Collective National Depression
Israel has just come through a war with Hezbollah in Lebanon and no one there seems to think it went well. There is no confidence that any lasting peace will result from this war. Israelis prefer peace, but most felt that this fight was a necessary defence against terrorist attack. When the much-celebrated Israel Defense Forces did not perform as well as expected, the resulting sense of vulnerability seemed to create a collective sense of depression among the population. Many blame the current government. I met with five different pastors from Haifa, where much of the shelling took place, and several said that worship services seemed subdued and the people discouraged. This is a time for the people, especially the believers, to remember the promise of Scripture, Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). Please pray for the nation to turn their eyes to Him and look to the Lord for help through Yeshua.
Signs of Hope
Despite the pall that seems to be cast over the Land, I have some encouraging news to report. There may be a greater openness to spiritual things among Israelis as a result of this current crisis of confidence. We have seen a marked increase in hits to our Hebrew website from Israeli unbelievers over the past month or so. The upcoming High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur provide an opportunity for even secular Israelis to consider spiritual truth. Many will attend holiday services in Jesus believing congregations through out the land. Some of these congregations have agreed to partner with us in our upcoming outreach at a New Age festival called “Breishit” (pronounced “buh ray sheet” it means “beginnings,” and also refers to the first book of the Bible) during the Feast of Tabernacles. These festivals draw tens of thousands of young Israelis searching for answers. We point them to the Messiah, offering tracts, books and personal conversations to answer their questions. Please pray for fruitful evangelistic efforts during the High Holidays and the upcoming New Age festival.
A New Generation
The most encouraging sign is the number of young people who are coming to the Lord and beginning to stand for Yeshua. One pastor who has been in the Land since Israel became a nation told me of a recent youth conference he conducted, attended by 135 Israeli believers between the ages of 18 and 30. That may not sound like a lot, but for this pastor, for me and for many others it is a very encouraging sign of growth. Many of these young people are bold witnesses for the gospel. They are not afraid to stand up and be identified as believers in the Land. They have served their country, they pay their taxes and they want their people to know the Messiah.
Jews for Jesus has been impacted by this trend as well. A growing cadre of younger Israelis has joined us in commitment to full-time ministry in Israel. Efraim and Jeannie Goldstein, American-born veteran Jews for Jesus staff members, pioneered our work in Israel 12 years ago. I told them that if they were successful they would eventually replace themselves with Israeli-born (sabra) leadership. My recent trip to Israel confirmed their success, as I appointed Dan Sered the new leader of Jews for Jesus in Israel. The Goldsteins will remain there to support Dan’s leadership, working among the youth and in training, but Dan, a 28-year-old from Herzliyah, will be leading our growing team. (see more about Dan at his staff page) Please pray for Dan and for all the Israelis who are committed to raising up a new generation of Israelis to praise the Lord through Jesus, our Messiah.
Beginning in Jerusalem
I had the privilege of preaching in two Jesus-believing congregations in Jerusalem. I spoke from Acts 1 about our mandate to be Yeshua’s witnesses, beginning in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a tough place to be a witness. The city has a majority of religious Jews who are strongly and actively opposed to the gospel. But the believers did not shrink from this message. In one congregation, many stood in response to an invitation to be more open and direct in their evangelistic efforts. At a time when many American Christians who say they support Israel are forsaking this mandate, it is encouraging to see Israeli believers committed to forthright evangelism at great personal risk. Perhaps this is one way the church in Jerusalem can show leadership in the body of Christ, as it did back in the first century. A bold witness for Messiah in the Land where He once walked, died and rose again should be a sign of great hope and encouragement to all who love the Lord’s appearing. He is coming back again soon, literally and physically, to Jerusalem. Let’s pray that while He tarries, the believers in Jesus will be strengthened to proclaim His gospel in power, “. . . the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3).