CHRISTMASNACHT IN BEER SHEVA – 29 Dec 2005 (28 Chislev 5766)

(Written as an Op-Ed for the Jerusalem Post)

This Jewish story begins almost 4000 years ago with our father Abraham, and then with his two sons.  One son mocked the seeming insignificance of the other.  Later Isaac’s two sons strove, with the blessing given to our father Jacob/Israel.  The other son never really got over his loss.  Jacob’s own twelve sons have been squabbling ever since over who should have the place of honor.  When we do bad things to each other, we say it is just a family feud, but when others do bad things to us, we call it something else.  We are a picture of humanity in microcosm.  Although YHVH God has told His chosen people how to worship Him, we have disputed about even this.  Some of us deny that there is even a God who has told us anything.  Others will even use unlawful means to accomplish what to them is a just end. 

Last Shabbat, the 24th of December, we were mobbed by a crowd of ultra-orthodox Jewish extremists.  While extremists controlled the direction and tone of the demonstration, other participants seemed ashamed of the violent behavior.  The “we” here are Messianic Jews and gentiles, including Arabs, who believe that Yeshua (Jesus) is the promised Messiah, and the one who saves us from our sins.  We are called by many different names, some honorable and others not so; but by whatever name, it is with Jesus Christ that we are identified.  Our faith in Him is based upon what we believe to be the truth of God’s Word given to Moses and the prophets ofIsrael, written in the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings.  We also believe that history confirms the New Covenant (Testament) testimony of Yeshua being the Son of the living God.

This angry confrontation of up to 500 men, women, and children was organized by the chief rabbinate of Beer Sheva, calling them out from the synagogues around the city to come to the private property used by the local Messianic congregation for prayer and worship.  Forcing their way into the walled grounds,  these people overthrew chairs and tables and resisted the police who were called in to protect the innocent and to disperse the mob (which took a couple of hours).  The mob broke and damaged property and equipment; physically assaulted and insulted men, women, and children, by hitting, spitting, pushing, punching.  What was the “crime” the orthodox were attacking us for?. . .We believe that Yeshua/Jesus is Lord and Messiah.  That day two women over the age of 18, one of whom was born into a Messianic Jewish family, were to be baptized by immersion.  According to the basic law of freedom of religion inIsrael, no law was being violated.  The religious authorities, however, decided that this law (which is for the benefit of all citizens) is too liberal for them.  The chief Sephardic rabbi of the city was present at the illegal and violent demonstration, and was seen preaching to the crowd standing outside the property.  While claiming that he does not advocate violence, he has never apologized or even expressed any regret for what his disciples do in apparent disobedience to his instructions.  (This is not our first encounter with him and them.)  “The end justifies the means.”  If these means were used against Muslims, there would be a lot of dead Israelis by now.

“Go to Gaza!”  “You’re worse than the Nazis”!  “You’re like the Muslims!”  “Israelis the land of the Jews!”  “Christian men don’t get married!”  “Go back to America, to Russia, to Argentina!”  Doesn’t this sound like what many of our parents and other relatives heard in Europe not so very long ago?  In fact, in our congregation we have Holocaust survivors, as well as those whose families helped protect Jews from the Nazis.  The God of Israel allows a place of honor for the “strangers” in His land, for those whose hearts are joined with His people and with Him.  Worship includes how we treat our neighbor and the stranger, for we were strangers in the land of Egypt. 

Despite the history of tribulation which we as a people have known, even at the hands of those called Christian, have not we ourselves – as Jews, Israelis – also committed atrocities to the reproach of the Name of YHVH God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob?  Again, the Jewish people are a picture of humanity in microcosm. 

I am a Jew who grew up in theU.S.; all my parents and grandparents are Jewish.  My choices regarding faith and identity have always been made conscious of being Jewish.  In the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War I came over as a volunteer on a kibbutz to identify with my people and our nation.  The gentiles still wanted to kill us, and I could not understand why.  I had earlier come to Israel as a tourist for a couple of weeks between university years.  My prophetic portion at bar-mitzva was from Ezekiel 36, which is being personally fulfilled as God has brought me home to Israel from where He calls exile, and Yeshua has brought me back home to our Father in Heaven.  Since the days of Samuel, prophet and judge, it was from Beer Sheva, the City of the Fathers, that Israel has asked for a king like the gentiles have.  We eagerly wait for the day when the Kingdom of YHVH God is restored to Israel and to the nations, and the fruit of His righteousness will be true peace and security.

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