n a Saturday morning back in December 2005, Congregation Nahalat Yeshua (Yeshua's Inheritance) in Beersheba was overrun by over 400 haredi protesters. The protestors had heard rumors about a mass baptism of Messianic believers (in fact, two believers were to be immersed that day) and barged into the meeting, disrupting proceedings for 3 hours. Several congregational members were physically accosted, and congregational leader, Howard Bass was pushed into the small wading pool set up for the immersion ceremony. Some 70 police officers were called in to restore order.

Just over one year later lawyers for Nahalat Yeshua filed a lawsuit against leaders of the demonstration for violating the congegation's rights to freedom of religion and freedom of religious expression. The trial got underway only last June and resumed on November 23, 2009. Proceedings have since been postponed until March 2010 due to a strike by court stenographers. Howard Bass has been very clear that no one should construe this lawsuit as an attack on the Israeli people or the Orthodox community. His purpose is to expose the injustice that occurred and send a message that violent intimidation of Messianic Jews is not acceptable.

During the feast of Purim, March 2008, a bomb disguised as a traditional Purim gift basket was left on the doorway of David and Leah Ortiz' residence in Ariel. David and Leah's teenage son Ami was the only family member home at the time. As Ami unwrapped the gift basket, the bomb exploded in his face. It is only by the miraculous saving grace of God that Ami survived the blast. For over a year, Israeli police offered no information to the Ortiz family about any progress in the case. Last October police finally arrested a suspect, the gag order was lifted on November 1st and Israeli newspapers reported that the alleged perpetrator was an American born, Jewish resident of a settlement near Ariel. The suspect has since confessed to planting the bomb at the Ortiz residence, along with a host of violent acts, including the murder of two Palestinian men. At his arraignment, the accused boasted that he had no regrets, and as Yeshua predicted, believed his actions were acceptable service to God (see, "Jewish-American Settler Charged With Murder", The Wall Street Journal, Nov 12, 2009, cf. John 16:2).

There has been a lot of excellent information and analysis disseminated to the Messianic and Christian community on these two matters and I would encourage our readers to go to the following websites for more detailed information, www.amiortiz.com and www.israelprayer.com. Messianic Jews are a very small minority in Israel, less than a quarter of one percent of the population. Despite our small numbers, we have received a relatively large amount of press over the last year or so. Our focus in the media is in part due to the violent actions of those who are threatened by our presence in Israel.

In December 2009, another violent act against a Messianic Jew occurred in Beit Shean. Two Haredi men were arrested for setting fire to the car of a local Messianic resident. The vehicle was parked close to a police station and police surveillance cameras recorded the incident - arrests were made just a few hours after the incident occurred. The headline on the Jerusalem Post's website read, "Haredim torched Messianic Jew's Car." Aside from the violent nature of this crime the most disturbing aspect of the article were the attitudes reflected in the talk back comments left in response to the story. Many of the responses justified the perpetrators and blamed the victim - a position we are all familiar with from the comments made by those who have terrorized Israelis and Jews around the world.

Randi and Howard Bass
As a Messianic Jew my first reaction to these comments was shock and disbelief - not the shock that Howard must have felt as he was pushed over into the pool and certainly nothing in comparison to the flood of fear and horror the Ortiz family must have suffered; but still a very nagging uncertainty, "How could people be so cruel and misguided?" It is important to remember that the voices on "talkbacks" do not necessarily represent the average opinion of Israelis, but all these incidents together require us to pause and reflect on these violent actions and the spiritual forces behind them.

What Does the Future Hold?

Yeshua warned us to expect opposition: "Remember what I told you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you too." (Jn 15:20) There have been many awful things Christians have done to Jews over the centuries that contribute to the sensitivities of the Jewish people to the Gospel. It is important to take stock of these sad examples from our history, but there is also a force at work in all people, Jews and Gentiles that opposes God's rule. (Remember, Paul's example; he faced opposition from both Jews and Gentiles.) Many people in Israel embraced Yeshua's message, but many did not. After so much negative witness to the Jewish people, should we expect a more welcome reception?

Ami miraculously restored,
together with his mom and dad
There is a likelihood that opposition will increase. One Messianic leader told me the other day, "If we are seeing this sort of reaction when we are less than a quarter of one percent of the population, what should we expect when we are one percent?" I am not making any predictions here, but I think the question is a valid one. To the majority of Israelis we do not represent a threat, but we are likely viewed with some apprehension (see, Larry Derfner's excellent article, "Jesus for Jews," Jerusalem Post, February 12, 2009). Yet to some members of the population, we represent a grave threat and already we have seen violent reactions. There is no doubt that we are in a spiritual battle, not against people but as Paul explained, "against the rulers, authorities and cosmic powers governing this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm." (Eph 5:12)

We Must Respond

Considering the nature of this spiritual battle we need to respond in four ways. The first three are similar: pray, pray, pray. The Body of Messiah worldwide needs to be aware of what is at stake. The spiritual future of Israel is crucial to the whole world. This is not a local battle, but the epicenter (to borrow a well known and accurate phrase) of the battle for God's rule on earth. Intercession for lifting the veil from Jewish - Israeli eyes and for courage and protection for the Messianic body here is everyone's business. The next required response is especially for us who have been given the task to represent Yeshua in his homeland. We need to be very clear that we will walk in love and forgiveness towards those who hate and oppose us. There is no room for bitterness or rejection. God's love is courageous in the face of opposition (I Co 13:7) and forgives those who trespass against us (Mat 6:12).

These two cases are currently before Israeli courts - please pray for God's will to be done in these matters as it is in heaven. Please also beseech the courts of heaven for the Messianic Body in Israel that whatever we may face we will walk in love, courage and forgiveness.

"The wicked lie in wait for the righteous, seeking their very lives; but the Lord will not leave them in their power or let them be condemned when brought to trial." Psalm 37:32,33 (NIV)

 

By Marty Shoub


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Comments:
14:35 05Jan10 Pelham Gross -
One old gentile man standing with you. Thank you for standing on ground where I cannot.

10:24 06Jan10 Peter Hartgerink -
Another Gentile man standing with you. I am bringing this to our church intercessory team which meets this evening. We are going to cry out to Abba on your behalf.

04:20 07Feb10 Jane Oloo -
I am very saddened indeed to read about what the Messianic Jews are undergoing in the Pleasant land. I have understood that apart from our personal and national issues, the Body of Messiah GLOBALLY AND IN UNITY should not be carrying any greater burden than to pray for the safety, shalom and equal rights for the Messianics. The Adversary has only one true fear, and that is the Messianic Jews, because their VERY existence and presence in the Land, tells him that his time is very short; so all his wrath is reserved for these precious ones and those who support them. I appeal often to The Cohen HaGadol who is seated at the right hand of Geulah, to intercede and act on their behalf and on ours, for we too are persecuted because of our stand. Even so, Yeshua, Come soon!


Also in this issue of the newsletter:
Dan Juster: Offended by Christian Zionists
Avi: An African Israeli in Kenya
Holly Wallace: Embracing the Challenge
T.R.: The Intervention of Heaven