This week Jews for Jesus completed our 4th Behold Your God witnessing campaign in Israel. The focus of our effort was in the Jezreel Valley and took place between the observance of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the conclusion of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. That comes to just a little over two weeks of direct evangelism for approximately twenty staff and volunteers who made up this campaign team.
The Jezreel Valley is a largely agricultural region surrounding three medium size cities, Yokneam, Afula and Beit She’an. Because there are fewer places to hand out tracts in these three cities we included other kinds of outreach, especially calling people on the telephone as well as directly mailing a piece of evangelistic literature to every home in the Valley. (Click here to see a PDF of the flyer and here for the English translation.) If you look at the flyer you will see that it is one piece of paper with a simple and brief message. Yet in a local newspaper, our opposition described it as “flooding” the mailboxes of local residents. Click here to see a page of the article (including a photo of one of our banners) and here for the English translation.
We also emphasized what we call bannering: standing at major intersections and highway junctions, holding large signs with a brief but very visible evangelistic slogan and telephone number for people in passing autos to see.
Frankly, I was somewhat skeptical of the efficacy of bannering since the message would only be seen by those in passing cars, giving few opportunities to engage with the people inside.
I was wrong. Between one and two hundred people phoned our Jews for Jesus office every day of the campaign—and two thirds of those people were responding to the banners. While the majority was opposed to our message, a full twenty-five percent of the callers were open enough to give us their name and address requesting more information. During the campaign we received 336 contacts from those who called our office, 282; were in direct response to seeing the banners.
Because much of the campaign took place during the Feast of Tabernacles, the theme of the holiday punctuated our efforts. Many Israelis take vacation during the eight days of the festival. They go camping or visit local parks where they have cookouts and erect sukkahs, the special booths (tabernacles) associated with the holiday.
We focused quite a bit of our evangelistic efforts in the parks, setting up our own booths and inviting people in to sit and talk with us about the gospel. Our campaigners really enjoyed the opportunity to tie our evangelism into the holiday celebration.
We faced some stiff opposition, mostly from the religious Jews in the area. Our campaigners were shoved, spit on, slapped, punched and kicked by people who thought they were doing God a favor.
The opposition included some organized efforts from a religious group called Yad L’Achim (hand to the brothers). This anti-missionary organization is well-funded and it seems they are well connected to government officials who appear willing to look the other way when it comes to the group’s unethical and possibly illegal activities. An expos? of this organization’s activities recently appeared in Haaretz, the largest daily newspaper in Israel. (Click here for an English translation of this article).
Some of the police and security guards helped, for which we are grateful. Others just stood by and refused to get involved. It was actually the secular Israeli citizens who most often intervened to prevent the religious from beating up our campaigners. “It’s a free country. Leave them alone,” they would yell as they interposed themselves between our attackers and us. Our people were humbled and grateful for the help. We also found that those who intervened were often willing to hear what we had to say as a result. Most of all, we were grateful to God that He used the opposition as an opportunity to make His name more widely known in the Jezreel Valley during this sacred season.
One campaign highlight was a radio interview with the largest secular station in Northern Israel. It was particularly gratifying because last year the same station cancelled the evangelistic radio commercials we had scheduled to air during our second BYG campaign. In fact, they called us to schedule an interview with Dan Sered earlier in this campaign and then cancelled. Apparently there was disagreement among the station’s “higher ups” as to whether or not to cover this story. But eventually they called us back to reschedule.
The interview lasted for seven minutes and gave Dan Sered, Tel Aviv Branch Director, an opportunity to tell his story and to share the gospel. The interviewer asked why we were standing at traffic intersections holding banners and why we had sent mail to all the people in the Jezreel Valley. He also asked if we were subjected to any violence, and when Dan said yes, the interviewer urged the listening audience to show restraint even if they disagreed with us.
After speaking with Dan, the radio host interviewed a postal worker who claimed she was refusing to deliver our evangelistic mailer to homes on her route and was in danger of being fired by her boss as a result. We were aware that a large number of people in the Afula area hadn’t received our mailing and now our lawyer is looking into what may have happened.
Proclaiming the gospel in the land of Israel isn’t easy, but it is necessary. It is the act of obedience to what Jesus commanded us. We must be His witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria (Acts 1:8).
Even though the Festival of Sukkot is a harvest festival, this campaign was much more a season of sowing gospel seed for a harvest yet to come. This is understandable in light of the fact that only 0.1 % of Israelis believe in Jesus and only 3% ever heard that He actually rose from the dead. There is so much more to be done.
During this campaign in the Jezreel Valley we were able to hand out 9,300 gospel tracts. We received the names and addresses of 684 Jewish Israelis who told us they wanted to know more about Yeshua (Jesus), including 336 who called our office to request literature. We also got the contact information of 117 unsaved Gentiles who showed interest in Jesus- most of these are Arabs. To date we have given by hand or mailed more than 200 copies of the New Testament Scriptures in Hebrew and more than 450 copies of the Hebrew book, His Name is Yeshua, a book about Messianic prophecy. In addition, three Israelis prayed with us to receive Yeshua as Messiah. We’ve got stories and pictures as well as a video of the campaigners in action.
I am proud of the courage and commitment our campaign staff and volunteers showed. Yet they know, and I know, that courage and commitment was an outpouring of God’s grace through your prayers. So “Thank you!” to all of you who pray for us and support us. All praise and glory to the Lord whose Name we were privileged to make known throughout the Jezreel Valley these past few weeks.
Please do continue to pray for all the follow-up going on with those who prayed to receive Yeshua, and those who asked for more information and literature from Jews for Jesus.