Book Title: Bound for the Promised Land
Author: Haya Benhayim (Author), Menahen Benhayim (Contributor)
Date Published: May 2004
Publisher: Purple Pomegranate Productions
ISBN: 978-1881022152
Reviewer: Jews for Jesus

The prologue to Bound for the Promised Land takes readers to the land of Israel, to the beginning of the Yom Kippur war. Gifted writer Haya Benhayim, an eyewitness to the event, sets the scene, offering an unparalleled perspective.

For the fourth time in modern Israel’s 25-year history, a life-and-death struggle for survival was again to be waged. For us, it was our second experience of war since immigrating to Israel from the United States early in 1963.

What had brought us here to take part in the movement of Jewish return to the ancestral homeland? This is a question we have frequently been asked.

Of the estimated five-and-a-half million Jews living in America in 1963, only a few thousand had settled in Israel. Yet this was a movement which overshadowed every other similar event in Israel’s long history.

Nonetheless, in the eyes of many of our people, we were disloyal. They thought we had thrown in our lot with the Gentiles, with those they thought were the mortal enemies of Judaism and the Jewish people. We had dared to declare openly, in the words of Simon bar Yonah, our ancient Jewish kinsman, that Yeshua is the Messiah, the son of the living God (Matthew 16:16). And we were not ashamed to acknowledge him as our king and redeemer.

It is a fitting opening to a one-of-a-kind story that, in addition to being riveting and thought-provoking, also happens to be true. From the beginning of Bound for the Promised Land, Haya and (a few chapters later) Menahem are continually caught between two worlds, between the traditions of the past and modern life, between their Eastern European heritage and their lure of American assimilation. For each, independently, this sense of being pulled in two directions culminates in 1) a choice between the Orthodox Judaism in which both were raised and belief in Yeshua and 2) a choice between staying in the Golden Land” of America or immigrating to Israel.

Neither was an easy choice to make, and the reader will find himself or herself captivated by the bravery and resilience of this seemingly unassuming couple. Driven by faith alone, Haya and Menahem decided to leave their comfortable existence in America and go where no American messianic Jewish couple had dared go before them. Haya’s vivid prose transports the reader on board cargo ship MV Beersheva, which left Miami Harbor in 1963 and carried Menahem and Haya to Haifa and a whole new life. As Haya and Menahem try to find their place in a strange new land, the reader will join them as they begin work on a kibbutz, and eventually move to the then scarcely populated coastal town of Eilat and finally to Jerusalem.

Aside from Menahem and Haya’s unique status as American messianic Jewish immigrants to Israel, several aspects set Bound for the Promised Land apart from other autobiographies. Though they are pioneers in almost every sense of the word, there is no trace of hubris in Haya’s retelling of their epic adventure. The book radiates with humility and thankfulness, rare in such abundant quantities these days. This is of course due to the fact that Haya and Menahem take into account a supernatural, sovereign God who works on their behalf, guiding them on their journey even to this day. Make no mistake, their faith in Yeshua has certainly been tested throughout their lives, but as Haya would readily agree, it is also what has sustained them through hardship.

Another factor that distinguishes the Benhayims’ book from some other autobiographies is that the people, places and events mentioned serve as much more than a backdrop to self-discovery. Rather, they are seen directly shaping the lives and faith of Haya and Menahem and the burgeoning messianic Jewish community in Israel. Menahem and Haya did more than observe history in the making they, in a sense, made history. The community of Jewish believers in Israel today is a powerful tribute to them and, most importantly, to the God they came to know in their youth in America.

You may be asking yourself, “What would possess anyone to just pick up and move their lives to another, never-before-seen place that is so often fraught with friction and danger?” Haya and Menahem are glad you asked. This remarkable couple’s story may be from another time and another place, but it is sure to resonate with all people who have had to make difficult choices in life.