A DEFINING MOMENT by Eitan Shishkoff

Dancing after the fire
The burnt out office
Our first building
Pointing to the Future, Part 1

It was never the same after that night. Going through the fire of persecution forged something deep in the heart of our fledgling congregation. Friendships built on the shared sorrow, shock and awakening of that event became the foundation for a life of enduring community. But at the time, this blow forced us to make a decision. Was it worth the possibility of further attack to raise the flag of faith in Yeshua as Jews in Israel? Looking back, we can joyfully and gratefully say, "Yes!"

Ten years ago, in the early hours of October 21, 1997, the original warehouse home of Tents of Mercy was firebombed. In many ways it was a defining event that permanently accelerated our course. The sudden and total destruction of our administrative headquarters was accompanied by extensive smoke and water damage that left our small but appreciated facility in shambles.

Looking back, there are several key questions to be answered:

  1. Why the violent persecution against us?
  2. How should we respond to such opposition in the future?
  3. What has been the fruit of this violence?

WHY? The answer here is basically the same as it was in the 1st century, when the original Messianic Jewish movement spread throughout the land, provoking violent reprisals. The demand being made by those who perpetrated the bombing was clearly: "GET OUT! You don't belong here. What you believe is a threat to us. We are willing to take criminal action in order to intimidate and terrorize you into closing up shop and leaving." Even our nearly invisible congregation in a little known part of Israel was a threat to the religious status quo. Our very existence challenged those who assumed Yeshua was at best only a trouble maker; our Messianic community declared: "This issue of Yeshua's messiahship is not over. He is the One spoken of by our prophets. We cannot be silent. Faith in Him is indigenous to the nation of Israel and will be reckoned with."

When Elijah prophesied Israel was backslidden and drawn to pagan idols; what was God's answer to the spiritual crisis? He inspired the prophet to set up an altar (representing true worship unto the Lord) with a sacrifice that could only burn if fire came from heaven. Elijah waited; and the fire fell.

OUR RESPONSE was and is: "No, we are not going anywhere. We're here to stay. This is our home no less than it is yours. The prophets foresaw the last days gathering together of followers of the Messiah in Israel. It is a move of God that cannot be stopped - not even by bombs. We are here to serve our nation and its intense needs - physical, social and spiritual. We are not here with a foreign religion, nor is our aim to cause enmity. Yeshua taught us to love, and by His Spirit we will love even those who oppose us."

FRUIT? The immediate local and international outpouring of love, encouragement, financial contributions and passionate intercession was massive. This created a "launching pad" that thrust us into the next ten years. In retrospect, we know that what the enemy meant for evil God used for immeasurable good. The invasive persecution of October 1997 made possible the vast potential of October 2007. Since the firebombing God has:

Tents of Mercy today

A CLUE TO THE FUTURE ...

If our meeting place was worth bombing, it must be worth establishing. The value of the building in Kiryat Yam's small industrial center was highlighted not only as a symbol, but as a real, practical center of community life, ministry and witness. Tents of Mercy's ministries have been able to grow over these ten years by taking on one portion of the two-story commercial property and then another, and another. With each expansion we stepped out in faith by renting more square footage. God, through our members and international supporters, has ALWAYS met our financial needs. Yet renting is not a wise permanent investment. When would the time come to buy this facility that serves us so strategically? I believe that time is now.

Property values hit a temporary slump following the 2006 summer rain of katyusha rockets (over 4000 in 34 days) that hit our Haifa Bay area particularly hard. By acting boldly we can secure the property in the near future. Step by step, with the help of many volunteers and generous supporters, we have already remodeled large portions of the building to meet our specific needs - including classrooms, offices, sanctuary, pro-life center, humanitarian aid storage/distribution, youth ministry center, library, music school, fitness room, and a well-stocked maintenance workshop. The location has well served the vision God first gave in 1989 - to be an oasis of healing, equipping and sending out.

Shabbat Service

As we mark a decade from the defining moment of October 21, 1997, I feel emboldened to ask our friends around the world to pray about helping us move from a lease to a deed. Of the roughly 22,000 square feet under use, we pay rent on three quarters of the entire space. My conscience is troubled by this. It was a good way to get launched, but instead of providing for our landlord's bank account, it's time to provide for our spiritual family. The point is not acquisition of property in a worldly sense. The motivation and purpose of buying our building is to demonstrate the rootedness of the Messianic community in Israel.

Surrounding Israel's Messianic believers is a society that still does not "get it." They are puzzled by us. Who are we? Is this a temporary phenomenon? A cult? A social aberration soon to vanish? Owning, improving and utilizing property is an upfront, visible way of making a vital statement. "We are here to stay. We are part of Israel. This is our country. We are investing our lives to make it a better place. As Messianic Jews, we embrace ownership and all of its responsibilities." It will also free valuable funds for the essential work of planting more congregations and aiding the needy.

In our next issue I'd like to bring a simple, enjoyable way for everyone, including children, to participate in this strategic step. Meanwhile, may your new year be filled with the sweetness of honey and the inner sound of the shofar drawing you near to the Most High.

 

By Eitan Shishkoff


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Comments
Comments:
14:07 02Oct07 Charlotte Hart -
Right on Eitan! I for one pledge to NEVER NEVER NEVER GIVE UP ON YOU, YOUR FAMILY, OR YOUR CONGREGATION.

18:23 02Oct07 Betty Cochran -
he L-rd moved upon my heart to give a special Sukkot offering. I had some money that I had been saving for over a year ... not a huge amount. I call it my "squirrel money" because I had squirreled it away bit by bit. I knew it should go to an Israel ministry, so I kept listening for the L-rd to tell me where. Two nights ago as I was waiting to go to sleep, the Holy Spirit made known to me that it was to go to Tents of Mercy to be used where ever needed. I was thrilled to send it in!! I love to give and I love to pray. I pray daily for all the Messianic congregations in the Land but especially for Tents of Mercy. May HaShem richly bless you!

13:15 06Oct07 Dr. Nicholas A. Marziani -
May the Lord's continued vindication and blessing be upon you as you enter your 11th "post-October 1997" year, with continued grace and fruitfulness evident in all you do.

17:05 19Oct07 Gloria Ludwick -
Brother Eitan, what a wonderful, inspiring story of what Adonai is doing in Ohalei Rachamim. No doubt HaShem's blessings continue to be poured out upon you, your family, your congregation. You are in my thoughts and prayers daily since your visit to Beth Shalom on August 4. I pray especially for renewal, rest & refreshment for all who do the wonderful work of Adonai daily.


Also in this issue of the newsletter:

Dan Juster: The Afterlife
Moshe Morrison: Synagogue Hopping
Asher Intrater: Righteous Government in Israel