2019 kicked off with a lot of incredibly good news from Israel! A new dawn – even a new era – is breaking.
A very interesting season in the Israeli media
“Jesus was a classic Jew… the greatest Jew of all time… The very least he deserves from Israel is a city square named after him” wrote one impassioned Israeli journalist.1 There have been a plethora of articles and videos in the Israeli media, looking very favorably on the subject of Jesus and his story. It’s a new era of much more positive attitudes towards Jesus in Israel. An entire documentary was devoted to exploring “Christianity in Israel”. A secular Jewish man and a religious Jewish woman interviewed believers from different backgrounds, including a priest who was born in a Jewish family and insisted that he is still Jewish. They found it bewildering but intriguing. At the end, they called Jesus their brother, and called for more appreciation of the Christian community living in the Holy Land.
I’ll be honest with you, we’re all a bit shocked by all this positivity!
Another article talked of “yet another sign that the centuries of bad blood between Jews and Christians is finally giving way to warmer relations.”2 Still another wrote at length about the virtues of Jesus as an important but overlooked Jewish historical figure, saying, “This land is the cradle of Christianity, and… Jesus was our flesh and blood, a Jewish superstar, the most influential Jew of all time.” Whether it’s in the main stream media or in personal conversations, we are noticing a significant shift in attitudes towards Jesus. This is fantastic news!
Onwards and upwards – Israel is booming
As we enter 2019, the nation continues to grow in numbers and success, with many Jewish people coming to the land, high life expectancy, and high birth rates. According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, the population grew by 2% to almost 9 million in total (74.3% of whom are Jewish and 20.9% Arab). 185,000 babies were born last year, and 28,000 came back to the land of their forefathers, making aliyah from all over the world.
Also in the news, the world has been blessed by Israeli innovations in conservation, medicine, agriculture and technology. Israelis have offered their expertise in crisis areas around the world, such as when Thai children got trapped in a cave, assisting with processing trauma after shootings and terror attacks, and also providing medical care for Syrian victims of the war over the border. The Israeli army has been working in partnership with believers in the “Good Neighbor” initiative to take care of the injured fleeing Syrian violence. A representative from the IDF has been profoundly impacted by these believers who are ready to lay down their lives to help the Syrians, just as the Israeli soldiers have been doing each night. But the believers had no weapons – only their Bibles.
And at last, after many years of campaigning, a law was finally passed to prohibit paying for prostitution. There are many flaws in Israeli society, but we are seeing great breakthroughs and victories like this one. We praise God with the Jerusalem Institute of Justice who have been fighting on behalf of those trapped in sexual exploitation, and pray that it will lead to liberation for many.
The number of people visiting Israel in 2018 has broken all all tourism records
Since 2006, the number of tourists has more than doubled from 1.8 million to 4 million according to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The top five nationalities of the tourists who came were British, German, Russian, French, and over one million came from the US. I’m sure our guests had a great time, and it’s also very good news for us. Israel is often portrayed in a bad light in the international media, either as terrifyingly dangerous (it’s not) or as an evil, genocidal apartheid state (definitely not!). The more people who come to see the truth for themselves, the better.
And by the way, if you’ve never been, do come! It’s an amazing and rich country, as many are discovering. ONE FOR ISRAEL offers tours where you can focus either on studying the Bible or serving the people; either way, you’ll see the sights and have a wonderful experience.
The Body of Messiah is growing in numbers and maturity
As our study found a couple of years ago, there are at least 30,000 Messianic believers that we know of attending congregations, but we know that there are many more besides under the radar. Our estimate is that there might be another 20,000 or so who do not attend any congregation, either because there isn’t one in their area, or as a result of the profound family and social implications that come with declaring faith in Jesus. Many are teenagers who are not allowed to attend a congregation, and might not even dare to ask permission.
Numbers that we do know for certain are how many times our evangelistic videos have been viewed (some 90 million times!) and even our Hebrew language videos have been seen over 25 million times – that’s more than three times the population of Israel! Many have come to faith through them, having been persuaded by the truth and seeing through the false arguments of the Rabbis against Jesus. The pressing need now is for good discipleship.
This year we are building a 30 session discipleship course that can be used all around the country, and continuing to train Jewish and Arab Israeli believers in their faith here at our Bible College. We are praising God for the increase in numbers, but we also want to see growth in maturity in the body of Messiah, and deeper knowledge of God and his word.
Don’t curse the darkness, light a match!
We are very much looking forward to what’s in store in 2019. Instead of trying to guess what the future holds and how good or bad this year might be, we are determined to shine as much light as we can!
There’s so much to praise God for and we want to be thankful at all times, noticing the good all around us each day. It’s also up to each one of us to do what we can, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to build the kingdom of God – no matter what others around us might be doing. The darkness is certainly getting darker in many respects around the world, but that just makes the light shine all the more clearly. We are preparing the way for the coming King.
Arise, shine, for your light has come!
The glory of Adonai has risen on you.
For behold, darkness covers the earth,
and deep darkness the peoples.
But Adonai will arise upon you,
and His glory will appear over you.
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- Haaretz, Jesus, the Disavowed Jew, Rogel Alpher, 31/1/2019
- Israel Today, Christmas fair in Haifa, 23/12/2018
Photo by Dina Aweida