In Israel, a resurgence in the number of Jews who believe in Jesus is getting a lot of attention.Many leaders say it’s the strongest growth since the time of Jesus andthat the Messianic movement could be on the brink of a great revival.
‘This is the first time where we’ve seen Israeli society in generalbeing so open to consider who Yeshua is,’ said Messianic leader AsherIntrater. ‘This is a real miracle, and there’s beginning to be graceand favor with us in the land.’
Although Jesus and the early disciples were Jewish, for nearly 2,000 the gospel has been viewed as a religion mainly for Gentiles. Even thename Jesus or Yeshua has been a forbidden word among many Jews. But inthe last few years, Messianic leaders in Israel say something importantis happening.
‘I believe with all my heart, after we have come back to the land, weare seeing the Lord, the Holy Spirit, is removing the veil from theeyes of the Jews and more and more Jews are realizing,’ Tel Aviv pastorAvi Mizrachi said.
Although nobody knows for sure how many Messianic Jews live in Israel,it’s believed there are about 120 congregations now and 10,000-15,000Jewish believers in Jesus.
That may not sound like many, given Israel’s nearly six million Jews,but it’s a far cry from 10 years ago, when there were only about 3,500Jewish believers and 80 congregations.
A good example is Shemen Sasson in Jerusalem, where attendance hasnearly tripled over the past four years. Today, close to 300 peopleattend the meetings, most of them Jewish or people married to Jews, andsalvations are increasing.
Meet the Ronens. Daniel, Ayelet and their 5 children are Israelibelievers. Ayelet is an Israeli Jew and Daniel is a Finnish Gentile.But his family has been here since before Israel became a nation. Theybelieve Jesus is the Jewish Messiah.
‘When Jesus came, when Yeshua came, he came to talk to our people,’Ayelet Ronen said. ‘He walked on our land, He spoke our language, Hespoke in our synagogues. Really He came for us!
Yad-Hashmona is a beautiful little village about 10 miles outsideJerusalem, and the only one home to just Messianic Jewish believerslike the Ronens.
For this family, being Israeli and believing in Jesus is a natural fit.They keep the Jewish feasts, circumcise their sons, keep the Sabbathand serve in the army. And even though they live in a Messianicvillage, they don’t feel secluded from the rest of Israeli society.
‘Our kids go with everybody else to school… I go to workoutside…Our principle is to go out and be part of society,’ DanielRonen explained.
Their children sometimes face challenges, but have used those occasions to witness.
‘My friends started to know I’m a believer and they ask me if I’m abeliever…I tell them I’m a believer in Yeshua and it’s really good tobelieve in Him and that maybe you can one day believe in him too,’little third grader Adan said.
The Ronens are sometimes accused of being missionaries, a very bad word in Israel, but they insist they are not.
‘My point is to share my faith with anyone who wants to hear me and Iwill gladly share the Good News of my faith,’ Ayelet said. ‘I neverspeak of you should do, and you should change..’
In addition to Israeli-born believers, many are from other countries.American Jews Eddie and Jackie Santoro became believers during the 70sJesus movement.
They made Aliyah to Israel 11 years ago, learned Hebrew and now lead a growing congregation in Jerusalem.
‘Our current congregation, we started almost 2 years ago with about 20people, today we have over 100,’ Eddie Santoro explained. ‘We seesalvations here and there, but we feel like there’s something yet tocome, it’s definitely growing.’
But being a Jewish believer in Israel isn’t easy.
‘I think probably the greatest challenge is that you always feel thatthe rest of society isn’t accepting you and so when you meet somebodyand you want to talk to them and you want to tell them who you are,there’s always that challenge of, ‘should I say something,’; JackieSantoro said.
For the first time, the secular media are saying something, evenmentioning Messianic Jews in a more favorable light. A recent wave ofpersecution, including the bombing of a young Jewish believer, have putMessianic Jews on the front page.
‘At least we see that believers are being asked to explain who theyare, what they believe in, why they are here…how they can be Israeliand believe in Jesus and be given an opportunity to tell their storyand share their testimony,’ Knut Hoyland of the Caspari Center said.
And what does this movement mean for the Body of Christ?
‘If it wasn’t for Yeshua, we would be lost,’ Ayelet said