Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Haredim and Hilonim in Israel & the Next Stage of Jewish Evangelism

Two iconic figures representing the
polar opposite worldviews of Israel:
Religious politician Aryeh Deri 
& Secular atheist Amos Oz

The Haredim and Hilonim  in Israel
 
& the Next Stage of Jewish Evangelism

A Guest Essay by Jim Melnick
info@frji.org

Israeli author Amos Oz’s passing at the end of December has served to highlight the importance of understanding the two worldview ‘poles’ or extremes of Jewish life today in Israel. These are between the haredim (the ultra-Orthodox) on the one hand and the hilonim (secular) on the other.  Indeed, the daily struggle in Israel between these two polar opposites largely defines the tempo of political life in Israel today.

Many secular Israelis have come to hate the
haredim even while acknowledging that the latter comprise what they suppose is ‘true’ Judaism.  Likewise, many of the haredim hate or despise secular Jews, whom they barely even consider to be Jews even though it was mostly secular Jews who founded the modern-day State of Israel. Secular Jews were the most ardent Zionists and even now put their lives on the line every day to protect the ultra-Orthodox and to preserve their way of life in a Jewish state. Talk about ingratitude! Or at least, that’s how many secular Israelis look at it.

Haredi Jews for the most part see secular Israelis as usurpers who jump-started creating a Jewish state that they think should only have been established by the Messiah. This is the tension of daily life in Israel and that tension is at the heart of the ongoing political struggle for the soul of Israel.
In this massive internal struggle, the Messianic movement and believers in Israel are mostly onlookers, a minority operating on a different plane. At the same time, believers sometimes end up becoming the tip of the spear in this struggle, as in what has occurred in Arad. In Arad’s case, Messianic believers have been harassed and persecuted there for many years, but they have not been the only target, just one of the most vulnerable.

The Gur Hasidic sect has wanted to turn Arad into a mostly haredi city, and some of the secular are fighting back.  Serious violence between the haredim and secular Israelis broke out there, for example, in September 2017 (4 arrested in Arad clashes between ultra-Orthodox, secular residents). In some ways, this violence represents a microcosm of the antagonisms that exist between the two groups throughout the country spilling over into open conflict.

As an outsider who observes Israel closely, but from afar (so accept or reject my views as you will), I believe that understanding this dynamic is crucial to taking evangelism in Israel and intercessory prayer for Israel to the next level.

The very religious and the very secular are both growing at rapid rates both in Israel and in the United States. Those trends are continuing to deepen. At the same time, in terms of outreach and ministry, both groups remain the most unreached by the gospel message from the Messianic movement and the Jewish missions community. There are obvious reasons for this –both are extremely resistant to the Gospel. These are the hardest spiritual nuts to crack, so to speak. 

Yet it is here, I believe, that we need to focus more of our energies, resources and prayers. I believe that the Lord will open up new doors of opportunity in Israel as well as in the U.S. and elsewhere, as we are faithful in trying to reach out to these very difficult-to-reach segments of society. Even if our initial attempts seem quite meager and not very hopeful at first, it is good to begin to develop a heart for reaching both.

How do we do it? There are new steps underway in trying to reach the haredim both in the U.S. and in Israel, but those steps are in their very early stages. As far as trying to reach secular Israelis and ‘Jewish atheists’ such as how Amos Oz described himself, I am not aware of anyone who is systematically engaging the latter, at least not the ‘thought-leaders’. If anyone is, I would love to hear from you!

I am nearly finished writing a new book on Jewish atheism and secularism, and I have been stunned in doing my research to learn how extensive and varied these secular worldviews are. While God is sovereign and the Holy Spirit can break even the hardest individual’s heart, in general we still have much to learn before we can adequately engage this group on a level where they will listen to what we have to say.

I remember a time, and I’m sure many of you reading this do, too, when we could pass out vanloads of Bibles and other literature in Israel to Russian Jewish immigrants eager to receive them! That was an amazing time, but that time has passed.   Subsequently, though, praise God, we saw the emergence of Russian Messianic congregations and home groups, and the establishment of Russian-speaking leaders and elders in congregations all over Israel. These are now doing outreach among their own communities which are receptive to them and bearing fruit for the kingdom. We are now in another phase in Israel’s spiritual life.

I believe that now is a time to focus on the two opposite “poles” of Israeli society – the two poles that are either most hostile or most indifferent to our message. These two mission fields are certainly ‘white unto harvest’!

The task is very much uphill and certainly much more difficult than passing out Bibles on the street to those who were receptive to receive them! Nevertheless, I believe that if we invest more in these difficult areas of ministry - even if we don’t see a lot of fruit right away (but maybe we will?!), God will surprise us, as we all await that Day when “all Israel will be saved.” (Romans 11: 26)

Amos Oz:  A Tribute by Jim Melnick

Amos Oz died on December 28, 2018. Reuven Rivlin, the President of Israel, wrote in tribute, “Amos, our friend. How dear you were to us... How dear and important you were to the State of Israel, to Israeli society, to the world of literature.” Prime Minister Netanyahu called him “one of the greatest authors of the State of Israel,” who “contributed a huge amount to the re-birth of the Hebrew language.”

So far I have only read a little over half of Amos Oz’s famous 500-plus-page work, A Tale of Love and Darkness. A reviewer in the Guardian called it one of “the funniest, most tragic and most touching books” they had ever read. I agree. I have found it extraordinarily moving, but almost too intense to take in all at once. It is better to digest it in smaller segments, especially about his growing up years in Jerusalem, as well as the joys and sorrows of Jewish life back in Poland and Ukraine. In 2015 the book was also turned into a film.

Oz indeed had a profound impact on modern-day Israeli society and culture. Though many disagreed with his politics, he was a leading voice in the Israeli peace movement. He served in the Six-Day War in 1967 and also in the 1973 Yom Kippur War and walked with a slight limp due to a war wound.
Oz lived for many years in Arad. Lura and Eddie Beckford, who ministered in Arad for years, often saw him and sometimes spoke with him at Ali’s Café. Ali is Bedouin and his café is usually avoided by Orthodox Jews and some secular Israelis, but Oz made a point of spending lots of time there. In a 2000 article he said that he was referred to as the town’s “Arab lover,” A Postcard from Arad. A man who thirsted for justice, I wonder what he thought about the harassment and persecution that raged in Arad against Messianic believers by some of the haredim?

In 2012, Oz and his daughter Fania Oz-Salzberger together wrote Jews and Words, a book in which they both blatantly proclaimed their atheism. They said: “First, we do not believe in God…our Jewish identity is not faith-powered….As Jewish atheists, we take religion to be a great human invention.” They described themselves as “Atheists of the Book” and claimed that there “are, to date, more Bible-wise atheists in Israel than anywhere else.” The mindset behind these words is, I think, key to understanding much of secular Israeli culture today.

In 2016, Oz published the novel Judas, contending that Judas was not really a betrayer but that he actually “believed in Jesus more than Jesus believed in himself.” I won’t try to unpack that bizarre view, but the book does chronicle Oz’s fascination with Jesus. He considered Yeshua “one of the greatest Jews who ever lived,” a fascination that began during his teenage years. Oz’s great uncle was Joseph Klausner, author of the famous book, Jesus of Nazareth. (Amos Oz: ‘I love Israel, but I don’t like it very much’)But Oz’s fascination with Jesus was as far as it went.

I regret that during my many visits to Arad over the years, I did not know until the last few years who Amos Oz was. I did not know that he lived there for some time. I had not yet read any of his books. Otherwise I would have loved to have asked sometime to sit down with him at Ali’s café to discuss his worldview, his life in Jerusalem during those early years and his views about Yeshua. Being the kind of man he was, I think he would have said yes. 

We so desperately need windows into the minds and souls of secular Israelis and secular Jews worldwide in praying for and sharing the Gospel with them. Through his writings, Amos Oz provided one of those windows. 

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Cave of Adullam & the 3 Anointings of David

This is not meant to be a doctrinal statement or to be understood as the primary
contextual meaning of the verses in this article, but rather is my personal sense
of what the Spirit is speaking 
prophetically.


The Cave of Adullam
& the 3 Anointings of David



Throughout my life I have placed a high value on expressing myself as honestly as possible. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but I have learned along the way that when we are open and vulnerable about what is really going on, it will cause two different reactions. One, it will open you to criticism, but two, it will make others open up about their own stuff honestly.

Thinking about this reminded me of 1 Samuel 22:1-2 "David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him."

That is the exact opposite of what most faith teachings emphasize to us today, where we are all supposed to keep upbeat and positive: 'No Debbie Downers, please!' So isn't it interesting that David, who had already been anointed by God in the sight of his family to be the King of Israel, would next have to flee to a stronghold where he was immediately joined by his family members, and soon after joined by 400 men, "all who were distressed or indebted or discontented."  This man on the run, drew men who were looking for a leader and they rallied to his stronghold in the cave of Adullam.

David didn't get to stay in that Messianic cave for long because, "the prophet Gad said to David, "Do not stay in the stronghold. Go into the land of Judah." So David left and went to the forest of Hereth." 
God did not anoint David to hole up in the safe place of a cave stronghold; He anointed him to go out and fight the battles of kings.

The Messianic movement emerged in the United States in the late 1960's-70's Jesus Movement. Indeed many of the young Jewish men and women who came to faith in the midst of that counter-culture generation of Baby Boomers, went on to form "a new thing". Many in the Christian world have not seen any good reason for a "messianic movement" to exist preferring that all Jewish believers merely lose the Jewishness and become good Christians.

It was God who was forming this new thing of identifiably Jewish followers of Jesus: "Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:19

Those young American Jewish men and women were God's building blocks. They established congregations and ministries in the United States, but then He called many of them to leave the safe place —  the cave of Adullam — and immigrate to Israel. There they would continue in their calling as ministers of the gospel of Israel's Messiah Yeshua. Are you tracking with me?

Prophetically, these leaders left their nice, safe American congregations and ministries to enter the land of Promise — the promise that their new life in Israel would be taxing! There would be much greater religious opposition, less financial stability and more challenges than they would ever come up against in the nice, safe stronghold of their 'cave of Adullam' of the Messianic Movement in the United States. Instead God called them out to go into the wilderness of Israel: 1 Samuel 22:5, "... So David left and went to the forest of Hereth." 

There is something interesting about this word Hareth. First, there is no meaning given that I could find, but the word stems from another Hebrew word, Charath, which means to engrave. Charath is only used once in the Bible and that is in Exodus 32:16, "And the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven H2801 upon the tablets."

Living Stones. Living Letters. Living tablets engraved by the writing of God, and a work of God Himself. God did not want the Messianic Jewish faith to remain in the stronghold, in the places where it was safe to be a Jewish believer in Yeshua, He wanted them out in the wilderness of Israel where they would walk as living engravings, the work of God in the midst of a people God promised to return to with grace and favor.

David was anointed three times to be the King of Israel before he became the king over all Israel. These are all brand new thoughts, so please bear with me as I try to express it.

The first time David was anointed it was in the presence of his own family in 1 Samuel 16:13. Notice that when David fled King Saul to hole up in the stronghold of the cave of Adullam, the first ones to join themselves to him were his own family members. Afterwards "All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander."

That description kind of sounds to me like so many of the Christians who have joined themselves to the Messianic movement in the past few decades. I know as a Christian when I joined myself to the Messianic movement back in about 1992, I certainly fit the profile! I was like that song from the U2 Joshua Tree album, "And I still haven't found what I'm looking for."  Distressed, in debt and discontented!

Many Christians who have attached themselves to the Messianic movement have come in distress, debt and discontent with what they received from their former churches. They represent an opportunity for the same kind of healing, deliverance and vision that David was able to minister to those who came to him. That's why they came to David, they saw his anointing for good leadership.

Some in the Messianic movement have also seen this as their calling in Yeshua to fulfill the prophetic call to bless "all nations on earth" (goy/nations/gentiles).  But many Christians who join the Messianic movement get stuck in bad feelings toward the Church because of Christian history against the Jews and many Messianic Jews are stuck there too. It is an important history to know, but we have to move beyond that basis of relating to Israel. David did not cultivate anger against Saul;He modeled respect for God's anointed. In our day this should translate two ways: the Messianic movement should model respect for Israel and respect for the Church.

So maybe that is why the really cutting edge of anointed, prophetic Christian ministries have looked down on us spiritually — both the Messianic movement and those of us Christians who have joined ourselves to them. Could be. We don't look to them like we're something they want to be part of. Yet God is doing something magnificent in the Messianic faith and I believe we can also see that progression paralleled in the three separate times David was anointed to be King.

The 3 Anointings of David
The first time he was anointed David was just a teenager of about 15 years old. That same year is the year he also killed Goliath and from there he began to serve King Saul for 7 years, even marrying Saul's daughter. Saul's jealousy finally drove David into hiding when he was about 22 years old and David was continually on the move for the next 8 years both hiding from Saul and battling the enemies of Israel.

David was anointed to be king as a teenager, but Israel already had a king, Saul. In those years of serving Saul, and then fighting for Israel while hiding from Saul, God was preparing David to be the kind of king that God wanted for Israel — a man after God's own heart. He spent those years on the run, fighting for Israel and hiding from Saul. Saul wanted to harm David, but David did not want to harm Saul. David recognized that even though Saul was a true enemy, He was also God's anointed.

God had rejected Saul, but God had not removed Saul, so David's level of integrity was that he would never lay a finger on Saul even when the opportunity presented itself. Sound familiar? It does to me. It sounds just like how the Israeli Messianics conduct themselves in Israel, even in the face of truly threatening religious jealousy and opposition.

David was about 30 years old when Saul died after being mortally wounded by the Philestines on Mt Gilboa. After Saul's death, the men of Judah recognized David's anointing to be king, so they anointed him for the second time. David then became the king of Judah in Hebron. After Saul's death Judah and Israel were still separated from each other — as Messianic Israelis still are from unsaved Israel. But after a few years of internal conflicts, the elders of Israel also saw that David was anointed to be king of all Israel.

So for the third time David was anointed by all Israel to be their King.  When they acknowledged David's anointing as King of Israel, then David was able to battle for Israel, recapturing Jerusalem from the Jebusites — a root verb that means "to tread down or trample."

Do you see what I see? In the first anointing young David is like the pioneer generation of Messianic ministry leaders who came to Israel to serve Yeshua in the building up of the Living Stones of Israel. They excelled, increased and grew in much "character building" spiritual maturity facing all the challenges of Israel — the jealousy of the spiritual establishment.

In 1948 there were only 23 believers in all of Israel. After 1967 with the birth of the Messianic movement in the USA more Messianic believers began to immigrate to Israel with the calling of God to get out of their safe cave and get into the wilderness of Israel, because that is where God was going to bless them with fruitfulness.

While there is still spiritual battle going on between 'Judah and Israel' (Messianic Israelis and unsaved Israelis), yet many Israelis are recognizing the anointing that is upon the Messianic 'Davids' who are the work of God written on living tablets, living stones who are the temple, or the body that is being raised up in the likeness of Messiah Yeshua.

Yeshua said, "For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, Baruch haba B'Shem Adonai." 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'

When Israel recognizes the anointing that is on the Messianic believers of Israel, this will open all Israel up to receive the King that God has wanted for them all along: The Lion of the Tribe of Judah. For God made a covenantal promise to David as represented in all those Jews in the faith of Messiah who exist today and who have continuously existed since the first century: "But My loving devotion will never depart from him (David) as I removed it from Saul, whom I moved out of your way. Your house and kingdom will endure forever before Me, and your throne will be established forever.”  2 Samuel 7:15-17

We may have resembled a rag-tag group of people — "broke, busted and disgusted" as the old song lyric goes — but there is a progression taking place that ends in "all Israel" anointing Yeshua as their King. All these "David's" — men after God's own heart, standing in the spiritual ancestral line of David. It is the anointing that comes by faith in Yeshua.

 I see the Messianic faith being like that - how the covenant God made with David was fulfilled in Yeshua, then extended to those Messianic Jews who believed in Him in the first century - passed on now by Jewish faith placed in Him. So that is the first anointing of His kingship. Then through the ages there has always been a remnant of Jewish faith in Yeshua until the re-establishment of the nation of Israel has released the season of God's reestablishment of faith in Yeshua in Israel. Israel is not to be just a physical restoration of the state, but a spiritual restoration of Israel to God through His Messiah Yeshua.

This is like the second anointing of David, where he began to walk in a limited measure of the kingship God intended for him and others were being added to him.  The believers are like an extension of Yeshua in the Davidic line - by faith. 

I am not able to express this fully yet and maybe I ought to leave this part out until I am, BUT the believers will continue to increase in followers of the One who will be crowned King of Kings. This Yeshua whose throne is Jerusalem, who is the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the ultimate fulfillment of the covenant God made with David, "In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely, and this is the name by which she will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness. For this is what the LORD says: David will never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel" Jeremiah 33:16-17

Today there are 30,000 Israeli Jewish Believers according to a "conservative estimate." Some believe the actual number is double that amount. Despite all the challenges, opposition, and often the spiritual isolation, these are like David in the period still fighting Israel's enemies and hiding from Saul.

While not all the church has recognized them as a significant thing God is doing, many other believers worldwide do. I see this to be like the point in the progression when of David's second anointing occurred. When "only the men of Judah" anointed him as king. That recognition of the anointing of Messiah Yeshua is increasing year-by-year in Israel, among the Jewish people and increasingly in the international church.

Soon the time will arrive when even the elders of Israel will see the anointing of the Davidic King that rests upon His Israeli Messianic Jewish people who are called by His Name, walking in His anointing. At that time all Israel shall be saved, they will declare Yeshua as the KING of Israel. This final anointing will mean Yeshua will capture Jerusalem as David did: Nevermore will it be tread down and trampled by the Jebusites. It is coming and I want to be a part of this blessing that reverberate throughout the world.