“Arabs are the enemy”. That was my reality as a child growing up in a small, religious Jewish settlement in the West Bank, surrounded by olive trees and Arab villages. I was forcefully thrown into complex political struggles – it was all around me, in the news, in the streets, at kindergarten and at school. As kids growing up in this region, you are never sheltered from the concept of war and death, and your childlike view of a safe and a loving world fades away with every new attack.
As we were passing by an Arab village on our way to a big city, I would stare through the car window, and the foreign curly letters on the signs terrified me. But the sound of the Arabic language was what scared me the most. First of all because I couldn’t understand it, it was the unknown, and because of the connotations it had with the explosions and the shootings, and the rocks flying towards us on the roads, and of friends that were killed.
I felt as if I, as a part of the Jewish people, was deeply hated, but it all seemed so natural and normal because it reminded me of the biblical stories, where the Israeli people were always hated and attacked everywhere they went. For me it was the natural continuum of our existence.
But all that was about to change.
God according to the Bible vs God according to the rabbis
The thing that didn’t make any sense for me as a young child was the contradictory way that God was presented in the biblical stories versus the way the rabbis had presented him in the Talmud. In the Bible I met the Great God of Israel, a brave, loving, loyal warrior. The Jewish religious books, on the other hand, painted a picture of a cold, robot-like, stubborn and distant God. One who wouldn’t think twice before striking you with a lightning bolt for daring to rip a piece of toilet paper on Shabbat, or for dropping your prayer book.
I admired the God of the Bible with all my heart. I wanted to follow him like Abraham did, I wanted to declare his righteousness out loud like the prophets and to charge into the battlefield in his name like King David. But at the same time I was angry at the god that the rabbis presented. How could he expect me to follow all these laws and rules, without even knowing what it feels like to be human, trapped in this rotten, fallen world, and in this corrupt body?
We moved out of the settlement eventually, and as a teenager I realized I didn’t want to pretend that everything was ok anymore, or that I was obeying the Jewish law. It was hypocrisy for me to pretend, and I feared God enough to not play this game with him. And as a teenager I decided to leave religion, but God was still there, a distant character, a name to call out in times of trouble.
Getting to know Jesus
Jesus was a foreign idea to me. A different culture of crosses, crusades and popes. Maybe a guy who had some good ideas that went bad over time. We don’t study about him in school, in a way we deliberately ignore his existence, and we never acknowledge him as one of our own. We would never even consider following him because it will be like betraying the God of the Bible – as distant as he was, God still has a strong grip on the Jewish heart. That type of blind paradoxical loyalty creates a barrier between Jesus and his people.
That barrier crushed into the ground when I read the forbidden chapter in the book of Isaiah for the first time, at the age of 23.
I saw him. I recognised him immediately, and everything made sense.
All the questions I had been asking throughout the years were answered: Jesus knew what it was like to be a human, and he made a way for us to be with him because we couldn’t. He was in my Bible this whole time.
My old thinking patterns were gone, like a blank page, and I started seeing the world through Jesus’ eyes. I wanted to know more and more, so I started my studies at Israel College of the Bible.
I remember my first chapel, during worship, they started playing an Arabic song. All those years of pain, fear, hate and war washed off of me, like old dirty rags with every note they played and every word spoken…
That same language that terrified me so much before was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard.
That is the power of the gospel.
The gospel heals and cleans.
It turns enemies to more than mere friends.
It make us one family.
I joined the media team at ONE FOR ISRAEL as a director, editor, and presenter about two years ago, where I could finally combine my two greatest loves in life: theology and media. We are a very small team, and we produce all the videos in our humble little studio here in Netanya.
We do testimonies of Israelis and English-speaking Jews from all over the world who met their Messiah. We also take the most frequently-asked questions and the most common objections against Jesus and tear them apart one by one in a series of apologetics videos, tackling the arguments from a philosophical, scientific, and biblical perspective.
For me it is much more than just videos, it is the start of the revolution!
You see, for 2000 years the Jewish religious leaders rejected Jesus and hid him from the people. They are the ones with full authority and power. They have the final word and they are the ones who can easily stop the gospel from being preached in Jewish communities. And throughout history, people claiming to be followers of Jesus made it easy for the rabbis to paint Jesus as the reason for all our troubles as a nation, as a traitor, as a forbidden name that you are not even allowed to pronounce.
But there is one thing that the rabbis have no control over. And that, my friends, is the internet.
It is neutral territory that leaves the gatekeepers powerless and opens a door that has been sealed for 2000 years.
The revolution in Israel
Israelis nowadays practically live on the internet. They are there, non-stop, 24/7. In fact, Israel is the leading nation when it comes to using YouTube and other social media, second only to Taiwan. The internet has become a land of its own, at the uttermost parts of the earth!
People are watching the videos and in numbers I wouldn’t have dared to dream of just a few years ago. Israel has around eight million citizens, and our Hebrew-language videos have already reached 18 million views. In total, worldwide, we have been able to reach more than 68 million views.
Now, almost everyone has been exposed to the gospel in one way or another. Even the most guarded sects within Orthodox Judaism can’t prevent their members from getting a smartphone. They all know it’s out there, the secret “forbidden chapters” of the Bible like Isaiah 53 and Daniel 9 are no longer a secret. The truth about Jesus pops up on their Facebook News Feed, on Instagram, and on YouTube videos… in their own language, spoken to them by their own people.
Jesus made Aliyah*! He is no longer a foreign idea. And his name is Yeshua again.
* “Making Aliyah” means to “go up” – it is the term we use for Jewish people returning to the land of Israel.