IDF Soldier to Jews for Jesus Leader: Dean Chariker’s Story

I ordered a New Testament from Jews for Jesus to prove that they were wrong!

by Jews for Jesus | April 13 2023

I was born and raised in a typical Daati Leumi (Modern Orthodox) family in Israel. We kept the laws of Kashrut, strictly kept Shabbat, and went to synagogue and prayed three times a day while wearing a kippah and tallit katan (a fringed garment worn over the clothes of Jewish men).

Growing up in central Israel, I enjoyed the relatively carefree life of a typical Israeli kid. After graduation from high school, I served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and became an officer in an elite unit. I was a leader both in the field and during prayer time. I knew all the prayers by heart and had the rubrics down. And life was good.

Questioning My Identity

But life took an unexpected turn for my whole family shortly after my release from the army. An official letter arrived from Israel’s chief rabbanut (rabbinical board), and it came to our attention that my family was not really Jewish. In Israel, if that was the case, none of my family would be able to marry Jewishly, be buried in a Jewish cemetery, celebrate any of the life cycle events like brit milah and bar/bat mitzvah, be counted as part of a prayer minyan, plus we could probably be deported.

As it turned out, my maternal grandmother had written “Christian” on her identity papers when she made Aliyah in 1948 from Europe. At the time, Israel was embroiled in the War of Independence, and she was afraid that if the Arabs won, all the Jews would be killed. So in her desperation, she felt claiming to be Christian was a safe bet. She knew from post-Holocaust Europe what the label “Jew” on one’s official documents could mean. She was, in fact, Jewish, and raised her very Jewish family in Israel without problems.

It was only after her death, when she was not around to testify, that the problem had occurred. This plunged our entire family into crisis.

An Ecuadorian Mountaintop

In Israel, you go into the army when you are 18 years old. When you finish your service, you need time off to travel, de-stress, and think about life. I chose South America for my “big trip” after the army and went on my trip while my family sorted the paperwork. My soul was heavy, and I was confused and angry. During one hike, I told my friend to go on without me because I needed time alone. I found myself talking to—actually yelling at—God. “Why are You putting me through this?” “Why do I need You?” “Maybe You don’t even exist!” Even as I challenged God’s existence, I demanded answers and explanations from Him.

Dean, why are you blaming Me? The things you are angry about are not from Me.

Suddenly, a strange feeling—almost like a vibration—came over me. Then words that were not mine came into my mind. And I knew it was God: “Dean, why are you blaming Me? The things you are angry about are not from Me.”

I was confused and scared, but then I felt like someone was hugging me. Calmness enveloped me. Then He said, “Don’t worry, I’m coming to you.” When I returned to the hostel, my friend asked where I’d been. I tried to answer, but I couldn’t say anything! The words just would not come out of my mouth. I thought, If I can’t speak about what happened, I’ll write it out. So I tried, but the only word I could write was ‘Yeshua’ (in Hebrew), but I didn’t know what ‘Yeshua’ meant. Neither did my friend.

Yeshua the Person

A couple of months after I’d returned to Israel, I was looking on Facebook and came across a video. I heard the word ‘yeshua,’ so I clicked on the video. I quickly discovered that Yeshua is a person. The video said that Yeshua was the promised Messiah, the one whom Christians call Jesus. Then there was a book offer (the New Testament) from Jews for Jesus! I was angry, and I ordered the book for one reason: to prove that they were wrong!

But as soon as I began reading the Gospel of Matthew, I felt the presence of God. He was with me as I read, telling me that it was true! He promised that He would come to me, and He did! I knew Yeshua was my Messiah, so I began attending a congregation of believers. And when someone from that congregation told me that because of Jesus, God had forgiven me for my past life, I felt yet again His presence and Him asking me, “Now do you get it?”

An Incredible Journey

And I did. I surrendered my life to Yeshua. I was soon baptized, and two months later I heard of a Jews for Jesus mission opportunity with other young believers to witness in South America. I would get to share the gospel with other Israeli backpackers, many who just got out of their IDF army service—walking a similar path like I had a couple years prior.

That summer with the Jews for Jesus Massah mission project in South America was life changing and empowering. I was able to hand out Hebrew Bibles to other Israeli hikers on that Ecuadorian mountaintop, and soon after South America, I went to India as a leader to reach out to 2,000 Israeli backpackers. It was incredible! I learned how important it is to listen to people—it’s a great way to care for people, and when they know you care, they ask really deep questions.

My mother started to cry, thinking I had joined a cult.

The most difficult part of the journey was the response that I had expected and did receive from my family and closest friends. When I revealed my faith in Yeshua, my mother was fine with the news, but after a few days and the news sunk in, she started to cry, thinking I had joined a cult. My father thought it was just a phase. But after a time, they began to see a real change in me. I still hope that, little by little, they will become believers too.

Jews for Jesus

In May 2021, I married my wife, Miriam, who is a beautiful Israeli Messianic Jewish woman, and shortly after our wedding, we joined both the American and Israeli Massahs.

I am now co-leader of the Massah program and am leading a group of Israeli believers who just finished their army tenure to share the gospel with Israeli backpackers in Peru. I also help host events and art shows at the Moishe Rosen Center and am helping to pilot a project for a café and community center near Tel Aviv University.