An Israeli volunteer holds a Sudanese baby dropped off with her parents in Beersheva
on July 6, 2007.
By Shira Sorko-Ram
One night at the beginning of August on the rugged, mountainous Egyptian-Israeli border, four Sudanese refugees stealthily made their way towards Israel.
Israeli female soldiers, using night vision devices saw them approaching the border and alerted troops who arrived after a few minutes in an army jeep.
Egyptian soldiers also saw the refugees and fired at them, killing two and wounding another. A fourth man raced the last few feet towards the border fence and an Israeli soldier stretched out his hands, trying to help pull him through the fence.
The Egyptian soldiers rushed up and began pulling at the refugee’s legs. “It was literally like we were playing ‘tug of war’ with this man,” the Israeli soldier told a TV reporter. When the Egyptians aimed their loaded guns at the Israeli soldier, he loosened his grip.
The Egyptians then carried the refugee a few meters away and beat him to death and then finished off the wounded man. The barbaric incident was captured on video, but Israel’s army, fearing a diplomatic row with Egypt, chose not to show it.
For a number of months African refugees from Darfur and Sudan have been slipping into Israel over the Egyptian border. Last year 300 made their way through the moonscape-like desert canyons. This year, close to 2,500 have reached our borders, and Israeli authorities actually fear that soon thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, could risk the desert and the Egyptians to find refuge in Israel.
For the last few months, the army, not knowing what to do with the hundreds of Africans, simply drove them to the middle of Beersheva and dumped them on the street. The police, not knowing what to do with them, put them in jail until they could be deported back to Egypt. However, as the public has become increasingly aware of the Egyptians monstrous behavior toward black African refugees, a hueand cry has gone up throughout Israel. The media, reflecting the mood of the country, argues that we cannot send these refugees back to Egypt where they will be tortured or killed.
The government, groping for solutions, is considering building a fence over the entire rugged border, which would also reduce drug dealers and prostitutes, not to speak of terrorists, from slipping over the border.
Activists on all sides of the political spectrum, backed by the strong public outcry, began to lobby the Israeli government to reconsider the Sudanese already here. One wellknown figure, Eytan Swartz, winner on the highest rated TV show of the year, “Ambassador,” (similar to The Apprentice) has become an extremely successful advocate for the Africans.
Swartz noted that it was scandalous that Israel’s border is so porous. Nevertheless, he said, “no refugees should be sent back, whether from Darfur or elsewhere in Sudan. Anyone who has already entered Israel can never go back to Sudan because he will be killed.”
Meanwhile, Israeli organizations and families, including many Christians and Messianic Jews have taken hundreds into their own homes.
TOO FEW JEWS
Yet, the concerns repeated so often are, “Israel can’t take in hundreds of thousands of people.” This phrase betrays the angst that underlies the Israeli psychic that Israel as a homeland for the Jews might cease to exist not from war but from the rapidly increasing number of Israeli citizens who are not Jewish. However, the overarching concern is not about a few thousand Sudanese, but the extremely high birthrate among Muslim Arabs.
10,600,000 people live in Israel,
the West Bank and the Gaza
Strip or, to put it differently,
between the Mediterranean Sea
and the Jordan River. Only 51
percent of them are Jews.
Prof. Sergio Della Pergola, head of the Jewish People
Policy Planning Institute, Hebrew University
There is no doubt about the Jewish numbers. According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, 7.1 million residents live in Israel as of June 2007. Of these, 5.4 million (76 percent) are Jews, 1.4 million (20 percent) are Arabs, and 310,000 (or 4 percent) are non-Jews, who came to Israel with their Jewish families.
A Jewish state with 20 percent non-Jews is already a binational state,” notes a well known demographer. Professor Sofer of the University of Haifa claims that by the year 2020 there will be 3,000,000 Muslims and non-Jews with citizenship in Israel.
That’s not counting the growth among the Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza. The population of Gaza is expected to double every 20 years! (Jerusalem Post, 2Aug07) Ariel Sharon and other prime ministers struggled with this seemingly impossible predicament. To maintain a democratic state, such as is Israel, every citizen gets to vote.
Israel’s leaders began to panic as they watched the enormous growth among the Palestinians. If the West Bank and Gaza were absorbed into Israel, the Muslims would almost inmediately be a majority, and through the democratic process Israel would become an Islamic state overnight. It was these figures that greatly influenced former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in his decision to pull out of Gaza two years ago.
ULTR A-ORTHODOX BIRTHRATE THE ANSWER?
The one Jewish community that does have an astounding birthrate in Israel (and in the west) is the ultra-Orthodox (haredi) population. The demographically exploding haredi sector might seem to be “The Answer” to Israel’s demographic needs with an incredible 7.6 children per woman according to The Jewish Daily Forward. (3Aug07) However, the complications connected with this haredi baby boom are so great believe it or not that Israeli leaders are claiming haredi growth also endangers Israel’s existence!
What is the problem? In Israel, the majority of haredi men will not work. In fact, only 30 percent of haredi men participate in the work force. So, naturally, almost half the haredi population lives below the poverty line.
It is important to understand this point. In all other countries outside of Israel, haredi men do work. But because of the political system in Israel, government leaders are forced to shell out millions of shekels of tax money to haredi men so they can study the rabbinical writings in their yeshivas (rabbinic seminaries) instead of work. The ultra-Orthodox community has the power to extort huge sums because of the haredi political parties who sell their alliance to just about any government coalition - for an outrageous price. It is a “miserable political system which encourages politicians to prostitute themselves in order to retain office,” said international Jewish leader, Isi Leibler. (J.P. 1Aug07)
And that leads to the next issue. Haredi children study rabbinical subjects only. What worries Israeli educators the most is that the haredi schools refuse to teach any practical subjects whereby a child could one day hope to join the work force. Math, literature, science, English are all off limits. The state is effectively financing the molding of citizens destined for a life of impoverishment and total dependence on welfare. Today in Israel, the ultra-Orthodox
account for about 11 percent of the population about 550,000 individuals. By 2020, they will double to one million. (Ibid., 9Nov05)
ULTRA-ORTHODOX WILL NOT SERVE IN THE ARMY
What’s more, they do not have to enlist in the army. Again, through coalition politics, the haredi population has managed to win complete exemption from all military service. Perhaps no issue has more angered the secular and even the modern religious Zionist Jews who do serve in the army.
Today, Israel’s army is fighting for its very existence. And we are not talking only about Islamic terrorism this time. The army is struggling against this looming disaster of a growing percentage of Israeli men who refuse to enlist in military service.
This refusal of virtually all haredi men to serve has affected the morale of the entire army. Young secular draftees feel that “50,000 young men just like them, who are just as healthy and just as talented, are enrolled in yeshivas (enrolled, not necessarily learning)…while they are being wounded and killed in defense of their country.” (Haaretz 2Aug07)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned that the Israel Defense Forces, once the people’s army, is turning into the army of half the people. He continued, “A soldier cannot run forward with all his strength if he feels that the rear is full of holes…the time has come to return to the days when serving was a privilege and an honor, and draft-dodging meant being branded with the mark of Cain. Conscripts and combat reservists fulfill their duty and they deserve to be the true heroes of Israeli society,” he added. (Ibid., 31July07)
A RADICAL SOLUTION
As the crisis of “too few Jews” becomes increasingly desperate, several journalists have floated interesting solutions to Israel’s demographic challenge, which only a short time
ago would have been laughable.
Saul Singer, editorial page editor of the conservative Jerusalem Post, states the obvious: There are three ways to increase Jewish population: reduce assimilation, increase birthrates and increase conversions.
Calev Ben David, another Jerusalem Post regular writes, “The notion that any steps can be taken to increase, or even maintain, the current population levels of American Jewry is, simply put, a delusion.” The Jewish population (except for a tiny haredi community) in the U.K. is diminishing even faster.
Since both Ben David and Singer believe that trying to stop the intermarriage of Jews in the Diaspora, especially in the U.S., is a non-starter, they suggest that the Israeli people embrace the idea of converting to Judaism the many people who want to join the Jewish people, but who find it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, because of the objections of the haredi rabbis who control conversion in Israel and to a lesser degree, in other nations.
Israeli Jewish birthrate
(including haredi): 2.7 children
Israeli Arab birthrate: 4.8 children
West Bank Arab birthrate: 4.2 children
Gaza birthrate: 5.8 children
American Jewish birthrate: 1.7 children
Replacement level is 2.2 per woman
(NewsMax.com Oct. 19, 2002, Wikipedia.org)
There are hundreds of thousands of non-Jews or half-Jews in Israel, especially from Russia. There are those from the “lost tribes of Israel” like the Burmese and Indian Benei Menashe. There are thousands of Falash Mura waiting to come from Ethiopia.
And there are some 250,000 foreign workers in Israel such as the much-loved Philipino caretakers. Just recently Israel gave citizenship to 1500 children of foreign workers who were born in Israel and who know no other country but this one. And now we have the Sudanese, many of them Christians, coming across our borders who have literally risked their lives to live in Israel.
Ben David suggests rather than seeing these people as a threat, Israel should draw them in and “assimilate” them into the Jewish people. He makes a very interesting point: Over time these non-Jews identify themselves with the Jewish majority and will increasingly assimilate into the dominant Jewish culture. These same people living in Israel will learn to speak Hebrew, observe the Jewish calendar and receive a Jewish education far deeper than the majority of Jews living in the Diaspora! (J.P. 20July07) Singer notes that through the ages multitudes of non-Jews have joined the Jewish people. So why not now?
Israel has grown from 600,000 in 1948 to 5,400,000 Jews today. The growth is largely due to immigration, not birthrate. Yet the increasing trickle of immigrants today is not necessarily Jewish by rabbinical standards. Indeed, the potential flood of immigration is coming from
developing countries that until now have had no connection to Israel. Nearly everybody in Israel, if they are not Muslim, loves Israel!
Ben David asserts that the “Jews of tomorrow may look and sound different than those of yesterday and today but they are our future, and they’re growing in numbers before our very eyes every day.”
Today there are around
13,000,000 Jews world wide;
5.4 million in Israel and 5.3
million in the U.S. Israel is
the only place in the world
where there is population increase
due to natural growth.
Everywhere else the numbers
are shrinking significantly.
Calev Ben David, Columnist
Singer observes: “Opposition to conversion says we have nothing to offer the outside world and no wider purpose. If we do not welcome others, we will lose ourselves.”
Of course, joining the Jewish people would be a wonderful option for sincere candidates who have in every way joined the Jewish people as Ruth the Moabitess did, if they were not forced to tow the ultra-Orthodox rabinical line.
Ironically, thousands of Messianic Jews would doubtlessly immigrate to Israel if the gates were wide open to them. Indeed, even though the rabbinical authorities, always myopic in understanding God’s plan for Israel, have done everything possible to keep believing Jews out of Israel. Nevertheless, several thousand have, by the grace of God, been able to immigrate
to Israel in the last generation, and are making an impact on the nation, both spiritually
One thing is for certain: Since the Bible so clearly states that Israel will never cease to be a
nation before God (Jeremiah 31:35-37) we will not see the demise of the Jewish people. God
has enough options in His heart to keep the Jewish people alive. However, we may see more
interesting twists and turns in this little nation’s existence, as God prepares her for her national Day of Redemption!
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(A Refugee's Story)
Mahmoud (not his real name) was born into a Muslim family in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. As far back as his young life can remember his country has been at war: Arab Muslims killing Christians in the south and black Muslims in the north.
Mahmoud’s grandfather and aunt on his mother’s side were Christians and through them he learned about Jesus. Although most Christians in Sudan are Catholic or Anglican, many have been born again through the preaching of Reinhardt Bonke who has had a tremendous harvest of souls in Sudan.
Once Mahmoud went with his grandfather to church. When his father found out, he took a red-hot anvil and burned marks on both his hands warning him never to go near a church again. Nevertheless, as a teenager, he decided to give his heart to Jesus. But when he learned that his father was going to kill him, he escaped to Egypt.
Registered as a Muslim on his passport, he lived and worked in Cairo. He married a Muslim wife who herself had escaped from her home in Darfur and was also living in Cairo. She followed her husband in leaving the Muslim faith, though she did not yet have a personal relationship with God.
Mahmoud personally witnessed atrocities committed by Egyptian authorities. He joined 2,500 other Sudanese protesters in front of the U.N. High Commission in Cairo, when the police began firing on them while U.N. soldiers watched. The media reported 25 shot dead. Mahmoud believes there were more than 200.
The young believer started a Bible study in his Cairo home. Christians coming and going from his house caught the attention of his landlord who asked him, “Are you Muslim or Christian?” He answered, “I was born a Muslim, but I became a Christian.”
The landlord said nothing and left. In the middle of the night, the police arrested him and took him to their “special room” for investigation. For ten hours they beat and interrogated him. As the beating got worse, he found the strength to witness to them about Jesus. Finally the “big chief” came in and asked him, “Why did you become a Christian when you know they are infidels? Islam is good. It is a religion of love.”
Mahmoud asked him, “Then why are you beating me if Islam is a religion of love?”
The chief said, “Well, it was a mistake. They shouldn’t have beaten you. But if you don’t return to Islam, we’ll take your wife away because you are an infidel. (Under Sharia law, no Christian man may marry a Muslim woman, because that would position a Christian over a Muslim.) But if you return to Islam, we will give your wife back and give you everything the Church was giving you.”
Mahmoud told them that the Christians did not give him anything. “They do not buy people like the Muslims do,” he said. The chief looked straight at him and said, “You know, according to our law, you are to be stoned to death. But we will give you a few days to change your mind, or we will punish you according to Sharia law.”
The wounded man went home and began praising the Lord and then prayed for direction. He took his wife and their clothes and hid for two months at a friend’s, too afraid to leave their place of refuge.
He called his Christian aunt who was now living in Canada, and she sent him money so that he and his wife could leave Egypt. But where to go? As a former Muslim, his life was at great risk in Egypt. In Sudan, it was even worse, as Christians are regularly slaughtered in mostly unreported massacres. Besides, his father had vowed to kill him if he returned. The only other place he had heard of where he might save his life was Israel!
So a few weeks ago this couple in their twenties took a bus to El-Arish in the Sinai Desert, not far from the Israeli border. From there, he and his wife, four months pregnant, walked for
two and a half days in the July heat, and then waited for nightfall to find their way over the border with only the clothes on their backs and their documents.
They were taken in along with several other families by Sean and Ayelet Steckbeck, one of the many Messianic Jewish families who are hosting Sudanese refugees. There Sean and Ayelet witnessed to them and encouraged them in the Lord. The wife, who had a head knowledge of her faith, has truly given her heart to the Lord. Along with several other new believing former Muslim Sudanese, she was baptized in the Jordan River this week. She says she has fallen in love with Jesus!
Because the future of the Sudanese refugees is uncertain, and there is still government talk of sending them back to Egypt, we cannot publish their picture.
However, the story doesn’t end here, the Bedouins of southern Israel are one of the truly unreached peoples of the world.
Until now, when Israeli Arab believers witness to them, they have been very resistant to the Gospel. But surprisingly, they have shown considerable interest in the Good News when witnessed to by these Arabic-speaking black Sudanese refugee Christians. Sean and Ayalet have told us that already there are a number of Bedouin in contact with believing Sudanese!
Next Shabbat, Mahmoud and a number of refugees are coming to our congregation in Tel Aviv to give their testimony!
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Israel not only has an incredible past... It has a fabulous future! Are you a part of it?
God's Chronicles for the Jewish New Year of 5768 are about to begin.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Two Wonderful Weddings
Two wonderful weddings this summer at Congregation Tiferet Yeshua!
Both couples are completely committed to walk in relationship with Yeshua their Messiah.
Miriam and Gilad decided to marry in the Judean Desert. What a backdrop!
They dedicated their marriage to the Lord in a Messianic Jewish ceremony. His Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) family attended and seemed to really enjoy the whole evening.
Kati and Opher dedicate their marriage to the Lord in the congregation and Opher carries the Torah scroll in celebration. Close friend Gilad is directly behind. Though Opher was injured in a motorcycle accident, you have never seen a more optimistic and fun person in your life!
Kati and Opher were married in an Orthodox ceremony. Both Opher and Gilad come from Haredi families.
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Youth Camp Out
We cannot tell you how excited we are as we see the outreach to our youth intensifying, giving direction and vision to our young people. Souled Out leaders from Chicago, together with our youth leader, Motti, are beginning a one-year program to build up our teens and young adults' group and train leaders who will spearhead multi-faceted outreaches, including our dream of a coffee house.
2007 Foursquare Convention in Jerusalem
The annual Foursquare Convention of 2007 was held for the first time outside the U.S. And guess where? In Jerusalem! And they, under the leadership of Pastor Jack Hayford, invited five local Messianic pastors and leaders in Israel to teach and preach about what God is doing spiritually
today among the Israeli people. A number of other Israeli believers also participated. All of us felt it was a tremendous honor to stand before such an august audience of 3,000 attendees, including 771 pastors!
Special September Offer
We will send you this beautiful calendar upon request for a donation of US $35 or more to any of the below projects of Maoz Israel Ministries
Dear Maoz Partner,
We wish you this coming Jewish New Year the most productive year of your life spiritually and in every other way!
We believe that so it will be for us here at Maoz Israel Ministries.
As you can see, our youth group is expanding its borders. Our young adults are becoming a core group that by its very nature will attract unbelievers seeking the Something or Someone.
Our congregation is a shelter for the sheep of Israel who God has promised He Himself would shepherd. Here they are instructed, comforted and discipled to withstand the temptations of this world and to be a light to their family, friends and neighbors.
The Hebrew books coming out of our Maoz publishing are tremendous tools for discipling the members of our congregation and other congregations across the country.
And we are now creating DVD’s and CD’s of messages and teachings that can be distributed around the country especially to people who may not have any congregation near them. Of course we have special messages that are especially for outreach to non-believers.
Our Maoz partners continue to bless the poor and needy among the Israeli believers with their gifts to istandwithisrael.com. Also, persecuted believers are being helped on a regular basis.
And we continue to distribute gifts on a monthly basis to an Arab congregation in the north and a persecuted Jewish congregation in the south and to Burkina Faso in West Africa. Besides that, Maoz contributors are continually sowing seed in pastors, leaders and individuals who are making an impact in Israel.
With all these opportunities to help, we do realize that our greatest possibility for seeing a multiplication of laborers in Israel's harvest field is to concentrate on the young people teens, soldiers, young singles and couples in our congregation.
These are our new generation of leaders, of helpers, of workers in every area of life and ministry. Souled Out Ministries, together with Motti, our youth leader, and Shani and Kobi, our daughter and son-in-law, are working on a multi-faceted outreach including evangelism, fellowship, worship, music and coffee house.
We believe this coming year will be the greatest we have seen in outreach to the lost and discipleship of the believers.
In our minds, we can’t imagine why anybody would not want to be a part of the harvest in Israel that God has promised over and over again in His Word!
The God of Israel has promised us it will happen.
He has instructed us that as the Jewish people find salvation, it will bring with it revival across the nations of the world. (Romans 11:12-15)
He has also promised blessing to those who bless the seed of Abraham and pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
We know that we have the key to that peace the knowledge of the Prince of Peace.
We invite you to be a part of this ministry that is centered in Tel Aviv, but reaches across the nation. We invite you to be an integral part of what the Holy Spirit is doing today in Israel.
We bless you from Zion,
Ari & Shira Sorko-Ram
Don’t forget to ask for the new 16 month Biblical/Jewish Calendar! It is our New Years gift to our partners.
We will send you this beautiful calendar upon request for a donation of US $35 or more to any of the below projects of Maoz Israel Ministries
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