From the Convocation 2006, Shaffer Lecture II
“You’re not Jewish any more! How dare you call yourself a Jew! You’re not welcome here!” and the door slammed in my face.
I slowly walked away from the house of mourning (where my Grandmother’s shiva took place) with sadness in my heart; not only would I never see Grandma again but even the faces of the living (family members) I would never see again.
Obviously the reason was him, that man … the man of Nazareth, the ‘Gentile god’ … Jesus Christ ישוע הנוצרי Yeshua, the Messiah … our Messiah.
All I had known for religion until quite recently (at that point) was the synagogue. Obviously, I knew the Muslims had their mosques and the Christians had their churches but me, although I had come to the conviction that “that man” was the Messiah of Israel, I couldn’t quite bring myself to go to a church, in any case, in Israel they’re hard to find (unless you’re in Jaffa or Jerusalem. Someone told me that the Messianic Jews had Messianic congregations.
So off I went, to one, then I checked out another … and another. They all seemed ecstatic that a real Jew had come (i.e. one who’d grown up in a torah-observant synagogue, etc) !
I was somewhat bewildered, however, when I encountered groups who call themselves Jewish and can only manage a style of congregation that is at best “watered-down church translated into Hebrew”. I figured that something is wrong when in the Jewish state of Israel that the state of Messianic congregations is so lacking. If I were to take any of my erstwhile contemporaries to many of these groups, I might even be inclined to agree with the shout of, “you’re not Jewish any longer”.
And shame on us, many times it’s true. Instead of drawing upon the rich foundation of our Jewish tradition, worship-history and prayers (which often are forgotten and even frowned upon) deference is given to a style which can only be called,”Gentile Church translated into Hebrew”. Those of us who are authentically (and halachically) Jewish – who indeed have had an authentic encounter with Yeshua the Messiah and can attest to his goodness and salvation, have far too much put up with this status-quo.
Get yourself down to many Messianic Congregations on any Shabbat in Israel (or indeed Friday or Sunday depending), one can find a congregations whose framework remarkably similar, you could pick or choose from the following:
• 30-45-60 mins of songs, varying in style of music and amount of repetition.
• A very short allusion to the weekly Parasha
• A short liturgical section where sometimes it’s too embarrassing to recount how badly it goes.
• A 5-10 minute section of announcements
• 45-60-90 minutes of a message/sermon (sometimes longer)
• A short time of prayer (not in all congregations)
• A charismatic invitation of healing (akin to the American faith-healers)
• Divination of “prophetical words”
Sadly, it seems that the experience is not communal worship but much more, “multi-individual worship” where people are locked into their own experiential bubble. It seems that people don’t know any better because they have never been taught how to worship as a community, and that they are simple unaware that it indeed is individualism, plus tacitly the Jewish service framework has been rejected (which is so communal). Ask many “Messianic Jews” about Jewish practice and would not know what to answer.
Many know of the days of church missionaries (both Protestant and Catholic) who would go to areas in Africa and turn ‘savages’ into good white Christian men, and yet most don’t recognize that is what is actually happening (and has happened) here in Israel.
Sadly, when I have expressed my concerns, some have taken it as an attack on them (personally) or an attack on the Almighty, or an evidence of my lack of faith.
We’ve got a great deal of potential here but I fear that so-called ‘Messianic Judaism’ in time will just become a gathering of people with spurious connections to Judaism and whose practice is firmly Christian.
Another video reflecting general Israeli attitudes to Jesus, this time they are also asked about Mary and Christianity. I think this speaks well of the majority of Israel’s tolerance and civilized opinion, even in disagreement about my own view of Yeshua.
I find this a reasonably fair representative straw poll of the opinions you would find in Israel.
We have been highlighting the indulgence-like activities of anti-Messianic organisation Yad L’Achim’s fundraising over the years. Finally it seems our concerns have been heard as the Jerusalem Post reports here:
A complaint made against a prominent state-employed rabbi for participating in an advertising campaign for the Yad L’achim anti-assimilation and anti-missionary organization has been upheld by the Ministry for Religious Services.
Israel Today also reports on the Rabbi Abuchatzeira miracles-for-sale fund-raise for Yad L’Achim here.
In Israel Today, Ron Cantor has an excellent reply to Bethlehem Bible College’s appeasement of Hamas.
This is brilliant:
Have you forgotten that under Hamas, Rami Ayyad was tortured and murdered for being a Christian?
We know that a Hamas cell was planning to overthrow the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. While you are sympathetic to Hamas in your video, can you imagine the West Bank under Hamas rule? No freedom of speech, religion or expression. Masked gunmen roaming the streets, indiscriminate killing. And who informed Mahmoud Abbas about this plot? Israel! The government that you accuse of genocide just possibly saved your lives.
He also writes:
What about the words of Archbishop Alexios of Gaza: “Islam is the rule of this place and whatever Hamas says we must obey or face consequences.” He is the most prominent Christian in Gaza and is clearly living in fear of Hamas.
Why then, don’t we hear this from Bethlehem Bible College, who organised Christ at the Checkpoint? There is silence on PA treatment of Palestinian Christians.
Dan Juster perceptively claimed in messages to Israeli Messianic leaders, that the Palestinian Christian organisers of Christ at the Checkpoint were too scared of being killed by forces in the West Bank to speak the truth about Israel.
Earlier this year, Bethlehem Bible College leaders pledged allegiance to Fatah. This time round they are effectively supporting Hamas.
From here, it is hard to see how there can be another CATC that Messianics will feel comfortable attending.