tell them their constituency members are very concerned about the blatant violation of human rights in Arad, and of the democratic right of Freedom of Worship. It’s amazing - in the Jewish State of Israel, you can be a Buddhist, a Bahai, a gay or Lesbian - and your democratic rights are fully protected and upheld. But if you’re a Messianic Jew, they will do nothing for you unless they absolutely have to. This is partly because Messianics are not loud and boisterous and demanding, and therefore are easily overlooked and easy to ignore. If you could bring their plight to the Israeli government and authorities, it would be very helpful.
Write, call, email - whatever. Make the Israeli government know these few believers have the world’s attention, and Israel’s democratic rule is being tested here. The total insensitivity of calling Jesus a b… time and time again, is absolutely unacceptable, as is the blatant trampling of the rights of the Messianic believers in Arad. Children should not be made to grow up in Israel as if they are in Germany in the 1930’s. This whole situation is drastically wrong, and the people persecuting them are absolutely primitive and evil.
Please take action. We need your help. Please tell your friends and anyone who may be concerned about the well being of believers in Israel, or anyone who may be in a position to help. Any press and media attention to this issue would be helpful, too.
Two thousand feet above sea level in the hills of the Negev, Arad is a poor, isolated town. It has one natural resource: it is famous for its deliciously clean, dry mountain air. In the 1990’s the town doubled in size as Russian immigrants poured into the area. It is Bedouin country, but the government built this community near ruins of the ancient town of Arad where Israelites lived during the times of the Kings of Israel and Judah.
The rebellious Israelites even built an exact copy of the tabernacle, (against the Law of Moses, because Jehovah’s place of worship was to be only in Jerusalem) and then added an extra altar in their “tabernacle,” possibly, the archeologists think, to the goddess Ashterah.
Over 2,000 Gur Hassidim, a sect of ultra-Orthodox Jews, also live in Arad. They have built a large religious center with a yeshiva for training their non-working population of men. More recently, the ultra-Orthodox, Habad sect, which has a strong anti-Messianic spy organization called Yad L’Achim, have moved some of their people into Arad to cooperate with the Gur Hassidim against the believers.
You could not find a more colorful group of believers!
Polly, a registered nurse, had met an Israeli in Canada and soon they were married. They immigrated to Tiberius where two of their children were born. After Polly spent many years praying for her unsaved husband, he accepted Yeshua as his Messiah, but died three months later of a heart attack. Polly, five months pregnant, with her two kids left for the States, but her heart remained in Israel and after five years she decided to move back. She chose the Beersheva area in southern Israel and rented a home in nearby Arad where she met up with a Messianic Jewish couple, Milton and Lura.
Polly began working with a believing crisis pregnancy center and opened up a branch in Arad. That led her to begin taking in children who had no parents and nowhere to go. Today, her two oldest sons serve in Israeli elite army units, and Polly takes care of her younger son, and five foster children. It was in front of her house 18 months ago that the Gur Hassidim first began to lead protests to harass the believers. Until today, the Gur continue to show up several times a week, screaming obscenities and warning the public that these “missionaries will kidnap your children.”
Milt and Lura made aliyah to Israel ten years ago where they found themselves in a town with only a tiny handful of Messianic Jews and no congregation at all. So they began a Bible study, rotating between the homes of Polly, a group from Beersheva, and their own home. Most likely, this was the first such gathering in Arad of true believers since the destruction of the Temple. When Milt suddenly died of a heart attack, Lura and Polly were left to carry on the home group until Eddie arrived.
Eddie grew up in the mean streets of New York City. An airforce veteran from Viet Nam, a construction quality inspector of ships and submarines, and a chess buff to boot, he came to visit Lura in Israel after Milt’s death. (Milt was a former airforce buddy of Eddie’s.) Eddie stayed in Israel and he and Lura married some months later.
They opened up a Chess Club/Bible Shop called the King’s Men, where anywhere from 30 or more elderly citizens come daily to pass the time. Eddie and Lura offer Bibles and literature to those who want it and also run a free clothing distribution center. It is a work of love that certainly must please their Lord.
The chess club was badly vandalized last summer (on the very day the police, who have been hostile to the believers, held Eddie and Lura in the police station for eight hours). A few days later, the chess club was set on fire, burning up everything inside the club, including their TV and DVD equipment. The police did nothing.
In the year 2000, Yakim and his wife Debbie moved from Jerusalem to begin a new work in Arad. They now have a congregation of Messianic Jews and Christians with about 35-40 in attendance, including children. There could not be a more gentle, Messiah-like man of God than Yakim! He and his congregation suffer through continuous harassment before, during and after their meetings, with the Gur Hassidim surrounding their congregational building, threatening and heckling the believers and intimidating any non-believer who might be brave enough to attend a meeting. The continuous persecution is wearying; they pray that God will give grace to their children and protect their minds and spirits from harm. But the believers repeatedly told us that their faith and that of their children has only been strengthened. Polly’s soldier-son told us that he is a stronger believer because of the Gur Hassidim. Of course, because of the persecution, everyone in the city from the mayor on down knows of their faith in Yeshua the Messiah.
GO TO YOUR COMPUTER AND SEE THE NEWS CLIP FROM ISRAEL TV NEWS
Here you will see news coverage of some of the - believe it or not - more peaceful events of persecution in Arad. It’s in Hebrew, but you’ll get the gist of it. (Actually, you should send this link to the Israeli Ambassador in your countries and ask him what is going on down in Arad.) Let me just translate some of the highlights for you:
It starts with the narrator saying that these pictures are part of a two-year war waged in Arad by the Gur Hassidm against the Messianic Jews. Then you see some of them, harassing believers who give out clothes to poor people, saying, “This is how they take children and baptize them to Christianity; they give them some clothes and food and then they tell them, come and bow down before Jesus, the b…”
They actually don’t use the name Jesus or Yeshua here, but rather call him Yoshkeh, another derogatory name for him. Then the clip shows the burned-down chess club and burned Bibles etc, and an English-speaking believer talks for a bit. You’ll notice he says, “I guess they’re coming up with a final solution now, of some sort. Burning.” He is alluding to the fact that this behavior is very reminiscent of Nazi behavior in pre-World War II Germany. And he’s right - and the news anchor echoes that at the end.
Next you’ll see a Gur Hassid shouting, “Who wants to sell their soul to Jesus, the b…? Just dip in the sea, sell your soul to a b… who has been buried and rotting under the ground for 2000 years, and you’ll get rags! Jesus the b… is giving out rags. Rags from the b…. Next you’ll see him saying to the believer there, “He’s a b…. Yeshua is here. Here!” - as he stamps his feet indicating Jesus is under him.
Many of you have been to Israel, and I guided many of you through the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum. I always pointed out the process of humiliating Jews in public, in order to show they are less than human, and therefore do not have human rights. The public in Germany didn’t really resist, until it was too late. Take a look at this scene. It may ring a disturbing bell. What you are looking at in this article is a hate fest, clear and simple. You’re looking at a freakish mutation: Jews who are acting like Nazis. Clear and simple. Jews, blinded with hate, persecuting other Jews, and hurling unbelievable insults at them and at Jesus.
Next you’ll see a local secular Israeli, complaining that the mayor needs to put an end to this hatred because there is no reason for it. Little does he know that his mayor has no such intention. He ends by saying - The Gur Hassidim here in Arad will not give up. I know them. They are a large community here in Arad and they will absolutely not give up. The mayor needs to stop this. What is he sitting [as mayor] there for?!”
Next you see a Gur Hassid saying, “They kidnap children and baptize them to Christianity. Stay away from them.” Does that remind you of allegations by Nazis and other anti-Semites against Jews in Europe? Then you see them addressing and humiliating a local secular citizen who tried to defend the believers. You’ll understand this part - it’s in English.
Next the reporter says, “While Mayor Brill buries his head in the sand, 200 Messianic Jews in his city are persecuted in a manner which is reminiscent of sights from the exile period.”
You’ll see a Messianic woman walking by, holding her little daughter, and Gur Hassidim say, “This is Rebecca Frei, born to a Haredi [ultra-Orthodox] family. She was kidnapped by the Christians and made into one.” “Know the truth!” they shout, as they lie, outright. Next, she is interviewed and says how they spread lies about her, publish her picture and address in the streets, saying she’s a dangerous missionary. Then you see one of them heckling a Russian believer, saying, “Where is Yeshua? Yeshua is in Chernobil.” (where they had the nuclear disaster years ago)
It ends with the reporter saying: “It would be interesting to see what an outcry there would be if this happened in any other country against Jews. Germany, for instance,” - clearly meaning that there would be a major outcry of anti-Semitism if this level of persecution happened in any other country.
(Note: Wait for the advertisement that takes a few seconds to pass.)
10th Anniversary of Congregation Tiferet Yeshua
Ari Sorko-Ram invited five of our oldest members to give their testimonies of how they came to faith in Yeshua the Messiah. (see the pdf for pictures) Their testimonies were riveting! When we asked all the new believers of the last two years to stand, more than half of the congregation stood up!
What great things God has Done!
How Would You Feel?
by Cookie Schwaeber-Issan
How would you feel if every time you walked down the street, fingers pointed at you and you were identified as the enemy? How would you feel if profanities were hurled at you and the vilest of names were shouted in your direction, even while walking with your young child? Would you be able to hold up if your life was constantly threatened or if crowds shouted that they were going to carry you out of town in a coffin?
How would you feel if this happened every day and ALL BECAUSE OF YOUR FAITH?
Well it is happening, in the town of Arad where the few dozen community of believers in Yeshua the Messiah are having to endure daily harassment by an Orthodox Jewish sect which has decided that this town is their territory and any who think different will be silenced and run out.
Many of us believers who live in Israel have heard about their plight for several months, and we’ve been receiving regular updates about the increasing persecution accompanied by both physical and mental attacks which have been occurring with more and more intensity.
So a few of us from Maoz decided to take the two- hour drive south through Beduin desert towns and see and hear for ourselves firsthand what was happening.
When we arrived, we walked through the open-air marketplace called the “shuk”, and we were greeted by a groups of elderly men playing board games, eating food which had been provided for them and listening to music that lifted up the name of the Lord. It was a warm and friendly feeling.
Some of the believers who had come from Jerusalem to serenade them, came up to us and embraced us grateful to see that we too had come. It was so clear that these townsmen who would normally be looked upon as outcasts not worthy of a second thought were being treated like they mattered and being served as if they were as important as anyone else.
These believers have devoted their life to bringing the message of Yeshua to the outcasts of this underdeveloped town, a pit stop on the way to the Dead Sea. We were taken inside the chess club which had been torched, and shown the progress that had already been made as they begin to clean up and remove the destroyed furnishings and equipment. On a white plastic chair rested singed Bibles, the burnt remains of books which were no longer salvageable. Outside the door, a yellow oak tag sign read, “The eyes of God are in every place, watching the evil and the good. Prov. 15: 3 - perhaps, the best fire protection - a stern reminder of the judgment which awaits those who seek to injure their fellow man.
We couldn’t help but feel that we were amongst a group of very special people who were living out their faith in the most difficult of circumstances experiencing what the early believers had in the same land not much had changed even with the passage of more than 2,000 years.
As we sat in the open courtyard a few yards away to interview some of the believers, a group of the men were strumming and singing “Kumi Ori” a well known song taken from Isaiah 60 “Arise, shine for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you…And nations will come to your light and kings to the brightness of your rising.”
Could there have been a more prophetic word spoken out over this city whose light has surely come? And who are the messengers of this light a vast army of choice pickings? No just another rag tag Gideon’s army that God Himself assembled to be His chosen vessels. They are mostly widows, elderly, unwed mothers, orphans and a former Viet Nam veteran. Some don’t speak much Hebrew and most are not even schooled in the Israeli mentality enough to know the ins and outs of life in the Middle East. But there are also among them a small smattering of native-born Israelis, and the impact of this tiny group, in comparison to the 2,000 strong ultra-Orthodox is apparently so intimidating to them that there has been a collaborative effort to rid the community of their presence. Why? Because they are upsetting the apple cart just as Yeshua did, and the status quo is being forcefully challenged.
How would you feel if this was the place where God would have you be? Few of us would probably feel equipped to live under such stressful circumstances, but these believers are standing tall, knowing that God is doing something unusual in an unlikely place. They are not shirking away or buckling under the heavy load. I was very proud to be in their presence and sense that even, for a few hours, I was there supporting them and letting them know that they are not alone. We hope to go back and bring others with us to encourage them and stand with them.
For it’s possible that one day, we may need them to shore us up when persecution reaches our doors. We must remember these souls in prayer daily and do what we can to share their hardship and shoulder the burden. They are, after all, part of our very own Body here, as well as in your part of the world.
So the next time you walk down the street freely, knowing that you are blessed to think and worship as you please, remember those who are paying a heavy price for those same thoughts and the same worship those who are sharing in the fellowship of His sufferings. Lift them up in prayer as well as the salvation of the 33,000 residents of Arad whose walls will yet be called salvation and whose gates will yet be called praise. (Isaiah 60:18)
We believe that Arad’s destiny is found in this amazing chapter of Isaiah 60, especially in verse 14 which says, “And the sons of those who afflicted you will come bowing to you and all those who despised you will bow themselves at the soles of your feet; And they will call you the city of the Lord, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 60:14)
May we see “the hastening of its time” as it says in the last verse, and may its wave-swell pour forth throughout the remainder of this land.
CONTACTS IN ISRAEL
Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister email@example.com +972-2-670-5555, +972-2-670-5475
Ministry of Finance firstname.lastname@example.org
Ministry for the Environment email@example.com
Ministry of Defense firstname.lastname@example.org
Ministry of Public Security Applications@mops.gov.il
Ministry of Construction and Housing http://www.moch.gov.il/Moch/Appeals
Ministry of Health email@example.com! .gov.il
Ministry of Foreign Affairs firstname.lastname@example.org
Ministry of Education email@example.com
Ministry of Agriculture http://www.moag.gov.il/english/write_us/
Ministry of Science and Technology firstname.lastname@example.org
Ministry of Justice YaelK@justice.gov.il
Ministry of the Interior email@example.com
Ministry of Immigrant Absorption firstname.lastname@example.org
Ministry of Social Affairs http://www.molsa.gov.il/OdotMisrad/HofeshM/
Ministry of Transport http://www.mot.gov.il/wps/portal/HOME/ComplainForm
Ministry of Tourism email@example.com
Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor
Ministry of Communication firstname.lastname@example.org
Ministry of National Infrastructure email@example.com
Israeli Police Force: www.police.gov.il/english/default.asp
Police Commissioner in Israel - Moshe Karadi firstname.lastname@example.org
For all Israeli government addresses, go to the following site:
Three more books to help young singles walk the walk!
Israel is one of the most hedonistic societies in the entire West. Young Israelis who come to faith must stand against a rushing tide of free sex, a plethora of drugs and an acceptance of every type of lifestyle. They need strong, practical direction and a standard to hold on to against the filth of this world. These books were written to feed the soul and give guidance to escape the wiles of the enemy. Here is your opportunity to impact Israel’s new generation of born-again teenagers and young adults.
Every Young Man’s Battle
by Stephen Arterburn
& Fred Stoeker
Every Man’s Battle
by Stephen Arterburn
& Fred Stoeker
I kissed Dating Goodbye
by Joshua Harris
Total cost for translation and printing first edition of all three books: $ 25,830
(Already recieved: $ 5,000)