By Shira Sorko-Ram
The Messianic Jewish community in Israel has just experienced a searing and wrenching event as we watched live streaming of Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem hosting an incredibly sophisticated attack against the existence of Israel.
Their tongues were smooth as they expressed their great love of the Jewish people and at the same time described the injustice, the evil and immoral occupation of Palestine and crimes against humanity by the criminal state of Israel.
The speakers at the Christ at the Checkpoint conference demanded that the security fence/wall and checkpoints be taken down (which would of course allow the return of suicide bombers crossing into Israel again). They demanded that Arabs be allowed to return to their “ancient homeland,” meaning giving the Holy Land to the Muslims. (When you see the word, Palestinian, read “Muslim,” as 99% of all Palestinians are Muslims.)
They explained that the Israel of today has nothing to do with the Israel of the Bible. In other words, the Old Testament scriptures concerning Israel are no longer in effect. The offspring of Abraham that the Bible talks about, they said, is only about Jesus, not the Jews.
And they further stated that any promises concerning Israel have only a spiritual application and therefore literal interpretation is false. Consequently, the Conference concluded, the modern State of Israel is not in any way a fulfillment of Scripture.
In all the live streaming I was able to listen to, I heard nothing about terrorist attacks or threats to exterminate Israel. Rather I heard pro-Palestinian activists from England and the US telling how they confront Israeli soldiers serving in the West Bank and challenge them to go AWOL because of their crimes against humanity. I heard calls for economic boycotts to collapse Israel’s economy.
The central focus of the entire conference was the suffering of Palestinians as the result of the illegal occupation of Arab land by the illegitimate state of Israel.
Yet there was no awareness that the surrounding Arab nations that want to exterminate Israel are the major cause of Palestinian suffering.
(Incidentally, I was wondering if these same Arab Christians would be ready to trade places with the 1,000,000 Israeli Jews in southern Israel who are racing to shelters every few minutes as a result of more than 200 rockets launched against them from Gaza over the last three days.)
HERE COMES THE ELEPHANT
To use a cliché, we must now expose the elephant in the room. Why this rage and hatred towards Israel from the Arab Christian Church in the West Bank? Why have they latched on to Replacement theology? So simple: Because they are afraid of Islam.
Look at these figures: According to Looklex Encyclopedia, in the West Bank and Gaza, only one percent of the population is traditional Christian, and 1/10th of one percent is Protestant.
In fact Looklex states, “Palestine [i.e. West Bank and Gaza] is today perhaps the most homogeneous society in the Middle East in matters of religion, being the only country with close to 100% of its population belonging to Sunni Islam.” http://looklex.com/e.o/palestine.religions.htm
In short, the tiny group of Arab Evangelicals in the West Bank and Gaza are swimming in a dictatorship of 4,000,000 Islamists. It is no wonder that at the Christ at the Checkpoint conference, the word Muslim or Islam was barely mentioned and the subject of existential threats and terrorism against Jews was not mentioned at all.
Anti-Israel Palestinian Christians are unconsciously or consciously forced to blame Israel for the huge decrease of Arab Christians in the West Bank and Gaza over the last few decades. But here is an interesting statistic that contradicts such propaganda. Why is there no more than one percent of Christians left in the sea of Muslim “Palestine,” whereas in Israel, 10% of Israeli Arabs are Christians?
The facts are obvious: there is no place in the world where Arabs have more freedom to worship as they choose as in the state of Israel. But Christian Arabs in the West Bank will argue that for the most part the Islamists leave them alone. Mostly true, as long as they don’t start evangelizing Muslims! That’s a whole different scenario.
The miniscule number of Christians in Gaza makes them especially vulnerable to Islamic fanaticism and their lives are constantly in danger with Hamas at the helm. And if Hamas succeeds through “elections” to take over the West Bank, Arab Christians and Israeli Jews will both be under constant attack.
Yet these Arab Christians at the conference are convinced they want to see the Jewish state vanish. They don’t believe Israel has any promises yet to see fulfilled.
As one Messianic Jewish leader, Yosef Shulam, lamented, “Christians in the West Bank and Gaza don’t realize that their best friend is Israel and their best hope is in Israel. The day will come when these Arab Christians will wish Israel would be there for them, and will call for Israel to come and help them just like the opposition in Syria is doing now.”
French pro-Palestinian activists protesting the arrest of other activists by French authorities. Those arrested were charged with ‘inciting discriminati on, hate or violence’ through boycotts against Israel.
IS THE CHECKPOINT CONFERENCE SIGNIFICANT?
But what is the big deal with a conference in Bethlehem attended by 600 people? The danger is that strident anti-Israel, anti-Semitism, cloaked in the “love of God for our enemies (i.e. Jews)” is so beautifully wrapped in churchy language that many Evangelicals in the West could be (and sadly probably will be) deceived and hoodwinked into believing that the Church has replaced Israel and that the state of Israel has caused the Palestinians incalculable injury and injustice.
By putting on sheep’s clothing, the Palestinian Christians can do far more damage to the people of Israel than even Muslims can. The Christian terminology sounds familiar, the jargon is spiritual, but the end goal is the destruction of Israel. That’s what Replacement theology allows.
There is no way to compromise with Replacement theology. Replacement theology, no matter who teaches it and who holds it, is the key evil of historical Christianity and it has been the principle motive for the Holocaust and the blood libels and pogroms of history.
If you will take the time to absorb the information in the following article by Avner Boskey, one of the most scholarly Messianic Jews in Israel, you will understand the deception of Replacement theology that so many Evangelicals have not grasped.
I cannot conclude this article without saying that there are wonderful Arab believers more in Israel but also a few in the West Bank and Gaza (who are severely persecuted by their Replacement theology colleagues) who know what the Bible says, and have decided to believe God’s Word and put their lot with Israel as Ruth the Moabitess did, rather than be intimidated by the violent threats of the Islamic religion.
We not only love them, we look for every way to work together with them to advance the Kingdom of God with Jews and Arabs. Our excitement and gratitude is equal whether a Jew or an Arab receives salvation.
And do we think that Israeli politicians and soldiers are all examples of morality and compassion? Of course not.
Do we care about the suffering of Arabs? Yes!
Do we want to see them saved? Yes!
Do we want to see them curse themselves by cursing Israel? No!
Cursing Israel will surely keep spiritual revival and physical wellbeing from coming to them, and will trap many innocent and naïve Christians around the world.
Sadly, when liberal leftist professors and intellectuals from the US and Europe claiming to be Christians and spewing hatred of Israel combine their poison with the Arab Christians in the West Bank and Gaza, whose life narrative is to tell how the Jews are causing them to suffer great injustices, the combination is lethal. It makes for nothing less than another arm of Satan to attempt to destroy the nation of Israel that God has brought back to His Land in these last days.
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The ABC's of Replacement Theology
By Avner Boskey
Over the past few years, some Palestinian Christians have been trumpeting a Replacement theology message which most Messianic Jews feel is harmful to the Jewish people and the Jewish state. Before we look at what this new Palestinian Replacement theology is saying, we need to first define terms, and understand what a Palestinian is.
HISTORICAL ROOTS OF THE TERM ‘PALESTINIAN’
The origin of the term ‘Palestinian’ comes from the period just after the Romans crushed the Jewish Bar Kokhba revolt (135 AD/CE). The Roman Emperor Hadrian renamed the province Provincia Syria Palaestina, using the Latin version of the word ‘Philistine’ the biblical enemies of the Jewish people. Hadrian’s choice of the word was not accidental it was a deliberate Roman insult. In that century the majority of the inhabitants of this region were Jews. Arabs did not pour into the province of Palaestina until the jihadi invasions of 638 AD.
Though no country called Palestine was ever established, the curse-name given by the Romans continued to be loosely associated with the region through the centuries. After the Islamist invasion, many Arabs settled here. With the advent of the Crusaders, an influx of Catholic Europeans and Byzantines from Constantinople inundated the land. In the centuries surrounding the Turkish Ottoman invasion of 1517, successive levels of Central Asian Muslims also made their home in this region.
Only after the British conquest in December 1917 did the region receive the name the ‘Palestine Mandate’ in 1922. In those days the term Palestinian was used to describe Jews as well as Arabs, and the original name of the Jewish newspaper ‘The Jerusalem Post’ was ‘The Palestine Post.’ Only after the 1948 War of Independence did the term Palestinian gradually morph into a synonym for Arabs from the Land of Israel. As a result, the term Palestinian is a rather modern moniker.
As Arab Palestinians attempt to make their own unique contribution to religious discussion, as they share their distinctive perspective as Semites living in the land which Abraham bequeathed to Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 25:5-6), let’s ask the question: What have Palestinian Christian Arabs contributed so far to the Body of Messiah’s theological and spiritual understandings regarding the role and calling of the Jewish people?
A belief in the return of Yeshua to Jerusalem to set up His Davidic kingdom is the cause of Islamic hatred of Israel, and is a distortion of the Bible and the gospel.
~ what Palestinian Replacement Theology believes
SUFFERING AND THEOLOGY
One of the main issues that Palestinian Christians have focused upon concerns their suffering in the 20th century, as the armed forces of the Arab-Islamic world have clashed with the resurgent Jewish State of Israel. Arab Christians in the land of Israel are truly a small Christian minority within the larger Muslim community, and much of their perspective is borrowed from the larger Muslim community’s group perspective.
The Islamist riots in Jerusalem in the 1920’s and 30’s, the massacre of the Jewish community in Hebron in 1929, the local Arab attacks on first British and then Israeli Jewish infrastructure and communities in the 1930’s and 40’s these violent expressions of resistance to established authority are an important key in understanding modern Palestinian Christian theologizing vis-à-vis Jews, Israel and Messianic Jews.
In the early 20th century Arab Christians often found themselves rejected by their larger Islamic host communities as quislings. Arab Christians were viewed as collaborating with the infidel western civilization, spiritual heirs of the Crusaders, as dhimmis (an Arabic term for the oppressive second-class status of Jews and Christians in Islamic society) in short, a disloyal fifth column in a monolithic Muslim world.
As a result, some Christian Arabs (both nominal and Evangelical) have bent over backwards, manifesting a nearly compulsive desire to prove themselves even more committed to the greater Arab umma (people), even more radical than their Muslim neighbors in their espousal of Palestinian national awakening and in their resistance to the Jewish state.
One outstanding example of this dynamic comes to us from the PLO’s world of violent resistance. Dr. George Habash, founder and former Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was born to an Arab Christian family in Lod and sang in a children’s choir in his family’s Greek Orthodox Church. He eventually moved into politics, and was exiled twice from Jordan after participating in two unsuccessful coups to overthrow Jordan’s King Hussein. He joined Yasser Arafat’s PLO and became a leading member. In 1970 his attempted putsch resulted in the Black September massacres. He directed the terror massacres at Ben-Gurion airport (27 dead), the Swissair bombing (47 dead), and the Entebbe hijacking to Uganda. Habash was unusually radical in the world of Palestinian terror, and was the only Christian to achieve such a prominent status.
Palestinian, European and left-wing Israeli peace activists demonstrate against Israel’s separati on barrier, near the town of Bethlehem.
SUFFERING AND VICTIMHOOD - BUILDING BLOCKS OF A PALESTINIAN THEOLOGY
In 1948 the combined armies of many Arab countries declared a jihad against the Jewish farms and towns of the land of Israel, prophesying massacre and genocide. Yet in bloody and extended combat, these Arab armies were for the most part pushed back by Jewish irregulars (the Haganah). Instead of a massacre of Jews, the War of Independence saw repeated Israeli victories.
Arabs fled their own cities and villages, in most cases urged to do so by Arab leaders. Many simply moved up the coast to Beirut or down the coast to Gaza, awaiting the almost certain Islamic triumph and massacre of the Jews that had been proclaimed. In a minority of other cases, some Arabs were forcibly removed from their villages by Israeli forces, especially in strategic areas where Arab forces were hoping to break through and strangle the fledgling Jewish state.
The Palestinian refugee problem is the result of that conflict. But whereas the State of Israel absorbed 800,000 Jewish refugees driven out from Muslim lands in those same years (granting them full citizenship), the Arab world kept Palestinians stateless and interned them in squalid camps on the borders of Israel. Egypt and Syria trained Palestinians to become fedayeen (Arabic for sacrificial redeemers), guerilla fighters who were directed to attack Israeli infrastructure, kibbutzim and travelers. Rather than ameliorating the refugee situation, the neighboring Arab states made a concerted effort to turn the refugees into a political and military tool one which would try to destroy the Jewish state.
THE TERMINOLOGY OF REVENGE
Since then, at least two Palestinian generations have been brought up with a skewed view of Palestinian history a view which blames the Jews for winning a war which, if the Jewish forces had lost, would have resulted in the annihilation of the Israeli people. This skewed Palestinian view speaks with a voice trembling with the anger of revenge and the desire for reconquest. This Palestinian narrative of history is kept alive by inflammatory Arabic buzz words: Naqba (the disaster, used to describe Arab defeats in 1948), Naksa (the setback, Arab defeats in 1967), sumud (resolute Islamic determination to hold on to and retake the whole land of Israel) and al-Muqawamah (resistance, usually a euphemism for violent terror; the Arabic word Hamas is the acronym for Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyah, the Islamic resistance movement).
Here are the unofficial ‘articles of faith’ of the Islamic Palestinian narrative. This is the way they read history:
- Palestinians were brutally attacked and defeated by cruel anti-Islamic forces (the Israel Defence Forces)
- They then had their land unjustly taken from them
- Now they are forced to live under cruel oppression
In this narrative, no one recalls that attempts to slaughter the Jews of Israel and steal Jewish lands which had been legally purchased, utterly failed. No one dares to remember that for centuries Jews were forced to live as second-class citizens in Islamic society, subject to pogroms, riots and even community slaughter from time to time.
Most importantly, the Islamic Palestinian narrative rejects the biblical framework which sees the return of the Jewish people as prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the New Covenant.
MODERN PROTESTANT DEVELOPMENTS
This article has time to focus only on Protestant and Evangelical theological thought over the past thirty years. Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, former Canon of St. George’s Cathedral in East Jerusalem, is founder of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center. His first book Justice and only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation (Orbis, 1989) outlined a clear platform for modern Palestinian theology on these issues:
- The Old Testament’s teachings are seen by most Palestinians as referring to the Jewish people, their first-born status as the chosen people, and their prophesied return to the land. Since most Palestinian Christians cannot accept these biblical facts and teachings, a radical new way of interpreting the Bible must be found. As Ateek says, “The fundamental question of many [Palestinian] Christians, whether uttered or not, is: How can the Old Testament be the Word of God in light of the Palestinian Christians’ experience with its use to support Zionism?” (pp. 77-78, JAOJ)
- Marxist-influenced Liberation theology perspective offers a solution here. Atonement and salvation are reinterpreted into support for political revolution, resistance through demonstration, boycott and political pressure on Israel. Sabeel recently declared, “We see boycott and divestment as non-violent tools for justice, peace and security for all.” (www.sabeel.org/events.php?eventid=183)
- The Jewish people’s honored calling in Scripture must be negatively reinterpreted. As Ateek proclaimed in a recent Christ at the Checkpoint (CATC) conference sponsored by Bethlehem Bible College, “It seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of Palestinians around Him... The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily.” In an article in Sabeel’s Cornerstone journal (2000) Ateek describes the Israeli government as a “modern day Herod” and states that “original sin is the violence of the Israeli occupation.”
These three points are the skeletal framework upon which the majority of modern Palestinian Replacement theology hangs its arguments:
- nullifying the promises to Israel by interpreting them as referring spiritually to all believers
- reinterpreting the Great Commission into a call primarily for civil disobedience and good works
- characterizing Israeli Jews as evil and unjust occupiers of a land that no longer belongs to them
Palestinians in the West Bank call for a boycott of Israeli goods and goods produced in Israeli settlements.
JUSTICE, AND ONLY PALESTINIAN JUSTICE
At CATC March 2012 conference in Bethlehem (perhaps the premier gathering of Palestinian Protestant Replacement theology activists) the speakers regularly used the terms ‘justice,’ ‘peacemaking,’ ‘oppression,’ ‘evil’ and ‘violence’ in line with Ateek’s philosophy. Oppression, violence and evil were buzz words which referred to the Jewish control over the land of Israel and IDF security activities, while justice and peacemaking referred to the need for Palestinians to retake lands lost in the 1948 and 1967 wars; the requirement to establish a Palestinian state; the importance of influencing Christian believers across the planet to stop supporting planting trees in Israel, to boycott Israeli products, and to lobby their own politicians to diminish support for Israel’s democratically elected government and her policies.
When the terms justice, peace, oppression and evil are used so inaccurately to describe the Jewish state and those who defend it, there is jingoistic mindset at work in much of what comes out of the Palestinian Replacement theology movement today.
A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME
Most of the speakers at the 2012 CATC conference were agreed on this main point a belief in the return of Yeshua to Jerusalem to set up His Davidic kingdom is the cause of Islamic hatred of Israel, and is a distortion of the Bible and the gospel. In the words of one speaker whose words dripped with sarcasm, those who believe in the physical restoration of the Jewish people are stupid, blind and blockheads.
At the same time, nearly all the speakers refused to define their beliefs as Replacement theology. Yet, classically understood, Replacement Theology teaches that the promises originally made to the Jewish people no longer apply to the Jewish people. Since it is unfashionable to state this boldly in our day, the term ‘replace’ is removed, and the terms ‘fulfilled’ or ‘spiritual meaning’ or ‘expanded’ are used instead. But the result is the same. Paul’s teaching (that the gifts given to the Jewish people and the calling on them still remain and are unchangeable) is transformed by Palestinian Replacement theologians into direct opposition of Romans 11:29.
According to this view, the land and the promise of blessing given to the descendants of Jacob now belong to Palestinians, or indeed to any nation just not to the Jewish nation per se. This view violates what Abraham had expressly intended in Genesis 25:5-6. All promises given to the Jewish people, this movement teaches, were conditional in any case, yet only spiritual in nature, and almost always only universalist in intent. The logical inconsistencies here are simply astounding!
While the Apostle Paul warned Gentile believers not to be arrogant toward the Jewish people (Romans 11:18), one theologian at the recent CATC conference said that a belief that God is restoring the Jewish people to Israel is in itself arrogant.
WHEN DOES NON-VIOLENCE BLEND INTO VIOLENCE?
At first glance, it seems that there is a consensus among these Palestinian theologians and thinkers that violence is to be eschewed. The term ‘non-violent resistance’ is repeated like a mantra many times in publications and at meetings. But there seems to be more here than meets the eye.
Mubarak Awad, the brother of Alex and Bishara (respectively Dean and President of Bethlehem Bible College) and a speaker at the 2012 CATC conference, has stated in the Journal for Palestine Studies (Volume 13; number 4; Summer 1984; pp. 22-36): “...The most effective strategy is one of non-violence. This does not determine the methods open to Palestinians on the outside; nor does it constitute a rejection of the concept of armed struggle. It does not rule out the possibility that the struggle on the inside may turn into an armed struggle at a later stage... These methods can be successfully utilized, at least at this stage, by individuals who are not necessarily committed to non-violence and who may choose, at a different stage, to engage in armed struggle.” (All bold and italics from editor.)
Buzz words for justice and peacemaking:
The need for Palestinians to retake lands lost in the 1948 and 1967 wars
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin points out (Chicago Tribune, January 7 1988) that Mubarak Awad’s form of non-violence calls for ‘peacemakers’ to “attempt to block roads, prevent communications, cut electricity, telephone and water lines, and prevent the movement of equipment” in short, sabotage mixed with aspects of guerilla warfare.
A similar point to the one made by Mubarak Awad was stated by Ben White (who is listed as speaker at CATC but was a no-show), in an article titled Nonviolent resistance a means, not the end, in the journal ‘The Electronic Intifada’ (October 12, 2007), “Popular struggle, like violent resistance, is not an end in and of itself; it is a method, a strategy. It is the end goal, decolonization and liberation from occupation and Zionist apartheid...”
Sami Awad is the Director of the Holy Land Trust, and was one of the main organizers and speakers at CATC 2012 (he is Bishara’s son and Mubarak’s nephew). Awad spoke freely in an article by Najib Farag titled Nonviolent resistance: Wake up every day and ask yourself what you can do to resist the occupation (Palestine New Network, January 5, 2007)
“The training,” Awad declares, “also focuses on the popular campaigns, demonstrations and marches... We also focus on other methods of nonviolent resistance such as product boycotts. To boycott Israeli production is one of the most important tools of nonviolent struggle that we have available to us…” Awad also focused on massive demonstrations against the separation fences and walls built by Israel to keep out suicide bombers and terrorists. These demonstrations are “not a substitute for the armed struggle. This is not a method for normalization with the occupation. Our goal is to revive the popular resistance until every person is involved in dismantling the occupation.”
The veil between non-violence, civil disobedience which creates violence, and armed struggle appears paper-thin in these quotes. The Replacement theologians of this modern Palestinian movement are experimenting with a Frankenstein’s monster, one destined to run amok. A miniscule movement like this one lives, moves, and has its being in a Palestinian community which is aflame. These thinkers and writers are swimming in a raging sea of Islamist violence.
When circumstances allow for it, this movement can find wiggle room to agree with the Koranic teachings regarding God’s disfavor toward the Jewish people, or with the jihadi necessity of reclaiming lost Islamic lands. Yet in conferences heavily attended by Westerners, this movement can stress its impeccable Christian non-violent credentials.
A GIFT FROM THE HOLY LAND?
Palestinian Replacement theology is more of the same old Christian anti-Jewish theology. Though it tries to make its beliefs appear fashionable and politically correct, its bedrock teaching still involves ignoring God’s clear enscripturated promises to the descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and His irrevocable calling on them. It tries to rivet the world’s attention on Palestinian suffering, while strengthening the hands of those who would weaken and dismember the Jewish state. It refuses to humbly acknowledge the hand of God in the restoration of Jacob’s children to the land covenanted to the Jewish people by Abraham himself, or even to recognize God’s covenant love for the children of Israel. Tellingly, it seems that they have completely forgotten to give thanks for the enormous territories and lands that God has allotted to the Arab peoples more than 640 times greater than Israel’s allotment, the tiny land of Canaan.
Surely there must be a better way to raise prayer for Palestinian Arabs, to encourage intercession for their spiritual and physical needs, and to cultivate a heart of love and outreach to them on the part of the international body of Messiah without instigating a denial of Israel’s gifts, a mocking of her calling, and a fostering of anti-Israeli sentiment, while simultaneously teaching a rehashed form of Replacement Theology spiced up with leftist civil disobedience.
Is this truly the best that Palestinians have to offer as a gift to lay before the feet of Yeshua, the King of Israel who is seated on David’s throne?
Avner and his wife Rachel live in the Negev desert.
They are involved in worship, intercession, teaching and music
recording, and oversee Final Frontier Ministries.
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Celebrating, Mentoring, Consulting
From top: Dedicating a new baby in our congregation,Tiferet Yeshua; Pastor Jim Hennesy from Trinity Church in Cedar Hill, Texas, addressing a group of leaders and leaders-in-the-making at the congregation; Bi-annual meeting with our Maoz USA board for accountability and advice.
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Because of Him I'm Alive
By Ronen Gez
My grandfather was a shoemaker in the city of Tunis. He was one of 110,000 Jews living in this Muslim nation, Tunisia, before Israel’s independence in 1948. Then most of the Jews fled either to Israel or France. My grandparents chose France. However, after a few years, they decided that Israel was the best place to raise their family and they all immigrated to the new state.
The Gez family with Ari Sorko-Ram at Elior’s Bar Mitzvah. From left: Olga, Stav, Elior, Ronen
At 17, my father arrived to a new country and a new language difficult for any teenager. But he finished high school, and then joined the army. Soon he met my mother also a new immigrant from Tunis. They married and settled down in the city of Herzeliya, just north of Tel Aviv.
I and my three brothers grew up in a home that was what we call “masorti” traditional. Father went to synagogue on the Sabbath, but we were not strict about keeping rabbinical law.
I always believed there was a God, but actually neither my family nor my friends talked about Him, and really I didn’t think much about who He was or what He did.
When I enlisted in the army after high school, I was given the task of guarding the President of Israel, Chaim Herzog. I was stationed in a guardhouse in front of the president’s home in a very nice section of Herzeliya by the Sea. A few houses down lived a family of Tunisians who had a young daughter named Olga.
Olga, at 14 years old, would often pass by my guardhouse and would stop to talk to me. This went on for as long as I was a guard, but when my military service was over, we lost contact.
Then came 1991 when Saddam Hussein kept lobbing missiles into the Tel Aviv area. Olga and her family like everybody else in the country spent a lot of time in their sealed room. Olga began thinking again of me and called me up.
She brought me to meet her family who was quite concerned because I was 22 and Olga was only 16?! However, the family decided that I was a good and decent person and after three years of seeing each other we married. I had settled into a job at a shoe factory. Along came Elior, our firstborn son, and after that, Stav, our daughter.
Meanwhile Olga’s brother Shlomi had attended the Messianic Jewish congregation at Ari and Shira’s (which was in their home at that time) and received Yeshua as the Lamb who took his sins away. Shlomi became an “instant evangelist” and spent hours talking to Olga and me about salvation through the Messiah.
Olga listened carefully and pondered this Good News. One day she simply felt a change in her heart. She didn’t say anything to me at the time, but I saw she was reading her Bible all the time and praying many times with tears. Later she told me God had opened her heart and she saw things differently.
I had not paid much attention to Shlomi’s teaching and I actually became very angry with Olga. I began to treat her roughly and I let her know I did not want her attending any Messianic meetings at all. My mother was also worried about this strange faith.
But Olga decided to attend a three-day conference in Jerusalem and against my will, took off. I felt like I was going crazy. The only way I can describe it was that those three days felt like death. I realized how much I loved Olga and I wanted her back no matter what. What I didn’t know was that Olga was up in Jerusalem praying and crying for me.
When she came back, she went to her mother’s home, not knowing how I would react. I went straight to her mother’s house and begged Olga to come home. Olga said, “If you want me, you have to receive me together with my faith.” I agreed!
Meanwhile, Shlomi continued to come to our house and talk to us about the Scriptures, and finally Olga asked me to visit Tiferet Yeshua Congregation. I went because I loved Olga. But when I arrived, I can only say that what I saw was all good. The atmosphere was so warm. The people were good people. The worship was wonderful. And I was shown so much love.
Even my mother started coming once in a while to see what the congregation was all about. She also saw the good people and felt their love. At the time, she had a medical condition the doctors couldn’t figure out. So she prayed silently at the congregation that God would show the doctors what was wrong. The next day they found the problem. My mother began to realize there was something real about God’s power through Messiah Yeshua.
Then in March 2011, I began to have very strong pains in my left side. The doctors ran many tests and found nothing. We then went to a private doctor because the pain increased. He found lumps in my neck, chest and stomach. After biopsies, they brought the terrible news that I had cancer which had spread throughout my body. The diagnosis was Lymphoma non-Hodgkin’s cancer. They recommended six doses of chemotherapy every three weeks. It seemed my end had come.
But then my congregation sprang into action. Every single Sabbath the whole congregation prayed for me. If I was strong enough to attend, they laid hands on me and prayed. If I couldn’t make it, they prayed anyway. Many people from the congregation visited me, praying for me, teaching me and encouraging me to stand in faith on the promises of God to heal me.
Elior, following the ancient tradition based on Deuteronomy 6:8 at his Bar Mitzvah. Elior is one of the new generation of young Messianic Jews born in the land of Israel.
After four treatments, the doctors gave me a CT scan, and then told me, “You are really doing good! The cancer is almost all gone!”
After two more treatments, they gave me another scan, and pronounced me cancer free.
When Olga went to the service the following Sabbath (I was too weak to go) they told me that when the worship began, she danced all over the room! Everybody was rejoicing and praising God. Before she could say a word everybody understood from her dancing that I was healed!
My children, who were once afraid they were going to lose their father, now know that God is alive and well, and has healed me. They are part of the second generation of Messianic Jews in Israel! And their numbers are growing throughout the land.
This month, as we sit down to our Passover meal, we remind ourselves of the great supernatural act of God who brought Israel out of a dark world of slavery. During this celebration, we remember miracle after miracle it took to fulfill His promises.
Today, our people are in spiritual slavery, as are all the nations around us and around the world. And nothing short of a miracle will bring people to the Truth!
Israel is so far from perfect. And the Bible repeats one theme over and over – that God’s chosen people will be the head and not the tail when they serve Him, but harassed by enemies surrounding them when they turn their back on their God.
Israel is far from God. But here is the hope: the Bible repeats another theme over and over again – when Israel does turn back to God, He will lift up this nation and as King of Israel and of all the nations, He will sit on the Throne of David in Jerusalem.
So with rockets flying around, terrorists stabbing Israelis, and the world calling for Israel to transfer the Abrahamic land to the Muslim people, still we do not lose heart.
The pressures, threats and violence against Israel coming from the Islamic world and from western post-Christian politicians and intellectuals are one thing. But to see the same attitude coming from our Arab Christian brothers from the West Bank is, to say the least, disappointing and disheartening.
But the reason we do not lose heart is because of the multitude of those magnificent promises:
I will bring you back to your land.
I will cleanse you from all your filthiness.
I will give you a new heart and a new spirit.
I will make a covenant of peace, an everlasting covenant with Israel.
I am God; I change not.
So we continue to preach and to teach and to mentor and to prepare the next generation for the Great Commission that still must be fulfilled – first in Jerusalem, and then in Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world.
We continue publishing life-changing books, and finishing up the creation of a Hebrew website for outreach and discipling.
We continue to help Messianic Jews and Arab Christians in Israel with contributions and scholarships so they can build their lives and in turn help build the Kingdom of God in this land.
Mentoring a new generation of Messianic leaders, and being a mom and pop to some of the younger pastors is at the top of our priority list. And what a joy to watch these young people grow and bear fruit.
But we never forget that one of our callings is to supply you with a credible and trustworthy perspective of events here on the ground – from the view point of Messianic believers.
We believe that if you receive honest and up-to-date information, your heart will want to work together with us to bring the Jewish people the Good News – so that the enemies of the God of Israel and the people of Israel will in the end be brought down and Salvation will come to the House of Israel!
And that is one more way to bless our work—by sharing the MAOZ ISRAEL REPORT with your family and friends.
We bless you during this Passover season!
Ari & Shira Sorko-Ram
P.S. THANK YOU for taking the time to connect us this month with your friends, family, pastors, and leaders.
It’s a significant way, along with your Passover gift this month, for you to make an impact for the Kingdom.
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