IDF Soldiers Warned Against Contact With Messianic Jews.
This absorbing headline revealed the provocative subject of an article printed on the website of israeltoday.com in December, 2013. Earlier that month another article in the same on-line forum was published entitled, Yeshua Campaign Causes Buzz in Southern Israel. That article featured excerpts from a radio interview with a Messianic Jew and Ofer Karadi, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish member of the Shas party of the Knesset. The orthodox Jew screamed into the microphone at his Messianic co-guest: “May his name be cut off forever … Are you (the host interviewer) so degenerate as to allow this impious infidel to even speak on the radio … It is unacceptable to allow these degenerates to speak about these things in our city.”
The caustic condemnation of the Messianic Jewish guest only got worse as the talk-show progressed. Although the Messianic Jew was allowed to speak, it was all too evident that Ofer Karadi not only loathed the audacity of the Messianic Jew and the interviewer for allowing this impious infidel to be on the talk-show, but also despised the Messianic Jew himself. The program began by the radio host citing a recent incident in which an Israeli IDF general had called a special meeting with his battalion after the general had observed a few signs along a highway that referenced Yeshua (Jesus). During this meeting, the general proceeded to explain to the soldiers about, “Messianic Jews and what they believe about Yeshua.” Moreover, it was apparent that this particular IDF general was, at the very least, tolerant of Messianic Jews and perhaps actually sympathetic toward them.
Not necessarily so with Israel’s Ministry of Defense and high-ranking IDF authorities which, mostly for political reasons to appease the staunchly “anti-missionary” Orthodox Jews, have issued a formal warning that all soldiers staying in Jerusalem through the Sabbath are not allowed to have any contact with members of this (Messianic) “sect of Jews” who preach faith in Yeshua. But it was also a throw-back to an IDF policy that began years ago, in which Messianic Jews enlisted in the Israeli military were considered to be a (potential) security risk. Though not all Messianic Jews were dismissed from the IDF, those assigned to elite or sensitive units were required to make a decision … serve Messiah or serve in the IDF.
Many years ago, during the enforcement of this policy, a Jewish friend of mine … now a Christian pastor who currently lives in Israel experienced this same dilemma. He rose to the rank of Major in the IDF specializing in military grid communications and logistics. When his superiors learned that he was Messianic they told him that his service in the IDF was a, “conflict of interest.” He was given a choice to fulfil his duty to Israel OR to Yeshua, but not both at the same time.
To further analyze and illustrate this amazing ambivalence toward Messianic Jews in Israel (and the world at large), a Messianic Jewish Sabra (native-born Israeli), who is now an IDF Air Force sergeant, asked his commanding officer if he could use a New Testament along-side of the (required) Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) while pledging his personal and military induction allegiance to the State of Israel. Without hesitation, his commander replied, “Yes you may.” Consequently, this young soldier became part of the IDF, along with scores of Messianic Jews currently serving in the Israeli military.
IDF Recruits After Oath of Allegiance
Generally speaking, Jews belonging to the IDF who profess faith in Messiah Jesus are no longer singled out like they once were. To the contrary, they seem to be highly respected by commanding officers, to the extent of becoming officers in every branch of the IDF … even in Israeli Military Intelligence units, which requires high security clearance.
Why then did the Israeli Defense Ministry publicly issue orders to soldiers stationed in Jerusalem not to interact with fellow soldiers who were known Messianic Jews? As indicated earlier, it has everything to do with being politically correct, specifically to placate the Orthodox Jews, most of whom ironically refuse to serve in the military.
*On a side note, there is an alarming increase in the United States military to identify and isolate men and women who profess faith in Christ. Even military chaplains have been severely restricted in what they can say or do with regard to anything relating to Jesus Christ, including the very mention of his name!
Such Statistical Diversity!
The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) is a microcosm of all Jews in Israel. In a nation with roughly eight million citizens of whom some two millions are Arabs, we find an incredible mixture of Muslims, Christians, and mostly Jews who are either secular (including atheists) or religious. But the practice of Judaism encompasses a wide spectrum that includes Liberal, Reformed, Conservative, Orthodox, and ultra-Orthodox, in that order from (the) left to (the) right. It is a truly perplexing phenomenon, one that can and will someday be providentially resolved by God himself directly through his Son, Messiah Jesus. A divine solution that began two thousand years ago when Jesus Christ came as the chosen, “…Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). And this same Messiah Jesus, as the Lion from the Tribe of Judah and King of all kings “…will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” (Acts 1:11).
As much as I love Israel, the Jews, and my Christian heritage from the Old Covenant, I am profoundly saddened that God’s chosen people (selected to bring the light of God’s salvation to all nations through God’s Messiah) still don’t recognize that the New Covenant promised by God through his prophets has already arrived … when Messiah Jesus died and arose from the dead in the first century (See Jeremiah 31:31-34).
“After supper he took another cup of wine and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you” (Luke 22:20).
Then as the Jewish Apostle Paul said: “What does all this mean? Even though the Gentiles were not trying to follow God’s standards, they were made right with God. And it was by faith that this took place. But the people of Israel, who tried (are still trying) so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in him. They stumbled over the great rock (Messiah Jesus) in their path” (Romans 9:30-32).
But some Jews have discovered that Jesus is alive! That he is who he said he is: Messiah, the Son of God and God the Son. Though still relatively small in numbers, this most astonishing and intriguing group are the Jewish Christians or perhaps better described as Christian Jews … known today by the term Messianic Jews. Why is this so remarkable? Because in a country that is historically known for its spiritual or religious traditions, nearly two-thirds of Israelis (based on a poll) classified themselves as either non-religious or agnostic or even atheists (eight percent). Though polls are often an oversimplification of what is taking place on any given subject at any given time, they do represent a fairly accurate cross-section of the population.
Thus, these surprising statistics make Israel less “religious” than Japan (62%), Germany (59%) and South Korea (55%); and almost identical to the United Kingdom’s 66% non-religious population. However, according to Rabbi David Golinkin, Professor of Jewish Law at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, many Israeli Jews maintain some form of traditional Judaism (undoubtedly referring to periodic observance of Sabbath and certain festival days, such as Passover). Although not nearly as devoted to Judaism as the Orthodox or Conservative, they would not envision themselves to be non-religious.
If such a standard is used instead of a poll that merely asks whether a person is religious or non-religious, then the statistics would show that about 56% of Israelis considered themselves to be (at least technically) religious, slightly over half. Of this conscientious half, Orthodox Jews constitute 15%, ultra-Orthodox 7%, and 34% are traditional (those who observe Judaism to some degree or another).
Worldwide there are an estimated one million Messianic Jews, with 200,000 living in the United States. These one million Jews who embrace Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah, represent 7% of the world population of 14,218,800 Jews. However, the proportion is much less in Israel, with an estimated 15,000 Messianic Jews—according to the website, Maoz.Israel. This represents only .002% of the 6,300,000 Jews in Israel! Or one of every 420 Jews in the land, contrasted to one of every fourteen Jews worldwide.
But I’m not surprised at either figure, particularly the .002% in Israel, where it’s nothing short of amazing that there are even a hundred Messianic Jews. I say this in the context of the animosity held by the greater majority of Jews, both secular and religious, against Christianity, particularly those who survived World War II and moved to Israel. This originates primarily from the horrific massacre of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust, perpetrated by a Nazi fascist regime that many Jews associated with Christianity. In fact, one reason there are so many Jewish agnostics today is because of what happened to their parents and grandparents in the Holocaust. There are too many painfully unanswered questions for them, not the least of which is their (erroneous, but nevertheless overwhelming) belief that Nazi Germany was fundamentally a “Christian nation.”
True Christians versus False Christianity
As explained at length in the previous two-part Eye of Prophecy articles (principally on the subject of whether Islam is a religion of peace) the horror of the Crusades and Inquisitions hundreds of years earlier still have an enormous impact on the Jewish psyche. Here is an excerpt from last week’s article:
Time does not permit an in-depth analysis (indeed, books have been written on this subject), but the historical evidence is quite strong: First, the vast majority of these Crusaders were acting on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope, and French and English Kings who were, for the most part, subject to the Pope. These crusades in no way, shape, or form represented the essence of Jesus Christ or Scripture. Which is to spread the Good News of salvation to all mankind, with the crystal clear understanding that this is not done through violence or even by duress. Just the opposite: As any kind, caring parent wants their child to respond to their love with love and appreciation from the child (not out of threat or even obligation), so does our great God and Messiah Jesus give us the same choice. Thus, it’s a matter of the heart, not of the sword. An issue of gratitude, not attitude (brashness and arrogance that leads to compulsive compliance).
It’s so very sadly true that the Crusaders were hell-bent to retake Israel from the Muslims and restore what they perceived as the Kingdom of Heaven in Jerusalem. They did so under the mantle of a romantic, but more-so mushy misguided mission that this must be done by conquest (Crusade). In fact, Roman Catholicism is a doctrinal distortion of true Christianity, disguised in the form of an institutional hierarchy that attempted to replace and replicate the once mighty Roman Empire, with the Holy Roman Empire. An empire that encompasses the Holy City of Jerusalem, one that must dominate both the Islamic kingdom and the Jewish remnant left over from the Roman induced Diaspora of the Jews.
Again, we can see the obvious dissimilarity between real Christianity (unforced believing and receiving Jesus as personal Savior … resulting in a change of the human heart) and compulsory adherence to a religious system that required physical baptism for membership, then maintenance of right-standing in the church by the keeping of sacraments and performance of good works. Which was and still is in complete contrast to Biblical redemption and the means of that salvation summarized succinctly by the following passage:
“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The overriding and overwhelming theme of the entire Bible is the coming of Messiah to redeem the world. Jesus Christ expressly fulfilled hundreds of Messianic prophecies, and would indeed sacrifice his very life to give all who believe in him life everlasting.
“And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life” (I John 5:11-12). So our Creator gave us life, then he gave us life again.
And then to put this even more in the context of this week’s article, a quote from Part I of these articles entitled, A Religion of Peace?
Is Islam a religion? Of course it is: No less than Hinduism, Buddhism, Roman Catholicism, Shintoism, or cultic sects like Mormonism that claim some (corrupt) form of Christianity … which is NOT, I repeat NOT, a religion. Actually, I don’t even like to use the word Christianity but will do so for the sake of identifiable terminology, because it bears this name in an attempt to classify or include it as one of the world religions. Christian … yes, as that expression clearly conveys one’s identity in Christ … a Christ-one.
But that doesn’t make believers in Jesus Christ religious or Christianity, a religion. Those redeemed by Jesus Christ do not belong to an ism. Rather, we belong to a Person. Actually three Persons in One: God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Can I get an AMEN on that!
Christianity & the Jews
Whether diehard secular or avowed religious or simply traditional, Jews throughout Israel and the world will tell you that their strong aversion to the Christian faith and, therefore, Jesus as Messiah, relates directly to what they perceive as Christianity induced persecution against the Jews dating back to the Crusades. But even further for some: Going all the way back to the formation of the Roman Catholic Church, a direct outgrowth of the Roman Emperor Constantine declaring Christianity the State Religion of the Roman Empire. Then, subsequently, the persecution of Jews throughout the Roman Empire and later Europe that began with the insidious and perverted concept that the Roman Catholic Church had replaced Israel in all of the Biblical prophecies pertaining to restoration of the Jews to the Promised Land and to their Savior—both individually and nationally, literally and spiritually. This, as many of you know, is called Replacement Theology. And it is straight from the gates of hell.
The roughly 20% of Jews who are Orthodox observers of Judaism, many of whom are Rabbis, would reject Jesus as Messiah, no matter what happened to their ancestors at the hands of misguided members of Roman Catholicism and even some Protestants (such as the tragic way in which Martin Luther turned on the Jews late in his life). To them, the Christian faith is nothing more than a deviant sect of Judaism. Although the Jewish Temple was demolished in 70 AD and the Jewish sacrifices were terminated, Judaism has adapted by relying on the Mosaic Law to (hopefully) attain a right standing with God; but absent the God-ordained sacrificial shedding of blood for forgiveness of sins. Please, I would encourage you to read the three-part Eye of Prophecy series entitled: Where is the Temple? (Published 11-29, 12-6, & 12-13-14).
Whereas, the roughly 80% of all Jews who are not Orthodox will invariably cite the aforementioned world events (Romanized Christianity, Crusades, Inquisitions, Holocaust) as more than reason enough to reject the historical Jesus as the real Son of God Messiah. In fact, many non-observant and even some observant Jews don’t know that Jesus was a Jew. They perceive him as the founder of Christianity … a gentile religion.
How incredibly ironic!
Jonathan Bernis, a former Rabbi and now a Messianic Jew, head of Jewish Voice Ministries headquartered in my neck of the woods (Phoenix, AZ) tells the story of growing up in an Orthodox Jewish family. He, too, thought Jesus was a gentile, and that Christ was his last name! Not understanding whatsoever that Jesus is the Christ, (Jesus Christ) which is the same thing as saying (in Hebrew) that he is Yeshua haMashiach. Christ and Messiah mean the same thing … anointed or chosen one. They are titles, not surnames!
So Exactly What and Who is a Messianic Jew?
If you didn’t know before, you obviously know by now: A Messianic Jew is a Jew by physical birth who has believed and received Jesus as God’s prophesied Messiah … Savior of both Jew and Gentile. That is the first and foremost reason why they are called Messianic Jews.
As quoted from the Maoz.Israel website home page, Messianic Jews in Israel:
Come from various backgrounds and walks of life. The majority are still immigrants—many from the former Soviet Union and North and South America, with a growing number of Sabra (native-born in Israel) Jews—individuals and entire families, young and old, Sephardic and Ashkenazi.
Because of faith in the Bible (meaning both Old and New Testaments) and the words of Yeshua, the Messianic Jews in Israel are outstanding citizens. Israel Messianic Jews pay taxes, serve in the IDF, are honest business owners and valuable employees.
We embrace the Feasts of the Lord and other Biblical appointed times and celebrate them together. We love to fellowship together, pray together and share our lives with one another as we follow the Lord with the same passion that our ancestors in the Bible did.
And despite the ongoing persecution of Messianic believers in Israel, the body of Messiah is growing as more and more Israelis are accepting Yeshua as their Messiah and Savior.
We all look for the day to see the promise of God fulfilled in His Holy Land—that all Israel shall be saved.
During my visit to Israel in 2006 (along with one of my sisters), I experienced what you just read, firsthand. On a Saturday Sabbath, we attended a congregation of believers in Yeshua, called Grace and Truth. Following the typical pattern of singing worship songs (a couple of them brought tears to my eyes), the message was delivered in Hebrew for the Jews in attendance who speak this ancient language all through Israel. That’s an astounding story by itself … the miraculous restoration of a virtually dead language. But with God nothing is impossible. Even in this fairly small congregation, the message was translated simultaneously on one side of the sanctuary in English, and the other side in Russian! And this is the way of it week after week. It was simply amazing.
For those out there who may have a problem with a Saturday service (Sabbath) versus Sunday, or who question whether any believer, Jew or Gentile, should observe certain Jewish festivals (Passover, Feast of Tabernacles), I can on the authority of Scripture tell you conclusively: There is no problem whatsoever with keeping these Jewish traditions. Jesus did! After Jesus returned to heaven, his apostles continued to attend (and teach) in the synagogues (on the Sabbath).
As long as we fully understand that salvation comes by faith in the finished work of Messiah Jesus, not by keeping the Mosaic Law or Jewish (or any) rituals; what does it matter how we celebrate the Lord’s Day or traditions like the Jewish New Year or the more Gentile custom of Christmas. Or if we get together in worship and fellowship on Saturday or Sunday? Or what we eat or don’t eat and drink? (See Romans 14).
How strange that the term Messianic Jew was even coined? Or that today’s Christian Jews or Jewish Christians would even be referred to by that label. Why! Because for the first few decades after Christ ascended to heaven, nearly all of the early Christians were Jews! They weren’t called Messianic Jews. If a person believed in Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, it was pretty much understood that he or she was a Jew.
At first the group designation assigned to the early believers was, The Way. Most likely after Jesus astounding assertion that he alone was, “The Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). Not until years later were they called Christians at Antioch in Syria. Still, the vast majority were Jews. In that regard, we’re returning full circle to Jews all over the world coming (back) to Messiah, like many of their first century ancestors began their new faith in the Jewish Savior—whose sacrificial death on the cross and mighty resurrection saves Gentiles who believe in him as well as Jews. In that respect, nothing has changed. As it was in the 1st century beginning of the church, so is it today … Jews are once again turning to Messiah Jesus as they did 2000 years ago. Scripture makes it plainly clear: This is God’s plan for the Jewish race!
Opposition from the Religious, Especially the Orthodox
Something else hasn’t changed. Opposition to Jesus and to early Christians came almost exclusively from the most religious of the Jews—Pharisees, Rabbis, Priests. And this was the only group that Jesus indicted to the point of condemnation with such observations as: “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Blind guides!” (Matthew 23:23-24). In another setting, Jesus reprimanded the religious leaders as the “blind leading the blind.”
And yet thousands upon thousands of common-folk Jews followed Jesus during his journeys through Israel. Within a few decades, however, the greater number of Christians in the Roman Empire were not found in Israel, much like Messianic Jews in contemporary times.
Which is why the ultra-Orthodox Jew referenced in the beginning of this article will vigorously condemn a Christian Jew; whereas an IDF general and the majority of less observant Jews have no problems with Messianic Jews in Israel or anywhere in the world. Which also explains why a Jew who wanted nothing whatsoever to do with Christians or their Jesus can and did find the incredible salvation and forgiveness offered by the true Messiah. Listen to the testimony of Mottel Baleson who is now a messianic preacher in New Jersey!
“Growing up, we always understood that we had our Bible and the Gentiles had their Bible—the New Testament—and that they were two completely separate books.”
As a college student he began to read all of the Scriptures but, as he points out, under the impression that the New Testament, “…was going to be a handbook on how to persecute the Jews. And yet, when I opened it, I read a story written by Jews about Jewish people.”
When he opened the New Testament to the genealogy of Jesus, who was written as being the son of David, the son of Abraham, he was astonished to realize that Jesus was every much a Jew as King David and the father of Jews, Abraham. He went on to say that, “This is the One (Jesus) who was promised in our Bible in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. It is astonishing if you were to just read that chapter … you would say, ‘Oh, this is some Christian Bible. This is Jesus’ What you realize, though, is that it is in the middle of our Bible—our Jewish Bible.”
Despite the enormous evidence that Jesus was the Messiah (incredible teachings of and from God, spectacular miracles, and resurrection from the dead), the religious Jews persuaded their adherents and the Roman governor to crucify him. Little did they know that this was God’s magnificent purpose for the salvation of not only the Jews, but also the Gentiles?
And this plan conceived by our Creator from the beginning of time is still working today in mysteriously effective ways that can only be described as supernatural divine sovereignty. Beginning with the rebirth of Israel and rapid return of Jews to the Promised Land; the astounding Six-day war of 1967 that restored Jerusalem as the Holy Capital of the Holy Land; the simultaneous spiritual awakening within the hearts of Jews everywhere (even in Israel) that has led to thousands of Messianic congregations and dozens of Jewish Messianic Ministries the world over.
Read with me these extraordinary words from the former Jewish Pharisee Saul who had a phenomenal life-changing encounter with the risen Messiah. Jesus then changed Saul’s name to Paul and redirected his passion for the Mosaic Law to salvation and eternal life possible only through the Son of God:
“…The longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God” (Romans 10:1-4).
Things to Ponder
In the very same scene when Jesus blasted the Jewish religious leaders, he concluded by uttering one of the most heartbreaking announcements ever spoken to and for the people of Israel. Listen to these impassioned words: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets … How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me … For I tell you this, you will never see me again until you say, ‘Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Matthew 23:37-39).
Whether secular or religious, whether traditional or non-traditional, the day will come when Jews in Israel and all over the earth will shout these same words. First to cry out to God and his Messiah to save them from complete destruction (Armageddon); then to acknowledge that Jesus, after all is said and done, is undeniably God’s chosen Messiah.
They will rejoice, but first they will, “…look on me (Yeshua) whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died” (Zechariah 12:10).
There is no question whatsoever: We all are complicit in the crucifixion of Messiah Jesus. It could be said that anyone of us and all of us held the hammer that drove the nails into his hands and feet.
But above all, it will be God’s chosen people who will anguish deeply over what their ancestors did centuries ago. Yet after the mourning, with open arms and hearts they will agree with King David when he wrote, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet’” (Psalms 110:1).
They will recognize conclusively that The Lord (God the Father) is speaking to David’s Lord (God the Son, Messiah). They will then say exactly what Jesus said they would say: Baruch haba, beshem Adonai. “Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Until such time, let’s continue to: Sha’alu Shalom, Yerushalayim. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalms 122:6).
For to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, is to plead expectantly for the soon return of our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.