Today, my heart is burdened for our beloved nation of Israel!
This past year has been challenging—especially the past few months—for every citizen of the Holy Land. COVID-19 ripped through Israel, killing thousands, especially within the Orthodox Jewish community; yet, today, Israel stands as an example of recovery from this dreaded disease. Thank God, the number of those infected is now almost nil on the Israeli side and decreasing among the Palestinians. We are beginning to see a restoration to life in person, including all of our ministries in Israel.
We have more than twenty staff members throughout Israel, with centers in Jerusalem and the Greater Tel Aviv area. We are already back to in-person Bible studies, events for elderly Holocaust survivors, outreach dinners, and ministry to younger Israelis, mainly through our outstanding work in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan.
THE RECENT ELECTIONS
The recent elections again revealed the deep divisions within Israel. A coalition of religious Zionists led by Naftali Bennett and a more left-of-center group led by Yair Lapid replaced long-time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Efraim Goldstein, one of our long-term Chosen People Ministries staff members in Israel, summarized the recent election as follows:
The nation of Israel is establishing a new coalition government without Benjamin Netanyahu. The new leaders are a new generation of native-born Israelis.
Naftali Bennett leads the Yamina party and will be the new prime minister in a coalition agreement. As a former aide and cabinet minister for Netanyahu, he is determined to serve the nation of Israel. Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope Party is a staunch right-wing supporter.
Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid was a journalist and is committed to reforming Israeli politics. For the past ten years, he has labored to gain credibility as a viable leader. Benny Gantz of the Blue and White Party served as chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, and he is currently the defense minister. This coalition will also be the first time that the United Arab List (Ra’am), led by Mansour Abbas, will vote to support a new government even though they will not have cabinet positions.
The breadth of views within the new government is wide! We will see if they can hold together and provide decisive leadership for Israel as they try to weather the fractious regional relationships throughout the Middle East.
THE GAZA WAR
Israel was regaining a sense of normalcy from COVID-19 when war broke out with Gaza in May. I was in close touch with our Israeli staff throughout the war and its aftermath. Let me share some of what our workers experienced in their own words.
Our Israeli director, Michael Zinn, writes,
We just had the war, and today we are already trying to forget about it. Israel suffered from the terrible terrorist organization Hamas’ attacks with more than 4,500 missiles launched within ten days! They killed twelve people, wounded hundreds, and caused millions of dollars worth of property damage. Hospitals treated many hundreds after panic attacks. On top of that, thousands of Arabs within Israel rioted, destroying Jewish properties, burning down synagogues, lynching Jews, and attacking police. Add to this picture the ongoing sound of the sirens and traces of the Israeli defense antimissiles in the sky. By this description, you can probably get some understanding of what we have experienced here recently. It was very difficult to remain calm when my daughter called me from Tel Aviv and told me there were hundreds of missiles in the air, and I heard the sound of them over the phone!
David Trubek, who serves at our Ramat Gan Center, adds,
During the recent conflict here in the Holy Land, we found ourselves back in a wartime routine. Hamas launched massive rockets targeted at our civilian populace. Arab Israelis rioted, looted, burned public buildings, and violently attacked their Jewish neighbors. Unfortunately, a small segment of our Jewish population also committed violence against the Arabs. Our outreach center is in the Tel Aviv district—an area bombarded with missiles. For days, we had to run for shelter several times a day. We had to get up in the middle of the night each time the sirens sounded, get the children, and run to the shelter.
On top of ensuring the safety of ourselves and our children, we asked God how He would use us to shine His light on people around us. During our time in the shelter, we had conversations with people about the love of God, the sin that destroys the world, the message of Yeshua, and the love He brings into this world. We decided with our congregation to meet on Zoom for prayer meetings. I felt in my heart the urgency to reach out to our local Arab brothers and ask them to join and pray together with us in unity for peace in the land of Israel.
Our staff deeply cares for their families and their fellow Israelis who need the Lord during this time of turmoil! They have a ministry of comfort, especially among the elderly Holocaust survivors they reach in the areas closest to Gaza.
Maxim Katz, serving in Jerusalem, writes,
We hope that in July and August we will be able to hold children’s camps. We had planned a vacation camp in May, but we had to cancel it due to the Gaza conflict. It breaks my heart because we could not gather our children together for almost two years. I see teenagers for whom the camps were an anchor of faith now living in the world. We pray that the Lord would give us wisdom and the opportunity to bring these young people back to Him.
When we sent the invitation to come to the camp in May, seventy children signed up in twenty minutes, and we had to turn more away. The Lord showed me again how important this ministry is. The kids were distraught when we canceled everything, and we are waiting for the summer with the hope that camp will happen. Today, we have almost a hundred applicants for the summer camps.
We know that war and general instability bring opportunities to share the gospel of peace. Many Israelis are seeking the Lord, which is why we believe we need to intensify our efforts in the Holy Land right now. The need TODAY is urgent.
The openness we are sensing is, without a doubt, growing among next-generation Israelis! This is why we are working intensively to develop new tools to reach Israelis through some of our new websites and social media efforts and, of course, through in-person ministry as the country re-opens post-COVID-19.
We are creating a website that addresses the thorny questions Israeli young adults are asking. Our new site and social media campaigns will speak to heart issues like loneliness, broken relationships, gender confusion, and other life issues that we know only a personal relationship with God through Jesus the Messiah can address!
We will continue to reach elderly Holocaust survivors for the Lord, intensify our family-oriented strategies by ministering to both parents and children, develop new congregations, and much more!
Clearly, the recent elections show that young Israelis are looking for new ideas, new leadership, and for many, a new way—other than Jewish Orthodoxy—to draw closer to God. We believe it is critical at this moment in Israel’s history to reach this younger generation.
THE CHALLENGE OF WEAKENING EVANGELICAL SUPPORT
Unfortunately, we have a problem within the American church as support for Israel is waning among younger
evangelicals. According to a recent survey that Chosen People Ministries helped sponsor, support from younger evangelicals for the nation of Israel has dropped from 75 percent to 33 percent since 2018. We find that a lack of support for Israel often leads to lessened interest in Jewish evangelism.
However, there is a silver lining, as more than 40 percent of evangelical young people are undecided concerning their views on Israel. This indecision allows Your Mission to the Jewish People to educate the future leaders of the American church!
In light of the survey results, which Chosen People Ministries helped sponsor, we hope to create materials and conduct conferences in seminaries and local churches that encourage younger evangelicals to love Israel and support our efforts to reach Jewish people with the gospel.