Something Good in Nazereth
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God must have quite a sense of humor: A former Soviet-Muslim named Vakif is leading the Messianic Jewish congregation "Netzer HaGalil" in Upper Nazareth. The article below is taken from a recent interview with Vakif.

I was not born Jewish. I grew up in a nominally Muslim family in a region of the Former Soviet Union (FSU) called Tatarstan. After Communist travel restrictions lifted slightly in 1973, my parents moved the family to Siberia to seek economic stability. There I met my wife Tatiana who is of Jewish lineage. At the time my Muslim background and her Jewish roots had virtually no significance for us. In 1991 we moved back to Tatarstan to take advantage of an agricultural land opportunity and start farming. I had never farmed. Even though I worked hard and enjoyed it, we could not pay back the loans we had taken for farm equipment at very high interest rates. I despaired as the reality of our condition sunk in, and prayed a desperate plea, "Help me" to a power I did not know!

In 1997 in the middle of our terrible financial plight, various family members began to believe in Yeshua. I was opposed to this, and decided to visit these religious meetings to make sure they were not too detrimental for my family. On my second or third visit, I fell to the floor in conviction and said, "This is what I want". God soon performed a miracle, and the bank wrote off our farm loan!

We went back to Siberia where I spent many months unemployed. Much of this time was spent reading the Bible. I felt strongly that I needed to be immersed in water. The day following my immersion, I miraculously received a highly desirable position as an electronics and measurement technician.

Israeli believers from Haifa came and spoke at our church, encouraging those with Jewish ancestry to make aliya (immigrate to Israel). My wife Tatiania was deeply touched and wept for days. We began to consider making aliya. I fasted for 3 days and then heard a very clear voice inside saying "What, you're still here?!"

Within less than a year we moved, landing in Israel in late 1999 with our 2 teenage children, but with no money, no friends, no extended family, and not knowing the language. I only had one contact when we arrived. It was Leon Mazin's1 telephone number.


In 2005 Netzer HaGalil Congregation was started in Upper Nazareth by Leon Mazin and several families as an affiliate of the Haifa congregation Shavei Tzion (part of the Tents of Mercy network). When the congregation was established, they rented a small facility in the industrial area, and recently remodeled the interior.

From early on, Netzer HaGalil has had a humanitarian food ministry, distributing basic food items each week to dozens of economically challenged households in Nazareth. Congregational leader Vakif says, "We want to lend a helping hand, letting our actions speak louder than our words and even before our words. This basic expression of concern has had a spiritual impact on those who are the recipients of the food. We are also planning a children's music outreach program." In addition to regular weekly prayer and worship services, and a home group in the nearby town of Migdal HaEmek, the congregation also conducts a teaching course for new believers.

Vakif relates: "I don't know of anyone who came to God who did not have problems. But then we see things beginning to change. We see that the people are coming more and more with an expectation to receive from God. And we are seeing an increase of fellowship connection among us. Also, people are developing a connection to the Biblical, Hebraic roots of their faith, for example the celebration of the feast of unleavened bread with all the symbolism of Passover."

Many new immigrants from the Former Soviet Union (FSU) have settled in the Nazareth area. Although they have Jewish ancestry, for most the connection with Jewish life and the Bible had become extremely minimal after decades of Communist rule. Some had even been Russian Orthodox Christians in the FSU, and are confused as to how they can resolve that with living as Israelis in the Jewish homeland. Vakif explains, "When they are exposed to us, suddenly they see that faith in Yeshua is not irreconcilable with Jewish-ness. We read the Torah portion weekly and celebrate the Biblical Jewish feasts. Recently some visitors have been surprised to discover that we are really living as Jews."

At this time in Nazareth there are many Arab churches but only two Messianic Jewish congregations. Please join us in praying for a permanent facility for Netzer HaGalil Congregation. This is significant. Unlike in other towns in the Galilee such as Capernaum, Yeshua was not received by the ancient Jewish population of Nazareth, though He lived here most of His life. We want to change that history.

1.Leon was (and still is), a pastor in the Tents of Mercy network. Vakif found work in a factory and also began serving with Leon in the Haifa congregation and then the Nazareth congregation. Since 2010 Vakif has served full time as pastor of the work in Nazareth.

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