My name is Shlomy. I am a sabra (in Hebrew tsabar”), a native-born Israeli. Sabra is also the name of the Israeli cactus. I was once very much like that prickly cactus. I was born into a Jewish family and as a boy I loved all of the traditions. But when I was 13, I asked God to show himself to me because, if I could not see him, I would not believe in him. He didn’t seem to answer me. So I stopped believing in him. My family was extremely disappointed, but what could they do? My mind was made up.
So began a time of rebellion in my life. I thought only of money and success. After my stint in the army I joined the police force, then went on to private security work. I earned the nickname “Rambo” after serving as Sylvester Stallone’s bodyguard when he came to Israel. My life was a blur of nightclubs, bodyguarding and fights. You would have wanted to get about as close to me as you would to a prickly cactus.
Yet, underneath my tough exterior, I was looking for spiritual answers anywhere: fortune-tellers, cards, mystics. When they failed to provide anything, I went back to my roots in the synagogue. Even there I didn’t find answers.
But God knew I was searching. While I was on vacation in the northern part of Israel, I met a young woman who talked to me about Yeshua (Jesus). I remember telling her, “Don’t talk about that and don’t say his name in my presence. I’m a Jew. If you were a man, I would break you in half.” Yet I kept asking her questions. And she made me look at the prophecies about the Messiah in the Hebrew Scriptures1—where I saw things about the Messiah that I had never learned in all my years of school.
The prophecies seemed to point to Yeshua, but even though I wanted to accept him as Messiah, I struggled within myself. What about my tradition and my family, I thought? But God, who is bigger than any of my concerns, showed me that Yeshua truly was the Messiah. And so God also gave me the ability to make a bold stand for him. Every day I found myself more and more enthused about Yeshua and the fact that I now had a relationship with the God of the universe.
A big change happened in my life. As an Israeli, I had seen how my uncles and friends died in the army. Before I knew Yeshua as my Messiah, no Arab could stand next to me without my thinking about doing him harm. But when the time came for me to get baptized,2 I was actually immersed with a Palestinian who became my friend. I know—pretty amazing, huh? Because of Yeshua, the spikes on this tsabar are gone.