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In this issue:
Soldier's Stories  |  The Israel Defense Forces and Messianic Jewish Soldiers
Samir Kuntar and the Last Laugh   |  Our Congregation Celebrates!  |  Maoz Board Meetings

Soldier's Stories

 

Monthly Report: October 2008
Tishrei - Heshvan  5768

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At one time, Israeli soldiers who were Messianic Jews and openly practiced their faith, faced a very challenging time in the army.  Authorities were suspicious and looked upon believers as  belonging to a strange cult. They were often kept from receiving responsible positions. However, slowly, some parts of the army began to see that time after time, Messianic Jews make very stable, responsible and all-around excellent soldiers.

At this time there are some 200 serving in the army at any one time (men three years, women two). A number are working in intelligence positions. More and more are becoming officers in the army with the knowledge that they are believers in Yeshua.

However, others are really struggling because of heavy opposition, especially from Orthodox officers. They have great need for their  congregation and those who love Israel to pray for them.

We are not allowed to show the faces of these two soldiers whose stories appear in this issue for several reasons. But you will be able to see and feel their hearts.

Shira Sorko-Ram

Serving in Israel’s ancient Biblical cities

I was born in South America and made aliyah (immigrated) to Israel with my mother and sisters when I was 12 years old. We were heading for Jerusalem, but that was exactly at the time of the second Intifada when suicide bombers were murdering civilians every few days. So my mother decided we should move to a town south of Tel Aviv, which we did.

My family and I are strong Messianic Jews and we believed that God had brought us home to our land, just as Moses and our prophets had promised. Still our new life wasn’t easy. I was sent to a boarding school especially for children whose families had financial problems - a pretty lonely time for me, especially at first. Then I finished high school on a good kibbutz.

The young people of my kibbutz, - which is true of virtually all kibbutzim - were strong Zionists and really wanted to serve their country. Most of the kibbutz kids my age wanted to join a combat unit and so did I. I was accepted into a unit that was fairly new and so did not have the great reputation as a fighting unit that other units like Golani company had. I was somewhat disappointed, but decided to give my all to wherever I might serve. I soon found that my detachment was to be deployed as a fighting unit in the Judea and Samaria area of our land (the West Bank).

Then I found that a believing friend of my sister was also in this unit which really encouraged me. After that I was told that one of the past officers in this unit had also been (and is) a Messianic Jew. I then felt that my life was being directed by the Holy Spirit. Boot camp was during the winter and everyone that went through it will tell you it was a very challenging time of our lives. However, out of 90 soldiers, I was chosen the top soldier.

After that I was chosen for a commander’s course and again went through very hard training. As the exercises intensified, I found that my right knee was bothering me so much I could hardly walk. When I was riding the bus I had to stretch it out in front of me and I could hardly stand the pain. I was thinking I would have to leave the course, much to my dismay. I went to my congregation for prayer and the pain simply disappeared and has never come back to this day.

After I had begun my commander’s course, the doctors found a small lump on my chest. I went in for a checkup and they examined my brain for any irregularities which might have caused the lump on my chest. They found a small lump in the brain. My family and congregation prayed intensely for me. Any operation on my brain would have put me out of the army. The tests verified that the lump in my brain was not dangerous. They took out the lump on my chest and I was able to go right back to the army. I give God all the glory for my healing.

After finishing the commander’s course, (course mackim) I serve as a commander now in Shechem, the ancient city where God first promised Abraham this land. Shechem is the most dangerous area outside of the Gaza Strip. It has had a strong terrorist infrastructure and Israel had no choice but to completely blockade the area, checking everyone going in or out of the city, to keep terrorists from entering Israel. We are on constant call to make raids into Shechem to arrest terrorist cells.

In fact, we were planning a big sweep a few weeks ago, but it happened that Condoleezza Rice was in town and she put so much pressure on the government that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert cancelled the operation.

Last year at this time, right before Rosh HaShana (Jewish New Year) my unit was manning the main blockade and a 10 year-old boy came through. Our first thought was to let him walk through as he was so young, but then we asked him to open his sack. To our shock we found parts to three bombs. The next day, an older boy came through with his arms folded in front of his stomach. When we asked him to put his hands up, we saw more parts to the bombs.

Through the information gathered from these children, the army found that there was a plan to carry out a huge terrorist attack over the New Year and already parts of these bombs had made it through the blockade and were waiting in Tel Aviv to be assembled. A terrible disaster was averted because of the alertness of my unit.

I believe God is blessing our unit because some months ago the terrorist infrastructure was really huge in Shechem. Now there are only a few cells left. In fact, when the terrorists think we are coming, as last resort, they lock themselves in jails under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority - where we are not allowed to intervene. Of course, as soon as our troops finish their operation, the PA lets them out of jail.

I am thankful to God - there has not been a single suicide bomber who has made it into Israel from the West Bank in over a year. (One bomber blew himself up in Dimona, and a second was killed before he could detonate himself, but they had come over the border from Gaza.)

Now we are being sent to Bethlehem because there has been a very strong build-up of the Islamic Jihad there.

My soldiers and unit all know that I am a Messianic believer. They know I attend my congregation on Shabbat when I am able to go home on the weekends and they know I love God. At this point, they don’t care one way or another. But when I carried cards in my pocket with promises from the Psalms, all my soldiers wanted the same card. And then when I brought a pocketsized edition of the book of Psalms which Pastor Ari gave me, all my soldiers wanted one too. The commander of my course who is an Orthodox Jew, knowing I am a Messianic Jew, told me, “You will make a good commander because you have strong values that direct your life.”

I am planning in the coming months to go for an officer’s training course - meaning that after I finish my three year stint, I will go into the regular army and become a career officer. I don’t see the army as an obligation. I see it as a privilege - to guard and protect the land that God gave to our forefathers.

Holding on to faith in one of the roughest units

I was born in Ashdod, and grew up in the southern part of Israel. My father served in the regular
army for 13 years. My mother, whose family came from Yemen, was a flower-grower and she exported our flowers to America. As the operation grew, she decided to spend a little time in the U.S. learning new techniques and getting a close-up study of the American side of the flower-export operation.

When my mother realized she needed more time in the States, our whole family moved to Indiana where we lived for a year and a half. The head of the State-side operation was a wonderful person and we became very close to him and his wife and his children. They were strong believers in Yeshua and the Bible and loved the Israeli people as God’s chosen.

My parents began to look into Moses and the prophets and what they foretold about the ingathering of the Jewish people in the last days, and the promises of a Redeemer who would turn our people back to Himself. My parents came back to Israel as believers in Yeshua - the King and Messiah of our people.

I was very young when we were in the States so I don’t remember thinking very much about faith at all, but when I came into my teens, I began attending Israeli Messianic youth conferences, and it was at that time I became a born-again believer.

My father having been in the military for so many years strongly influenced me to enlist in a fighting unit in the army. My older brother served as an officer in the regular army, and as a believer had many struggles because of his faith.

While his fellow soldiers who were very secular accepted him for who he was, his immediate officers were Orthodox and they made life nearly unbearable for him. They wanted him out, and finally he did leave after very heavy persecution. He is now in the U.S., with a strong faith in Yeshua.

Even though I knew it would be difficult in many ways, when it came time for me to enlist I decided to request a fighting unit. It so happened I was put in one of the roughest units in the entire army. We are constantly sent on dangerous missions that cannot be made public.

When I went in for my placement interview, I told them straight off that I am a Messianic Jew.  They grilled me for nearly a full day to see if I was a member of some cult, but then seemed satisfied with the answers that I gave them. For the first few months going through bootcamp and my first course, I kept close to the Lord, reading my Bible and praying whenever I had free time. When I attended the Messianic soldiers’ conference, I checked to see if there was any other believer in my detachment. But there was no one. Still, I continued strong in my faith.

Then I was assigned to this very tough unit and I found that my immediate officers are Orthodox.
Often my life is in danger with our operations and often I am out of contact with the rest of the world for extended periods of time. Slowly, I felt myself growing cold towards my faith.

The fellows in my unit are very rough and as I started hanging out with them, I have spent less time at my congregation and with my believing friends.

I am now about half way through my three-year military service and I have made the decision
that I want to be a faithful believer. Some meetings with my pastor are helping me return to a strong walk with my Messiah.

Some believing soldiers have a harder situation than others. There are companies where the majority are secular, and they do not have a difficult time with a believing soldier. But where there are many traditional and Orthodox Jews, the officers and the soldiers can nearly devastate the life of a young man or woman whose faith is in Yeshua.

I would be very appreciative of prayer for me and for soldiers like me as there are few places more difficult to stay close to God. 

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The Israel Defense Forces
and Messianic Jewish Soldiers

The Israeli army has a significant role to play in biblical history, and also in future end times prophecies. Today there are a couple of hundred Messianic Jewish believers in the Israeli army. They are in need of our prayers.

Consider these biblical passages that indicate the connection between Yeshua and the army of Israel:

In Joshua 5, we see Yeshua (Jesus) in His prebirth form as the commander of the armies of YHVH; however, we see no army behind Him.

In II Kings 6, Elisha prays for his servant’s eyes to be opened. He sees the heavenly armies of the Lord, but does not see the commander.

In Revelation 19, we see both the heavenly armies and the commander, descending from Heaven, but we see no earthly battle.

In Zechariah 14, we see the commander of the armies, and the earthly battle over Jerusalem, but we do not see the heavenly armies.

In II Samuel 5, we see the heavenly army of angels and the earthly army of Israel working together in tandem.

Many end times prophecies point to the Second Coming of Yeshua at the climax of a great war in which the nations of the earth attack Jerusalem. There is a heavenly aspect and an earthly aspect to that apocalyptic war. The heavenly army of Yeshua is connected to the earthly army of Israel.

An important link in that connection is the group of Israeli Jewish soldiers (particularly officers) who are at the same time believers in Yeshua. Almost all of the Messianic Jews in Israel at the age of 18 are enlisted in the army.

Over the last decade or two, Messianic Jews have gained a good reputation in the army for being honest, patriotic, and hard-working soldiers. Since the army is not based on religious affiliation, but on the quality of the soldier’s performance, Messianic Jews have found an objective forum in which their faith can be judged, not in words, but in deeds of character and integrity.

On the other hand, the army is by no means a “spiritual” environment. By the very nature of warfare, the army is based on a “subculture” of power and force, not on love and sensitivity. This places the born-again, Messianic soldier in a difficult position, between “a rock and a hard place.” They are called to walk in the fruit of the spirit in kindness and peace, in the midst of other soldiers who can be at times carnal, uncaring, and even cruel.

One of the cards quoting verses from Psalms which soldiers carry in their pockets. This one quotes Psalm 3:6-7.

Their predicament reminded me of the interactions between David and Joab. David cried out, saying, “Joab and those like him are too harsh for me (II Samuel 3).” Suddenly it struck me why those reactions are recorded in the Bible. They are given as an example for us. David is the image of a “spirit-filled believer” as a soldier. Joab is the image of a “non-spiritual” soldier.

Joab and soldiers like him, though they are not motivated by the right spirit, are still used by God to accomplish His purposes. Joab led the army into many victories for the Lord, even the conquest of Jerusalem (I Chronicles 11). On the other hand, Joab murdered two innocent commanders, and in the end, was part of a rebellion against David’s son, Solomon (I Kings 1).

I believe that along with biblical heroes like David and Joshua, the Messianic believers in the Israeli army today are on the front edge of spiritual warfare leading to the Second Coming of Yeshua and the establishment of His kingdom on earth.

Please pray with us for:

1. God’s guidance on the Israeli Army to fulfill its destiny as described in the prophecies of the end times.

2. The good news of Messiah Yeshua to be spread throughout the soldiers, backed up by a testimony of personal integrity.

3. For the Messianic soldiers to have time for prayer, bible study, and spiritual refreshment.

4. For the Messianic officers currently serving in active duty in the Israeli Army.

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Samir Kuntar and the Last Laugh

Israel has lived the past sixty years more intensively than any other country. Its highs - the resurrection of a two-thousand year old state in 1948, history’s most lopsided military victory in 1967, and the astonishing Entebbe hostage rescue in 1976 - have been triumphs of will and spirit that inspire the civilized world. Its lows have been self-imposed humiliations: unilateral retreat from Lebanon and evacuation of Joseph’s Tomb, both in 2000; retreat from Gaza in 2005; defeat by Hizbullah in 2006; and the corpses-for-prisoners exchange with Hizbullah last summer.

One clue has to do with the dates. The highs took place during the state’s first three decades, the lows occurred since 2000. Something profound has changed. The strategically brilliant but economically deficient early state has been replaced by the reverse. Yesteryear’s spy masterminds, military geniuses, and political heavyweights have seemingly gone into high tech, leaving the state in the hands of corrupt, short-sighted mental midgets.

Samir Kuntar on arrival in Lebanon, complete with Hizbullah uniform and "Heil Hitler" salute. Samir  Kuntar and his accomplices crossed the Lebanese border in 1979 and entered the Israeli town of Nahariya. He killed a policeman and then broke into an apartment, took Danny Haran, a father and his four-year-old daughter to the beach where he fatally shot the father and bludgeoned the girl to death with the butt of his rifle. The mother, Smadar, accidentally smothered their two-year-old child to death, as she tried to muffle the child's cries while hiding from Kuntar. Kuntar is considered the perpetrator of one of the most brutal terrorist attacks in the country's history. He was released on July 16, 2008 in exchange for two Israeli corpses. In Lebanon he is considered a hero, and was welcomed home upon his release by Lebanon's prime minister.

How else can one account for the cabinet meeting on June 29, when 22 out of 25 ministers voted in favor of releasing five live Arab terrorists, including Samir al-Kuntar, 45, a psychopath and the most notorious prisoner in Israel’s jails, plus 200 corpses? In return, Israel got the bodies of two Israel soldiers murdered by Hizbullah. Even The Washington Post wondered at this decision.

Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert endorsed the deal on the grounds that it “will bring an end to this painful episode,” a reference to retrieving the bodies of war dead and appeasing the hostages’ families demand for closure. In themselves, both are honorable goals, but at what price? This distortion of priorities shows how a once-formidably strategic country has degenerated into a supremely sentimental country, a rudderless polity where self-absorbed egoism trumps raison d’être. Israelis, fed up with deterrence and appeasement alike, have lost their way.

Appalling as the cabinet decision was, worse yet is that neither the Likud opposition party nor other leading public Israeli institutions responded with rage, but generally (with some notable exceptions) sat quietly aside. Their absence reflects a Tami Steinmetz Center poll showing that the Israeli population approves the swap by a nearly 2-1 ratio. In short, the problem extends far beyond the official class to implicate the population at large.

On the other side, the disgraceful celebration of babymurderer Kuntar as a national hero in Lebanon, where the government shut down to celebrate his arrival, and by the Palestinian Authority, which called him a “heroic fighter,” reveals the depths of Lebanese enmity to Israel and its immorality, disturbing to anyone concerned with the Arab soul.

The deal has many adverse consequences. It encourages Arab terrorists to seize more Israeli soldiers, then kill them. It boosts Hizbullah’s stature in Lebanon and legitimates Hizbullah internationally. It emboldens Hamas and makes a deal for its Israeli hostage [Gilad Shalit, still held in Gaza] more problematic. Finally, while this incident appears small compared to the Iranian nuclear issue, the two are related.

International headlines along the lines of “Israel Mourns, Hezbollah Exults” confirm the widely held but erroneous Middle Eastern view of Israel as a “spider’s web” that can be destroyed. The recent exchange may give the already apocalyptic Iranian leadership further reason to brandish its weapons. Worse, as Steven Plaut notes, by equating “mass murderers of Jewish children to combat soldiers,” the exchange effectively justifies the “mass extermination of Jews in the name of Jewish racial inferiority.”

For those concerned with the welfare and security of Israel, I propose two consolations. First, Israel remains a powerful country that can afford mistakes; one estimate even predicts it would survive an exchange of nuclear weapons with Iran, while Iran would not.

Second, the Kuntar affair could have a surprise happy ending. A senior Israeli official told David Bedein that, now out of jail, Israel’s obligation to protect Kuntar is terminated; on arrival in Lebanon, he became “a target for killing. Israel will get him, and he will be killed … accounts will be settled.” Another senior official added “we cannot let this man think that he can go unpunished for his murder of a 4-year-old girl.”

Who will laugh last, Hizbullah or Israel?

Daniel Pipes is a conservative American historian and political commentator who particularly focuses on the Middle East and Islam. http://www.danielpipes.org/, reprinted with permission.

Devotionals for Soldiers


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Our Congregation Celebrates!

Tel Aviv's slogan is "The City that never sleeps!" We like to think of Tiferet Yeshua as "The Congregation that never sleeps!" For followers of Yeshua who often live in a hostile environment - at home, in school, at work or in the army - fellowship is an all-important part of our lifestyle.

We celebrate all our Biblical holidays - and they are many! - plus our Bar Mitzvas and Bat Mitzvas, our Brit Milas (circumcisions) and dedications. In the different departments, birthdays are celebrated in classes and in homes.

 Clockwise, starting top left: 1. Bar Mitzvah of one of our VIP members- just turned 13! 2. Our congregation celebrates the Bar Mitzvah with lots of food! 3. Another celebration. 4. Prayer in our main service for our soldiers and police officers. 5. Youth barbeque.

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Annual Meeting of
International Maoz Boards

 

Last month Maoz board members gathered from seven countries - U.S., Canada, England, Ireland, Germany, Brazil and Israel.

They listened to the progress of Maoz and Congregational activities in Israel, and all board members encouraged us with their amazement of how far God has brought us over the last year.

We also spent considerable time planning strategic development in each member country. We in Israel were equally amazed at the motivation and loyalty each member exibited as he or she reported on their development of a partner base in their country, even in the middle of worldwide ecomonic recession and enormous natural catastrophes.

Every day we thank God for the family of Maoz worldwide which is working together to see more and more Israelis come to the truth of God's word until the day when ALL ISRAEL SHALL BE SAVED.

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October 2008

Dear Maoz Partner,

What days we live in! Here in Israel we were glued to Fox News as we watched this terrible 600 milewide monster of a hurricane smash into Texas. The destruction in downtown Houston, in Louisiana and all along the coast has forever changed thousands of lives. Many have lost everything.

Whenever a natural disaster or humanly-generated disaster such as war ends life as we know it, we as believers come face to face again with the reality that our time on earth is short, and every single day counts.

We have been advised by our Lord Yeshua, “Work for the night is coming when no man can work.”

And so, while we yet have breath, and while our partners yet have the ability to work along side us to bring the Gospel of Yeshua the Messiah to our Jewish people, we continue.

We are so thankful for our believing Israeli soldiers - one more group of people that God is using to bring light to our nation. These 19-22 year-old men and women, who once they have put on their uniform and find themselves in harms way, definitely have a voice to our citizens.

All Israelis look up to our soldiers - whether they are stationed in the South (“Hamastan”) or the North (Hizbollah land), or East (Fatah land in the West Bank).

Believing soldiers need our prayers! They are faced with temptations on every level - and whenever such a soldier is under the command of an Orthodox Officer, he can be severely persecuted.

Their congregation is their refuge. In our congregation, Tiferet Yeshua, we call up our soldiers and police officers in our main Sabbath services and pray earnestly for them, for our other soldiers on duty and for all our nation’s military personnel. We pray for their protection and we pray for their salvation.

Soldiers’ conferences for believers are another vehicle to minister to our young men and women. Regular conferences are held at different locations throughout the country and we are honored to host some of these conferences at Tiferet Yeshua.

We are also training our teenagers to be prepared spiritually and mentally for their induction into the army - that they will stay strong as they serve, often in very rough circumstances. We pray that God will place them in the right unit under the right officer.

The congregation is vital to the well-being of Israel’s believing soldiers. And it is to God’s glory that nation-wide, we have more than 200 born-again soldiers serving our country to protect our borders and citizens.

Your partnership in helping us “keep the lights on” in Tiferet Yeshua is central to our ability to minister to these soldiers and police officers. Because of your help we have been able to rent two floors of a building in downtown Tel Aviv (one of the most expensive cities in the world) for eight years and minister to the needs of every age group - children, teens, soldiers, young adults - everybody.

Just the rent and utilities of 10,000 sq. feet in a poor part of town is over $12,000, and our congregational monthly budget is double that. Our members, so very generous even though most have very little of this world’s material wealth, tithe and give, paying for about one-half of the congregation’s expenses.

You, our partner, are among those who have faithfully, consistently helped us cover the other half so that our congregation can continue to be a light in downtown Tel Aviv. The congregation is a vital part of the vision and outreach of Maoz Israel Ministries.

May our light continue to shine in Tel Aviv until Yeshua returns!

                                                          Your partners in Israel,

A&S signature

          Ari & Shira Sorko-Ram

P.S. When you send your gift this month, be sure to include your personal prayer requests or praise report on the back of the reply page. Our Israel team prays for you every work day in Israel!

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