A TALE OF TWO POOLS
| By Martin Shoub |

The Meshushim Pool
It is early Friday morning; twenty or so men are huddled outside of Tents of Mercy waiting for our bus to arrive. We are the typical congregational mixed bag; Russians and Americans, Ethiopians and Sabras, young men still in army service and pensioners. Only the God of Israel could have put such a crew together. An hour into our journey the bus rumbles off the highway onto a narrow dirt road. We are high up the Golan plateau, cows graze among the Tabor oaks stretching out on both sides of the dirt track. To the south, the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) is far below us, a blue platter among the wavy hills of the Galilee. We lumber off the bus, stretching and joking the way boys of all ages and nationalities do. Eventually we muster ourselves together and amble down a steep valley slope to our destination - The Meshushim (Hexagonal) Pool.

The pool is named after the hexagon shaped basalt pillars that line the cliff sides along the north end of the pool. The view is prestigious but we have not come here only to admire the beauty of God's creation. There is still a bite in the February air but assistant congregational leader Avishalom Teklehaimanot, young adults leader, Dima Kravtsov and a young soldier, Eli A. dutifully strip down to shorts and wade in up to their waists. Today, Eli is making a public declaration of his faith in Yeshua HaMashiach through the ancient ritual of immersion.

Eli testifying of God's grace
Eli is 19, a soldier and a dedicated follower of Yeshua. Before the ceremony Avishalom encourages us all to live a life of adventure and risk - a life typified by identifying with the death and resurrection of Yeshua. As we are huddled together listening to his words, a group of young secular Israelis arrive at the pool. They join our huddle to get a better look at the goings on. Eli confesses his faith in the Messiah of Israel and Avishalom and Dima dunk him under the water. Here is something hikers in Israel don't see everyday. What sort of strange and foreign ritual is this?

ELI'S STORY

Eli, Avi and Dima towel up and change into dry clothes. Eli gathers us together to tell his story. Life in Israel for Eli and his family has been tough and fraught with difficulties. When Eli was a young boy his father was jailed for drug use and criminality. His mother raised him with a strong sense of Jewish identity but could not provide the answers to his seeking heart. As a teenager Eli saw the vain pursuits of his peers and concluded life was not worth living. He meticulously began to plot his own death. Before going through with suicide Eli reached out to the God of Israel one last time. He knelt in the street and called on Adonai to reveal Himself.

Unbeknownst to Eli, one of his good friends was a messianic believer. Unsure of how Eli might react he hadn't told him of his faith. One night, shortly after Eli's desperate prayer, Yeshua visited this same young believer in a dream. Yeshua told him to go "and speak all the words of this life" to Eli. When Eli heard the gospel and how Yeshua had visited his friend he realized God had answered his prayer.

Eli's mother was distraught over his faith in Yeshua. She enlisted the anti-Messianic group Yad L'Achim to try and convince Eli of the error of his ways. Undaunted by their arguments and accusations Eli stayed true to the Messiah who loved him. Eli's mother would not relent, she forbade her son to attend Tents of Mercy. Eli obediently waited two years - until he came of age before he joined us for Shabbat services. Eli's mother has softened over the years as she has observed the godly character of her son.

BBQs and BAPTISMS

Dima and Avishalom
Men's meetings and BBQ are synonymous terms at Tents of Mercy, so it is back on the bus to another nearby location where we can pull out the braziers and get the shishlik grilling. Here we are at another pool. Not carved out of the rock by a forceful stream but laid out square by the Syrian army as an outdoor pool for their officers. The pool is somewhat disheveled since its Syrian recreation center days. Weeds now cover over the broken patio stones and fish swim about in the water but it is a flat, wide spot with just enough room for twenty hungry men and their BBQs.

While the grillers are tending the fires we are joined by guests. Two orthodox men have come to the pool to make a mikvah (a ceremonial washing). Without much fanfare they stripped off their clothes, jumped in the pool, said a quick prayer and then immersed themselves repeatedly. Out they hopped, clothes back on, a brief cigarette break and they were on their way. What a picture; all I could think about was how I wish I had witnessed this in my Bible college days - that would have put a speedy end to the superfluous sprinkle versus immersion debate!

Baptism is a very sensitive subject among our people. Many Jews believe immersion in the name of Yeshua is the embarkation line between Judaism and Christianity. Two hours earlier a brother was immersed with the help of his friends to declare he had been made clean by the death of Yeshua and raised up to a new life in God through Him. Now, two of our kinsmen were immersing themselves in keeping with the Torah and in line with a centuries old tradition as an act of faith in God's cleansing power. This is not some strange and foreign ritual, the thread of hope and redemption remains unbroken through the years. But how much greater meaning and power was evident witnessing Eli's immersion; this young man who had stood faithful through so much adversity, joyfully declaring to his brothers (and some Israeli tourists) that he belonged to Yeshua and would serve Him forever.

YGAL'S STORY

Y'gal calling on the name of God
After our BBQ another surprise: Ygal, a soldier in his early twenties, encouraged us with his testimony and observations about immersion in water, the Spirit and with fire. Ygal told of God's faithful dealings in his life, how Adonai had met him in these three immersions, each time revealing more of Himself. Coming to faith as a young man Ygal first connected with Tents of Mercy through his mother. Sadly, she eventually left our faith community but Ygal kept coming. As a 14 year old he got himself up every Shabbat morning to make the trek to services without the typical parental prodding, pushing and pleading!

As Ygal shared so eloquently and forcefully I marveled at the depth in this young man. Where did he learn such wisdom? Where did Eli gain such faith as a young man to overcome such opposition? In Eli and Ygal I was seeing first hand two young men who displayed a burgeoning faith that is being prepared to shake the world. Oasis has dedicated several stories this last year to the testimonies of young Israelis. My experience at the two pools only serves to reinforce the promise and hope of this generation. Another thread of our heritage is being rewoven. God is raising up young Davids and Josephs to scatter enemies and bring salvation.

 

By Martin Shoub


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Also in this issue of the newsletter:

Dr. Daniel Juster: A New Holocaust
Moshe Morrison: What Was, Is: Passover Reflections
Eddie and Jackie Santoro: View From Jerusalem
Asher Intrater: David's Greater Son