Each group of trainees is unique, just as any person is unique—but this semester’s trainees perhaps more so than others.
We have two couples from three countries, all of whom speak fluent Hebrew and have lived in Israel. They present quite a mix of cultures and personalities!
Here’s a chance for you to get to know these two couples a little better.
I was born in a small town in Ukraine to a Jewish father and Gentile mother. When I was seven years old, my mother came to faith in Jesus and began taking my older brother and me to church. I grew up knowing about God but not really understanding much about who Jesus was.
Through my grandmother I learned about my Jewish heritage and culture and became interested in Israel. As a teenager I was focused mainly on myself . . . yet I began to feel that God was going to change my life in a way I could not predict.
I made aliyah (moved to Israel) when I was 15, without my parents. Once there, I went to a religious school for three years. At first, living in my new country was fun, an adventure—but after a while I grew lonely and depressed. I missed my parents and began to remember what my mother had tried to teach me about Jesus. I asked my teachers and friends why we were not supposed to believe in Him. Their answers did not satisfy me, so I began to search the Old Testament, looking for the promises about the Messiah. My search sometimes kept me awake at night but I would not stop until I found the answer.
When I did find the answer I was so happy to know the truth of the Messiah. Even though my mother had believed and told me about Him, I felt I had discovered something brand new. Right away I began to share the good news with my teachers and friends, who thought I had lost my mind. The rabbi at the school told me that if I persisted in this, he would not allow me to pass my final (oral) exam after three years of studying.
It felt like I was the only Jewish believer in Jesus in all of Israel, but I prayed that God would help me find others. One day I saw a lady on the street passing out some kind of literature. It turned out to be invitations to her church and when I attended the following week I was amazed to find many more Jewish believers in Jesus.
Back at school I had to take my final exam. I responded well to all the rabbi’s questions and was about to pass when finally he asked me about Jesus. “I believe He is the Messiah,” I replied. The rabbi told me with regret that he could not pass me—but I know that I passed the exam of faith.
I joined the national service and worked as a doctor’s secretary, and the Lord opened doors for me to share my faith and meet other believers. I started to evangelize on the streets with other believers whenever I had the chance— and that is how I met my husband-to-be.
Many people are surprised to find that an Arab and a Jew can live together peacefully and I, too, would have been surprised at one time. But with Christ, all things are possible!
I grew up in a small Arab village. Both my parents are Christians and we went to church every Sunday. We rarely were in contact with Jewish people and I did not think much about them—until I moved to “the big city.” I was often treated with fear or suspicion and always it seemed at some point in every day I was regarded as a terrorist or friend of terrorists. Of course the fact that I was raised in a Christian family was not known, and I was not living a life in keeping with that upbringing. I rarely prayed or consulted God about my life. Yet I was angry with Him for abandoning me (so it seemed) in the midst of people who did not respect me.
I spent some time in Switzerland where I met a woman, fell in love, and planned to marry. When we returned to Israel, things changed and the relationship fell apart.
I left Israel, angry and depressed, but the God of Israel never left me. I flew to Australia hoping to start a new life. I’d been offered a job there from a man who turned out to be a liar and a thief. He stole pretty much all I had and left me on the street. God had mercy on me and a Christian evangelist helped me through this time. I was able to get to New Zealand where I did start a new life, but not in the way I expected.
My brother was living in New Zealand. He and other believers challenged me to turn to God. It was the right time for me; there was no other answer to my problems. As I trusted Jesus with my hurts and my anger, forgiveness flowed through me. And as I was forgiven, I was able to forgive others. To my surprise I began to feel a love for Jewish people I had not known before, and I sensed that God wanted me to go back to Israel.
There I began to meet Jewish believers in Jesus and to evangelize with them. At a festival in Akko, I was the only Arab on the evangelism team. Yarden was witnessing to some Arabs, and someone pointed her to me to help with translation. Our love for Jesus and desire to tell others about Him brought us together. When we were engaged, we were invited to participate in a 2005 Behold Your God campaign in France. There I learned more about the goals and practices of Jews for Jesus, and once more I found Jewish people who were like-minded about Jesus and the need to tell others about Him.
When I tell Jewish people, “My faith in Jesus is coming from your Tenach, [Bible]” and I begin to show them prophecies, they’ll say, “We’re Jewish and we don’t know these things. How do you know these things?”
When it comes up that I’m married to a Jewish woman, some are incredulous. They wonder why she would marry me or why I would marry her. I say, “It’s God’s plan for us. I love Jews and she loves Arabs and we have peace with each other.” Together we are a story that Jesus truly is the Prince of Peace.
If you would like to read more about Peter and Yarden, go to: http://www.jewsforjesus.org/publications/havurah/10_03/04 There you will find an article from Havurah, our publication for Jewish believers in Jesus.
I am a South African married to an Israeli who is Jewish and believes in Jesus. I never thought I would be married to a “foreigner,” let alone a Jewish foreigner, as I grew up in a culture not known for warmly embracing people of other cultures.
Therefore it may seem strange that in 1996 I decided to become a volunteer on a kibbutz in Israel. Friends of mine had lived on a kibbutz and told me that it was a great experience so I was eager to try it myself. I was 22 years old.
My mum is a strong believer, so I knew that God existed, and I even knew that Jesus was His Son, but it did not really interest me. I respected people who had what I would have called “religion,” but I enjoyed a lifestyle of parties and alcohol that left no room for God and His purposes in my life.
Soon after arriving on the kibbutz I met Carmit, who was my supervisor and, unknown to me, my wife to be. We married eight months later, with her family’s blessing, and lived in Israel for several years. Our first child was born in Israel.
Though Carmit was from a traditional Jewish background and I came from a Christian home, God was not part of our lives. We did not think we needed Him and we had no desire for Him. However, in 2002 we moved back to South Africa. Carmit’s family warned her that once there, she had better keep a very close watch and make sure that no one tried to baptize the children or make them into Christians. My mother is a praying woman and I’m sure it was due to her prayers that I began attending services at one of the local churches, for while it would have been an odd thing to do in Israel, it seemed perfectly natural back in my home country. The more I went to church, the more I felt drawn to God and I realized I wanted to give my life to Him. However, I was hesitant because of my wife.
My going to church had already begun to create problems in our marriage. By now our second child had been born, and as my faith grew stronger each day, my wife became more and more agitated. She had been warned in Israel about this sort of thing and now it seemed her worst fears were coming to pass. The mere mention of Jesus was enough to offend, upset and start her crying. She reminded me time and time again that Jews do not believe in Jesus, that our children were Jewish, and she insisted that I would only teach them about Jesus over her dead body.
But I knew that God was calling me and finally I was baptized and publicly professed my faith. To Carmit, this was the final blow. We sometimes went for weeks on end barely speaking to each other because of the tension over my faith.
I prayed for her and asked God to soften her heart. He answered in an amazing way.
Carmit’s father came to visit us in South Africa and we went on holiday together with him in Durbin. While there, an older woman overheard him speaking to Carmit in Hebrew. She was so excited, she began chatting with us. It had been many years, she said, since she had heard Hebrew. Her name was Elisheva, she was Jewish and told us if ever we were in her town, to be in touch. I looked at her address, and it turned out that she lived in the same town as we did.
Elisheva and Carmit became friends. Carmit confided to her that she was thinking of taking the children and leaving me. Elisheva urged her not to do anything drastic. And then . . . she explained to Carmit that she, too, was a believer in Jesus!
She invited Carmit to lunch with another believing friend and they had a lovely time. After lunch, the two older women asked Carmit if they could pray for her. Feeling it would be impolite to refuse, Carmit found herself on her knees with two older ladies who prayed impassioned prayers for her—and prayed to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. After half an hour of this, they indicated it was her turn.
Poor Carmit! She later told me, “I had no idea what I was going to say but I thought whatever it was it had better be in Hebrew because I don’t want these women to understand me. And so I prayed, ‘God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, if you are real and if Jesus is who these women say He is, show me.’”
It was not a prayer out of a sincerely searching heart. It was a challenge. But from that day forward, God gave Carmit a hunger to know the truth.
I cannot tell you how astonished I was when Carmit came to me one day and told me she wanted to be baptized. “But you must believe in Jesus to be baptized,” I told her. “I do believe in Jesus,” she told me, and I can hardly tell you the joy and relief I felt. That was two years ago.
Carmit looks after our daughters, Nicole and Kimberly, and is unable to undergo the full training. She is eager to attend as many of the classes as the girls’ schedule permits, and has been fully supportive of my desire to be an outreach worker. She says, “If God could change my heart, I know He can change other hearts—even those of my family and friends.” She is excited that together we will have opportunities to be used by God to make a difference in many lives.