The Passover meal marks beginning of the week-long “Feast of Unleavened Bread”. Israel was commanded to eat unleavened bread, matzo bread with no yeast (hametz) in it, for a whole week. So Jewish people in Israel have been crunching their way through multiple square sheets of matzo bread and looking wistfully at the closed bakery sections for a while now. But what does it mean? The most obvious answer is a reminder of the swift exodus from Egypt, when there was no time for the bread to rise. But there is one small problem with that explanation…
Israel’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi was recently caught making an outrageous claim: that Gentiles should be banished from the Holy Land, unless they agreed to follow the seven Noachide laws. A recording of Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef has come to light, declaring that without this proviso, “According to Jewish law, it’s forbidden for a non-Jew to live in the Land of Israel”.
He went on to add that since gentiles are supposed to serve Jewish people, according to the Bible, that some would be permitted to stay as servants!
He later complained that his comments were taken out of context, and that according to Scripture, these things would only apply later, in the Messianic Age. But where did he get these outlandish ideas from? Is anything like that really in the Bible?
Here's an amazing story of how an Arab man and his Jewish boss were led to faith in Yeshua together by an Arab Israeli believer... in Texas! It's a pretty crazy story - buckle up!
For the last two years, Passover and Easter have coincided, but this year, they are a month apart. Why is this? If Yeshua died at Passover, why does the Christian church mark his death and resurrection at a different time? How did they get separated?
Esther was an undercover agent. Esther wasn’t even her real name. She was really called Hadassah (the Hebrew name for the myrtle plant) originally by her Jewish parents. Who, by the way, we never get to hear much about. Nor does she disclose her Jewish identity while in the court of the Persian king Artaxerxes, until absolutely necessary. She was the opposite of showy and brash, just like her namesake, the lowly myrtle bush. She was humble and unassuming, modest and delicate. However, her codename totally suits her - Esther means “star”, like the tiny star shaped flowers of the myrtle, and sounds just like the Hebrew word “hesstair”, which appropriately means “secret”, or “hidden”. There are wonderful lessons to be learned from this Biblical woman of mystery!
There have been some exciting discoveries in Israel recently - last month, a very rare seal was found in the City of David, belonging to a Hebrew woman called Elihena Bat Gael, from the First Temple Period - more than 2500 years ago. Seals from this time are very rare, and it is even more remarkable to have found one belonging to a woman from this time.
The other unusual discovery was a collection of textiles and seeds in the Arava valley from the time of David and Solomon. We have not found anything like it dating back this far before, because fabric is not usually preserved for such a long time. "This provides a unique window into an entire aspect of life from which we've never had physical evidence before," said Dr. Ben-Yosef who was leading the dig.
Last week, as part of our course for senior pastors, we had a week of intensive study in a hotel in Nazareth for two pastors' classes.
And something rather wonderful happened.
Beauty is invisible. Don’t believe me? Consider - we can say that a piece of music or this poem is beautiful, we can say “that was a beautiful thing you did”, or that someone has a beautiful heart… none of these things are particularly visible.
Just like joy, which is invisible but can be seen when expressed in the face of another, beauty is an invisible attribute of God. It must be carried and expressed through things on earth so that it can be experienced and appreciated down here. But these things are only vehicles for the beauty itself. As CS Lewis said in his book, The Weight of Glory, “The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing.”
And speaking of the weight of glory, the concepts of glory and beauty are very much connected, especially in the Hebrew language.
When we talk about “The Ark” in the Bible, we could either be talking about the Ark of the Covenant, or Noah’s Ark. The funny thing is that even though we use the same word in English, the words in Hebrew are different. And yet, the description of detailed instructions that God gave Noah about how to build the ark feels decidedly similar to the intricate description that God gave Moses about how to construct the Ark of the Covenant. Like so many important themes in scripture, the echoes we hear from story to story should alert us to a deliberate parallel. The theme of salvation resonates between the two ark-building enterprises. But there’s more. The word for Noah's Ark, "ta-va", is used only one other time in the Bible, and it’s interesting to see where we find the other ta-va...
A Jewish man called Yochanan was baptising people in the Jordan River in first century Israel, including his cousin who would later become world famous: Yeshua of Nazareth. Many Jewish people responded to the call of this Jewish man to immerse themselves in the river as a sign of repentance, and a desire to get right with God. Some of the Pharisees were also among them. Did Yochanan invent baptism at this time? Or was it part of Jewish tradition and practice before that?
Yes, yes it was.
And the Hebrew word for an immersion pool built for this purpose, “mikveh”, also points us in the right direction in understanding deeper meaning in the practice.
This Monday is "Tu Bishvat", which is a day to celebrate and plant trees in Israel. A sort of “Tree Appreciation Day”, if you like. One of the trees that is most prominent in Israel at this time of year is the almond tree, which packs a Biblical punch as it crops up in several places throughout the scriptures, with great significance.
The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?”
“I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied.
The Lord said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.” (Jer 1:11-12)
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the United States of America, which is always on the third Monday of the year, to mark his birthday on 15th January. He was an amazing man who passionately fought for freedom and justice for those who were oppressed due to their race, and he believed that “an alliance between Jews and Blacks was fundamental to Civil Rights progress”.
However, his appreciation and support for Israel and the Jewish people did not prejudice him in any way against the Palestinian people, for whom he also sought justice and prosperity. Like the Prince of Peace, Dr King showed great love for both the Jewish people and the Arab people, and was not afraid to say so.
Last month we saw some interesting developments in relations between the Catholic church and some Orthodox rabbis. At the beginning of December, the Vatican issued a document entitled, “The Gifts and Calling of God are irrevocable”, in which it officially rejected “supersessionism” or replacement theology (the idea that the church has now taken the place of Israel) and stated that God’s covenants with Israel are still valid.
At the same time, in early December, a group of Orthodox rabbis signed an official document affirming Christian brothers and sisters, and even honouring Yeshua as one who strengthened the Torah of Moses! 
But as encouraging as these developments may seem on the surface, the need to call Yeshua Lord and Messiah for the Jewish people as well as for the Gentiles was sadly sidestepped by both documents. The Vatican rejected mission to the Jewish people, and the rabbis welcomed Jesus, but not as God’s means of salvation.
There is a powerful word in Hebrew that sums up three words in English. The word is “Hineni” (הנני), which means “Here I am!” But you’ve got to watch out how you say it, because it is a way of expressing total readiness to give oneself - it’s an offer of total availability.
2015 was perhaps the most fruitful year in Jewish Evangelism since the first century!
What else did we do on the evangelistic side of things during 2015?
- During 2015 alone we have been in touch with more Israeli seekers (mainly Jewish) than in all of our ministry's previous years combined.
- During 2015 we've seen more Israelis come to know the Lord than in all of our ministry's previous years combined.
- We have produced the second volume of the magazine "Finding" which answers objections coming from the orthodox anti-missionaries' magazine (which, incidentally, is called "Searching").
- Anastasia joined our team! :) (creative, research and content).
- We've been video-interviewed twice by the popular news network "Walla".
What's coming in 2016?
- We are currently working on a new series of 25 apologetic videos talking about faith in light of science and answering atheistic objections to faith in God. (Just finished recording, now in post production, to be released during the 1st half of 2016).
- We will re-design and re-build our entire platform of evangelistic websites to be more user-friendly and mobile-responsive.
- We will develop a new series of videos explaining the messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Bible, showing how they point to Yeshua (Jesus).
Do you know the names of Moses’ parents? Probably not, I’d venture. And there’s a reason for that. They are somewhat shrouded in mystery, and revealed only later on, with a scandalous punch. But the message of Moses’ family background is one that brings great hope to us all as we march into the new year.
As Moses can tell you, sin in our past and in our families before us need not hold us back any longer in slavery - God is a God of new beginnings!
Wow that was an intense year, wasn’t it? In human terms, we seem to be further away from peace than ever, but when it comes to God’s Kingdom, the advances have been breathtaking! Revival has been sweeping through the Middle East in unprecedented ways, and it has been a great joy for us in ONE FOR ISRAEL to see God’s hand at work through our ministry and in our land. It would be hard to believe we would see all of this even just one year ago!
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12
Recently, one of the largest Israeli news corporations, “Walla! News” released two video interviews with us (out of five produced) on the subject of Messianic Jews and faith in Yeshua (Jesus).
As expected, "Walla! News” received intense threats from some within the Rabbinic Ultra-Orthodox community who banded together, threatening to sue the company because of the exposure "Walla! News" provided to the name of Yeshua and to Messianic Jews.
We are half way through the eight-day Hanukkah festival. Many people think of it as a festival of light, which blurs with every other festival of light found in so many cultures and faiths, but the history of the festival and the stories that surround it are quite interesting.
Leviticus 27 has laws on how a person can dedicate their house, and in Israel housewarming parties are called “Hanukkat Beit” parties - “dedication of the house” parties. The Hanukkah story is of a housewarming party for the ultimate house. Here’s an interesting twist on the story that goes all the way from the dedication of the second temple, through the reclamation of that temple from the Greeks, and right up to 1917...
The largest media company here in Israel called us a few weeks ago, saying that they had noticed our material online, and that they wanted to work with us! They proposed to create a 12-24 episode series comprised of short videos interviewing us on a variety of subjects with adjoining articles about Messianic Jews. The series will be promoted on their media platform, with links to our evangelistic websites! Isn't that amazing?!