When Cultures Meet
Havurah interviews a Messianic Jewish/Muslim Background Believer Couple
Havurah: Can you tell us how you came to faith in Yeshua?
Basrah: I was born into a Muslim family, but came to believe in Yeshua through a process in which God used several things. The first was receiving a vision from Yeshua in which he told me to follow him. The second was that when I compared the Bible with the Koran, I found myself more attracted to the Bible. And finally, I prayed for God to show me the way, after which some Christians knocked on my door and preached the gospel to me.
Baruch: I grew up in a Jewish family in which I tried to have a relationship with God through Judaism. I remember my father explaining to me that it’s very easy—just make a prayer in the morning and put on your phylacteries and tallit. But I never felt that these traditions could change my life. When I met Basrah, she shared the gospel with me. She seemed authentic, and she knew the story of the people of Israel better than I did! Through her witness and through the Bible, I came to realize that Jesus is the Messiah.
Havurah: You both come from homes where Jesus was not looked at as the Messiah. How did your families respond when you told them about your new faith?
Basrah: They were very angry, because for them Jesus is not the Son of God—that is blasphemy. But gradually they opened their hearts because they saw the change in my life. They even began to ask me to pray for them, and they saw God answering those prayers in the name of Yeshua! Now I think they believe that there is something very true about Jesus Christ.
Baruch: My family’s first response was: “WHAT!!?? You want to kill me!??” I remember it was Shabbat— the day of peace. “Mama, I have two pieces of good news for you—first, my wedding will be in May.” “Oh, that’s so good! I hope it’s a Jewish woman.” “No, mama, she’s Arab.” “What! You will marry an Arab woman?! So what’s the other news?” “I believe in Jesus, that he is the Messiah and died for my sin.” And when I said that, my mother became quite angry.
Havurah: Did you have any concerns in pursuing a relationship with someone from such a different background?
Basrah: Yes, because I thought about the reaction of my family. Yet I knew that we had our faith in Yeshua in common and that nothing is impossible for him. In the end, when we were engaged to be married, both our families accepted it.
Baruch: In fact, my mother ended up coming to the wedding and, not long after, she accepted Jesus into her life.
Havurah: Many people see the Jewish and Muslim worlds as very different kinds of realities. As a Jewish and Muslim background couple, what things have you found that you hold in common?
Basrah: Yes, we live in the Sephardic world, so we have the same oriental food.
Baruch: And sometimes the same mentality, the same temperament. And strong families.
Basrah: For example, the Jewish mother is the like the Arab mother. And they teach the same concerning the boys; both cultures practice circumcision. And we both come from the same father, Abraham.
Havurah: Basrah, this is a sensitive question, but how do you think Christians from an Islamic background should think about the nation of Israel, given its importance to the Jewish people?
Basrah: Yes, it is sensitive. I think we have to pray for the salvation of the Jewish people as well as for the Arab people. The question of the nation of Israel, of the land—I think this is the business of God. As for us, we have to find greater solidarity and cooperation between Jewish and Arab believers in Yeshua, to work together and as the Bible says, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Havurah: Have either of you had an opportunity to share your faith with someone of the other person’s background?
Baruch: At work I had a good relationship with a Muslim guy named Mahmoud. One day after I had come to faith in Jesus, he said to me, “Baruch, you’ve changed—you don’t go downstairs to smoke a cigarette, you don’t scream, you are at peace. Explain this.” And I just said, “Mahmoud, it’s very simple—I’ve met Jesus and I see things totally differently. I realize that Jesus loves me.” As I shared my story, he seemed very touched. I said, “I have a Bible, and if you want it, I’m offering it to you.” He accepted it, began reading it, and even came to church with me. I don’t know if Mahmoud accepted Jesus because I haven’t seen him for a few years now.
Basrah: One day I was walking on the street and met an old woman. One thing led to another, and she began to tell me that she was Jewish, and that she and her husband were Holocaust survivors. She didn’t really know if God existed because of all those horrors. I told her that while I don’t have an answer for what happened in the Holocaust, I know that God loves you and sent Jesus for us—for you. Because she was living nearby, we became friends and sometimes met together. She accepted a Bible from me and said, “This book will be my bedside book, and I will read it.” I have hope that she will find peace through Yeshua.
This interview was conducted by Susan Perlman. The names of the interviewees and others mentioned have been changed.