For Shabbat today, Yediot Aharonot, a widely read and respected Israeli newspaper, and Ynet News, the paper’s popular website, has published a lengthy and fascinating article with this headline: “JESUS LIVES ON IN JERUSALEM: Thousands of Messianic Jews reside in Israel, perform Jewish ceremonies and serve in IDF.” I commend it to your attention, in part because the article reports two facts certain to intrigue secular Jews and infuriate some of the ultra-Orthodox:
- In Israel, there are now some 15,000 Jewish followers of Jesus (known in Hebrew as Yeshua) as the Messiah, and the number is growing.
- In the U.S., there are now some 350,000 Jewish followers of Jesus as the Messiah
The article is really a profile of the growing community of Jesus followers in the Land, and is remarkably devoid of cyncism, snideness or derision. To the contrary, it is really quite respectful of the life-changing beliefs of the Israelis they interview and profile.
Excerpts from the article:
- “Some 15,000 Messianic Jews currently live in Israel, but if you saw one on the street you would almost certainly fail to recognize any difference. They honor Jewish circumcision, bar-mitzvah, and wedding ceremonies, but believe Jesus is the messiah. The small community of Yad Hashmona, near Jerusalem, is home to a number of Messianic-Jewish families. They believe in Jesus – or Yeshua, as they call him – and in the teachings of the New Testament as well as the old. They are Jews in every sense, but for the most part keep this side of their faith to themselves. When these families gather for the Shabbat meal, however, Jesus is the guest star at their table….
- “Around 350,000 Messianic Jews live in the US, and one would be just as hard-pressed to recognize them there as in Israel. Some are Orthodox, and dress as the haredim do, while others are traditional and wear a yarmulke or no religious symbol at all. They are for the most part Zionists, and see IDF service as a top priority. In the army they serve as pilots, commanders, and elite unit members, but usually make sure to keep their messianic beliefs under wraps….
- “Jonathan Bar-David is a 30-year old Messianic Jew. He attended secular Israeli schools, served as a paratrooper in the IDF, and then went on to travel before settling down to study engineering at the Technion in Haifa. But before all this, he was educated on the teachings of Christ in Yad Hashmona. ‘When I was little only my closest friends knew I was a believer,’ he says. ‘But in high school, when I was ready, I revealed it to my entire class’….
- “Lihi Einav is a 52-year old student of Second Temple Literature at Bar-Ilan. Until the age of 35 she was totally uninterested in religion, and busied herself with the healing profession. But then she met a British couple who gave her a copy of the New Testament, and she was immediately captivated by Christ’s powers as a healer. Later she became interested in the Old Testament as well, and her path to Messianic-Judaism became clear….
- “For a community living under the perpetual wrath of the haredim, who for the most part alienate and discriminate against them, Messianic Jews remain inexplicably optimistic. Perhaps it is because they still follow in the footsteps of that Galilee-born Jew who wandered into Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, the one who believed in turning the other cheek.”