Most Israelis are required to serve in the Israeli Defense Force for at least two years. After their service in the IDF, many are weary from facing the reality of death every day, so they decide to get away for awhile. The Far East is a popular destination for these young people. They want to go to a faraway land, have fun, meet new people and see another part of the world. Many feel this will be their last chance to live a carefree existence before coming back to Israel, settling down and growing up.
While away from the Land many of these young Israelis are presented with new beliefs. There is a strong desire to believe in something, and new religious experiences can be attractive alternatives to their upbringing. One example of this is the growing popularity of New Age beliefs and practices. Since1998, New Age festivals have become well-attended events.
Today there are four major annual New Age festivals in Israel, lasting about four days each. They attract more than just those finishing up with the army. Entire families take part in these spiritually oriented festivals. The atmosphere is sometimes like a carnival, sometimes like a marketplace. But behind the fun and the gaiety, there is a dark reality. Many spiritual ideas are presented in these venues, but in the end they are all worshiping the creation rather than the Creator. And ironically, the Israelis attending these festivals do not see them as threatening their Jewish identity; it’s just something new to experience, something to believe in.
Since the spirit of the festival is pluralistic and very open-minded, they provide great opportunities for believers to go in and preach the gospel. Our Jews for Jesus workers rent a booth where we give away many different types of books, testimonies, tracts and other apologetic literature. The most popular book we give out is the New Testament. We go to the camping grounds and sit around people’s fires and talk to them about Jesus. We find that many festival people are open to the gospel because they come looking for some sort of spiritual answers. Some are more open than others but almost all will listen to the message of salvation. That is the encouraging side of the New Age festivals in the Land: But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20). Please pray that God will continue to use us in the lives of these fun-seekers to bring many to know Him through these festivals.